Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 80
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
- Afghanistan—Fallen Soldier
- Business of the Senate
- New Senators
- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Canada's Economic Action Plan
- Study on Issues Relating to Federal Government's Current and Evolving Policy Framework for Managing Fisheries and Oceans
- Study on Pandemic Preparedness
- Criminal Code
- National Language Strategy
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Foreign Affairs
- Public Safety
- Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
- Foreign Affairs
- Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
- National Revenue
- Public Works and Government Services Canada
- National Defence
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Motor Vehicle Safety Act Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
- Budget 2010
- Tartan Day Bill
- Study on Costs and Benefits of One-cent Coin
- The Senate
- Appendix - Senators Lists
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before we proceed, I should like to invite all honourable senators to rise and observe one minute of silence in memory of Corporal Steve Martin, whose tragic death occurred while serving in Afghanistan.
Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, there have been consultations among the parties, and it has been agreed that photographers may be allowed on the floor of the Senate for this afternoon's meeting, so that they may photograph the swearing-in of new senators with as little disruption as possible.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that the Clerk has received certificates from the Registrar General of Canada showing that the following persons, respectively, have been summoned to the Senate:
Larry W. Smith
The Hon. the Speaker having informed the Senate that there were senators without, waiting to be introduced:
The following honourable senators were introduced; presented Her Majesty's writs of summons; took the oath prescribed by law, which was administered by the Clerk; and were seated:
Hon. Larry W. Smith, of Hudson, Quebec, introduced between Hon. Marjory LeBreton, P.C., and Hon. Leo Housakos.
Hon. Donald Meredith, of Richmond Hill, Ontario, introduced between Hon. Marjory LeBreton, P.C., and Hon. Donald H. Oliver; and
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that each of the honourable senators named above had made and subscribed the declaration of qualification required by the Constitution Act, 1867, in the presence of the Clerk of the Senate, the Commissioner appointed to receive and witness the said declaration.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this chamber to welcome two exemplary Canadians to the Senate and to the ranks of the Conservative caucus. Both of these men have already shown their commitment to public service and their deep concern for their fellow Canadians in their lives up to this point. They have been called upon by His Excellency the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, to continue this service in the Senate. I am confident that they will enhance the workings of this place with their continued service.
The Reverend Donald Meredith joins us from the Toronto region, where he has been actively involved in his community as a Pastor of the Pentecostal Praise Centre. He is also the executive director of the GTA Faith Alliance, which is an organization of over two dozen community and faith organizations dedicated to looking at the problem of youth violence. Reverend Meredith is a committed anti-crime advocate, who is deeply devoted to his community and to ending the tragedies and senseless violence we have seen in Toronto in recent years.
In addition to being an advocate for his community, Reverend Meredith also owns Donscape Landscaping Services. I also understand that he very much likes to cook and is a "100 per cent Toronto Maple Leafs' fan."
Some Hon. Senators: Shame!
Some Hon. Senators: Come on.
Senator Munson: Go Habs, go!
Senator LeBreton: Senator Smith, Senator Demers and I may have opposite views to that, but he has an ally in the Prime Minister.
In any event, Senator Meredith is a husband and father, who coached his son's soccer team to a championship. He is a welcome addition to the Senate of Canada and this is a wonderful opportunity to have his family and friends in the gallery today to watch this very historic occasion.
Senator Smith and Senator Meredith are making history because this is only the second time in my lifetime that the Conservatives have had a majority in the Senate.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator LeBreton: Senator Larry Smith joins the Senate from the province of Quebec, where he is a familiar and respected figure. To those of us who are avid football fans, we will remember Senator Smith as a star football fullback for the Montreal Alouettes from 1972 to 1980. Of course, at that time, I was not a fan of Senator Smith because I was cheering for another team that used to be here in Ottawa.
The game of football continued to benefit during his presidency of the Alouettes and then as commissioner of the Canadian Football League, the CFL, at a time when the league's future was very much in doubt. Many people credit Senator Smith with saving the CFL.
Honourable senators, Senator Smith's activities go well beyond football. He was president and publisher of the Montreal Gazette, has served on numerous charitable boards, including the Centraide of Greater Montreal campaign and ABC Life Literacy Canada, as well as the Canadian Olympic Committee. He is also involved with no less than eight charitable sports foundations. He has significant experience in the business world, which includes positions with Industrial Life Technical Services and John Labatt Limited.
In addition to all of this, he is a proud husband, father and grandfather. Senator Larry Smith, it is truly an honour to welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
I know that all honourable senators join me in welcoming both of you to the Senate. Senators Smith and Meredith both bring experience and service that will be of great value in our deliberations here. I am sure that it will not take them long to become comfortable with and knowledgeable of the workings of this place.
Honourable senators, Senator Larry Smith and Senator Don Meredith are exemplary Canadians who have contributed to the social, cultural and, indeed, spiritual life of our country. I am elated, as you can imagine, to welcome them into our ranks. I ask you to join with me in welcoming them to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I rise today to talk about the sad reality of suicide.
This week is Suicide Prevention Week in Quebec.
With a theme of "Suicide is not an option," the Association québécoise de prevention du suicide is organizing a number of activities across Quebec to promote public awareness of the social scourge of suicide.
This year's theme is an appeal to every member of society to listen to calls for help and to ensure that suicide is never considered an option.
Suicide rates have been rising in Quebec since the end of the 1960s, and a sort of tolerance or "culture" of suicide has developed as a way to put an end to suffering.
It is time to change that culture.
Together, we can prevent suicide and remove it from the list of possible options for those in distress.
The only real options we can offer to people in distress are listening and assistance.
As you might know, the Senate studied this question in 2004 with the Kirby report on mental health. The report did a great job in outlining the relationship between mental disorder and suicide. However, as noted in the report, "Suicide is a `stoppable' problem. It is an action, not an illness." Each one of us has, therefore, the responsibility to take action to stop this phenomenon.
I believe honourable senators can help to lower suicide levels by studying this issue in depth. To that end, I hope to bring the subject to the table in the near future.
The Kirby report was, indeed, an excellent study, but it looked only at suicide from the mental health angle. It is time to look at other angles to better understand this problem and thus enhance suicide prevention in Canada.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to invite you all to visit the Association québécoise de la prévention du suicide website to learn more about Suicide Prevention Week.
You will also receive an information kit in your office today, and if you find yourselves in Quebec at any point this week, I encourage you to participate in some of the activities organized by the association, because together we can send the message that "suicide is not an option."
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, happy new year. Indeed, 2011 will be a good year because it is the International Year for People of African Descent, and February is the beginning of Black History Month.
On December 19, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 64/169, making 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent.
The UN resolution reaffirms the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind.
With the adoption of this resolution, the United Nations wants us to strengthen
. . . national actions and regional and international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all . . . aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.
The year was officially launched at the UN headquarters on December 10, 2010, which coincided with the International Day for Human Rights. At the ceremony, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:
The international community cannot accept that whole communities are marginalized because of the colour of their skin.
. . . people of African descent are among those most affected by racism.
Too often, they face denial of basic rights such as access to quality health services and education.
Such fundamental wrongs have a long and terrible history.
