Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 178
Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- Commissioner of Lobbying
- Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
- Study on Economic and Political Developments in the Republic of Turkey
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
- QUESTION PERIOD
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- Civil Marriage Act
- Economic Action Plan 2013 Bill, No. 1
- Witness Protection Program Act
- Income Tax Act
- National Strategy for Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) Bill
- Canadian Human Rights Act
- Study on Social Inclusion and Cohesion
- The Senate
- Language Skills Bill
- Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament
- The Senate
- Financial Administration Act
- Youth Unemployment
- Visitors in the Gallery
- Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
- Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Jacques Demers: Honourable senators, June is National Aboriginal History Month. Canada's Aboriginal peoples have to cope with a number of obstacles when it comes to their quality of life, which we, as senators, are trying to improve through bills and our work in committee.
Today I would like to use National Aboriginal History Month as an opportunity to discuss something that affects Aboriginal communities in particular. I am very concerned about youth in all regions of Quebec who have encountered all sorts of problems. The Montreal paper La Presse recently ran a series of articles about the parents of Quebec's youth protection branch.
The youth protection branch is the branch of Quebec's provincial government that ensures the mental and physical well-being of abused children. The journalist from La Presse followed six parents whose children were taken into custody by the youth protection branch, as the parents went through 10 weeks of parenting workshops.
I was quite moved by the stories, which ranged from sad to hopeful to disturbing. How does the issue of youth protection affect the Aboriginal communities of Quebec and Canada?
Aboriginal youth are more affected than any other community in the province. First Nations youth in Quebec grow up in poor social conditions and are overrepresented in the province's youth protection system.
The branch's most recent statistics indicate that children of Aboriginal descent are more likely to repeatedly end up in the system. Cases involving Aboriginal children are red flagged more often than for any other child. What is more, proportionately, these children more often become wards of the state at the end of a youth protection branch investigation.
These statistics are very worrisome in light of the 2006 Census data showing that Aboriginal youth represent half of the total Aboriginal population in Canada. This problem is affecting the development of an entire generation and, consequently, jeopardizing the future of an entire population.
The series of articles in La Presse deals with an aspect of youth protection in Quebec that is often overlooked and is crucial to an understanding of the problems of the youth caught up in the system and the parents involved in these family breakdowns.
These articles tell the stories of parents who, in the past, were themselves often victims and now are struggling with the monumental task of raising a child to the best of their ability, when they were the victims of poor parenting their entire lives.
In the case of Aboriginal peoples, as clearly shown by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, parents of today's Aboriginal youth had painful experiences that left major emotional and psychological scars that they are still trying to heal today.
This is obviously affecting an entire generation of Aboriginal youth, who do not necessarily have the support needed to develop properly. What we should take away from all of this is that if we want to help the children in the care of the youth protection branch, we definitely have to provide guidance for the former child clients of the branch, the parents whose own childhood was taken away from them and who were thrust into an adult world for which they were not prepared. They have to be given guidance and not judged, stigmatized and abandoned.
Although I am not the first to say so, we must remember that the process...
I have exceeded the time allowed.
Thank you very much. Be here July 31.
To finish, I have been on the Aboriginal Committee for four years and I have gotten to understand not only First Nations people but also how important it is to take care of the kids. I was abused. I know what it is. It is very difficult to overcome that; you still live with that. I want us to think about what I said today, that we could give to those young kids who need our help.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, I rise today to highlight some of the incredible work being done by the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. As many of you know, BBBS Canada matches up young people across the country with older mentors who
"teach by example the importance of giving and giving back, of staying in school, and for having respect for family, peers and community."
This year, Canada's largest mentoring organization is celebrating its one hundredth anniversary and has just finished conducting the largest mentoring study ever done in Canada. I had the pleasure to meet with BBBS President and CEO Bruce MacDonald earlier this year and heard first-hand about the tremendous work the organization continues to do and the impact it has on so many young Canadians. During my time with Mr. MacDonald, we talked about the benefits of mentorship and the results of that mentoring study. According to that study, girls with a Big Sister are two and a half times more likely than girls without a mentor to be confident of their ability to be successful at school. Boys with a Big Brother are three times less likely than boys without a mentor to suffer peer-pressure-related anxiety, like worrying about what other children think or say about them.
We also had the opportunity to discuss the social returns of investing in mentorship programs, and I was incredibly impressed with the findings. According to the Boston Consulting Group study done for BBBS, there is an 18-to-1 social return on each invested dollar on a net present value. That number moves even higher, to 23 to 1, when one looks at those youth from the poorest parts of our society. Not only is the return on investment remarkable, but the study also found that former little ones, those who were mentored, were 50 per cent more likely to volunteer as well as donate more, and more frequently, to charities than those who had not been mentored. They were also 17 per cent more likely to be gainfully employed and make 13 per cent more, on average, in those jobs. That amounts to an extra $315,000 of increased earnings over their career.
For 100 years BBBS has been making a remarkable difference in our communities. The results can be seen in a generation of young people who are happier and far more likely to give back to their communities. Please join me in congratulating the Big Brothers Big Sisters in their continued success and on their one hundredth anniversary.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I rise today to celebrate National Aboriginal Day. As honourable senators know, the Idle No More movement spread across Canada this past year and brought much public attention to Aboriginal issues. The Idle No More movement was initiated by four women from Saskatchewan: Nina Wilson from Kahkewistahaw First Nation, Sheelah McLean from Treaty 6 territory, Sylvia McAdam from Big River Reserve in Treaty 6 territory and Jessica Gordon from Pasqua in Treaty 4 territory.
In February, they received the Carole Geller Human Rights Award for initiating the Idle No More national movement that challenges Canada's failure to respect treaty and inherent Aboriginal rights and to protect the land and its resources.
The omnibus budget bills, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, catalyzed the formation of the Idle No More movement. The inclusion in these budget bills of substantial legislative changes to the environmental protection of land, fisheries and waterways when undergoing resource exploration and extraction was seen as profoundly undemocratic and a threat to traditional Aboriginal ways of being, since these bills violate the sacred Aboriginal relationship with land, water and air.
Over the past year, I have attended Idle No More protests in Saskatchewan and here on Parliament Hill. I am inspired by the Aboriginal youth who are taking peaceful, spiritual actions to make things better for their communities.
Honourable senators may recall the arrival on Parliament Hill on March 23 of the Nishiyuu youth who walked 1,600 kilometres from James Bay in solidarity with Idle No More. It is clear that Aboriginal youth are ready to lead in building awareness for Aboriginal sacred laws and cultures that revolve around environmental protection and sustainability.
Furthermore, a group of Aboriginal youth started walking to Ottawa on March 16 from Stanley Mission in northern Saskatchewan, a 3,450-kilometre trek. Dubbed "The Sacred Journey for Future Generations," the walkers see their journey as an attempt to convince the federal government to rescind Bill C-45 because it impacts Aboriginal rights without consultation. One of the organizers said:
We have to stand up for mother Earth. The plants don't have a voice, the animals don't have a voice, the fish don't have a voice. We have to be their voice.
They have been joined by walkers from Onion Lake, English River and Nipissing First Nations, and they will arrive on Parliament Hill tomorrow, June 21, to participate in the Idle No More rally on Parliament Hill. I look forward to welcoming them tomorrow.
The Idle No More protesters have marched, sang, drummed and held flash-mob round dances in every major city across this country. They do this with a great sense of purpose, with prayers, with determination and, above all, a vision of creating a better Canada.
Idle No More has planned a "Sovereignty Summer" to continue to bring attention to the Conservative government's agenda that is undermining the treaties and rights of Aboriginal peoples. I encourage honourable senators to participate in any event in their community.
On National Aboriginal Day, I would like to acknowledge the four female founders of Idle No More and all those in the movement who have risen up to create change, to protect mother earth, to protect the environment and to increase socio-economic opportunities for Aboriginals which will benefit all Canadians.
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, it is fitting today to rise and congratulate one of our colleagues, Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, who received on June 13, 2013, an unprecedented degree of Doctor of Science from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Mockler: Honourable senators, yes, he is a leading expert on biotechnology, bio-organic chemistry and genetic engineering. He became a faculty member of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Manitoba in 1968 and moved to McGill in 1974. There he developed a general method for the chemical synthesis of large RNA molecules that is still the basis today for RNA synthesis worldwide. Thank you, Senator Ogilvie.
Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, a Canadian senator, is Past President of Acadia University and an award-winning biotechnology, bio-organic chemistry and genetic engineering innovator who developed an automated DNA manufacturing process and invented the antiviral drug ganciclovir, which is used to fight infections in weakened immune systems.
Honourable senators, Senator Ogilvie has also served as a scientific advisor to numerous technology companies and as a consultant and expert witness for major multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Honourable senators, let us join together today to say to Dr. Ogilvie, like la Sagouine would say in English, you have won your shoulder pads. Thank you, Senator Ogilvie.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a respected political leader, a great orator and outstanding parliamentarian, Bob Rae.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Eggleton: Bob announced yesterday that he is leaving Parliament at the end of this month after 35 years in public office, both in Parliament and in the Legislature of Ontario.
Born in Ottawa to a diplomat father, Bob was destined for a life in politics. His first stab at it came in 1968 when, at 19 years of age, he volunteered on the leadership campaign of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. He then went on to attend the University of Toronto and became a Rhodes Scholar, obtaining a philosophy degree from Oxford University in 1971. Seven short years later he was first elected to the House of Commons as the NDP member for Broadview. One short year later, he introduced the non-confidence motion that brought down the short-lived Conservative government of Joe Clark.
In 1982, he resigned his federal seat and was elected leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. He was quickly elected into the legislature in the riding of York South in a by-election. His 1985-87 accord with then-Premier David Peterson is, to this day, a model for how to manage a minority government in the public's best interests.
In 1990, Bob was elected Premier of Ontario. Having to make tough decisions when faced with a deep recession was, of course, a difficult challenge.
After his government's defeat in 1995, he honed skills that the federal Liberal Party would later gain so much from. His work on the Middle East peace process and on Aboriginal disputes shaped his indisputable ability to bridge chasms, a skill used to help revive the Liberal Party of Canada as a viable political organization.
Bob's talents shone most brightly when he became interim leader of the Liberal Party. Considered one of the House of Commons' best regarded members, he led the restructuring of the party after the election of 2011.
Honourable senators, Bob has said:
... I hope that I have been able, in my own way in the last few years, to help to create the conditions in the party that have strengthened our position.
His vision of economic development, social justice, environmental stewardship and, as he says, our rendez-vous with Aboriginal Canada have more than achieved that.
Honourable senators, with his retirement, Parliament is losing one of its most seasoned and gifted members and orators. Bob Rae, to me, is truly the best prime minister Canada never had.
Hon. Scott Tannas: Honourable senators, two months ago I entered this chamber for the first time.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Tannas: One of the most valuable aids to my early education as a senator has been this binder, provided to me by my very experienced and able assistant. It contains biographies of each of the honourable senators. I keep it in my desk here and every day I read your stories as you speak and go about business in this chamber. I am humbled to be in the presence of so many great Canadians.
I have learned that in the Senate of Canada there are respected doctors, nurses, award winning health scientists and researchers; outstanding career public servants who have advised and fulfilled the will of governments over many eras; distinguished former Canadian parliamentarians, provincial and territorial government members, including no fewer than three premiers and a clutch of big city and small town mayors; many revered members of our justice system, lawyers, judges and lawmen; wise Aboriginal leaders who bring the unique perspective of their people who have been here since forever; well-known social activists, philanthropists and clergy; accomplished professionals, business executives, industry experts and successful entrepreneurs; a number of our country's most brilliant academics, teachers and professors; famous broadcasters, journalists and communications experts; a beloved actress, a dancer, musicians, writers and producers; an army general and an auditor general; and sports heroes — the Stanley Cup, the World Cup, the Grey Cup, Olympic gold and silver medals have been won by people here in this chamber.
This place is filled with remarkable people. I believe that most Canadians are largely unaware of the talent that lies within this chamber, and if they were made aware, they would be justifiably proud of the people assembled here on their behalf.
However, honourable senators, I also firmly believe that Canadians, once properly informed, would still tell us in their own frank way that we are not doing enough, that our body of work does not measure up to the collective potential that we so obviously possess, and that the whole of the Senate does not equal the sum of its parts.
Honourable senators, we must rise to this challenge. The winds of change are blowing, and we must come together to find ways to better serve Canada. We saw success in our own lives by working harder and seeking ways to improve upon the status quo. We now need to put our minds and efforts towards doing the same for this institution.
This fall, the Supreme Court will provide Canada with clarity around options available toward Senate reform. The coming years will no doubt present an exciting opportunity for us to participate in the reshaping of our valuable institution, with a goal to make it much more valuable.
In closing, I would like to say that I am honoured to serve with all honourable senators during this exciting time for the Senate of Canada.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I would like to bring attention to the fact that today is World Refugee Day. It is a very significant day because it gives us the opportunity to remember those displaced by conflict. Currently, there are more refugees in the world than there have been in over 18 years, over 45 million people around the world.
My family and I were refugees, and we are forever grateful to Canadians for accepting us in this great country of ours. We truly believe that now we belong.
However, most refugees are not so lucky. Countries that are surrounded by conflict are struggling to keep up with the influx of a growing refugee population, and living conditions of refugees around the world are worsening. The Syrian conflict has resulted in over 2.5 million refugees, and 1.6 million of those have crossed over into neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. Many of these people are living in makeshift housing. Women are particularly vulnerable in these situations, and they often have to rely on men for a source of income, safety and protection. Extreme cases of gender-based violence, forced marriages, child marriages, prostitution and rape occur in these situations.
Honourable senators, I want to share with you the story of Maya. Maya, a 14-year-old girl, tells her story. She said:
... when we left Syria, we slept in the street, all of us... we had nothing to eat. We ate hunger.
At 14, Maya has just been engaged to a 45-year-old man. She continued:
I'm marrying him so things will be better. I do not want to get married; I do not want to have children. I'm only doing this for security. Isn't it shameful that I'm 14 years old and I have to marry a 45-year-old man? I don't love him.
She started crying.
I can't even look him in the face.
Honourable senators, on this day let us not forget the plight of refugees around the world and the difficult conditions they face. Let us remember that this great country of ours, as it did for my family and me, can make a positive difference in the lives of refugees around the world.
Honourable senators, the refugees need our support.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to take the opportunity to salute two of our departing pages.
Nicholas Landry, who is originally from Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is studying mathematics at St. Francis Xavier University. He is finishing his third year as part of an exchange program with the University of Ottawa and will return to Nova Scotia to complete his bachelor's degree next year.
Nicholas would like to do a master's in economics.
Shondra Mings on my left is a great Canadian from the Jamaican Canadian community, and she comes from Thorold, Ontario. She is enrolled in a bachelor's degree in conflict studies and human rights with a minor in women's studies at the University of Ottawa. Shondra plans to finish her last year at the University of Ottawa and hopes to participate in an international internship in Senegal with the university.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2012-13 annual reports of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, pursuant to Section 11 of the Lobbying Act.
Hon. David P. Smith: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, which deals with a case of privilege respecting the appearance of a witness before a committee.
(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix, p. 2716.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
Some Hon. Senators: Soon.
(On motion of Senator D. Smith, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the thirteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade entitled: Building Bridges: Canada-Turkey Relations and Beyond.
(On motion of Senator Andreychuk, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, pursuant to rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration have power to sit at any time the Senate is adjourned for a period exceeding one week between the adoption of this motion and the end of September 2013.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and six of his buddies stayed at the official residence of Canada's High Commissioner to Great Britain. This was an eight-day vacation, and Mr. Baird and his friends stayed free of charge at Macdonald House in central London. This was not a business trip; this was a vacation for Mr. Baird and six of his buddies.
Does the government believe this was appropriate?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, let us get the facts straight here. This trip did not cost taxpayers a single dime. Minister Baird has saved taxpayer dollars in recent years by staying at official residences rather than in expensive hotels when travelling on official business.
In fact, as the honourable senator knows, we are selling Macdonald House and other official residences in order to save taxpayers' money.
Senator Cordy: Honourable senators, the leader's answer had nothing to do with my question. I fail to find out how the minister saved taxpayers' money by staying free at a residence in London. This was not official business; this was a vacation with six friends. This was not official business, as I said earlier.
We know that the chief of staff of Minister Oliver was also one of Mr. Baird's buddies who stayed at the High Commissioner's residence in London with Minister Baird. Those are pretty good accommodations for an eight-day stay in London. Eight days of accommodations, free of charge, in a mansion that is owned by the taxpayers of Canada and that is valued at more than $500 million. Who can sign up to stay there?
I ask again: Is this an appropriate use of a taxpayer-owned residence?
Senator LeBreton: The apartment in question is the High Commissioner's personal apartment, and the High Commissioner pays for the apartment for his personal use.
Senator Cordy: Honourable senators, as the leader told us in the previous answer — something which I had not asked her about — the Government of Canada has Macdonald House on the market. Now she is saying the taxpayers do not own it. I am a little confused by her answers, but I can understand that when a minister of the Government of Canada brings six buddies to London and stays in the residence.
We have also learned that Minister Baird vacationed at the New York residence of Canadian Consul General John Prato in 2011. It was another vacation. Funnily enough, when the minister's office was phoned, they said Minister Baird does not have future plans to vacation at other official residences around the world; is that not great?
Is it the Harper government's policy that ministers can use taxpayer-owned official residences for vacations with their buddies? Is it the Harper government policy that chiefs of staff of government ministers can use official residences around the world and owned by the taxpayers for their own personal vacations?
Senator LeBreton: With regard to New York, honourable senators, I repeat the same answer: The trip did not cost taxpayers a dime.
Yes, I did say that the intention is to sell Macdonald House and other official residences. In my answer to the honourable senator's second question, I said simply that the apartment in question is the High Commissioner's personal apartment. The High Commissioner pays for the apartment for his personal use.
Senator Cordy: Honourable senators, I guess we are supposed to be excited, because Minister Baird's vacation with his six friends did not cost taxpayers any money. However, the question is: Is it appropriate for Minister Baird and six friends to stay free of charge at a taxpayer-owned residence? The Consul General of New York and the High Commissioner to Great Britain are employees of Minister Baird; Minister Baird is their boss.
What does the leader expect they will say when Minister Baird phones and asks, "By the way, can I use the residence for vacations for me and my friends?"
Is this appropriate?
Senator LeBreton: First, I am very interested to know that the honourable senator knows the personal conversations and that she has been tapping Mr. Baird's phone. If she thinks that is what he said....
I again state what I said at the beginning: This did not cost taxpayers any money, and the apartment in question is the High Commissioner's personal apartment, and the High Commissioner pays for the apartment for his own personal use.
Senator Cordy: Maybe Minister Baird did not ask. Maybe the leader is correct; maybe I was wrong. Maybe he and his buddies just showed up on the doorstep.
Has Minister Baird declared the vacation in London as a gift, as the cost was over $500?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I am certain that Minister Baird is well aware of all of the rules and guidelines that we follow, and will absolutely, as all ministers do, fully comply with the conditions that are attached to our appointments.
Senator Cordy: Some of the leader's Conservative colleagues on the other side might know the rules, but we know that during the last election, many of them did not follow the rules.
My question was: Has Minister Baird declared it as a gift? Has Minister Baird claimed his vacation use of the Consul General's residence in New York? Again, with the price of accommodations in New York City, one night alone would likely be over $500. Has he claimed that?
Senator LeBreton: I do not know what the honourable senator was referring to with regard to my colleagues on this side. Minister Baird would be familiar with the rules, but I would not be getting into an argument with anyone on this side about following the rules when $41 million is still missing from the sponsorship scandal.
Senator Cordy: My reference was to members of the House of Commons who ran in the last election. Clearly, they did not follow the rules in the last election.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as long as I have been on Parliament Hill, which is a very long time, following elections there have always been, people from all sides getting into disputes with Elections Canada. They are eventually resolved, and we have had many members of Parliament — and I could go back and name them — on both sides who have had disputes with Elections Canada.
This is not an unusual circumstance; this happens all the time. It is part of the whole electoral process. Of course, the whole operation of an election in this new era of social media that we live in is a lot more complicated.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Madam Leader, with Canada Day approaching, many of the hotels and inns in town are full to capacity. A couple of my buddies are coming from Nova Scotia for Canada Day, and they were wondering if the leader could inquire with the Prime Minister if there are any rooms available at 24 Sussex.
Senator LeBreton: Senator Mercer, I have a nice house in Manotick.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator LeBreton: If you have got a couple of buddies looking for accommodation and they do not mind being crawled over by my cats and putting up with my husband's snoring, they are welcome to stay.
Senator Mercer: I would advise the leader to be careful what she asks for. We Nova Scotians are a friendly bunch, and I am not sure how big a house she has in Manotick. Does it come with breakfast, by the way?
I am sorry that the leader thinks this is funny, but as a matter of fact, Minister Baird is making a mockery of the Canadian taxpayer. If the minister wants to travel on his personal time, I have no problem with that. If he is doing that, then let him or any other minister, for that matter, pay for their hotel.
Madam Leader, is there a travel agency or a website that tax-paying Canadians can visit to book one of these residences?
Senator LeBreton: Well, from the former Executive Director of the Liberal Party and the things you were involved in, I would not be getting into these arguments.
Going back to my offer to your buddies, yes, breakfast is included, but it may shorten their stay when they eat my breakfast.
Senator Mercer: You told Senator Cordy several times that this did not cost taxpayers any money at all. In all seriousness, it matters not whether the residence was empty, and it does not matter that there were no staff or even if the high commissioner permitted it. You say it did not cost the taxpayers any money. Who did the laundry? Who washed the floors, cleaned the bathrooms and the bedrooms, and did the dishes? Who paid for those services?
Senator LeBreton: Going back to my offer to you, I wash the floors, I do the dishes and I do the laundry, so my house is very clean. I cannot guarantee the breakfast will be what people like.
I will only repeat what I said earlier with respect to Minister Baird. The fact of the matter is that no taxpayer money was spent on these trips.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Earlier this year, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada announced that they had lost an external hard drive which contained personal information on roughly 600,000 student loan recipients. We now know that this breach of privacy could have been prevented, because through Access to Information, it has been revealed that in June 2012, the Departmental Security Plan reported that the security program was not fully complying with existing requirements.
Fixing the problems could have prevented the breach of privacy which concerned personal information of roughly 600,000 student loan recipients. Why did the government not act immediately to address the concerns in the Departmental Security Plan?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Well, actually, the government did. As I have reported to you on a previous question that you asked, Senator Callbeck, Minister Diane Finley took this matter very seriously; they have initiated new protocols so that this does not happen again.
Senator Callbeck: The leader says the minister took it seriously, but it happened last November and the public did not know about it until January of this year. Now we find out from Access to Information that the department knew there were problems back in June 2012.
At about the same time as it lost the student loan recipient information, it lost a USB key that contained the personal information of another 5,000 recipients of pensions, Old Age Security, Employment Insurance and child care tax credits.
The year before, it lost a laptop containing the information of more than 1,100 Old Age Security clients.
Privacy has been an issue in this department for some time. In fact, this department was responsible for almost a quarter of all privacy breaches by the federal government last year — 19 out of 80. Why did it take the largest privacy breach in Canadian history to finally bring this department to action?
Senator LeBreton: In fairness, this is one of the larger departments of the government that impacts and deals directly with the public, a lot more than other departments.
In this particular case, Senator Callbeck, as I have reported, and, of course, as you know, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is investigating this matter as we speak.
As I mentioned a moment ago, safeguards have been taken against future incidents. The department now has a review under way to ensure that employees handle the data of Canadians and fix any gaps that allowed this to happen. Obviously, this is not a very good situation that happened; you are quite right. However, it did happen, and the way forward is to try to make sure it does not happen again.
The minister has ordered an update to the network security practice to prohibit external hard drives and to provide more mandatory training to all employees on the proper handling of personal and sensitive information, as well as many new security policies.
Clearly, the incident happened. It is a very unfortunate situation and should not have happened. The minister has taken and will continue to take positive, strong measures to make sure it does not happen again.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Honourable senators, on June 23, 2011, I filed a written question in the Senate. Actually, the two years will be this Sunday, and I understand there is a remote possibility we may not be sitting Sunday. I am wondering if the government can indicate when I can expect an answer to that question.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I take many questions as notice, so if Senator Downe would advise me as to the specific question, I will endeavour to find out where the answer is.
Senator Downe: It is actually on the Order Paper, Senator LeBreton. It is under "Written Questions." As I said, it has been sitting there for two years; the anniversary will be on Sunday.
While I am on my feet, we know the House of Commons has a rule where within 45 sitting days they will try to answer written questions. Obviously, we do not have that rule in the Senate or my question and other questions would have been answered.
What is the position of the Leader of the Government in the Senate on written questions? In her opinion, how long should they take to be answered given that the House of Commons finds that they can answer them within 45 sitting days?
Senator LeBreton: I am sorry, Senator Downe. I thought you were referring to a question I had taken as notice. You obviously corrected my wrong impression. I will make inquiries as to where the response is to your written question.
Actually, the question you asked about what I think about the time period is something that I have never contemplated or considered, so I do not have an answer.
The House of Commons have their rules and we have our rules. Far be it for me to suggest that we take House of Commons rules and apply them to the Senate.
Senator Downe: Maybe when you are hosting the people from Nova Scotia over the next few weeks, you could discuss it with them and get back to us.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, today is World Refugee Day. Many times I have asked whether the government program to support women refugees who have no other means of support still exists. How many women refugees have been brought to our country this year? I do not expect the leader to have those answers today, but I ask that she take my question as notice.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Jaffer for the questions. I will try to get those specific numbers.
It is important for all honourable senators to realize that Canada welcomes one out of every ten refugees who resettle around the world — more than any other country. Canada is recognized as a world leader with respect to refugee protection.
I am very happy to find the information requested by the honourable senator. All Canadians should be proud that this country of some 33 million people is a world leader in accepting refugees, with one out of every ten resettling here. It is an incredible record, humanitarian effort and demonstration of good citizenship that Canada is so responsible and so welcoming of so many refugees.
Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, how can I dispute that? My family and I were recipients of Canadians' largesse. Obviously, I am very grateful, as is my family, of the great reception we received in this great country.
As the leader knows, I have asked this question many times because of my great concern for the women in refugee camps: How many refugee women who are widows and single mothers with children do we welcome?
Senator LeBreton: I will attempt to obtain that information.
Leave having been given to revert to Presenting or Tabling of Reports from Committees:
Hon. Bob Runciman, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-32, An Act to amend the Civil Marriage Act, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Wednesday, June 19, 2013, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Black, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Buth, seconded by the Honourable Senator Marshall, for the third reading of Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013 and other measures.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators I rise today to speak on third reading of Bill C-60, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 21, 2013, and other measures. This is another omnibus budget implementation bill put forward by this government — another 100-plus-page document changing countless pieces of legislation and another affront to parliamentary process.
We have reached a very sad stage when we look at this bill and say, "Oh, it only has 233 clauses this time." I have brought up my frustrations in the past on these omnibus bills, and Bill C-60 is no different. Scattered among the 116 pages are some very positive measures that I would be happy to support if they were in stand-alone legislation; I would do that. However, because the government has decided time and time again to meld some good with a great deal that is not good, I am left with no option but to vote against Bill C-60, just as I rejected the previous omnibus bills.
I would like to take a few minutes to highlight some of the measures I support in Bill C-60, before getting into the areas that really concern me.
I support the decision to extend the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance for another two years. Some witnesses confirmed to the committee that having the program is a significant investment and it helps small, medium and large businesses alike to purchase new equipment. It encourages businesses to invest and upgrade machinery and that is always a good thing. The one thing I would say on this measure is that some witnesses confirmed to the committee that having the program in place for five years instead of every two would be extremely beneficial.
I am pleased with the decision to index the gas tax by 2 percent annually. The decision to make it permanent was an important first step, and this new measure will help municipalities across the country. The Gas Tax Fund is vital for large and small towns alike, providing a steady and reliable source of funds for infrastructure projects. As honourable senators are well aware, Canada is facing a remarkable infrastructure deficit, and the Gas Tax Fund should and will play an instrumental role in helping to reduce it.
The proposed changes to the Adoption Expense Tax Credit to make all adoption related expenses eligible — and not just within one year — is another measure that I agree with. In fact, our witness from the Adoption Council of Canada really opened my eyes to the need for further improvements to our adoption system.
As it stands, the Adoption Council of Canada does not even have statistics on the number of children up for adoption. Ms. Laura Eggertson, President of the ACC, outlined some key areas where the federal government could take a leadership role, and I want to share some of those with honourable senators today.
Data collection is essential and was the top priority. She also advocated for changes to the EI system to give adoptive parents the same leave as biological parents. A national awareness campaign, post-adoption support, the removal of barriers between some of the provinces, and a first ministers' meeting on adoption were among her recommendations to the committee. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done. This is an issue where the government could and should take a leadership role. Although small, the proposed changes to the Adoption Expense Tax Credit will help, and I support them.
I want to touch on the proposed changes to the War Veterans Allowance, which would no longer take the disability pension into account when determining eligibility and calculating benefits provided under the War Veterans Allowance. This is expected to provide $95 million over five years for veterans. That is something I strongly support.
Honourable senators, unfortunately the positives I have just highlighted are overshadowed by a number of changes and new measures that truly concern me.
The decision to phase out the deduction for credit unions, which was designed to help them compete with big banks, was ill-advised and could result in higher fees for customers, many of whom live in rural areas.
Gary Rogers, Vice-President, Financial Policy, of the Credit Union Central of Canada, put it this way when testifying before the committee:
The federal rules do not tax us at the same rate as big banks but as small businesses, because we are the small business of the retail, deposit-taking financial services sector. The value of this tax arrangement was affirmed by the MacKay Task Force in its 1998 report.
However, without any discussion or consultation, the recent federal budget eliminated the small business tax rate for most of our sector. It is fair to say that no other federal decision in memory has been met by this degree of surprise, consternation and anger from credit unions.
Credit unions, or caisses populaires, are vital to rural Canadians. They play an instrumental role in my province and across the country, especially in rural areas. I am extremely concerned with what this decision may do to these credit unions and the communities they serve. Credit unions were not consulted by this government, and now they have to face an additional $75 million in taxes, once this is fully implemented in 2017.
Bill C-60 also makes changes to the non-eligible dividend tax credit. These are dividends often paid to small business owners. The federal tax on such dividends will now rise from 19.58 per cent to 21.22 per cent. The changes will affect roughly 750,000 Canadians who will now have to pay $2.3 billion more in tax over the next five years. There is no doubt in my mind that small businesses are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. It is small businesses that create the jobs, and raising taxes on the hard-working Canadians who own these businesses during a continued time of economic uncertainty is no way to help them.
Moving away from small businesses, I also want to touch on a trend that ran through two of the divisions found in Bill C-60 — Division 9, which deals with changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and Division 10, which covers changes to the Citizenship Act. Both of these divisions included exemptions from the User Fees Act.
What is the point of having a User Fees Act if every time the government comes forward with something that the act would cover the government asks to be exempted? That act is there for a reason, and I do not agree with either of the divisions asking for an exemption simply because the departments find it inconvenient.
Honourable senators, then there is the issue of tariffs and the government's double-sided approach to the issue. Bill C-60 does include the changes the government laid out in the budget when it comes to the removal of tariffs on baby clothes and sporting equipment; however, this implementation bill does not include the massive tariff increase that will add $335 million to the price of goods for Canadians. That will be done through regulation. The last thing Canadians need right now is to the see the cost of household and everyday items rising because of a tax increase. There is certainly no doubt that increasing tariffs is a tax increase.
As one witness, economist Mike Moffatt, responded when asked if a tariff is a tax:
Essentially, yes. It is a tax paid for by the importer; however, the importer will pass some of that along. Depending on market power, it could be passed along either upstream or downstream. Absolutely, at the end of day, it is a tax.