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Mr. Ivan Simonovic, also called for us to organize activities that "fire the imagination, enhance our understanding of the situation of people of African descent, and are a catalyst for real and positive change in the daily lives of the millions of Afro-descendants around the world."
Nova Scotia has already answered the call. The province will host the seventh African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference in September 2011. This annual international conference focuses on preserving and promoting important sites and stories, such as those of Black Loyalists of Nova Scotia, throughout the African diaspora. Hundreds of dignitaries, scholars and tourism operators from around the world will converge in Halifax for this event.
Honourable senators, 2011 offers a unique opportunity to increase awareness of African heritage and the many contributions of Black Canadians to their society. Above all, it provides an opportunity to promote the many benefits of diversity and pluralism.
As Ban Ki-moon said, "The success of the international year requires concerted efforts across the United Nations system and at the regional and national levels, with the widest possible engagement and participation."
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, February is Heart Health Month. This commemorative month provides Canadians across the country with the opportunity to learn more about the risks and impacts of heart disease and stroke. The effects are considerable. In my home province of Prince Edward Island, nearly 6 per cent of Islanders are living with the disease. Indeed, every seven minutes, someone in Canada dies from heart disease.
Heart disease has long been seen as a problem affecting mostly men, but it is now the leading cause of death in women. Every year, seven times more Canadian women die of heart disease and stroke than breast cancer. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, nearly 35,000 women died due to heart disease and stroke in 2006, more than the number of women who died from all cancers combined. The number of deaths from heart disease and stroke has become virtually the same for men and women in this country.
To combat this problem, the Women's Institute of Canada has made women's heart health its national educational project, and introduced a great program — "Walk Across Canada with Us."
In my home province, the challenge has been taken a step further. The Women's Institute of Prince Edward Island has joined with go!PEI and the provincial Heart and Stroke Foundation to reach even more Islanders.
Islanders of all ages, whether or not they are Women's Institute members, are invited to take part in this symbolic walk across the country. The Women's Institute members in my province are aiming to record 6.6 million steps over the next year, which is the number of steps necessary to walk from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia.
Many Women's Institute branches across the country are holding information sessions. Through projects like this, hard-working members of the Women's Institute are carrying on their long-standing tradition of service and community involvement.
Honourable senators, as part of the Women's Institute campaign, Canadians are being asked to wear red on Friday, February 4 — National Wear Red Day — to show support for women's heart disease awareness. I commend the members of the Women's Institute, who are taking steps to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them, and for all their many worthwhile endeavours.
Hon. Michael Duffy: Honourable senators, I rise today to honour the life of an accomplished woman I called my friend, Joan Elizabeth Crocker. As my friend from Nepean—Carleton told the other place yesterday, it is with sadness that we report that Joan passed away on December 24, 2010, at the age of 53.
Joan was a good friend and colleague to many, including many of the brightest and best young people on Parliament Hill. Joan Crocker was a key player in the Magna for Canada scholarship program, which was then run by the Honourable Belinda Stronach and a former colleague from the other side, Dennis Mills. Through this and other youth-oriented programs, for more than a decade, Joan mentored and championed some of Canada's brightest young people.
Taken from us at age 53, Joan Crocker had much more to give to others. Her enthusiasm and zest for life will be remembered by all who knew her. Canada is richer for her nation building.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise before you today to speak about the tragedy that struck Tucson, Arizona that left an entire nation overwhelmed with fear and sadness.
On Saturday, January 8, while hosting one of her regular "Congress on Your Corner" events, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was gunned down, suffering a bullet wound to the head. This same attack claimed the lives of six people and left another thirteen injured.
Honourable senators, I am sure you will all join me in wishing Congresswoman Giffords well as she travels down the road to recovery. I also take this opportunity to express to the families who lost their loved ones during this attack that our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.
Honourable senators, tragedies like the one that shook Tucson a few weeks ago are a reminder of the importance of being vigilant about gun control. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated in an interview last week that every single day, 38 people in the United States are killed as a result of gun violence. He made this statement in an effort to stress the importance of enforcing gun control laws in America.
In Canada, we pride ourselves on being a peaceful and non-violent nation. For decades, Canadians have recognized the importance of being vigilant about gun control. It is of the utmost importance that we do not stray from this objective.
When engaging in debate about abolishing the gun registry, as we did a few short months ago, we should be mindful of the fact that these very public safety tools are the reason why gun-related deaths are far less prevalent in Canada than they are in the United States.
More than ever, there is a profound need to recognize the importance of public safety tools and laws regulating the use of firearms. The reality is that the world is a dangerous place and we must continue to work hard to ensure that our streets, schools and playgrounds remain safe.
Honourable senators, parents should be able to allow their children to play in parks without worrying that they may be caught in crossfire; students should be able to attend classes without having to worry about whether or not one of their classmates will open fire in the hallway; and nine-year-old girls like Christina Green should be able to grow up to be the politicians they aspire to be.
I urge all honourable senators to recognize the need to remain vigilant about gun control in Canada.
Hon. Nicole Eaton: Honourable senators, last week, Senator Mitchell and I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion, entitled: "Second Thoughts about Sober Second Thought: the Meaning of the Senate Rejection of Bill C-311." The debate was hosted by the Canadian Study of Parliament Group.
While I very much enjoyed taking part in this panel, I felt bad for the organizers because their event was hijacked. What was supposed to be a rational, intelligent debate quickly deteriorated into an all-out attack on our parliamentary institutions by the third panellist, Jack Layton.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Eaton: Senator Mitchell rightly declared that we had been "sucked into the vortex of the first campaign stop." Mr. Layton did not disappoint. As usual, he was long on catchy slogans and short on meaningful solutions. He began by making a grandiose commitment to abolish the Senate, but Mr. Layton did not bother to explain why he consistently blocks Senate reform that our government is trying to pass in that other place.
Why am I surprised? He has made a career of throwing around empty promises for which he will never be held accountable. However, his blatant disregard for one of our parliamentary bodies is quite disconcerting.
Clearly, Mr. Layton either conveniently ignores or does not understand the pivotal role the Senate plays in our parliamentary system. However, honourable senators, I am proud to report that I offered to help. I invited Mr. Layton to be a senator for a day and follow Senator Mitchell and me around for a while to see what we actually do. Alas, he did not bite. I guess he was worried he might learn something.
Mr. Layton accuses the Senate of being undemocratic, without taking into account that our upper chamber is a fundamental part of the successful Westminster parliamentary system that has given to us one of the best and freest countries in the world. These smear campaigns against the Senate are nothing more than opportunistic politics that show a disregard for the very foundation of our institutions.
As Senator Mitchell correctly pointed out — and I cannot believe I am quoting my honourable colleague twice in a matter of minutes — "Our institutions, and not just the Senate, have been attacked and eroded, and undermined, and they have become a political football just for political purposes, and there are huge consequences to that."
Honourable senators, I believe we must do our best to promote the hard and valuable work we do here and to tackle these uninformed, factually lacking attacks. We must put the likes of Jumpin' Jack Flash on notice that such short-sighted, blatant disregard for our systems and institutions will not be tolerated.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the seventh report to Canadians for the second year of Canada's Economic Action Plan, designed to maintain economic growth.