He also confirmed that increasing tariffs will push more Canadians to shop across the border, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid. He stated:
If you believe the government's estimate that this will raise tariffs by $350 million per year — and that is their estimate, not mine — those will be passed along to the consumer, and those price differences will incent more consumers from my area, southwestern Ontario, to go to places like Detroit and Port Huron to get their goods.
Honourable senators, I also want to talk about Division 15 of Part 3, which, as our witnesses from the department explained, would change the way the maximum number of parliamentary secretaries is calculated. The maximum number of parliamentary secretaries would be set at the number of ministerial offices listed in the Salaries Act, as opposed to the number of persons occupying those offices.
Bill C-60 will create three new ministerial portfolios for the Federal Economic Development Initiative in Northern Ontario, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. As it stands now, there are 27 ministers and 31 parliamentary secretaries. The bottom line is that this legislation, Bill C-60, allows for the current number of ministers and parliamentary secretaries to increase from 58 to 68. That is another 10 people.
Ministers make an additional $76,700 on top of their salary as an MP, and parliamentary secretaries get an additional $16,000. When you incorporate the office budgets for these positions, we are adding millions of dollars a year, which taxpayers will have to pay. Frankly, I do not think that money needs to be spent at all. When the government is asking department after department to make cuts and find savings, when they are asking Canadians to tighten their belts and watch what they spend, it just seems wrong.
Honourable senators, I am all for creating jobs, but this certainly is not what I and most Canadians had in mind.
The idea of job creation brings me to my final point. This bill is void of any real ideas to get Canadians the training they need and the jobs they require. In fact, the whole budget fell flat when it came to the most important issue facing the economy right now. The one measure introduced was the Canada Job Grant. That has not even been agreed upon by the provinces. In fact, Quebec has already stated they will reject the idea.
Honourable senators, I must add that that has not stopped the government from advertising this program on Hockey Night in Canada, currently the most expensive ad space on television. The government is spending $100,000 of the taxpayers' money for every 30-second clip, for a program that does not exist now and may never exist. Needless to say, the government would be better off, and we would all be better off, if the government would take that money and put the wasted ad money into training programs for unemployed Canadians.
Honourable senators, one must ask: Where in this budget are the government programs to create jobs? Where are the ideas? What is this government's vision for the future? In my estimation, Bill C-60 fails to answer these basic questions.
For that reason and those I have outlined throughout my speech, I will not be supporting Bill C-60, and I encourage others to vote against this legislation.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, one of the measures buried in this huge piece of legislation known as Bill C-60 directly affects credit unions and, by extension, small businesses and rural communities.
Indeed, clause 15 of Bill C-60 will allow the government to raise taxes on credit unions and treat them the same way it does the five largest banks in the country.
This decision ignores the fact that credit unions are clearly not banks. Not only are they smaller, but they also play a particularly important role in our smaller communities by offering financial services locally and providing permanent jobs.
On June 6, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance was privileged to hear the testimony of Gary Rogers, Vice-President, Financial Policy, at Credit Union Central of Canada (CUCC).
Mr. Rogers also explained that Bill C-60 would put additional pressure on credit unions and that this pressure would most likely affect dividends. What is even more interesting is that, since the government's decision will decrease credit unions' available capital, credit unions could very likely decide to reduce their loans to small businesses — something that requires a lot of capital — and focus instead on mortgage loans, which are a much surer bet.
I would like to share some of Mr. Rogers' testimony with you. He said:
Clause 15 will eliminate the small business tax rate from most of our sector, increasing the federal tax rate from 11 to 15 per cent. We will be taxed like banks, which we are not.
Credit unions have enjoyed an easy partnership with the federal government because we share so many public policy objectives. Canadians need a competitive alternative to the five big banks. We provide that second tier through 348 distinct, innovative credit unions. Small or remote communities require financial services where banks have abandoned or never attempted to serve. These are high-cost locations, but credit unions continue to serve 382 communities that otherwise would not have retail financial services.
Villages, towns and cities require good, enduring jobs. Credit unions employ more than 27,000 people widely dispersed across the country. During economic downturns, Canadians need financial institutions they can rely on. Our community-based democratic control means we do not pull back on lending at times when the local need is greatest. Small and micro-sized businesses require funding. Credit unions are the favourite financial services provider to small business.
Mr. Rogers also went on to say that this is the first time in his 28 years with the CUCC that the federal government and the credit unions have been in such strong disagreement. He also expressed concern about the fact that the government refused to hold any discussions or consultations when making its decision. I again quote Mr. Rogers. He said:
However, without any discussion or consultation, the recent federal budget eliminated the small business tax rate for most of our sector. It is fair to say that no other federal decision in memory has been met by this degree of surprise, consternation and anger from credit unions. This occurs at a time when we are facing some key business pressures: reduced financial margins; higher regulatory capital requirements that create challenges unique for cooperatives; incredibly complex compliance rules that are proportionately greater for small, independent financial institutions...; a higher cost structure because we operate as small, independent entities, often in communities the banks cannot afford to serve; and the critical need for investment in technology just to keep up with our much larger competitors.
The budget documents state that this substantial tax increase will improve the neutrality and fairness of the tax system. Their reasoning seems to be that raising the credit union tax rate to the level of banks will be fairer — fairer to banks, we presume. We take issue with that logic. A review of the fairness and neutrality of the tax system should take into account more than a single tax rate.
Let us take a moment to think about what that means. Bill C-60, which the government calls the Economic Action Plan, hurts small businesses outside large urban centres and has a negative impact on the services offered to these communities.
This measure does not make sense. I would therefore like to have the Senate pass an amendment to remove clause 15 of the bill, but that is a lost cause.
Honourable senators, I cannot understand the government's reasoning in this regard. How are we supposed to stimulate economic growth and job creation by financially penalizing credit unions, small businesses and small rural and remote communities? This is but one of many measures in this bill that seek to give the illusion of a balanced budget, rather than encouraging growth.
The government will not help the Canadian labour market by penalizing the allies of small businesses.
Honourable senators, I cannot support Bill C-60.
(On motion of Senator Hervieux-Payette, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Runciman, seconded by the Honourable Senator Braley, for the third reading of Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.
Hon. George Baker: Honourable senators, I rise to say a few words in support of the motion of Senator Runciman. I had intended to do this yesterday, but I misplaced my notes. I still have not found my notes, but I wrote them, so I should remember what they said.
I support Senator Runciman's motion, seconded by our good friend Senator Braley, that this bill be read the third time. The Senate has done its due diligence in committee, as we are required to do.
Things have so changed, honourable senators. I do not know whether honourable senators noticed the motions before the House of Commons on their closing day. There were six motions that deemed things to have taken place with bills. Three of the deeming motions were on bills that originated in the Senate. They were deemed to have been reported from a committee in the House of Commons and deemed to have been read the third time.
The Government of Canada has recently begun a good trend of starting certain bills here in the Senate. However, the trend is saying, "The Senate has done due diligence, so we will deem it to have been dealt with in the committee and to have been read the third time in the House of Commons."
There were three motions to that effect on the closing day, and there were three other motions of bills that were going the other way — in other words, coming to the Senate. One of them was that the bill was deemed to have been dealt with in committee, deemed to have been reported, deemed to have been read the third time in the House of Commons and, thereby, would go to the Senate. Two of those bills were like that.
This will be of interest to you, Your Honour, as a professor of law. You have, in the past, taught about the law and how it is made.
One of the motions was that a bill that had been introduced into the House of Commons was deemed to have been read the second time, deemed to have gone to a committee, deemed to have been reported on from the committee, deemed to have been read the third time and sent to the Senate. Honourable senators, that means not one word was spoken in the House of Commons. And people wonder what the Senate does? The Senate is the legislative process today in Canada, but can you imagine, honourable senators?
The bill was deemed to have been read the second time. Honourable senators know that the process in the House of Commons for first reading is simply a motion from the clerk's table. Then the motion is that the bill be printed and put on the Order Paper for second reading. Not one word was said about it. It was deemed to have been read in principle, deemed to have been studied in committee, deemed to have been reported, deemed to have been read the third time and then, to add to that, honourable senators, also deemed to have been amended.
Figure that one out, honourable senators, when that goes to court. How could you deem something to be amended? Of course, you can. The House of Commons is the master of its own procedures, and it passed that motion. That is not the first time that this has happened in recent years.
In looking at it, one could say that if you can do that, perhaps another motion will go on the Order Paper that the next election is deemed to have taken place and everyone got re-elected.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Baker: Honourable senators, the NDP negotiated these deemed motions. One of the members was asked, of course, "Where will this be studied?" and he said, "Well, in the Senate." That is from a party that has recommended doing away with the Senate.
Honourable senators, I want to say that I agree with Senator Runciman on our thorough study of this bill, that it should be read the third time and that we have dealt with it in a complete manner. We dealt with it in such a way that the courts will be able to say, "This is the meaning of this clause, and that wording." They will be able to quote the committee of the Senate and perhaps make reference to the fact that someone said something in the House of Commons in principle.
I was reading a judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada just the other day. It is R. v. St-Onge Lamoureux, 20, Carswell, Quebec, 10777. It quotes the minister in the House of Commons at second reading, but all references to the meaning of the clauses are taken from the committees of the Senate. This decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, by the way, struck down something that we passed. I will just read a portion of the headnote:
... requiring an accused to prove causal connection between that malfunction or improper operation and determination that blood alcohol level of accused exceeded legal limit constituted serious infringement of right to be presumed innocent that could not be justified in a democratic society...
In other words, not justified under section 1 of the Charter.
That is the provision that honourable senators will recall we dealt with here, and our courts were quoting Senator Stratton as being the spokesperson for the bill. Convictions were entered based upon the reasoning that was presented. That has been struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada, but they relied on the committees here in the Senate, not in the House of Commons.
In conclusion, I would also like to put on the record that I agree with Senator Runciman in that I do not think the objection of the Ontario Government to this bill was justified. They objected to the non-disclosure of police techniques in criminal matters. I think Senator Runciman is absolutely correct.
What the committee did, honourable senators, was to hear from the minister, the Honourable Vic Toews, and asked him the question, "Here is the objection from the Ontario Government; what do you have to say about it?"
Minister Toews, as honourable senators know, is an experienced man in the law. He is a former Crown prosecutor. He understands the law. He said that he did not know what the Government of Ontario was talking about, that they have not explained it to him, and that he does not understand what their position is.
Then, as a committee, under the direction of the chair, we notified the Government of Ontario, saying, "Look, the federal minister says he does not understand you. We are considering the bill. What do you have to say about what the minister said?"
The Government of Ontario came back with a complete answer of seven or eight pages. That is the sort of thorough examination that the Senate does on bills like this.
I might mention that this bill concerns the Witness Protection Program, about which our courts said that personal information about a witness had to be disclosed. Police techniques had to be disclosed. That is the way our courts interpreted the act. This was to correct those deficiencies in the law.
The Information Commissioner came back, as Senator Runciman mentioned, and said that we perhaps should not be closing these doors. They said that covert police methods should perhaps not be non-disclosable. The Ontario Government, the Department of Justice, had said the same thing.
As the police officers on our committee would point out — and we have some very experienced police officers on our committee — whereas the actual act of investigation is disclosable in warrants, the actual police methods of how it is instituted are not disclosable. In other words, if the police were putting a listening device in someone's car, the warrant and the information behind the warrant would be disclosable, but the method of actually putting the listening device in the vehicle is not disclosable in criminal proceedings. It was a concern that the same would apply to the information affected by this legislation.
All that to say, honourable senators, the committee has done an excellent job, and I support what Senator Runciman has said. I also support what John Crosbie said just the other day, in a local newspaper in Newfoundland. He said this on Saturday, June 15:
As a minister, when you went before a Senate committee, you knew that the members of those committees would be very knowledgeable about the business and activities of your department and you would have excellent and penetrating questions that you had to be well prepared to deal with.
On the other hand, I found that House of Commons committees were easy to deal with; MPs often were not knowledgeable about the affairs of the departments they questioned you about and instead, engaged in the usual political rhetoric, contesting one another with the members satisfied to make whatever political points they could score against the minister, who behaved likewise.
With that, honourable senators, I might say that for this one occasion, I strongly agree with John Crosbie.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by Honourable Senator Runciman, seconded by the Honourable Senator Braley, that Bill C-51 be read a third time.
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Carignan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Marshall, for the third reading of Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations);
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Ringuette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Jaffer, that Bill C-377 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 1,
(a) on page 2, by replacing line 30 with the following:
"the period is greater than an amount that is equal to the maximum total annual monetary income that could be paid to a Deputy Minister, shown as"; and
(b) on page 3, by replacing line 13 with the following:
"ees with compensation that is greater than the maximum total annual monetary income that could be paid to a Deputy Minister and disbursements";
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded by the Honourable Senator Nancy Ruth, that Bill C-377 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 1,
(a) on page 2,
(i) by replacing line 1 with the following:
"(2) Subject to subsection 149.01(6), every labour organization and every", and
(ii) by replacing line 30 with the following:
"the period is greater than $150,000, shown as";
(b) on page 3, by replacing line 13 with the following:
"ees with annual compensation of $444,661 or more and";
(c) on page 5, by replacing lines 34 to 35 with the following:
(b) a branch or local of a labour organization;
(c) a labour organization with fewer than 50,000 members;
(d) a labour trust in respect of one or more labour organizations that, in total, have fewer than 50,000 members; and
(e) a labour trust the activities and operations"; and
(d) on page 6,
(i) by replacing line 6 with the following:
"described in paragraph (6)(e)), that is limited",
(ii) by replacing line 10 with the following:
(iii) by adding after line 16 the following:
"(8) For greater certainty, nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting solicitor-client privilege.".
And on the subamendment of the Honourable Senator Cowan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tardif, that the motion in amendment be amended as follows:
That Bill C-377 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 1, on page 2,
(a) by replacing line 23 with the following:
"(b) a set of the following statements for the fiscal period"; and
(b) by replacing line 36 with the following:
"that is to be paid or received, namely,".
Hon. Elaine McCoy: Honourable senators, I am speaking to the motion in amendment. I believe that is what I am on. I must say that when I saw this come up again, I was reminded of — and this is going to seem a little odd — the U.S. railroads. Honourable senators probably know that the gauge in a railroad is the distance between the set of rails. In the U.S. it is a very odd number. It is four feet, eight and one-half inches. When I first heard that, I thought, "How very strange." Mind you, I said that about this bill. How very strange: four feet, eight and one-half inches. Where on earth did they come up with that? I started delving into it. It turns out it is that distance, that gauge because that is the way they built them in England. Of course, the U.S. railroads were built by English expatriates.
I have this curious nature, so I asked, "Why did the Brits build them that way?" It turns out that they built them that way because that is the way their tramlines were built, and the same people who built their trams built their railroads.
Let us ask, why were the trams built on rails that were four feet, eight and one-half inches wide? Now we are talking about the 1600s and the 1700s. The people who built the tramways used the same tools, jigs and setups — one would probably have to ask a member of the building trades union to get the technical language here — that they used for building wagons in the Dark Ages. They built wagons and tramways and came up with four feet, eight and one-half inches. That is the distance the wheels were apart on the wagons. Why wagons with wheels four feet, eight and one-half inches wide? It turned out that if they tried any other kind of spacing and they went on their old roads that were filled with ruts, they would get beat up so bad that it was not worth their while. As all of the ruts were four feet, eight and one-half inches wide they built the wheels on their wagons to fit the old wheel ruts.
Why did those roads have wheel ruts in them? We are talking about England and the Romans. When the Romans were in England, they built the roads. They built them to last and they used them for hundreds of years. The first long-distance roads in England were Roman roads. They were all the same. They were very well built and they were built to those specifications. They were used frequently and they had ruts, and those ruts were caused by Imperial Roman chariots. The design of Imperial Roman chariots caused ruts that were four feet, eight and one-half inches wide, which caused the wagons, which caused the tramways, which caused the railroads. This is how we got to the U.S. railroad system.