Study on Issues Relating to Federal Government's Current and Evolving Policy Framework for Managing Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the order of reference adopted on March 25, 2010, and to the order adopted by the Senate on December 14, 2010, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans deposited with the Clerk of the Senate, on December 20, 2010, its sixth interim report entitled: Seeing the Light: Report on staffed lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, and I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(On motion of Senator Rompkey, report placed on Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the order of reference adopted on June 28, 2010, and to the order adopted by the Senate on December 8, 2010, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology deposited with the Clerk of the Senate, on December 29, 2010, its fifteenth report entitled: Canada's Response to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic, and I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(On motion of Senator Eggleton, report placed on Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sentencing for fraud).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the importance of developing a national language strategy.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Welcome back, honourable senators. My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Honourable senators, as the eyes of the world focus on the current unrest in Egypt, the government is scrambling to ensure the safe evacuation of Canadian citizens. We are reminded that a similar effort was deployed in Lebanon in 2006, from which lessons should have been drawn. In fact, the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade initiated a study of the government's evacuation of more than 14,000 Canadians from Lebanon. In its report tabled in May 2007, the committee made a number of recommendations to enable the government to improve its contingency planning in the event of future evacuations of this scale.
In its introductory remarks the report stated:
While the Committee believes that its hearings have shed some light on the events surrounding the Lebanon evacuation, it also strongly urges the Government of Canada to prepare and release to the public a report on the lessons learned by government departments involved in the evacuation effort, and the steps that should be taken as a result of the Lebanon experience.
Was such a report prepared and published by the government? If not, why not?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question and welcome all senators back.
The situation in Egypt is significantly different from the situation in Lebanon in 2006. I believe that our embassy officials and people working in Egypt are handling the situation in the best way they can. As honourable senators know, the government has arranged for chartered flights for Canadian citizens wishing to leave Egypt. There is obviously a communications problem in Egypt because of the shutdown of many of the telecommunications systems, and indeed even some of the television broadcasts.
Honourable senators, we take the safety of Canadian citizens seriously. The government, as I mentioned a moment ago, is offering chartered flights on a cost recovery basis for individuals wishing to leave Egypt. Flights began leaving on Monday, with priority given to people holding Canadian passports and their immediate family, defined as a spouse or children. We are also putting more staff on the ground. There are flights departing as we speak.
Honourable senators, with regard to the senator's question about the report, I will take that question as notice.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, that report also commented on the challenges which were encountered during the evacuation — and would be encountered during any kind of evacuation process — and made some recommendations with respect to clear and attainable objectives.
One recommendation dealt with the system of travel warnings and overseas alerts to enable contact to be made with Canadians living and travelling abroad.
The committee deemed the system in place at the time of the report to be ineffective in reaching a significant number of citizens and suggested:
DFAIT should consider adopting new strategies for communication that go beyond regular updates to its travel advisories Web site, including the use of text messaging to mobile phones . . .
Can the leader tell honourable senators why the government opted to maintain the status quo and chose to rely solely on a travel advisory website, which became obsolete, of course, when the Internet was suspended in Egypt?
Senator LeBreton: I appreciate the honourable senator's questions, but the situation in Egypt has been going on for the past eight days. All government officials and all of our employees at DFAIT work on various contingency plans. No one can predict with any certainty how situations will develop in other parts of the world. Some Canadians have opted to stay in Egypt.
Honourable senators, this is not a political issue. Any government of any political stripe would have to face this issue. This government takes this situation very seriously. We have provided flights for those Canadians wishing to leave, and we have issued travel advisories.
Honourable senators, this morning, a caller on CBC asked what the government was going to do about Canadians who had planned to take their holidays in Egypt. I responded to the television that Canadians should cancel their plans to travel to Egypt.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is handling the situation very well. Canadians have access to various means of communication. As honourable senators know, we have agreements with the United States and Australia that once the aircraft arrive in Cairo, if there are not sufficient numbers of Canadians to fill the seats, we will take American and Australian nationals, and American and Australian planes will offer empty seats to Canadians.
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, another recommendation of the committee report suggested:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade should review its allocation of personnel and other resources to missions abroad, in order to place greater emphasis on countries where . . . there are risks for regional destabilization.
Given the unrest in Egypt and other countries in that area, can the leader tell us if there was an increase in personnel at the Canadian embassy? If there was such an increase, can the leader tell us the scale of that increase in personnel? Perhaps the leader will take this question as notice.
Senator LeBreton: As the honourable senator is aware, the Department of Foreign Affairs, in staffing missions abroad, in some cases has established new missions, meeting new world demands. There are other cases where missions have been either closed or scaled back.
Honourable senators, I will take the question on the embassy in Egypt as notice.
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
We are told that there are far too many women suffering from mental illness in the federal inmate population. Many of these female offenders have special mental health needs that are not being adequately addressed. This was noted in the 2006 report on mental health of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, and recently in The Globe and Mail.
We know, Madam Leader, that the leader's government is very interested in prisons. Could the leader tell us if her government's plans will address the problem of the lack of mental health services for women in our prisons who need those services?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank Senator Pépin for the question.
The issue of mental health is a serious one, not only in prison systems but also across our general population. It is heartening — and I think the Senate deserves a lot of credit in this regard — to see this issue being brought more into the forefront, and, of course, we must thank former Senator Kirby in that regard.
With regard to mental health in our prisons, we have provided additional resources to the Correctional Service of Canada. For example, we have required corrections staff to provide assessments of inmates in the first 90 days, as that was not done in the past, in order to properly stream these people who are suffering from mental illnesses into proper treatment procedures.
Senator Pépin: Honourable senators, 90 per cent of the women in prison were abused as children, and this has had an effect on their adult life. Men with similar experiences can access mental health services in the prison system. The government is planning to invest billions of dollars in the construction of new prisons. Would it not be better to use some of this money to meet the needs of offenders, especially women, already grappling with mental health issues, and to provide new services in these settings? Women must have access to the same services available to men.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we are putting more money into our prison system — and I have had questions in this place from Senator Fraser and others worried about doubling up in our prisons — we are improving our prison facilities in order to provide suitable accommodations so people can be properly detained.
One area the government does not receive much credit for is the significant resources it is investing in retraining and rehabilitation in our prison systems. With regard to women prisoners, as the honourable senator specifically asked about, there is no doubt women present a different profile than men, and they have fallen into the prison system through different circumstances.
However, again, I wish to reassure the honourable senator that the government is committed not only to improving our prison systems but we are also investing considerable resources in treating mental illness as well as retraining and rehabilitation while incarcerated.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
I have been hearing a great deal in my province about the need for a new power cable to the mainland. This project would upgrade the electricity transmission system between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick by adding a new power cable. The cable would be placed inside the Confederation Bridge in a utility corridor specifically designed and built for this purpose. This cable has been a priority for the province for years; however, the province is unable to move forward without the assistance of the federal government.
The two existing underwater cables are now 34 years old. Their life expectancy is 40 to 50 years.
The province has applied for funding under the Green Infrastructure Fund, and I am aware that two other projects have already been given the green light, one worth $130 million in British Columbia and one worth up to $71 million in the Yukon.
I ask the leader, what is the status of Prince Edward Island's funding application?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I do not have the status of the applications made by the various jurisdictions at my fingertips, but I will be happy to take the honourable senator's question as notice.
Senator Callbeck: I appreciate the leader looking into this funding. It is a matter of great importance to Islanders because we have the potential to export wind energy, and we have two existing cables that are nearing their life expectancy.
This power cable project is the only item that my province has applied for under the Green Infrastructure Fund. In fact, it is one of a small number of applications for the Atlantic region, so it seems a perfect fit, given that two other power transmission projects have already received approval for funding under the Green Infrastructure Fund.
As I said, I am happy the leader will inquire into this funding, but it is a pressing issue for Islanders, and I want to know when I can expect a reply.
Senator LeBreton: I will attempt to obtain a response as quickly as possible. I think the government has a good and solid record on dealing with these various proposals and working cooperatively with the provinces and territories all across the country. We have had great success, not only with the stimulus package but also with the Green Infrastructure Fund. We continue to work cooperatively with the provinces and territories in the interests of the country and the economy and, of course, the people who live in those regions.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, the Conservative government has claimed to be the best manager of the Canadian economy. However, this statement quickly comes into question when we look at last year's roadmap: the review of a Crown jewel, Atomic Energy of Canada; abandonment of disabled Nortel employees; and, the worst part, record debt for Canadians. Basically, the Conservative government is putting business before people by reducing corporate taxes and by further reducing the taxes for oil companies.
I was not the least bit surprised to read in yesterday's Globe and Mail that the shareholders' fundamental right to vote is largely being ignored by the government. The article described issues that frequently arise when shareholders' votes are counted.
Madam leader, the business world should not be exempt from the democratic ethical rules that we so staunchly defend. You can understand that this poses serious problems during important votes on the future of a company and has a significant impact on the stability of our economy. How does the Conservative government plan to ensure respect for the fundamental right of shareholders to vote, as set out in the Canada Corporations Act, in order to eliminate any possibility of irregularities during a vote?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I will not comment on the operations of individual companies and their policies with regard to their shareholders.
I noticed in the preamble to the honourable senator's question the usual litany of misinformation. The economic stimulus required to help Canada lead the world through the economic downturn has been a great success. We have created about 400,000 jobs, we have reduced the overall tax burden to its lowest level in nearly 50 years, and unlike the tax-and-spend policies of the honourable senator's particular party, we do not believe that Canadians should pay more taxes. The Liberal Party's only economic plan is to raise the Goods and Services Tax, hike taxes on job creators and impose a new carbon tax. We will not raise any of those taxes.
Furthermore, with regard to the deficit, it was clear that the deficit was a result of part of the effort the government made to deal with the economic downturn. The honourable senator is incorrect when she states this deficit is the largest in history; it is not. She knows that herself. She was part of the government that created the largest deficit in the history of the country, which was under Mr. Trudeau, and it was 8.7 or 8.9 per cent of the gross domestic product.
We believe in creating jobs and lowering taxes. Something that is obviously supported by all small and large businesses is that our tax policies make Canada an attractive place to invest. Honourable senators, guess what that investment means? If people move their companies into Canada and invest in Canada, that investment will create jobs for Canadians.
Senator Comeau: Elementary.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: I disagree with the leader's answer. I remind the leader that for a few years now, her government has had a desire to create a national securities commission similar to that of the Americans or the United Kingdom. As I have said in the past, these institutions would have done nothing to prevent the current crisis. As the leader has said in the past, Canada performed well, but her party took over from a government that had no deficit and had tremendously reduced the debt created previously by the Conservatives.
Despite massive opposition to this project from the province of Quebec and from the Conservative party's stronghold, Alberta, the leader's government presses ahead with an unnecessary and undesired regulatory body. Since her government is unable to enforce the Canada Corporations Act and the rights of the shareholders, how can the government expect to regulate a national securities commission effectively?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, we can play the revisionist history game all we want, but the government's revenues were increased in the 1990s as a result of the policies of the Brian Mulroney government on the free trade agreement and on tax restructuring. When the honourable senator's government confronted the deficit, they reduced it on the backs of the provinces and territories by cutting back significantly on health care and education transfers.
With regard to the securities regulator, I have said before and I say again that this initiative is voluntary. The government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to provide legal certainty on Parliament's authority to establish a Canadian securities regulator. We await the deliberations of the court. Again, however, the honourable senator can hardly say that a voluntary initiative is something that we are forcing on the provinces.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to present nine answers to oral questions: by Senator Losier-Cool, on November 16, 2010, concerning Foreign Affairs, Closure of Diplomatic Offices—Aid to Africa; by Senator Rivest, on November 16, 2010, concerning Foreign Affairs, Closure of Diplomatic Offices—Aid to Africa; by Senator Mitchell, on November 16, 2010, concerning Transport—the Green Infrastructure Fund; by Senator Mercer, on November 24, 2010, concerning the Sydney Harbour Dredging Project; by Senator Callbeck, on November 30, 2010, concerning National Revenue—the Canada Revenue Agency Website; by Senator Dallaire, on December 2, 2010, concerning the Quebec City Armoury; by Senator Pépin, on December 8, 2010, concerning National Defence—Surviving Families of Deceased Soldiers; by Senator Moore, on December 8 and 9, 2010, concerning Industry—F-35 Aircraft Purchase; and by Senator Peterson, on December 15, 2010, concerning Transport—Rail Freight Service.
(Response to questions raised by Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool and Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest on November 16, 2010)
This government maintains a network of embassies and offices abroad as a key asset and the front-line of Canadian international engagement. Canada uses the network to advance Canadian diplomatic and commercial interests, and to deliver vital consular, visa, and commercial services to Canadians abroad. Every year the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada reviews its network of missions abroad, to ensure that Canada's footprint abroad continues to provide the best possible value and services for Canadians. Over the past five years, more new missions have opened than have closed.
As Prime Minister Harper noted in Seoul for the G20 summit, Canadian assistance to Africa is an `ongoing priority' for his government. At the meeting of La Francophonie in Montreux, Switzerland, he announced nine new projects by which Canada will help over 400,000 people across Africa in the countries of La Francophonie to curb chronic hunger, grow food and find markets to sell their products; protect an estimated 700,000 children from sexual violence in the Great Lakes Region; and support partners in Africa in key areas such as environmental sustainability, nutritional education, access to microfinance and the healthy development of children through training educators, medical staff and parents.
Canada's commitment to Africa remains strong. We have doubled aid from 2004-05 levels to $2.1 billion in 2008-09 and maintained this level in 2009-10. As part of the joint G8 pledge on food security, Canada will more than double its investment in sustainable agriculture and provide $600 million in increased funding over three years, reaching $1.18 billion in overall funding.