We now know that they were all alike, all standard, and we know that is why they got down to this specification, but there is still the question out there of why four feet, eight and one-half inches. Well, Roman chariots are pulled by horses, and four feet, eight and one-half inches is the exact width of the rear end of two horses.
Honourable senators, when you think about the design of the U.S. railroad system, do two words come into your mind?
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator McCoy: That is what reminded me of this story. When I thought of Bill C-377, those two words immediately came to my mind.
I spoke at length on this bill at second reading. Other senators have given very excellent, line-by-line, point-by-point, devastating critiques of this legislation. This legislation should not be in this house. It should not be amended. No amendment could cure this legislation. It is unfair and it is discriminatory. It is, in truth, going to tear the fabric of our nation apart. One more spoke in the wheel is going to be destroyed by this kind of activity.
It also has economic ramifications. There is an interesting sidelight to the story I was telling you about the U.S. railroads. I am told that the NASA space shuttles have big tanks on the side called solid rocket boosters. The original engineers and engineering design teams, many of whom are technicians and many of whom are union members, by the way, really wanted them to be fatter because they were more efficient, but they could not do so. Now, you say, they couldn't? Of course, they can. NASA has the billions of dollars they need. They could not do it because those boosters had to be shipped from where they were made in Utah to the Kennedy Space Center. They had to be shipped from Utah to Florida on railroads, and guess what, the railroads are four feet, eight and a half inches wide, and they have tunnels to go through before they get from Utah to Florida. Those tunnels are just a little bit wider, so the booster rockets could be only a little wider than four feet, eight and a half inches, much less than the effective or efficient design that was preferred by the engineers in the space program.
That is not an uncommon occurrence. I want to say in this context — and then I want to bring it back as well to why we need the workforce we have in Canada, trained here in Canada — one of the points about the workforce we have in Canada is we are not using it to its fullest extent.
We in Alberta would very much like to get more of our oil sands plants and operational units built in Canada. In fact, there are literally some roadblocks in our way. If we had our ideal wishes, we would be sharing much more with other parts of the country than we are able to now.
For example, there are a great many fabricators and a great many industrial design shops of the highest caliber in Ontario. However, Fort McMurray prefers to have its pressure vessels be 20 feet in circumference. That is doable in Ontario. The problem is getting that 20-foot circumference boiler from here to Alberta. If you take it along the road, you will literally run into an overpass, and the overpass is built to accommodate a trailer, and that is it. It is only 14 feet. It is another one of these technical design obstacles that one would not expect to find in one's way when trying to build a country and trying to share the abundance that comes from an industrial development like the oil sands.
The people who are now working on finding a solution to that particular roadblock, in the case of the pressure vessels for the oil sands, are union members. They are technicians, and many of them — most of them — have worked all across Canada. Many of them have worked in Fort McMurray. Many of them are also familiar with what the demands are, as well as the challenges, to find a solution. We have some very good people even now working away to find a solution to get those boilers made in Ontario and transported through to Alberta. It is because we have dedicated, highly trained, very skilled workers who belong to unions that we are able to rely on those kinds of people, as well as our professional engineers, to make our country stronger economically, but also with economic bonds between our different regions.
To attack the unions is to attack one of the key elements in our economic system. That will have untold and unbelievable consequences. There are many who say, "Oh, we do not need a union because they are driving up the cost of labour, what we really want are the Merit contractors, no unions," and they just get to beat the price down.
We all know that you get what you pay for. It is the unions in this country that have maintained — and persistently maintained — the quality of the training of our tradespeople. The apprenticeship program is the number one priority for unions. It is high on the priority list for many employers, but not all. It is the unions that continue to push that, and they devote a great deal of their revenue from union dues to one thing and one thing only, and that is training. They have built multiple modern, state-of-the-art training centres across this country with their members' money to ensure that that quality of technical training continues.
I am a Progressive Conservative. The "Conservative" part in that designation always stood for fiscal probity. "Progressive" is more on the social side, but conservative on the fiscal side. I cannot imagine why anyone would support legislation that would be such a waste of money. If the gun registry was a waste of money, what do honourable senators think this will be? We are taking money essentially out of training programs for skilled workers to put into some kind of system designed by someone — again, those two words come to mind — that is without any value added. It is pure churning. It is entirely unrelated to the well-being and future prosperity of our people.
We have a crying need for workers in Alberta at least, and I think in other parts of the country, so we come up with other programs. We spend government money on temporary worker programs. We rent people from other parts of the world.
May I have five more minutes?
The Hon. the Speaker: Agreed, honourable senators?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator McCoy: I speak to some of my friends, some of whom run the construction companies and some of whom that supply the construction companies with materials. They have hired temporary foreign workers from other parts of the world.
When the great recession hit they were just so happy because some Americans agreed to come up. It was such a relief to get someone who could speak English. They tell me that when they get people who cannot speak English, or for whom English is a very second language, they are unable to read the little signs on the machinery that say "warning." They do not recognize the word "warning" in English.
I ran into the same situation in Saint John, New Brunswick, at the LNG plant, talking to the CEO there. When they built the plant they also had to bring in extra labour. They brought in quite a few francophones from the northern part of Senator Day's province and they all spoke French. He said they had a horrible time because they could not meet all the safety rules and communications. It is a coordination thing on a construction site.
He is Spanish, by the way, and I asked him what he did. He said, "We got everything printed in French." It was the only way they could handle it. That is what we have to do in Fort McMurray. You have accidents, lose time, lose people or lose quality when you bring in someone who does not have a full grasp and is not equally properly trained to those Canadians already available to us. It is the unions that are making that labour mobility happen. It is the unions that are making that standard of skill happen, and it is the unions that are making project-specific deals with construction owners and plant owners that guarantee that a job will be built on time and on budget, and they have never failed to deliver yet.
Therefore, as a Progressive Conservative, the emphasis this time on the "conservative," I would challenge anyone to tell me why this is a good conservative bill. In my mind, two words characterize anyone who thinks that, and two words only. I will not say them because I think they are unparliamentary.
However, I will just conclude by saying four feet, eight and a half inches.
Hon. Paul J. Massicotte: Honourable senators, I must note that this bill has been adjourned by Senator Cools. With her agreement, I will speak on the condition it remains adjourned in her name.
Honourable senators, today I rise to present my views on Bill C-377. As some honourable senators may have noted, I rarely see reason to speak up in the Senate, where nearly all senators consistently vote along party lines. However, I need to note that, in my opinion, the Senate has merits as a non-elected body only if it truly acts as a chamber of sober second thought, based on the merits of the bills or amendments and not based on some partisan political calculation.
Having said this, I sense that by exception, at least I hope, there is more openness and flexibility from senators on both sides to actually consider this bill on its merits. Please allow me to participate in the debate by summarizing my thoughts in respect of this bill.
As many have noted, Bill C-377 would require detailed disclosure of substantial financial and operating information from all labour organizations in Canada, including a listing of all suppliers and recipients who have received $5,000 or more, along with a description of the union's political donations and implications. I understand that the proposed bill is based on U.S. practices within the United States Department of Labor.
The reasoning behind these proposed new requirements is that because employees get income tax deductible credit for any union dues, the taxpaying public has a right to this otherwise private information about the labour organization and their activities.
First, as was raised by Senator Ringuette and Senator Segal, serious questions have arisen concerning the constitutionality of such a federal bill, where the provinces have principal responsibility for labour organizations and practices. Many legal scholars and most provinces have reiterated this position. Meanwhile, other scholars, such as the previous Supreme Court justice, the Honourable Michel Bastarache, have expressed a contrary opinion.
I suspect that many opponents of this bill use this constitutional argument as an obstacle to otherwise consider the merits of this bill. While I do not object to possible referral of this bill to the Supreme Court to confirm its applicability before enactment, the anti-constitutionality of this bill is not certain enough for me to simply reject this bill at this point.
It is also important to point out that the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, as well as numerous other subject matter experts, raised serious concerns about the unacceptable disclosure of personal and private information that this bill would require. This is a real problem and, in my opinion, a minor but very important amendment, as proposed by the commissioner, would be necessary in order to move forward with this bill.
As Senators Ringuette and Segal have mentioned before, the bill, as currently drafted, already has a serious, albeit unintended, consequence: it would require many mutual funds to disclose this detailed information. A few words must be added to the bill to amend it, as proposed by certain experts, to correct that problem.
Furthermore, other witnesses recommended that Bill C-377 be rejected because of the significant administrative cost to unions. That may be the case, but I feel that those opposed to the bill exaggerated the costs, looking for any possible objection to the bill. My proposed solution is a simple amendment to the bill, which would instead require disclosing only information about spending that is not related to collective bargaining. Based on my discussion with the bill's sponsor, that would be acceptable, given that it was his main goal. That amendment would make the accounting easier and could allow for the majority of the additional information to be provided without too much cost or burden to the unions.
Allow me to return to the main objective of this bill, which is to make unions much more transparent by having them provide detailed information about their operations and activities. Who among us is against greater transparency these days? Nevertheless, we must consider the arguments for and the merits of providing such detailed information. Who needs it and why?
The initial justification for requiring this information to be made public is that union members receive a tax credit for all contributions, and thus the public is automatically entitled to this detailed financial and operating information from unions. I do not agree with this argument.
In fact, based on the structure and the intent of these sections of our Income Tax Act, it is fair and legitimate for union members to deduct union dues, as is the case in the United Kingdom, France, the United States and many other countries.
Furthermore, lawyers, chartered accountants, engineers and others can deduct professional expenses without their organizations having to disclose this same detailed information to the public.
In closing, the initial justification in and of itself does not stand up to scrutiny based on the criteria of fairness and common sense.
Honourable senators, I believe this bill has to be considered whether there is a need for more transparency by labour organizations on its own merits. Who requires more information? To what benefit to our society or for the intended audience would this information serve?
Many have argued that labour organizations should provide more detailed information as a counterbalance to the much more detailed public disclosure of their affairs by publicly listed companies, especially for those operating in the U.S. This argument had some merit, in my opinion. However, we need to admit that the primary purpose and demand for this information from public corporations is to satisfy the information needs of its shareholders, analysts or bond holders.
Also, we need to acknowledge that many large companies in Canada are privately held or held by families with thousands of employees, with much significance to our cities, public welfare and policies and without need for any significant public disclosure. We need to recognize that as a matter of public policy there is no more justification to require detailed public information from labour organizations.
Moreover, the argument now turns to the possible need for more detailed information by the union members themselves. After all, the common current provincial legislation requires only that standard audited financial statements be provided to members, sometimes on request only. We all know this is not very detailed or easily understood by all, including presumably many senators. I had to say that part. It was not in my speech.
Meanwhile, we have to acknowledge that as confirmed by many provinces, there is no groundswell of demand or criticism of the existing reporting requirements from union members or the provincial regulatory agencies. In fact, very few complaints have been lodged over the years to the provinces by union members requesting additional information from the labour organizations. We received the same evidence from the many witnesses in our own deliberations at the committee level. Quite possibly, most labour organizations are much more transparent in their affairs than this legal provincial minimum, as many so stated.
Therefore, contrary to my initial inclination and possible personal prejudice, I come to the conclusion that the existing labour organizations' reporting requirements and balance seem quite satisfactory. As such, who are we to usurp our judgment on what the actual experience, broad union member support and provinces are telling us? This is besides the fact that issues about the reporting requirements of labour organizations are clearly a provincial responsibility under our Constitution.
In conclusion, honourable senators, based on the information shared in committee and here in the chamber today, I see no need or valid argument for Bill C-377 and can only recommend that we simply let it die or reject it. In fact, as it is, it is a very bad bill.
I look forward to hearing and considering any contrary views and arguments.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Would the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Massicotte: Please.
Senator Dyck: After having heard Senator McCoy's speech about four feet and eight and a half inches, does the honourable senator think this bill should be deep-sixed and put six feet under?
Senator Massicotte: To be fair to the bill — as the honourable senator might have noticed my reasoning — I tried to first assess what the objections are, and there are serious objections, and I tried to recommend possible solutions to the three or four serious issues. However, there is no essence to the bill and there is no need for the bill. Consequently, it is a waste of time trying to mend it and get on with it. It is irreparable.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I address this chamber today with Senator Cools' permission, and I ask that at the end of my speech the debate stand adjourned in her name.
Honourable senators, we have heard a number of our colleagues explain why this bill is not a good bill, and I agree with them.
Today I am proposing amendments to correct some mistakes in Bill C-377. These mistakes were made as a result of inattention, a hasty reaction or lack of consultation with the people concerned. The most important amendment would correct a mistake that was likely made inadvertently. I am referring to clause 1.
The second subclause of clause 1 would require every labour organization and every labour trust to file an information return with the minister. This, of course, is the whole purpose of the bill. However, subclause 6 of clause 1 would create exceptions for certain types of labour trusts in order to protect workers' confidential information, and paragraph 6(b) lists examples.
The fact that this paragraph protects workers' privacy is good, but limiting the exceptions to labour trusts whose activities are exclusively limited to one of these activities defeats the very purpose of the exceptions.
Bill C-377 would broaden the definition of labour trust in order to include other labour funds. These funds that would be recognized as trusts under Bill C-377 do not engage exclusively in a single activity. They engage in many activities. As such, they would have to produce a return with all the details required by the act and any regulations.
A good bill would have protected information based on its nature. Personal information would not be disclosed since it is personal. Instead, Bill C-377 protects information based on the activities of the trust.
Here is an example. An employee who receives insurance benefits to pay for medication to treat AIDS has the right to have this personal information protected. If the payments are made by a labour trust that falls under the exception in paragraph 6(b), this information will remain confidential. However, if the labour trust that makes the payments also makes other types of payments as part of its activities or mission, it must disclose all information about the employee, including his name.
Honourable senators, you may be for or against this bill, but you cannot in good faith allow such an error to go through at third reading. It is clearly an error that will unfortunately have some very real consequences. It is the kind of mistake that the Senate is known for catching. All we have to do is remove the word "exclusively" in order to protect the privacy of Canadian workers.
The other amendments I am proposing would fix translation errors in the French version of the bill. First, the translation of the term "organizing activities" in subparagraph 3(b)(xv) should be "activités de recrutement," not "activités d'organisation."
Second, the translation of the term "legal activities" in subparagraph 3(b)(xix) should be "activités juridiques" and not "débours judiciaires." The French term "débours judiciaires" refers only to fees paid in court, but there are all kinds of legal activities that are protected by solicitor-client privilege.
As far as these last two amendments are concerned, I would simply like to say that it is very important that our laws be of equal quality in both official languages. Not only is Bill C-377 a bad bill, but it is not equal in quality in both of Canada's official languages.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, I move that Bill C-377 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 1 as follows:
(a) on page 4,
(i) by replacing line 12, in the French version, with the following:
"sés relatifs aux activités de recrutement,", and
(ii) by replacing line 22, in the French version, with the following:
"liés aux activités juridiques, sauf s'ils ont trait à des"; and
(b) on page 5, by replacing line 36 with the following:
"of which are limited to the".
(On motion of Senator Cools, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ogilvie, seconded by the Honourable Senator Wallace, for the adoption of the fifteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill S-204, An Act to establish a national strategy for chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), with a recommendation), presented in the Senate on November 22, 2012.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, I have notes prepared for this, but much too long a speech with so many things to say about this bill. I am working on paring it down. Therefore, I move the adjournment of the debate.
(On motion of Senator Mercer, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Finley, seconded by the Honourable Senator Frum, for the second reading of Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom).
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: On division.
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time, on division.)
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Carignan, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.)
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the twenty-sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled: In From the Margins, Part II: Reducing Barriers to Social Inclusion and Social Cohesion, tabled in the Senate on June 18, 2013.
Hon. Art Eggleton moved:
That the report be adopted, and that pursuant to rule 12-24(1) the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.
He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak on this twenty-sixth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled In From the Margins, Part II: Reducing Barriers to Social Inclusion and Social Cohesion.
I want to thank the chair of the committee, Senator Ogilvie, and the third member of the steering committee, Senator Seidman, for their help and cooperation through all of this, as well as to all the members of the committee. Indeed, some members of the committee who finished on the report were not there at the beginning because this has gone on for quite some period of time.