Canada is doing its part to help Africa achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Consultations with African countries in the lead up to the Muskoka Summit helped to shape the G8 initiative on maternal, newborn and child health, which will see the mobilisation of more than $7 billion. Eighty percent of Canada's funding to this initiative will go to Africa. Canada has untied all its food aid and has committed to untie all bilateral assistance by 2013. Not only will this improve aid by increasing its impact, it will enable us to respond better to the needs of African countries. Again, as the Prime Minister pointed out on November 11, 2010, the government plans to contribute $326 million over three years to replenish the African Development Fund, starting in 2011, as part of a G20 commitment that was made in 2009.
Development assistance is only one aspect of our relationship with Africa. Trade and investment are growing more important each year. Trade between Canada and Africa has grown at 16.8% a year from 1998 to 2008 and has more than doubled between 2000 and 2009. Mining assets, a major area of Canadian economic engagement, has boomed from $3 billion in 2003 to $23 billion in 2010. Countries that some years ago were solely aid recipients are now trading partners.
On the question of embassies, like other governments the Canadian government continually monitors its representation abroad and periodically shifts resources to meet Canadian needs in an ever-changing world. All governments must from time to time monitor their representation abroad and shift their resources to meet changing realities worldwide.
This government has designed mission openings and closings in order to have a network abroad in the right places, with the right people and doing the right things to get tangible results for Canadians.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Grant Mitchell on November 16, 2010)
Canada's Economic Action Plan announced two new major initiatives to support green projects:
- The Clean Energy Fund (CEF) administered by Natural Resources Canada and
- The Green Infrastructure Fund (GIF) administered by Infrastructure Canada.
Unlike most other Economic Action Plan measures, the GIF was announced in Budget 2009 as a five-year $1 billion fund supporting infrastructure projects that promote cleaner air, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner water. As of January 17, 2011, 18 green infrastructure projects had been announced for a total of $627 million in federal funding.
For fiscal year 2009-2010, $200 million was provided through the Budget Implementation Act, 2009. As reported in the 6th Report to Canadians, the actual amount expended in 2009-10 was $5 million. This funding was in support of the Yukon Green Energy Legacy project. The Yukon Green Energy Legacy Project was the first project announced under the GIF.
It is important to remember that the GIF is a five-year program that funds larger-scale strategic projects of national or regional significance. Such projects typically require longer lead time for the planning, engineering and development stages which results in a smaller amount of expenditures in the early years and larger expenditures during the construction phase in the later years.
Moreover, as is the case for all programs managed by Infrastructure Canada, the federal government is a funding partner and does not manage or control the construction of infrastructure projects. Federal funding for approved projects flows as construction proceeds and costs are incurred. Once the federal government has approved the project, the pace at which the project gets built and funds flow depends on claims submitted by the proponent and is not within the federal government's control. Once claims are submitted, the federal government pays all eligible costs within 30 days.
It is important to note that any unspent funding in 2009-2010 under the GIF has not been lost, but reprofiled to future years to meet the cash flow requirement of our partners.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Terry M. Mercer on November 24, 2010)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on December 10th, 2010, the Government of Canada will support work to deepen Sydney Harbour. The upgrades will create new jobs, increase opportunities for local businesses and help the region prosper.
The Government of Canada is making this $19 million commitment to this important regional economic development project through the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation to make sure Sydney Harbour can take full advantage of the economic opportunities ahead.
The dredging of Sydney will help enhance the competitiveness of Cape Breton businesses and strengthen their position within the global economy.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck on November 30, 2010)
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recognizes that excellence in written communications is fundamental in effectively administering Canada's self-assessment tax system.
Canada's tax laws are complex, and the CRA can help Canadians understand their filing obligations and benefit entitlements by providing them with clear, concise, and accurate information.
The Canada Revenue Agency currently organizes information on its web site by audience segment in order to make it easier for Canadians to find the information they are seeking.
The CRA has a strategic plan for the evolution of the CRA website. The plan identifies a number of initiatives that will make the content of the website easier to find and easier to use. These initiatives are currently underway and are scheduled to be completed by March 2012.
Such initiatives include:
- Redesign of the CRA home page and key content pages;
- Introduction and/or improvement of electronic services for individuals and businesses;
- Enhanced search capacity (new search tool).
In order to better serve Canadian business, the CRA has also included such features as "webinars" (online seminars) to answer questions from businesses.
The CRA continues to evaluate the effectiveness of its website and is committed to the continuous improvement of its services to Canadians.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire on December 2, 2010)
The Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury was built in 1887 and was declared a National Historic Site by the Government of Canada in 1986. This heritage building is considered the historic home of the oldest French-Canadian regiment still in existence — the Voltigeurs.
On April 4, 2008, the Grande-Allée was severely damaged by fire. Several days later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Josée Verner, Minister responsible for the Quebec City Region, confirmed that the Government of Canada intended to explore all options for the reconstruction of the Armoury, a symbol of Quebec City's proud military history.
To allow for the reconstruction, the government took action in April 2008 to clean up the site and protect what remained of the building. This important work, carried out by the Department of National Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada, was completed in October 2009. Several expert technical studies were also undertaken.
Budget 2009 confirmed the earlier commitment by Prime Minister Harper and Minister Verner and allocated $2 million for the development of a plan for the future of the Armoury and options for reconstruction.
On April 4, 2009, Minister Verner announced a public consultation to allow Quebec City residents and interested stakeholders to submit proposals for the Armoury. The consultation took place in May and June of 2009 and included a public meeting as well as a questionnaire that could be completed on-line or sent by mail. A report on the consultation was made public on September 29, 2009. Overall, it indicated that the public wished to maintain the original appearance and heritage character of the Armoury, the historic and commemorative nature of the site, the accessibility of the building and multi-functional use. The final report is available at: http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/ que/region/text/manege-armoury/rapport-report/index-eng.html
In October 2009, the Government hired a real estate firm to prepare a feasibility study on the cost benefits of the submissions received. The firm presented its report to Public Work and Government Services Canada in December 2009. In March, Budget 2010 confirmed that the Government of Canada was firmly committed to the reconstruction of the Armoury.
The plan announced in June 2010 by Minister Verner proposes that reconstruction lead to a multi-functional building. As such, it will include a commemoration to the Armoury's military history, federal government office space, and a multipurpose room available for community and social activities. Lastly, the Armoury will serve as the administrative and ceremonial home of the Voltigeurs Regiment.
Now that the future functions of the Armoury have been determined, preparations for the reconstruction can begin. Over the course of the next two years (2010-2011), a series of rehabilitation projects and technical analyses will be undertaken that will enable the reconstruction plan to be carried out. This work will cost an estimated $3.5 million.
A comprehensive study on the optimal use of the Armoury's interior space will be done to determine where the building's various functions will be located and identify potential occupants.
Currently, work is being done to clean up the interior fire and water damage in the existing structure. This includes rehabilitating the masonry, cleaning the ceiling, solidifying the building's structure and installing temporary heating and cooling systems. This complex work is crucial and must be accomplished before the reconstruction phase is able to begin.
The first phase of an invitation to tender for the development of the architectural concept and the design drawings of the new Armoury has also been completed. The chosen concept and drawings will be unveiled to the people of Quebec City, followed by an invitation to tender for the plans, cost estimates and reconstruction.