This is the second report on the state of our cities, and it carries the same base title, In From the Margins, as the first one, which was a report on poverty, housing and homelessness and which was unanimously adopted by the Senate a few years ago.
Honourable senators, I will remind you what we learned from the previous study. We learned that approximately 3.4 million people in Canada live in poverty, with double-digit rates of child poverty in many provinces. We learned that poverty steals from the soul. Every day many people living in poverty have to make the difficult choice of buying food or paying rent. We also know, honourable senators, poverty costs us all. It forces up our tax bill, depresses the economy, increases health care costs, and breeds alienation and crime.
Since we know that poverty has such a devastating impact on Canadians, our committee wanted to know how this affected our cohesion as a society. Are we inclusive enough? Do citizens feel they are a vital part of our communities? Do they feel that they have a voice? Do they feel they belong?
Social inclusion, honourable senators, is more than having enough financial resources. Witness Fran Klodawsky defined inclusion as "feeling part of things, and feeling part of things means that you are connected to others; you are not isolated."
Other witnesses added that social inclusion also involves choice and access to opportunity. It is also about belonging and contributing, about being a full citizen with both rights and obligations.
It also involves having access to processes and institutions, such as education, places of work, governments, et cetera, that enable participation; and that certain shared rights, values and responsibilities bind people and communities together.
As you can see, honourable senators, we undertook this study because inclusion and cohesion are vital to our national social fabric. It is vital to the everyday interactions among Canadians. It is vital to our interconnectedness and the shared experience of our nation.
What did we learn in our study? We learned that, despite the challenges many communities face in Canada, we have a broad sense of inclusion and cohesion. We have people who feel part of our communities, who feel they have a voice.
Witness Ratna Omidvar from the Maytree Foundation pointed out:
We are known the world over for our success in immigration and for our models of multiculturalism.... If you look at the rising numbers of immigrants who own homes, who take out citizenship and who intermarry, these are important indicators of inclusion.
We have much to celebrate, honourable senators. We have not seen the mass unrest that has plagued other parts of the world. We do not see communities rise up en masse because they feel totally excluded from society. We do not see en masse ethnic tensions in our communities.
However, honourable senators, everything is not perfect. We have fault lines. We have far too many people living on the margins in this country. This has been made more challenging in recent times by rising income inequality. Statistics Canada has reported that from 1980 to 2005, the income of the richest one-fifth of Canadians grew 16.4 per cent, while the poorest fifth declined 20 per cent. For those in the middle, earnings were essentially stagnant. At the end of 2009, just 3.8 per cent of Canadian households controlled 67 per cent of the total wealth of Canada.
Many people that I could quote have talked on this subject, and many books and articles have been written. I will quote a Conservative, Mr. Mark Cameron, former Senior Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who put the impact of income inequality this way. He said:
A society in which a small group is perceived to be benefiting unfairly, or where there are wide gaps between social and economic classes, can lead to dissension, jealousy and anti-social behavior, even if the less well-off are still making material gains. This, in turn, can lead to increases in crime, loss of participation in social and charitable organizations, and greater demands for government intervention to help deal with these social tensions.
Honourable senators, this widening gap between the rich and the poor — or the rich and the rest — is a looming crisis. It is a threat to our social cohesion.
We are seeing the social consequences in income inequality right now where most of us live: in our cities. For example, in Toronto a report by University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski found that Canada's largest city is now really a tale of three cities. One part is wealthy; one is a huge area of poverty; and the portion once occupied by the middle class has shrunk. In fact, in 1970 it was 60 per cent and now it is just 30 per cent. Meanwhile, the low income neighbourhoods have grown from 19 per cent to more than half.
Toronto, though, is not alone. We can see this type of situation playing itself out in various ways across the country in other cities.
Those at the bottom of the income ladder see the greatest health risks of all. In Saskatoon, a 2006 study found that the infant mortality rate was 448 per cent higher in low-income neighbourhoods than in the rest of the city. Think about that: 448 per cent higher, in Canada in 2006.
A recent study by McMaster University and The Hamilton Spectator noted similar findings in that city. It found that there was a 21-year difference in average life expectancy between the poorest neighbourhood and the wealthiest neighbourhood, which were only 5 kilometres apart — a 21-year difference in average life expectancy.
These are the realities of income inequality in Canada today, where we are seeing differences in health outcomes; cities stratified with enclaves of prosperity and large swaths of poverty; and social divisions that alienate us one from the other. To help stem income inequality, our committee has recommended a review of the Income Tax Act to ensure progressivity, fairness and the stimulation of job creation.
Honourable senators, no one in Canada should feel excluded. We need leadership from the top. We need the federal government to take the leadership role by developing goals for social inclusion and cohesion — another recommendation. These goals should be used in the design and evaluation of policies, programs and activities. We need to measure them to determine if they are meeting our goals.
More specifically, honourable senators, as we found with our first study on poverty, certain groups are far more likely to face exclusion in Canada. They are recent immigrants, racialized minorities, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, seniors, youth and sexual minorities, who all struggle with issues of exclusion in Canada.
For recent immigrants, we continue to see over-representation in poverty, higher unemployment rates and diminished earnings. In an historical context, recent immigrants, in general, are not achieving the same level of economic returns as we all know was happening in previous generations. Once they arrive, they quickly realize, as Ratna Omidvar said:
Welcome to Canada, work hard, but beware; it may be your children who will succeed, not you.
Therefore, honourable senators, our committee recommended that we need to better prepare immigrants before they arrive in Canada. We need to place a greater emphasis on language proficiency in the selection process. There needs to be better access for parents with children to language training once they arrive. This will lead to better integration and better opportunities for education and employment.
We also need to recognize that some immigrants are settling into communities that are much more susceptible to exclusion because of poverty that results from the absence of links to employment and social engagement. To deal with this, we recommended expanding the local immigration partnership model. This would support newcomers and their neighbourhoods that are at heightened risk of exclusion.
The problems faced by recent immigrants are mirrored by the broader visible minority population. This group will continue to grow, with projections being that by 2031 almost a quarter of the Canadian population will be non-Caucasian. In fact, half the population of Toronto and almost half the population of Vancouver are already at that level. We must tackle their many obstacles to inclusion. Visible minorities have higher unemployment, earn less and have more precarious employment. They also have less representation in civic and policy institutions, boardrooms and government than non-visible minorities. They also continue to face racism in all segments of their lives, which limits their civic inclusion.
The United Way of Greater Toronto's report entitled Poverty by Postal Code found that between 1981 and 2000, while poverty rates dropped by 28 per cent for White or non-racialized groups, they increased by 361 per cent over the same time period for racialized minorities. This is not just a phenomenon in Toronto, as similar studies from other cities across Canada have found. It is not just for immigrants, because 33 per cent of racialized groups that are Canadian-born also experience a similar kind of exclusion.
In short, employment inequality and resulting income disparity pose one of the most important and significant barriers to full social inclusion by members of racialized communities, be they immigrants or Canadian-born. The committee believes this is unacceptable.
We recommended that government enhance efforts to combat racism and other forms of intolerance by working with provincial and territorial counterparts to develop pan-Canadian educational programs to challenge and address racism.
We also called on the government to accelerate the hiring and staffing of visible minorities in the public service. The country needs the federal government to be a beacon of what can and should be.
Honourable senators, in our Aboriginal community we continue to see persistent forms of exclusion. More than half the Aboriginal population now lives in urban areas. Although in some cities native students are catching up to their urban neighbours, research has shown that they are still over-represented among those with less than a high school diploma and vastly under-represented among those with post-secondary education. The Aboriginal community's high school dropout rate is twice as high as that of non-Aboriginal people. Access to post-secondary education and training was identified by witnesses and endorsed by committee members as one of the best opportunities for social and economic inclusion of Aboriginal people.
On broader economic participation, we heard that some Aboriginal people in cities are integrating well into middle-class jobs and communities. However, Aboriginal people living in cities were more than twice as likely as other Canadians to be living in poverty or to be unemployed. Aboriginal women, particularly single mothers, are much more likely to live in poverty. In addition, the recession that began in 2008 had a harder and longer impact on Aboriginal people, resulting in tens of thousands of job losses.
The committee recommended continued emphasis by the government to ensure that Aboriginal youth access skills training and employment opportunities. There also needs to be better cooperation with private sector partners to enhance such opportunities in all sectors of the Canadian economy.
With respect to entrepreneurial opportunities, the committee called for cooperation with the national Aboriginal organizations to support new and existing Aboriginal businesses. The committee also recommended a federal partnership with these organizations to focus on skills development for Aboriginal entrepreneurs.
We need to do a better job of supporting the programs that help native people integrate into cities. It is appalling that, as the Aboriginal population in cities continues to soar, we have seen urban Aboriginal organizations and services drastically under-resourced for many years.
Urban Aboriginal friendship centres, in particular, are the primary providers of culturally enhanced programs and services to urban Aboriginal residents. They are the first point of contact and have been facilitating the transition of Aboriginal people from rural, remote or reserve life to an urban environment. We need a review of core funding and to adjust funding to appropriate levels.
Honourable senators, people with disabilities face many obstacles to inclusion. In 2010, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada stated that people with disabilities earn 20 per cent less than other Canadians, with one in five living on low income. Unfortunately, far too often, we have an exclusionary and inaccessible Canada for Canadians with disabilities. They do not have the necessary support to fully access and benefit from all that Canada has to offer. Too many Canadians with disabilities do not have safe, adequate, accessible housing —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to advise that the honourable senator's 15 minutes has expired. Is the Honourable Senator Eggleton prepared to ask for more time?
Senator Eggleton: May I please?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Please proceed.
Senator Eggleton: People with disabilities should be able to contribute to and benefit from Canadian society in the same way as other citizens. In our report on poverty — that is In From the Margins, Part I report — we called for a basic income guarantee for people with disabilities. However, there are other things that can be done. We need to transform federal and provincial labour market agreements to address barriers for people with disabilities. Both the Multilateral Framework for Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities and the Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities should be expanded to provide greater capacity to address barriers.
Honourable senators, by 2021 seniors will form 18 per cent of Canada's population compared to 12.5 per cent in 2000. An increasing number of seniors may be at risk of being socially isolated. This is precipitated by a number of factors such as increased likelihood of living alone in older age, mobility problems, financial difficulties and/or poor health. Such factors often intersect and overlap. The committee recommended that during the government's efforts to raise public awareness about elder abuse, it devote particular attention to reaching seniors who are living independently or in isolation.
Let me now turn to the opposite end of the age spectrum and talk about youth. While only 16 per cent of the labour market, Canadians aged 15 to 24 accounted for 50 per cent of the job losses during the recession. Youth employment still stands some 250,000 jobs below the pre-recession peak. The 2012 summer jobs were at their lowest level since data became available in 1977, making it difficult for them to pay for tuition, pay down debt or to afford housing. Once out of school they often experience underemployment, diminished job security, growth of temporary work and rising costs for food and housing. Not having a job or taking a lower wage has significant repercussions for youth in the long term.
The result of all of this is that young people are being squeezed — squeezed for time at home and squeezed for money. They are burdened with higher student debt and paying higher housing prices with lower wages. When they choose to have kids, which many delay, they are squeezed for child care services. The typical full-time worker aged 25 to 34 must now save 10 years to put away a 20 per cent down payment for a home. That is twice as long as a generation ago, even though today's first-time home buyers often settle for a smaller yard, a condo or a longer commute. In light of the changes facing youth, we recommend support programs that increase labour mobility that will focus on training, apprenticeship and other programs.
Lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender — LGBT — people also face increased risk of physical well-being. Police data indicate an increase in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, which accounted for approximately one in six hate crimes in 2008. These youth are more likely to have experienced physical and sexual abuse, harassment in school, and discrimination in their communities than their heterosexual counterparts. These youth are at greater risk of homelessness, street involvement and more likely to commit suicide.
The committee heard that the "invisibility" of these problems must stop. The committee recommended that the federal government recognize sexual minorities as a distinct minority in all federal programs. This would support their inclusion in policies designed to support minorities.
Honourable senators, make no mistake, safe cities and community spaces are essential elements to social inclusion and cohesion. As the crime statistics in LGBT communities illustrate, many excluded groups are overrepresented amongst victims of crime. Testimony from police and academic witnesses made it clear that crime prevention is critically important. It reduces victimization and costs and will increase safety in Canadian communities.
To increase these efforts, the committee recommends that an increased proportion of the federal criminal justice budget be devoted to crime prevention.
We also need to increase awareness and education programs to combat sexual assault and harassment, including cyberbullying, and we need to make sure that all groups see themselves in police forces across the country by better supporting diversification efforts.
Honourable senators, we also heard that efficient and safe urban transit boosts community safety. Many excluded groups cannot afford enough food on the table let alone private transportation. Effective public transit is an essential link to community engagement and access to employment.
To boost public transit, the committee recommended that governments better identify and develop urban transit strategies and consider additional allocations from the Gas Tax Fund dedicated to transit capital investments.
Honourable senators, let me say as I close that the real issue in addressing social inclusion is not only knowing what policies to adopt, but it is summoning the political will to implement them. It is about deciding together what kind of country we want to live in; it is about declaring that government matters not as an end in itself but as a partner in creating opportunities.
For 146 years, we built this country based on a simple premise that a higher purpose than helping our neighbour, looking out for one another, giving everyone a shot at success and allowing people to go as high and as far as their talent and tenacity will take them is the best way to build a society. It is again time to focus on sharing our prosperity more widely, making sure we are inclusive, where everyone feels they have a stake in their community and their country, and will stand up, participate and know their voices will be heard. Together we can do this and together we must.
Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie: Honourable senators, I rise to encourage you to support the passage of this report. In doing so, I want to acknowledge the role that Senator Eggleton has played in bringing this matter through the Senate. He is to be commended for his endurance in the time that it has taken for him to see it through to this point, and for his leadership within the steering committee and the committee with regard to helping us reach agreement on the final report.
In that regard, I want to indicate that this is one of the clear examples where a steering committee earns its keep in terms of its effort to take a report and bring it to a form that is of reasonable size for the Senate. As one can imagine, this is a topic that could lead to a great number of words being committed. It did during drafting and we spent a great deal of time bringing it to the final stage. The steering committee — Senator Seidman, Senator Eggleton and I — was in complete agreement in recommending the report to the committee. In the end, the final report, as modified by the committee, was endorsed by the committee without dissent.
As Senator Eggleton has so well identified, this report covered major categories of issues that relate to the topic at hand. I believe the document in its final form provides a very articulate reference background for the issues covered in the report, and I believe that the recommendations within the report are both rational and achievable.
Honourable senators, this is a very important area, as Senator Eggleton has so well outlined for us today. I believe that it is an important document for the Senate to endorse, and I conclude by once again urging you to support the adoption of this report.
(On motion of Senator Segal, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ataullahjan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Martin:
That the Senate of Canada express its support for Malala Yusufzai in light of her remarkable courage, tenacity and determined support for the right of girls everywhere to an education; offer its best wishes for her full recovery; express its gratitude for the courage of her family and the work of the staff at the Birmingham hospital in the United Kingdom; and offer its solidarity with girls and young women everywhere whose absolute right to equality of opportunity and quality education in every country of the world is and must always be universal and real.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Senator Ataullahjan's motion regarding Malala Yusufzai, a then-14-year old schoolgirl, now 15, from Pakistan. I wish to thank the senator for her good work. I thank her for her commitment to the education of girls, and I thank her especially for sharing her knowledge of the challenges of the people of Pakistan.