All work on the Armoury will be done in such a way that the heritage designation of this Canadian national historic site is preserved. As a result, the above-mentioned steps are vital as we move towards our anticipated reconstruction timeline of 2014-2016.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Lucie Pépin on December 8, 2010)
Given the present protocol, some Administrative Investigations into the cause of sudden death of soldiers can take more time than others, especially when Boards of Inquiry are conducted in parallel with police investigations.
The present protocol is as follows: upon the death of a Canadian Forces (CF) member, a Board of Inquiry is typically conducted to ascertain what has happened, why, and how the CF can prevent a re-occurrence. At the onset of the investigation, the President of the Board of Inquiry (BOI) will conduct an initial meeting with the family representative designed to:
- provide a briefing on the investigative process;
- discuss the probable timelines for the investigation;
- identify the type of information the family representative can expect to receive during the investigation;
- inform that a briefing will be arranged to review the finding and recommendations once the convening authority endorses the investigation report for staffing to the next level of review; and
- inform and discuss the release of a severed copy of the investigation report at a formal meeting with the family representative once it has been approved by the approving authority.
The family representative remains informed on the progress of the investigation through regular updates throughout the entire process. During the conduct of the investigation, the primary focus is to pass on information on the investigative activities and general information (i.e., number of witnesses interviewed, portions of the investigation that are complete, etc.), without releasing specific information pertaining to any person or evidence under review.
CF policy is to invite the family representative to attend all testimony unless there are specific reasons to the contrary. The decision to allow a family representative to attend witness sittings will be governed by the concepts of openness and fairness while maintaining the integrity of the investigative process. When making a decision as to family inclusion, the convening authority, in collaboration with the president, must consider several factors, including:
- the practicality for the family representative member to attend. For instance, is the investigation being conducted in a theatre of operations, at sea or in any location where it would be impractical to transport, administer and provide security for civilians?;
- the requirement to ensure confidentiality;
- the risk of exposing the family representative to evidence that has not been analyzed or placed into context;
- the requirement to protect classified or information pertaining to CF operations; and
- the requirement to protect information provided by third party agreements of non-disclosure.
Following the review of the BOI report by the convening authority, the family representative is briefed on the findings and recommendations made by the board. This briefing is normally given by the president; however, depending on the circumstances, could also be given by the convening authority. The report is then sent upward through the chain of command for review, until it is approved by either the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or the Director of Casualty Support Management (DCSM). Once the report receives final approval, the family representative is briefed and provided with a severed copy of the report. This protocol has been in place for the past four years. It has been observed that issues of delay and sharing of information typically occurs with older cases (pre 2006); hence, the CF is confident that new cases handled under the current process will not experience the same issues.
The CF does everything within its power to help military families better understand and accept the death of their loved ones and is always striving to do better. Furthermore, the CF appreciates that some families feel they have not been well-enough informed about boards of inquiry into the deaths of their loved ones. The CF recognizes that it is important to include family members throughout the board of inquiry process to ensure transparency on all matters.
In terms of recommendations contained within a BOI report, after the convening authority has signed-off on a report, the review cycle begins and can consist of up to four levels before final approval of the report is obtained. Given the complexity and volume of material to be reviewed, the review process can take up to six months for straightforward BOIs and up to two years for those that are more complicated. The family representative is kept informed on a regular basis, throughout the entire process. In recent months, the CF has implemented new measures and identified others that are currently being considered for implementation. These initiatives will expedite the investigative process and eliminate some review levels in order to provide families with quicker closure on these issues. It is anticipated that these new measures will reduce the time of completion of standard boards of inquiry significantly.
(Response to questions raised by Hon. Wilfred P. Moore on December 8 and 9, 2010)
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: According to the documents in the Pentagon, the United States Department of Defence estimates that the Canadian share of industrial spin-offs from the F-35 fighter jet purchase to be about $3.9 billion. Meanwhile, the Conservative government maintains that $12 billion will be awarded to Canada. Can the leader account for this discrepancy?
The $ 3.9 billion refers to an outdated study from the Department of Defence written back in June 2003, three years before Canada signed the Industrial Participation Memoranda of Understanding with the three prime contractors (Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce/General Electric Fighter Engine Team). As part of these Memoranda of Understanding, each prime contractor provides Industry Canada with periodic updates on the value of Joint Strike Fighter work opportunities; currently, the value of these opportunities is estimated at $12 billion.
The Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) has estimated in its 2010-11 Guide to Canada's Aerospace Industry that the Canadian Aerospace Industry comprises over 400 firms located in every region of the country, providing highly skilled, highly paid employment to more than 80,000 Canadians. The AIAC has made it clear that the F-35 program is critical to the aerospace workforce in Canada, and that Canada's continued commitment to the F-35 program is necessary for the F-35 industrial opportunities to be realized.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: I would like to know the guaranteed amount of the regional industrial benefits.
Rather than only benefiting from the work equivalent to the value of 65 planes that we have committed to purchasing, the Government has given Canadian companies a clear competitive advantage by ensuring priority access to the global supply chain for over 3,100 new planes to be purchased by partner countries and up to 2,000 planes that could be produced for non-partner countries, as they replace their aging fighter jets. This will help ensure that Canadian firms have access to long term, high technology opportunities that will position them to take advantage of future advanced aerospace and defence projects.
As the program moves into full production, Canadian companies have the opportunity to grow their participation into a potential $12 billion in work. Further opportunities will be available to Canadian industry in areas such as sustainment, maintenance, repair, training and simulation.
(Response to question raised by Hon. Robert. W. Peterson on December 15, 2010)
A major review of rail freight service in Canada has been completed, as part of the Government's strategy to identify ways to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the rail-based logistics system. The Review has been conducted in two phases. Phase I of the Review consisted of analytical work to achieve a better understanding of the nature and extent of problems within the logistics chain. Phase 2 was led by an independent three-person panel that consulted extensively, and received written submissions from over 140 different stakeholders from across the rail-based logistics chain.
The Panel released its Interim Report on October 8, 2010, which was posted on the Rail Freight Service Review website and sent to stakeholders for comment. On December 22, 2010, after considering feedback from stakeholders, the Panel submitted its final report to the Minister, to be translated and printed. Once that has been completed, the Government will finalize plans for the release of the report.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, and acquainting the Senate that they had passed this bill without amendment.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Comeau calling the attention of the Senate to the budget entitled, Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth, tabled in the House of Commons on March 4, 2010, by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable James M. Flaherty, P.C., M.P., and in the Senate on March 9, 2010.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, given the lack of interest shown in this inquiry over the past weeks, I move, with your permission, that this inquiry be withdrawn from the Order Paper.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Wallace, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mockler, for the second reading of Bill S-222, An Act respecting a Tartan Day.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, it is my intention to speak to this bill in the next few days, so I want to adjourn debate again in my name for the remainder of my time.
(On motion of Senator Hubley, debate adjourned.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eighth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, entitled: The Costs and Benefits of Canada's One-Cent Coin to Canadian Tax Payers and the Overall Economy, tabled in the Senate on December 14, 2010.