Pakistan, a former British colony, shares a border with Afghanistan, which, long ago, caught between the then-competing imperial interests of Russia and Great Britain, was created as a neutral country between these then imperial powers. Loosely governed from the centre, its people mostly relied on local laws and tribal customs, a kind of localized government, similarly practised in the districts of Pakistan, called the tribal areas, which border on Afghanistan. These tribal areas were a buffer between the two powers. Much later, and resulting from the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, these tribal areas became the gathering place for certain Islamist resistance and fundamentalist groups, like the Taliban, whose tactics are widely condemned by most Islamic adherents. This Pakistani branch of the Taliban is called the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
Honourable senators, the beautiful but troubled Swat Valley, once a princely state, is a northern district of Pakistan, that touches these hard-to-govern tribal areas. It is also where the Tehrik-i-Taliban has been very active. Interestingly, the Swat Valley boasts the highest number of girls' schools per capita in northern Pakistan. Malala Yusufzai, this school girl, is from Mingora in the Swat Valley. Her father, Ziauddin Yusufzai, an educator, is most committed to girls' education. He created and ran the Kushal School and College, where she was a student.
In 2008, after much violence, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan acquired part control of some parts of the Swat Valley. They banned girls' education and ordered private schools closed. That year, they destroyed over 150 schools. Malala's school was one of the last to hold out against the Taliban. Her family fled the Swat.
In May 2009, the Pakistani government conducted a military campaign that regained control of Swat, and Malala's family moved back to Mingora. There is continuing Taliban militant activity in Swat. I have read that, to date, 45,000 Pakistanis have been killed in these terrorist activities. Of these, 5,000 were military and security personnel.
Honourable senators, last October 9, Malala and two schoolgirls were attacked by two of these Taliban fighters. Malala was shot in the head by two men at close range. Initially treated in Pakistan, she was moved by air ambulance from Pakistan to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in the U.K. In January, Malala was discharged from the hospital, and her father was appointed education attaché at the Pakistani Consulate in Birmingham. She and her family now live there. In fact, in March, Malala entered the Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham.
Throughout her long recovery, the Pakistani government completely financed Malala's medical treatments and maintenance. Pakistan's National Assembly voted her the Daughter of Pakistan. The Pakistan government has been admirable in their protection of this child.
Honourable senators, the issues here are numerous and serious. They include terrorism, civil conflict and turmoil, insurgency, counter-insurgency, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan's occupation of Swat, Pakistan's military resistance to this, Pakistan's military and political efforts to maintain its territorial integrity, Canada's relationship with Pakistan, and Pakistan's actions on Malala's behalf. It also includes girls' education in Pakistan, and Malala, a foreign child from a country with which we have long had diplomatic and trade relations.
This bundle of issues is large and difficult, and not one of them is within the constitutional reach of the Senate or a Senate decision. International in scope and substance, they are foreign affairs questions and are thus the exclusive ken of Her Majesty's government and the responsible Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird. The Senate has no power and no procedural means to speak to foreign nationals or foreign heads of state. The Senate has no foreign jurisdiction and cannot speak to the President or Government of Pakistan or express our support to a minor, Malala.
Honourable senators, I wish to say that I thank God, as we all have, for this little girl's recovery, physically and mentally. I thank God for the miracle of her survival and I pray that God will continue to sustain her life. Terrible physical and psychological injury was visited upon her. By God's grace this young life was upheld.
Honourable senators, this attack was politically actuated. Such attacks are now called terrorism, a term born of the French Revolution. Its widespread use began in 1944 with the assassination of Lord Moyne in Cairo by two young Stern Gang members from Jerusalem. The infliction of pain, to hurt, and to induce public fear and submission, are the defining features of terrorism. Terrorism is fundamentally anti-social and anti-human.
This is the reason for the abundant expressions of concern for this young girl across the world. People recognize that she was marked by terror, and they recognize that such terror is not children's business. This is why this little girl has touched so many people, continents and cultures apart, and this is why Senator Ataullahjan has brought the issue before us.
Honourable senators, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May broached this issue in the House of Commons on October 17 last, during Ministerial Statements. Foreign Minister John Baird had just stated the government's position:
On behalf of the Government of Canada and on behalf of all Canadians, we wish her a speedy recovery and hope that her sacrifice will lead to genuine change for which she has fought so hard.
Representatives of all the political parties associated themselves with the minister. Elizabeth May said, in part:
... I thank you... for the opportunity to speak...in the tragic situation of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai.
The fact that she was targeted, and we all feel this so keenly...
It seems that in Pakistan the events have turned the tide against the Taliban, because people across... that society recognize the evil in targeting a 14-year-old girl...
... I wonder if I could have the permission of my friends on all sides of the House to not think of Malala as a symbol but Malala as a 14-year-old girl who is lying in a hospital bed and, if we could, rise for a moment in contemplation and, if it moves us, in prayer, collectively as a House, to urge Malala's well-being and to pray for her health.
The House of Commons rose for a moment of silent prayer for her health and well-being. It was profound, this prayer of the whole house.
Honourable senators, much has been written and said about this little girl, in descriptions more suited to seasoned adult advocates. Many, eager to support or make common cause with her, have tended to forget that she is a child of tender years. The attack on this child pierced our hearts and unleashed our natural sensibilities for the protection of children. This is a fundamental tenet of our human existence and of our law. By our law of Canada, Malala is a child, in need of protection. I submit that humanity the world over wanted to protect her by wrapping her in a universal human shield of prayer and good wishes.
Honourable senators, on October 9, the day of her attack, the New York Times, as did many others, reported on this in a piece entitled Taliban Gun Down Girl Who Spoke Up for Rights. Declan Walsh wrote:
A Taliban spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, confirmed by phone that Ms. Yousafzai had been the target...
"She has become a symbol of Western culture in the area..." Mr. Ehsan said, adding that if she survived, the militants would certainly try to kill her again. "Let this be a lesson."
Mindful of the continuing danger to her, I note that the multiple decisions in this motion properly belong to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, all the more so because she is a child in need of protection.
Honourable senators, by the ancient royal prerogative called the parens patriae, our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, is the supreme parent, the supreme guardian of all of our children and other classes of vulnerable people. This is a power inherent in all superior courts and governments. Our age of legal majority, once 21, is now 18, as it is in Pakistan. I shall cite the principles of our law on children and minors. William Blackstone, in Justice Sharswood's 1859 edition of Commentaries on the Laws of England, Volume 1, at page 466, wrote:
... the duties of parents to (legitimate) children:... consist in three particulars; their maintenance, their protection, and their education.
He says that these duties are part of the natural law, obligations laid on the parents not only by nature itself but also by their own natural act in bringing them into the world. He said, on page 450, that parents' protection is "a natural duty." At page 463 Blackstone writes of the guardianship of infants and:
... all such persons as have not discretion enough to manage their own concerns.
Infants have various privileges, and various disabilities: but their very disabilities are privileges; in order to secure them from hurting themselves by their own improvident acts.
Honourable senators, by the common law, all minors are infants, derived from the Latin word infans, meaning incapable of speech. Jowitt's Dictionary of English Law, Volume 2, 1959 edition, at page 964, states:
[Lat. infans, one who cannot speak], a person under twenty-one years of age. He becomes of full age from the first moment of the day preceding the twenty-first anniversary of his birth. Infants are subject to various disabilities imposed on them for their protection: thus an infant cannot hold a legal estate in land..., nor can he, as a rule, make a contract binding on him...
It continues at page 964:
... between the ages of seven and fourteen he is presumed to be doli incapax (incapable of discerning between good and evil) until the contrary is shown;...
Black's Law Dictionary, fourth edition, at page 1107, defines the age of majority as:
Full age; the age at which, by law, a person is entitled to the management of his own affairs and to the enjoyment of civic rights. The opposite of minority.
Honourable senators, in Canada, minors are under several legal disabilities. They cannot make legal commitments or practise politics. They cannot vote in elections or run for office. Likewise, a king or queen, if a minor at the accession to the throne, is also disabled, and a regent performs the royal functions in the name of, and on behalf of, the sovereign. At age 18, that minor king becomes capable of exercising his full constitutional sovereignty.
Honourable senators, Malala has touched the many — the world — for as many reasons, some by the question of girls' education, some because she has invited them to show courage in terrible adversity. She has been at the centre of something large and great. She is a sensitive, dutiful and responsible child. She takes these matters to heart. She ponders deeply on social justice and the need for peace and security in her beloved Swat, but we must be guided by the fact that, though very gifted and endowed, she is a child and not legally capable of political or civic activity. We cannot have a double standard, one for children at home and one for children abroad. A maxim holds that our foreign affairs policy must be an extension of our domestic policy, that we must support abroad that which we support at home. She needs to be allowed to recover. I shall let her words speak from her very famous 2009 diary. On Saturday, January 3, she wrote:
I am afraid. I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.
On Sunday, January 4, she wrote:
Today I did some household chores, my homework and played with my brother. But my heart was beating fast as I have to go to school tomorrow.
May I have leave to complete? It is just a couple of pages.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators, for an extension of five minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Cools: On Wednesday, January 7, in Bunair, for a Muslim holiday:
No firing or fear.... My Swat is also very beautiful, but there is no peace. But in Bunair there is peace and tranquility.... Neither is there any firing nor any fear. We are all very happy.
Honourable senators, these were the words of a then 11-year-old child, whom fate had thrust into dangerous circumstances, conditions that compelled her precocious majority, courage and endurance. These are the words of a child who has known prolonged suffering and pain for everyone and everything that she loves and who possesses a deep sense of responsibility for right and wrong. This is an exceptional child, and her selflessness and love are great.
Honourable senators, I trust that the Government of Canada, if asked, would have granted her and her parents succour in Canada. I thank Pakistan's President Zardari, Malala's sovereign and supreme guardian, and his government, and I thank High Commissioner Miangul Akbar Zeb for their very evident, admirable and outstanding efforts to provide care, maintenance and protection for her and her family. I thank them for the defence of the territorial integrity of their country and their resistance to its destabilization. I thank the people of Pakistan for embracing her. I thank the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his government for their assistance to the Pakistan government, including air ambulance transport from Pakistan to England. I thank Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Her Majesty's government for receiving her into Britain. All of this, honourable senators, has been a stupendous lesson in, and expression of, international humanity and cooperation.
In other words, honourable senators, what I am saying here is that a very unusual support surrounds this child, and we are being sensitive, especially because she is a minor. Here, we must be mindful that all motions on foreign affairs are truly recommendations to the government.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: I have discussed all of this with Senator Ataullahjan, who is very supportive.
Therefore, honourable senators, I move:
That Senator Ataullahjan's motion be amended by inserting, after the word "Canada", and before the word "express", the words "urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to".
This will mean, honourable senators, that her motion is hardly altered. It would read that "the Senate of Canada urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs" — and then the rest of the motion is exactly the same:
...to express its support for Malala Yusufzai in light of her remarkable courage, tenacity and determined support for the right of girls everywhere to an education; offer its best wishes for her full recovery; express its gratitude for the courage of her family and the work of the staff at the Birmingham hospital in the United Kingdom; and offer its solidarity with girls and young women everywhere whose absolute right to equality of opportunity and quality education in every country of the world is and must always be universal and real.
I thank Senator Ataullahjan once again for bringing this before us because the issues are so large and so many people are well intentioned, but her bringing this before the Senate put it directly before us in a way that it could be grasped and understood, particularly the gravity of it and the unusualness and the uniqueness of this very unusual, precociously endowed child. We should treat her as a very precious being.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by the Honourable Senator Cools, seconded by the Honourable Senator Rivest, that Senator Ataullahjan's motion be amended by inserting after the word "Canada," and before the word "express", the words "urge the minister of foreign affairs to."
Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?
Some Hon. Senators: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: On debate?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Now I will put on the motion as amended —
Senator Cools: I think Senator Ataullahjan wanted to say something.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I asked for debate. Honourable senators, is there further debate?
Hon. Salma Ataullahjan: Honourable senators, I accept Senator Cools' amendment to my motion and thank her for her remarks.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion in amendment?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion in amendment agreed to.)
Hon. Salma Ataullahjan: Honourable senators, I want to let you know that I have spoken to Malala since and she is very grateful to the Senate of Canada, the Government of Canada, the people of Canada and the Prime Minister of Canada, who have spoken on her behalf. I hope all senators will support this amendment to the motion so we can pass this motion unanimously.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there further debate? Are honourable senators ready for the question?
An Hon. Senator: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It has been moved by Honourable Senator Ataullahjan, seconded by Honourable Senator Martin, as amended by motion of Honourable Senator Cools, that the Senate of Canada express and urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to express its support for Malala — shall I dispense?
An Hon. Senator: Dispense.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to, as amended.)
Leave having been given to revert to Commons Public Bills—Third Reading, Order No. 2:
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Carignan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Poirier, for the third reading of Bill C-419, An Act respecting language skills.
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, I wish to thank Senator Joyal for giving me the opportunity to speak to this bill. As I said in committee, the very fact that Bill C-419 was introduced at all really saddens me. What saddens me is the fact that, despite the tremendous progress that has been made over the past 50 years, since Canada first passed its Official Languages Act, some people felt that this bill was necessary.
Our successive governments have done everything they could to comply with the act. The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages has examined that legislation from every angle, particularly Part VII.
When I first joined this assembly in 2005, the very first time I was asked to vote on a law, it was to include the new article in the Official Languages Act. Since then, most of the nominees to important posts within our Parliament were people who could easily understand and converse in our two official languages. During the last year, there was one exception to that unwritten rule. Despite the fact that he came from the only officially bilingual province in Canada, and he could correctly read a short speech in acceptable French, a year later, despite his many efforts, he still cannot easily understand nor improvise correctly in French.
The bill we are being asked to pass today will prevent this problem from happening in the future. Much like those who sit in the other place, all of the francophone members of this assembly felt aggrieved by the fact that they could not address the Auditor General in the language of their choice without the extremely competent assistance of our interpreters. This explains the origin of the bill before us today.
As I said at the beginning of my presentation, I would have preferred that this bill not be needed. I would have preferred to say to you, "Listen to our Prime Minister, a man originally from Ontario who later made his home in Alberta and managed to learn what was for him his second official language."
He can now express himself in nearly flawless French. He understands what everyone says despite any differences in regional accents.
When one really tries, learning a new language is possible, most of the time. It may make you smile if I tell that you it took me many months to understand our dear Senator Finley's brogue. I am still trying hard sometimes to make sense of Senator Manning's accent when he speaks too rapidly. Still, this woman coming from a small Quebec town has learned to read, write and speak English well enough to communicate with most of you.
We discussed the same subject when we were considering the abilities needed to become a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada. Should bilingualism become a necessary ability to obtain different high levels within the Government of Canada? Would we be losing some valuable candidates?
The other big question is this: Would our government choose someone who could only speak French? With most of you, I dare to doubt it. I just hope that parents will make sure that their children are initiated to both languages when they are very young. That would certainly increase their chances to later reach these high places within the Government of Canada, where they need to work and communicate in our two official languages. If a young Swiss cannot graduate from high school without speaking French, German, Italian, English and Romansh, our Canadian kids should be able to learn to express themselves at least in French and English.
Let me close by repeating myself. I feel very sad that Bill C-419 has become necessary. Despite this, I will vote for this bill and hope that you will follow suit.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Further debate?
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, many of you were here in this house when the candidate for the Auditor General's position, Mr. Ferguson, appeared before the Senate. Obviously, quite a few of us noted that Mr. Ferguson was functionally unilingual, and we were concerned about whether a position so important for Parliament and indeed for all Canadians could be occupied by a unilingual person.
You may recall that we were temporarily satisfied with one of Mr. Ferguson's commitments, namely that he would learn the other official language within a reasonable period of time. Of course, when I left this house, I was very concerned about the principle of equality of Canada's two official languages, so I felt compelled to reread section 24(2) of the Official Languages Act, which reads as follows:
(2) Any federal institution that reports directly to Parliament on any of its activities has the duty to ensure that any member of the public can communicate with and obtain available services from all of its offices or facilities in Canada or elsewhere in either official language.
(3) Without restricting the generality of subsection (2), the duty set out in that subsection applies in respect of. . .
(c) the Office of the Auditor General; . . .
The issue is whether, from a legal standpoint, "the Office of the Auditor General" means that the Assistant Auditor General may speak both languages or that this duty does not apply strictly to the Auditor General himself.
There is a world of difference between an office or a unit that can generally communicate or provide services in both languages and the office-holder himself being proficient in both languages.