Hon. Irving Gerstein moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, it is indeed a pleasure today to rise to speak on the eighth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, entitled, The Costs and Benefits of Canada's One-cent Coin to Taxpayers and the Overall Canadian Economy, which is the committee's response to a motion adopted by the Senate on April 27, 2010.
This report is the culmination of a most interesting, in-depth study conducted by the committee under the capable stewardship of our chair, Senator Day. I particularly thank Senator Day for graciously suggesting that I move the motion to adopt the report on the penny and initiate this debate. I also express my appreciation to all members of the committee for the enthusiastic and non-partisan manner in which they approached the issue.
Honourable senators, this study was unique in my senatorial experience and perhaps even in the experience of every member of our committee in that every single witness who appeared before us was of like mind. They agreed unanimously that the time to remove the penny from circulation has come. These witnesses included independent economists, foreign governments, retailers, consumers, charitable organizations, financial institutions, vending machine operators, coin collectors, the Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada.
In addition, the vast majority of commentary that followed the release of the committee's report has also been positive. Virtually every newspaper across the country published a favourable editorial, radio and television talk shows buzzed about the report, and comments made by my friend and colleague Senator Neufeld at the press conference in which he and Senator Day most ably unveiled the committee's recommendations were even published in the Turkish Republic.
Today, I will reiterate some of the strong reasoning underlying the Finance Committee's recommendations.
Honourable senators, over 20 billion Canadian one-cent coins are deemed to be in circulation today. That amounts to roughly 600 pennies for every man, woman and child in Canada. Laid end to end, they would extend around the equator almost 10 times.
Honourable senators will note that I say these pennies are deemed to be in circulation, because most of them are not actually circulating. A large majority of Canadians simply do not use pennies in their commercial transactions. The reality is that most pennies end up being hoarded in tin cans, desk drawers and automobile cup holders.
This situation brings to mind a very well-known fable — and I know that Senator Mercer always enjoys a good fable — a fable written some 2,600 years ago by none other than Aesop who, coincidentally, was born just off the coast of Turkey — a country to which I referred just a moment ago — on the island of Samos in the year 620 BC. It appears that people in that region have long been interested in issues related to currency.
Honourable senators, the legendary Aesop wrote of a miser who buried a stash of gold in a field. He checked it every day, but never took it out. One day his gold was stolen. A neighbour who had heard of the miser's plight advised him to place stones in the hole where the gold had been and simply pretend the gold was still there. After all, said the neighbour, since he never intended to spend his gold, surely the stones would do him just as much good.
Honourable senators, the moral of this story is so appropriate to our study. I quote the great Aesop himself, who said, "The worth of money is not in its possession, but in its use."
Honourable senators, this is the heart of the issue before us. The penny has very little use. In today's economy, nothing can be bought for a penny or even two pennies or three pennies. As I have said before, the penny is a piece of currency that, quite frankly, lacks currency. It is a financial fossil; a monetary relic; an economic artefact. It is a numismatic residue of a bygone era. Hence, it is time for the penny to go the way of the things it used to pay for: penny candy, penny arcades, penny dreadfuls and the penny press.
To emphasize my point, honourable senators, I quote for the first and probably only time in my life the philosopher Karl Marx. In one of his more inspired moments, perhaps anticipating a study such as ours, Marx declared, "Nothing can have value without being an object of utility."
Honourable senators, the penny simply fails to meet this criterion. The penny has no utility. In fact, the evidence heard by our committee indicates that the penny is even worse than obsolete. It is actually a detriment to the economy. It costs Canadian taxpayers nearly 1.5 cents to put a new penny into circulation and, once the new penny has entered circulation, it has only just begun its career as a drain on the economy.
With the indulgence of honourable senators, I again consult ancient history for wisdom. This time I reach back not quite as far as Aesop, but merely to the 4th century BC to quote from the Old Testament, with which I am somewhat acquainted.
Job, the biblical embodiment of patience and long suffering — something we Conservatives have experienced our share of over the years, but I digress — declared in the Book of Job, Chapter 14, Verse 14, King James Version:
All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change comes.
Honourable senators, Canadians could be forgiven for believing that Job was referring to the time spent waiting at checkout counters while pennies are counted. The Senate Finance Committee was told about a study conducted in 2003 by Professor Timothy Fisher of the Department of Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University and Mr. Dinu Chande. Mr. Chande told our committee:
. . . we considered the additional time that pennies can add to transactions as either consumers or retailers count out the pennies to make change, and we applied an average wage to this lost time. The result was tens of millions of dollars of lost productivity every year attributed to the penny.
The Desjardins Group, in a 2005 study, estimated the total cost of using the penny, including costs to taxpayers, retailers, consumers and financial institutions, to be over $130 million per year.
Honourable senators, the upside of getting rid of the penny could not be more clear. You should know that during our hearings our committee went to great lengths to study any potential downside as well. Frankly, honourable senators, your committee found none.
Having said that, some concerns naturally arose in relation to eliminating the one-cent denomination from Canada's currency system. Foremost among these is the potential impact of price rounding on inflation. This issue was exhaustively studied and was put to rest as a result of the unanimous testimony of the eminent witnesses who appeared before us. These witnesses included Mr. Pierre Duguay, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada; Mr. Dinu Chande; Professor John Palmer of the University of Western Ontario; and François Dupuis and Jean-Pierre Aubry of the Desjardins Group. All of these witnesses predicted no inflationary impact whatsoever as a result of the removal of the penny from circulation.
In addition, international experience also supports this view. In fact, when New Zealand eliminated its one-and two-cent coins by a process very similar to that proposed by the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, an independent consumer group found that prices actually fell slightly because retailers rounded prices down as a marketing strategy.
Honourable senators, it is important to note that sticker prices would not change if the penny were removed from circulation. Rounding would be applied only at the cash register and only to the total price of all items purchased after taxes were added. There would be a one- or two-cent benefit to the retailer in some transactions and an equivalent benefit to the consumer in other transactions, with the net result that the consumer would break even.
I realize, honourable senators, that a penny may seem a trivial matter in light of the major issues facing Canada and the world today. However, the cumulative impact of pennies on the Canadian economy is significant, and the principle underlying this issue is more significant still. It is a fundamental economic axiom that rational decision makers, which certainly includes all honourable senators, should avoid incurring costs that exceed the resulting benefits. That principle should guide the government's use of taxpayers' money, especially in our current challenging fiscal climate. Taxpayers simply should not be compelled to pay for something they regard as worthless, much less something that is detrimental to their own interests. The penny falls into this category.
In closing, honourable senators, it was none other than Mahatma Gandhi who implored his followers, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." It is my fervent hope that the government will embrace the spirit of Gandhi's words by acting on the recommendation of the Senate Committee on National Finance because, honourable senators, the change Canadians want to see no longer includes the penny.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Will the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Gerstein: Yes.
Senator Carstairs: Honourable senators, as a teacher for many years, I was always concerned when I assigned my students a reading which they could not understand because the context was no longer available to them. For example, "a penny saved is a penny earned," and "Watch your pennies and the pounds will look after themselves."
What program does the Senate committee have in place to ensure that there will be a lexicon to explain to future students what these pennies used to mean?