My personal understanding of the Official Languages Act and the principle of linguistic equality that is enshrined therein and reflected in sections 16 to 23 of the Constitution of Canada is that this was a strict obligation, meaning that the Auditor General himself had to be proficient in both official languages. I therefore did what any good Canadian would do under the circumstances and I wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Official Languages to ask for his interpretation of subsections 24(2) and (3) of the Official Languages Act, which I read earlier. With your permission, I will read the letter that I sent on November 1, 2011, after this chamber discussed this very issue. The letter reads:
No doubt you are aware of the public debate surrounding the appointment of the next Auditor General of Canada and the fact that he is unilingual.
Representatives of the Treasury Board and the Privy Council who appeared before the Senate yesterday indicated that paragraph 24(3)(c) of the Official Languages Act applies to the institution of the Auditor General and not the office-holder. In other words, the office-holder is separate from the institution.
Consequently, the debate is on the definition of the expression "Office of the Auditor General" as set out in the act. I maintain that, as with section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which mentions the "Office of the Speaker" in reference to the office-holder, and section 41 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which mentions the "Office of the Queen" in reference to the sovereign, the expression "Office of the Auditor General" in subsection 24(3) includes the office-holder.
If a law is to be interpreted, then that interpretation and the decision reached on paragraph 24(3)(c) must be based on the definitions given in other laws.
The letter goes on to say:
As the Official Languages Act is a quasi-constitutional law according to the Supreme Court, it seems to us that we should be looking to the Constitution Act of Canada for the understanding required to define the scope of section 24(3) (c).
You will find enclosed the testimony from Treasury Board and Privy Council representatives, as heard in the Senate yesterday.
My question was as follows:
Could you share with us your legal interpretation of section 24(3)(c) as to whether or not the obligations set out in the Official Languages Act apply to the person who holds the position of Auditor General, who is an Officer of Parliament?
The letter was sent the day after our sitting.
I received a response from the Auditor General. Honourable senators, I would like to read it or put it on the record. I think that it is extremely important because, if his response confirmed my interpretation, there could be court challenges if the person holding the position were unilingual. If it did not, the interpretation provided by the representatives from the Treasury Board and Ms. Doré — who appeared on behalf of the Privy Council because she chaired or was on the selection committee — would apply.
The Commissioner of Official Languages wrote to me on May 10, 2012, seven months after my letter of November 1, 2011. The letter read as follows:
I am writing in response to your letter of November 1, 2011, in which you requested our legal interpretation of paragraph 24(3)(c) of the Official Languages Act as to whether or not the obligations set out in the act apply to the person who holds the position of Auditor General, who is an Officer of Parliament.
We have examined this issue and determined that the institutional obligation for the offices of Officers of Parliament to provide services of equal quality in both languages must also apply to the Officers of Parliament themselves.
In the case of the parliamentary institutions subject to subsections 24(2) and 24(3) of the Act, communications with and services to the public are provided not only by the offices of Officers of Parliament, but some can only provided by the Officers of Parliament themselves.
This means the person who holds the position.
Given the specific nature of services provided by the Officers of Parliament to parliamentarians and the public, subsection 24(3) implicitly imposes on the Officers of Parliament the obligation to provide their services and communicate with parliamentarians and the public in both official languages.
This interpretation is moreover consistent with the purpose of Part IV [of the Act] and the principle of substantive equality, because it enables parliamentarians...
I remind everyone that "parliamentarians" refers to senators and members of Parliament.
...and the public to receive all services from the offices of Officers of Parliament in the official language of their choice, including services provided by the Officers of Parliament themselves.
When I received this letter, honourable senators, I remembered one of my own experiences. Yesterday, our colleague, Senator De Bané spoke extensively about the principle of linguistic equality. His speech stirred up some memories, as the Honourable Senator Nolin's speech also did, and they took me back to 1976, when I took a case to court. It was an injunction to have Transport Canada's regulation 16 declared null and void. That regulation prohibited the use of French in cockpits.
The first argument that the court had to consider was the fact that the Official Languages Act was not justiciable, that it was declaratory, and had intent, but that Canadians could not go to court to seek redress in the event of an alleged violation. The thrust of the debate on how to achieve the objective of repealing the directive that prohibited the use of French centred on the enforcement of the Official Languages Act.
When I read the response from the Commissioner of Official Languages following the debate in this place on the Auditor General's unilingualism, I came to the following conclusion. Since the Official Languages Act had been amended as a result of Justice Deschênes's decision that, in future, every Canadian citizen could go before the courts to request that a decision be repealed, then a Canadian could go to court to request that the Auditor General's appointment be rescinded.
Therefore, I am very pleased that this bill was introduced and that all the members in the other place supported it. This prevents us from having to go to court to enforce a principle that, in my opinion, and as pointed out by the Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, absolutely does apply when an officer of parliament is chosen. According to the Commissioner of Official Languages, officers of parliament must provide service in the language of the parliamentarian in question, whether it is English or French, and consequently cannot say "Hold the line and dial 2 for service in French."
In the case of Bill C-419, I deplore the fact, as Senator Champagne did earlier, that it has to come to legislation. Despite everything, I think the system works.
In conclusion, the Commissioner of Official Languages was clear, in my opinion. There is a provision in the Official Languages Act and in the Canadian Constitution that allows a citizen to dispute such a decision.
Fortunately, we do not have to go to court to achieve official language equality in the case of officers of Parliament.
Honourable Senator Champagne, I might lament the fact that we had to go through Florida to get back to Ottawa, but I think that Bill C-419 is sound, and the principles behind it must make us think about the bilingualism of Supreme Court justices. It is not my intention to talk about that today, but this does bring us back to the same arguments that were made in this chamber on that topic.
After some 45 years of the Official Languages Act, as Senator De Bané reminded us yesterday, Canadians expect to be heard by a judge in the language of their choice. I will be filing documents with the Supreme Court soon and I have to wonder whether they should be in English or in French. For example, I wanted to seek permission to intervene on a procedural issue recently. In order to get that permission I had to make a written submission to explain to the court my arguments for intervening.
I did not know which judge would receive my application and I wondered whether I should write in English or in French to get that permission. Did I make my decision based on my constitutional rights to express myself in my mother tongue and to be understood in that language by the judge in question?
As Senator Champagne was saying, we are always unilingual francophones until we appear before a court like that; then we are bilingual. A Canadian citizen who has to appear before a judge has the right to be heard in his or her language. In the same way, as a parliamentarian, if I have a question for the Auditor General, I want him to hear me and speak to me in my language in order to be sure that he is hearing and understanding what I want to say. It is the exclusive right of every parliamentarian to do so in either official language.
Honourable senators, I am very pleased that this bill was passed, because it deals with a fundamental principle. The Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, issued a legal opinion that was entirely fair under the circumstances. Thank you, honourable senators.
(On motion of Senator Carignan, for Senator McIntyre, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion, as amended, of the Honourable Senator Cools, seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau:
That this case of privilege, relating to the actions of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, be referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament for consideration, in particular with respect to the consequences for the Senate, for the Senate Speaker, for the Parliament of Canada and for the country's international relations;
And on the motion of the Honourable Senator Tardif, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cowan, that the question be referred to a Committee of the Whole for consideration.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, since Motion No. 144 has been on the Order Paper for 15 days, and I know that Senator Comeau wants to address this matter, I would therefore ask that the debate on this motion be adjourned in his name for the remainder of his time.
(On motion of Senator Carignan, for Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Kinsella, calling the attention of the Senate to the cornerstone place of the Senate of Canada in the building and maintenance of the strong edifice of freedom and equality that is Canada.
Hon. Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis: Honourable senators, I wish to speak today to offer my support to our honourable colleague, the Speaker of the Senate, and his inquiry into the role — and dare I say, the importance — of our institution. The speech he gave on June 18 really moved me; I cannot help but echo his wise words.
The very existence of this institution is being called into question, and many people believe that abolishing it is the only solution. You will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with that idea because I believe in the validity of our work and our reason for being.
As his Honour the Speaker said so well, our founding fathers built an effective parliamentary system, one that is democratic and free and the envy of many countries. Like many federations, such as our American neighbour, Britain or even Germany, we have a bicameral system where our institution carries out crucial work in representing the interests of our regions and our remote areas when we undertake a second, objective consideration of bills.
On several occasions since Confederation in 1867, the composition and roles of our Parliament have evolved, and I am not talking only about the House of Commons, but also about the Senate. That leads me to believe that there will always be a place for adaptation and change in order to ensure that all of our political institutions reflect reality and can adequately face the challenges that Canadians encounter.
Honourable senators, these are difficult times and at no point can we just hope that it will all go away. We need to redouble our efforts and show Canadians, through our actions, that the Senate of Canada is still a very important democratic institution concerned with the maintenance and defence of our citizens' fundamental freedoms and rights.
Honourable senators, we must continue to carry out our work with integrity, diligence and concern in order to combat the cynicism surrounding our institution and to help build our federation. Like you, I am extremely proud to be part of this honourable institution.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I would like to congratulate Senator Fortin-Duplessis for her very valuable and inspiring comments.
It was an inspirational speech, thank you.
Honourable senators, I wish to join in this debate. I was very inspired both by Senator Fortin-Duplessis and certainly by His Honour, who has been, in my estimation — not to curry favour — an excellent Speaker. In my political career of some 20 years in two different houses, I have encountered a variety. He did what great Speakers would do. At a time when this institution needs support and leadership, he stood in this house and began a debate that I think is extremely important, and hopefully we can further this debate for some time to come, if not long into the future.
In some sense, as I was listening to his presentation, I had the thought — the hope perhaps — that this was ground zero, that we could now find a base in our reputational challenge and begin to turn and build from that base a different impression in Canadians' eyes about this institution, different than the one that they have certainly held most recently and, to some extent, for far too long a period of time.
It is in that context that I wanted to talk about the possibilities of how we might put together a package, a proactive program to begin to sustain, develop and enhance the reputation of our remarkable institution.
I should step back a minute and say that what the Speaker said was very powerful, in particular, in emphasizing the history of this institution, its ability to change and reform, because it has done that, and the great contribution it has made over the years, over the many decades, 146 years, to the public policy debate and the implementation of great public policy in this country.
In his last paragraph, he states:
... let us engage our compatriots in a dialogue that will be informative of the principles which made Confederation possible and which keep Canada strong and free.
He did that in the context of debating and discussing the importance, with Canadians, of the Senate. It is in that context that I wanted to begin my comments specifically.
I believe it is very important to structure a dialogue. Often now, particularly in the lexicon of political jargon these days, we hear about the need for a conversation about this issue or that issue. The question is how do you structure a conversation with the public in a diverse country such as this, at a time when it is sometimes difficult to get the front pages of whatever press is significant on issues that are not simply of the moment and particularly headline-grabbing. I expect that this issue — the strengths, importance and contribution of the Senate — will never actually be headline-grabbing.
How do we structure a dialogue? I thought about a number of possibilities.
One could be that we, as an institution, put together a road show, if you will. Perhaps we do it in September, when we are not sitting, every second, third or fifth year.
I could imagine a well-developed program where we set up town hall meetings, perhaps in 10 different centres and municipalities, small and large, across the country. We could go to these municipalities and conduct these town hall meetings as the core program or core element of a program that we would conduct in each of these centres. We could do it in teams of five, eight or ten. The one or two days that these teams would spend in each of these 10 municipalities or centres across the country would include a town hall meeting that is well advertised, well supported and perhaps choreographed to some extent, or at least produced by someone such as our former colleague Tommy Banks, who knows how to put on a show. I do not mean "show" in a facile way; I mean a show that would allow us to communicate with people in both ways and that would be organized in a very structured way so that we could speak and, more important, so that we could listen.
Perhaps that day would also see the team members in each of these centres speaking to school classes, the Rotary, the chamber of commerce, the Lions Club, meeting with editorial boards and doing a press conference. One can imagine the possibilities of what we could muster — with the capable people in this house, in the Senate, and with the support staff — to put on very powerful outreach programs across this country on a regular basis.
That would begin a dialogue. It would give us a chance to present what we do in an organic way, right on the ground, as it were, at the grassroots level. More important, it would give us a chance to listen. We could structure that. We could take that input, put it on websites, feed it back and demonstrate that we are making changes as a result. It would be a very powerful technique for integrating us, building trust, communicating and educating people about what this remarkable institution does and about what the many remarkable people in it do and have done historically and can be prepared to do in the future. That is a key element of creating this dialogue and this discussion.
Another key element on which I think we need to do a great deal more work is the electronics, the digital world of communication. As hard as the Senate staff has been working to improve that, there is a long way to go.
Just this week, I went to the parliamentary website to try to find the report of the Defence Committee on sexual harassment. It may be that I am not particularly apt in navigating that website; it may be my fault. However, I could not find that report on the website where it should have been.
In fact, this morning I went back to the site and clicked on the "committee reports" button, and that report was not there. In fact, as of this morning, the latest updated report is May 2013, almost a month ago. Now it is up to date, I have noticed, because I have talked to some people. However, that should never have been the case. The fact is that with respect to the harassment report, the same can be said about the Social Affairs Committee report. It was tabled yesterday and it was also not on this list until this afternoon, in response, I suspect, to my inquiries about that.
There are real structural, architectural problems with this website. I have been told the technology is 20 years old. If you want to put up new content, not just a relatively easy link but new content, a page that might discuss new rules or release all the rules — I do not know; you can imagine — it can take months, because it is not just an uploading issue or a linking issue; it is a programming issue.
To think that this institution, which so desperately needs to listen to the people of Canada, not just for our own sake, not just for the sake of this institution, and that so desperately needs to establish its credibility for the sake of the credibility of the parliamentary process and for the sake of people's belief in democratic institutions, imagine that we have a website structure that is 20 years out of date and that you cannot even search Hansard. You cannot search for Senator Neufeld's remarkable interventions. You cannot search for an intervention on sexual harassment in the RCMP. You would have a difficult time finding Senator Ataullahjan's debate and subsequent debate about her very fine and important motion that we passed today.
It is almost incomprehensible, in the 21st century, that you would have an institution of this import to the people of this country where they do not have access, in the most basic, fundamental way, through digital services, which should open this place up, to something as basic as searching Hansard for what we are saying on their behalf, talking to them and trying to reflect their views. We need to get much better about modernizing our electronics and our digital presentation, our digital face, to the Canadian world and to the international world.
I would say, for example, that it is very important that we are open about information with regard to our expenses. We all know that. In fact, the two audit provisions, the Auditor General and the audit committee, are both very important steps to reform, to open up and to create transparency. However, they are both very defensive. They are not proactive. They do not sell us. They certainly open us up, and that is very important.
Even at that, if you go to the quarterly reports and you want to compare — which is useful for all of us, because we can see where we stand relative to other people who might live in the same region or who might have the same configuration of roles — you cannot just see them on a chart where you can easily compare. You have to go into one report, and out, and then back into another report, and then out and back in. There is no way to easily combine the different reports from the different quarters. It is such basic spreadsheet technology, which has been around successfully for decades. We do not have that in the way that we report to the people of Canada. Again, modernizing the system does not have to cost all that much money, but it would be remarkable in value for money and in the return we would get.
I want to emphasize once again the valiant efforts of the staff, of the Clerk who is sitting in our Sergeant-at-Arms chair right now, the effort that is being done, but it takes some resources. Yes, it would take spending some money, but it does not have to take spending a lot of money. We would get value for money. What is more important, the Canadian people would get value for money.
To think that we want to encourage and bring young people into the political process, and we lament the fact that they do not even want to vote. They live in an online world. They live in a world that I, at least, cannot comprehend. They see the Web like we see a table of contents in a book. It is a remarkable, wonderful, creative and exciting world for them. They cannot get access in that world to this institution, and we wonder why they are alienated from the political process. It almost speaks for itself, I would say.
That brings me to another technology for which I think the time just has to have come, and that is televising, or at least podcasting, this institution in this chamber. I can see it mounting. I am feeling momentum here.