Senator Gerstein: That is a very good question, but it is not the one that I anticipated. I thought — and perhaps this will answer the honourable senator's question — that students could spend more time reading the Bible. I thought the question was going to be where to find the Book of Job, which is between the Book of Esther and the Book of Psalms.
Having said that, we will just let the whole situation reinvigorate itself. I am sure our students in the future will be delighted to know new sayings but there still will be pennies from heaven coming down.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, will the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Gerstein: With pleasure.
Senator Segal: Honourable senators, let me express, in the preamble to the question, my concern, and I know the senator will have an answer to the question in that articulate way he always does.
I am always concerned about removing any piece of our currency system that bears Her Majesty's likeness, which the penny does. Does Senator Gerstein share that concern?
What do we do about the way in which we have introduced young people and kids over time to penny savings banks, and to the notion that saving a little bit, putting a little bit aside is one of those things to which all kids should aspire? Pennies are something they can afford to save with. The roll of pennies has been brought into the bank by kids with their grandparents and others.
The honourable senator is throwing this tradition away as he quotes Karl Marx, which causes me great concern for reasons Senator Gerstein will understand. Neither Karl Marx nor Mahatma Gandhi ever held a membership in the Conservative Party of Canada, for good and substantial reasons, but Senator Gerstein's easy evocation of their proposition should cause us all concern.
What will happen to the 99 cent special or the $4.99 special? Over the centuries, these specials have become fundamental pieces of our commercial frame of reference. What will happen to the strong sense of community that we all have when we approach a cash register in a small store in our community that has a sign that says, "Have a penny, take a penny"? What will happen when that sign disappears along with the way we have always helped each other in a community way?
I am troubled that the senator would throw this asunder in a fashion that seems to be disrespectful of our core traditions. Can the senator guarantee that if it is the penny now, the nickel is not next? Where does this stop?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Gerstein: I am very concerned that Senator Segal is so dismayed by this report which, of course, was received unanimously.
Honourable senators, I do not really know where to start as the senator covered such a myriad of issues. The single greatest assurance we received from witnesses was that should the penny be eliminated the sky will not fall tomorrow. I do not know whether honourable senators are at the point of having the privilege of grandchildren, but I can tell you that they, having six of my own, still enjoy a piggybank but have moved on with inflation. The piggybank is now filled with nickels and dimes. I want to be absolutely honest —
An Hon. Senator: And dollars.
Senator Gerstein: — or loonies or whatever it may be. Take heart, senator; I think the world will unfold and not to your great dismay.
(On motion of Senator Neufeld, debate adjourned).
Hon. Sharon Carstairs, pursuant to notice of December 8, 2010, moved:
Whereas the Senate of Canada recognizes that brain conditions, including developmental, neurological and psychiatric diseases, disorders, conditions and injuries, are a priority health, social and economic issue threatening the well-being and productivity of Canadians;
Whereas 5.5 million Canadians are living with a neurological disease, disorder, or injury and an estimated one in three Canadians will be affected by a neurological or psychiatric disease, disorder or injury at some point in their life;
Whereas the federal government has a leadership and coordination role with regards to health care in Canada; and
Whereas a targeted, coordinated National Brain Strategy developed in collaboration with government, non-profit and private sector stakeholders and focusing on innovative approaches to address research, prevention, integrated care and support, caregiver support, income security, genetic discrimination and public education and awareness would minimize the impact of brain conditions in Canada;
Be it resolved that the Senate of Canada urge the Government to provide funding for the development of a National Brain Strategy for Canada; and
That a message be sent to the House of Commons requesting that House to unite with the Senate for the above purpose.
She said: Honourable senators, evidence suggests that 11 million Canadians are living with a brain condition. Brain conditions include developmental, neurological, those things caused by injuries, which amount to about 5.5 million Canadians. Another 5.5 million Canadians suffer from psychiatric disorders. There are over 1,000 of these diseases, conditions and injuries affecting the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. Dementia, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, brain tumours, autism, schizophrenia, spinal cord injuries, and brain stem injuries, these are just a few of the conditions that affect the health, social and economic well-being of Canadians.
Honourable senators, the brain is a complex organ made up of approximately 100 billion neurons. In the past 15 years, researchers have learned much about the functioning of the human brain, but they still have far to go in understanding this organ that is critical to our health and our well-being. What they do know is that brain conditions do not discriminate. They affect the young and the old. They affect the rich and the poor. They affect women and they affect men. They involve a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors that can strike at any time. Many diseases are degenerative and progressive and most, at the present time, have no known cure. Even when therapies may exist to treat a condition, often they only slow but do not halt its progression.
One in three Canadians, therefore, will be affected by neurological or psychiatric disease, disorder or injury at some point in their lives. This figure, regrettably, is expected to increase with population aging.
For example, approximately half a million Canadians are affected by dementia today, or one in every 11 Canadians over the age of 65. We will see that number increased 2.3 times by the year 2038. Dementia is only one of the conditions that would be covered by a national brain strategy.
Brain health is more than just an important health concern. Immediate action is required to develop a national policy framework to deal with the social and economic impact of brain conditions.
Health Canada has conservatively evaluated the economic burden of neurological and psychiatric illness at $22.7 billion, but this estimate fails to take into account suffering and disability that do not result in death and hospitalization because Health Canada has used mortality data to arrive at that figure. However, the leading causes of mortality are not the same as the leading causes of disability; nor does the estimate account for lost productivity and psychological costs to patients, their caregivers and other family members. When disability is included, the economic burden is much higher.
Brain disorders are among the leading causes of death in Canada and are the leading cause of disability. The progressive and degenerative nature of many of these conditions has a serious impact on patients and their caregivers. Often progressive disability means serious long-term care needs, loss of income and loss of productivity, often not only for the patient but for immediate family members.
The federal government is uniquely placed to play a leadership and coordination role in the development of a national brain strategy. It already has committed to a $15-million, four-year National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions, jointly led by Neurological Health Charities Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The study was launched in June 2009 and is expected to be completed in 2013. Its purpose is to fill gaps in knowledge about the state of neurological conditions in Canada and the experiences of individuals with neurological conditions, their families and caregivers. However, to be able to act upon the research findings, work needs to be done now to develop the framework of a national brain strategy.
Honourable senators, we need a targeted, coordinated national brain strategy developed in collaboration with government, non-profit and private-sector stakeholders. The strategy needs to focus on innovative approaches to address research, prevention, integrated care and support, caregiver support, income security, genetic discrimination, and public education and awareness.
An investment in a national brain strategy now will leverage the government's current investment in this study by building collaborative partnerships and positioning governments and private and non-profit stakeholders to act quickly on research results.
We know that the burden of brain conditions is not lessening. It is increasing at alarming rates. It is estimated that within the next 20 years, brain disorders will become the leading cause of death and disability in Canada. The longer we wait, the more difficult it is for those who suffer from a brain condition and the longer before we can implement policy decisions and practices that can alleviate the burden for those with the disorders and their families.
I ask honourable senators to support this motion calling on the federal government to provide financial support to a national brain strategy, and that a message be sent to the other place asking them to unite with us in this regard.
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, February 2, 2011, at 1:30 p.m.)