I know there is reluctance to do that, and I wonder why there is such reluctance. Maybe people are uncomfortable knowing they are on television, but every one of us is on television in committee. Does anyone even think about being on television when they are in committee any longer? No. A corollary to that is that because we would be on television, we would misbehave. Well, if we are misbehaving, the Canadian people should know that and maybe that would put pressure on us to change. I think, actually, regarding those few times that some of us are intemperate, we would probably find even fewer of those times, knowing the extent to which we would even be aware of being on television.
We have not misbehaved in committee. We get tremendous feedback from some poor soul who is up at three o'clock on Saturday morning and cannot sleep who says, "I saw you. I saw your committee." We get tremendous feedback.
All of the structural issues, the problem with saying "rapporté" or "stand," that this would bother people — that can all be handled with a management process, all of it. The idea that there might be empty seats can be handled. The idea that it would cost a great deal of money is not true. It would be $2 million to get a TV channel, if you could, and televise it. It is about $120,000 to put four very small podcasting cameras here. There is a room full of technology that has already been developed and is not being used downstairs. It would cost maybe $30,000 a year for two people to run this television/podcasting effort downstairs, the producer to make sure that they just got our shoulders and head, and I would look tall, so I am all for that. I have had people say to me after years in politics, "Oh, you're Grant Mitchell. I thought you were tall," because the only time they ever saw me was on television.
An Hon. Senator: What is wrong with that?
Senator Mitchell: What is wrong with that? That is really why I want this. Also, to make sure that with the empty seats, people are not misled by the fact that sometimes everyone cannot be here because there are other things to do.
There is also a fundamental point of principle in this, and that is that people have the right to see their institution, and they have a right to see us. If they live in Ottawa or visit Ottawa, they get to see us. Every once in a while, some of them come and visit. That is a right that in this day and age that should not be held exclusively to people who can be here. We can extend this across the country. We can give people access from across the country.
Could I have five more minutes?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, is leave granted for another five minutes?
Senator Mitchell: Thank you. I would like to say, therefore, my emphasis is on structuring through this outreach program that I have described briefly, a physical, personal, face-to-face dialogue, a presentation of what we do and a listening process for what Canadians think of us and think we should be doing.
I would like to emphasize that it is time to modernize. We talk about modernizing the Senate. There is no more specific way to modernize the Senate than to bring it into the digital age, and there are a number of ways to do that, certainly, by giving some resources to very keen and capable staff members in our Senate administration to build a state-of-the-art, world-class website, a portal to the world that can structure dialogue in the way that can be done so readily.
I would also like to emphasize that we can open up our reporting better, give people the chance to work with the data, to analyze the data and give us feedback on what they think about that data. I am sure we will get lots of it.
I would just finish by saying that in keeping with this website and the outreach, we need to look at how we structure our communications department, how aggressive it can be, whether we are getting value for money in the way it is working now. I am not being critical of the people in that department at all. It is very difficult in this kind of circumstance where there are apparent partisan views of things. I understand it is difficult, but I think we can work through that and create leadership and do better with op-eds and letters to the editor that respond and special editions of whatever, to communicate better what we do in many different ways.
Clearly, there are the initiatives to reform the Senate, for example the bills that are now before the Supreme Court. All of that is pending, and to some extent we cannot really control that, certainly not now because it is before the court, and maybe never can the Senate control it if it comes back and requires 7 and 50 to make these changes, provincial input.
However, we can control the things I mentioned. We can do that together. We can do it as a team, both sides, non-partisan, and we can create in the minds of Canadians something that is important and special. We can further and enhance our work because we will be listening better and we will be respected more. We will be able to reflect what it is Canadians want us to do, their ideas, defend their rights, defend their issues, promote their ideas, and support and sustain this remarkable parliamentary process and this remarkable institution that much better.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Would the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Senator Downe: You make a very strong argument, as you always do. The concern I have is in reference to how well the committees work. The difference between the committees and this chamber is Question Period, and I do not think any of us want to have a Question Period similar to that of the House of Commons. I am wondering whether the honourable senator has any suggestions on improving Question Period under this format. Should we ask committee chairs what is going on in their committees?
In my opinion, simply asking the Leader of the Government in the Senate over and over again the same questions being asked in the House of Commons is duplication. What suggestions does Senator Mitchell have in that area?
Senator Mitchell: Actually, I think if people saw our Question Period, by and large — I am referring to myself — they would say, "Wow, if only the House of Commons would conduct their Question Period like the Senate conducts its Question Period." I think you will find there would be a great deal of support for the kind of decorum generally that it is in this Question Period. In fact, that is what we get every time in committee. I just had it again this morning, someone who had appeared on both sides, a house committee and a Senate committee, and just backing up what Mel Cappe said in his op-ed piece.
If we began to realize we were being watched in that way, we would probably begin to migrate to a different format, possibly. I think we might emphasize much more questioning of committee chairs and so on.
I really believe in my heart of hearts that Canadians watching this Question Period would 99 per cent of the time find it is quite inspirational compared to that one, and it would actually emphasize and enhance our reputation amongst them.
Senator Downe: I am not opposed to the suggestion, but my concern would be that the Question Period in a televised Senate would be the one place where some future member who will be appointed, who is obviously not here today, would hot-dog it to get the coverage. It may be the only coverage the Senate gets on TV of someone misbehaving, if I can call it that, as they do in the House of Commons. I do not think there is any evidence that televising the House of Commons —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform the honourable senator that the extended time has expired.
Is there further debate? If not, is it the wish of honourable senators that this matter remain adjourned in the name of Senator Joyal?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Joyal, debate adjourned.)
Leave having been given to revert to Routine Proceedings, Presenting or Tabling of Reports from Committees:
Hon. Joseph A. Day, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, presented the following report:
Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has the honour to present its
Your Committee, to which was referred Bill S-217, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (borrowing of money), has, in obedience to the order of reference of Tuesday, May 21, 2013, examined the said bill and now reports as follows:
Pursuant to rule 12-23(5), your Committee recommends that this bill not be proceeded with further in the Senate for the reasons that follow.
Your Committee was told by officials from the Department of Finance that in comparison to the previous legal framework, which Bill S-217 seeks to restore, the present borrowing authority regime has provided for a more efficient, flexible, responsive and prudent financial management and greater transparency and accountability. Officials from both the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance emphasized the important part the current borrowing authority process played in facilitating Canada's actions in the fall of 2008 to the global financial crisis.
The Committee was told by officials from the Department of Finance that the current regime introduced enhanced disclosure requirements on anticipated borrowing and planned uses of funds. In part, this is achieved through improvements to the Debt Management Strategy which is included in the Budget and is debated and voted on by members of the House of Commons each year. The Debt Management Strategy contains information regarding anticipated financial requirements, borrowing requirements, refunding requirements as well as detailed information outlining planned sources and uses of funds. This information forms the basis for the submission the Minister of Finance makes to the Governor in Council on borrowing authority.
The officials from the Department of Finance explained to the Committee that, in addition to the Debt Management Strategy, the Government is required to publish a Debt Management Report. This report provides a reconciliation of the projections in the Debt Management Strategy and what was actually required by the Government. This information, like the Debt Management Strategy, is available to Canadians and Parliamentarians. They also noted that under the current system, the Debt Management Report is required to be published within 30 days of the release of that years' Public Accounts, 15 days less than under the previous process.
Although not discussed by witnesses, the Committee would also note that Bill S-217, as presently drafted, does not have a coming into force provision. This omission constitutes a significant structural concern for some members of the Committee. As it is now, if this Bill were to receive Royal Assent, the proposed changes to the Financial Administration Act would be immediate.
It is the opinion of the majority of the Committee that the present borrowing authority process strikes an appropriate balance between parliamentary oversight and the requirement for efficiency and flexibility.
JOSEPH A. DAY
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this matter be taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Day, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Callbeck, calling the attention of the Senate to the need to address the high rate of youth unemployment in Canada which has remained consistently high for more than two years.
Hon. Diane Bellemare: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to you about youth unemployment, an issue of great concern to me, particularly in today's demographic context. In its recent report entitled: Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A generation at risk, the International Labour Organization states, "It is not easy to be young in the labour market today."
It may be easier in Canada than in many other countries, such as Greece — where the youth unemployment rate is more than 50 per cent — Spain, Italy or France. However, things are far from perfect in Canada, where the youth unemployment rate was more than 14 per cent in 2012 and for part of 2013, although it has since dropped below 14 per cent. What is more, there are significant regional differences in Canada. Youth unemployment in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick is approaching 20 per cent. It is close to 17 per cent in Ontario. Only Alberta and Saskatchewan have youth unemployment rates that are below 10 per cent.
As parents, we know that it is important for our children to get a good start in life. In her speech, Senator Callbeck alluded to the fact that problems experienced early in life can hinder youths' professional careers for a long time. When I was a professor of economics, I saw first-hand the difficulties faced by students who completed their post-secondary education in 1983, when youth unemployment rates were again higher than 14 per cent and reached about 19 per cent. Those young people had a very hard time finding suitable employment and often found stable employment only 15 years later, in the late 1990s.
Why is unemployment always higher among youth than adults? There are a number of reasons. First and foremost, the transition from one job to another, especially when one is an adult with experience, is easier to make than the transition from school to the job market.
Lack of experience often presents a barrier to employment for young people. That is particularly true when labour market conditions are difficult. Young people are also laid off more quickly and more often than people with more seniority. A recent Statistics Canada study conducted by André Bernard and published in June 2013 indicates that the layoff rate among young people was 3.5 per cent. That is almost three times higher than the layoff rate among 25- to 54-year-olds. However, as the researcher noted, young people were able to find jobs more quickly than adults, although the jobs they found were not necessarily well-paid jobs commensurate with their qualifications. Most often, the young people found temporary or part-time jobs. Thus, young people tend to have a number of spells of employment and unemployment and to be underemployed.
For some time now, statistics have suggested that the nature of young people's unemployment and particularly their employment is changing, and not necessarily for the better. These changes have been observed in Canada and in most industrialized countries. Finance Minister Flaherty raised the issue of youth unemployment before the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. In response to a question from the Honourable Senator Larry Smith about the Finance Minister's concerns, Mr. Flaherty said:
We have quite a few young people who do not fit into the economy right now.... We need to ensure that young people, whether they graduated from community college, skills training courses or university, have their first shot at exposure and show an employer what they can do and get some experience working at whatever it is.... Our youth unemployment rate is higher than we would like. Historically, it is higher than the adult unemployment rate anyway, but we need to do better.
Not only is the gap between the youth and adult unemployment rates widening, but the economic recovery does not seem to be helping young people. In Canada, the number of jobs held by youth and the proportion of youth who have a job — the youth employment rate — have been dropping since 2008. These numbers increased slightly in May but that was an exception to the trend. Meanwhile, employment and the employment rate of the Canadian population as a whole have been increasing since 2009 and have exceeded the highs reached in 2008.
Why are young people not participating in this employment growth? Some would say that the number of youth in Canada aged 15 to 24 has dropped. That is false. Overall, the number of young people aged 15 to 24 living in Canada has remained stable and even increased slightly since 2008. Compared to the high reached in 2008, the drop in youth employment is being felt in all of the provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador. This drop in youth employment is most pronounced in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
How is it that young people are not participating in this employment growth and the economic recovery? What are the long-term consequences of that? In general, the youth unemployment rate is about twice as high as the average rate. This is generally true at the national, provincial and regional levels. When the ratio of youth unemployment to general unemployment is much less than two to one, as is the case in Germany and Japan for example, we should be trying to understand those countries' best practices. When the ratio of youth unemployment to general unemployment is much greater than two to one, we should be wondering what is going wrong. In Canada, the ratio of youth unemployment to adult unemployment has gone up in recent years.
According to the study conducted by André Bernard from Statistics Canada:
In 2012, the youth unemployment rate was 2.4 times that of workers aged 25 to 54, the biggest gap recorded since 1977. As noted by an OECD study, the youth employment situation in numerous countries has also deteriorated.
Another troubling fact is that university studies no longer guarantee employment. While the unemployment rate for university graduates in the general population is lower than that of non-university graduates, the same is not true for 15- to 24-year-olds.
In fact, the unemployment rate for young university graduates is higher than that of youth with a post-secondary certificate or diploma. In 2012, the unemployment rate for youth with a university degree was 10 per cent, whereas it was only 8.8 per cent for youth with a secondary diploma or certificate.
Another alarming fact is that young people with a graduate degree have an unemployment rate of 14 per cent, while it is only 4.4 per cent for post-graduates over the age of 25. That is unheard of.
At the other end of the education scale, here in Canada, as in other countries, we are seeing an increase in the proportion of youth who do not have a job, are not studying and are not in training. They are referred to as NEET, meaning:
Neither in employment, nor education and training.
According to OECD data, this proportion in Canada has increased from 10.8 per cent of the youth population in 2001 to 11.6 per cent in 2011. You may say, honourable senators, that this increase is not all that significant, but it represents more than 500,000 young Canadians who are neither studying, nor in job training nor working. I doubt that they are all travelling around the world. According to studies, these youth are often unskilled and, in certain countries, are part of the immigrant population, as is the case in France, for example.
These figures are quite high in Canada compared to other countries. The proportion of young people not in employment, education or training is 8.9 per cent in Germany and 6.7 per cent in Norway. Canada's numbers are especially high considering that businesses in Canada complain of labour shortages, even though young people are unemployed and many are actively looking for work.
What then is happening in the labour market for young people? Are they overqualified? Are they underqualified, or are their skills mismatched to the jobs available?
Analyses conducted by the OECD and the International Labour Organization suggest that there is a growing mismatch between the skills of young people and those sought by businesses. Many young people are still underqualified, especially those who drop out before completing high school. However, university graduates are often overqualified and end up working in jobs that less educated youths could have taken.
Given this situation, is encouraging young people to pursue a university degree during a recession or economic stagnation really an ideal solution, or are we just pushing the problem down the road? Why are companies not hiring today's young generation, when they know that our youth are the future and they are experiencing shortages? Should we not be increasing apprenticeship opportunities in businesses as well as partnerships between businesses and schools?
Is the problem of youth underemployment related to the weak economy and the lack of strategies in place? Are macroeconomic growth models adequate to address the problem?
As the OECD suggests in its recent youth action plan, along with the International Labour Organization, active labour market policies and youth employment guarantees would be best practices to improve the economic situation of young people. How can they be encouraged in Canada?
These are questions without answers. Minister Flaherty's latest budget offers solutions to some of these problems, for example with measures to promote apprenticeship and the Canada Job Grant. However, we know that all levels of government, businesses and parents have a role to play in making a lasting improvement to the youth employment problem.
Honourable senators, when Parliament resumes in the fall, why not conduct a study on the employment, unemployment and underemployment of young Canadians and on the various regional differences? This study would be very helpful to our children and for the future, but it would be especially useful in the current demographic context.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable Senator Bellemare, will you accept a question?
Senator Bellemare: Yes.
Hon. Jean-Claude Rivest: As far as youth unemployment is concerned, do the studies indicate that Western countries are looking at the impact of older persons extending their careers and staying in the labour market? Also, do we know what will happen when the age of retirement gets pushed back, as is currently happening in France?
Senator Bellemare: Honourable senators, that is a good question, because when we look at the data for Canada, we see that the job recovery has been favourable for people 55 and older. This is something that could be studied in committee.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, there is something that is rarely spoken of in Parliament, but I am going to say it anyway. Does the quality of education that young people are getting affect their employability?
Senator Bellemare: That issue will be the topic of an inquiry on literacy that I will initiate when Parliament resumes. The graduation rate among young people has gone up significantly, and there are some basic skills that some categories of young people may be lacking, such as digital literacy.
In my opinion, students are choosing fields of study at university that are not necessarily in demand. In Canada, students receive education that is more general than job-related, and that is the problem we need to address.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, there were other senators rising to ask questions, but the honourable senator's time has expired. Is leave given for more time?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Five minutes.
Hon. Maria Chaput: Honourable senators, according to the studies, what would we have to do to ensure that the jobs available meet the needs of young people? Does the honourable senator have any examples to give us? What do we have to do to help them access the job market?
Senator Bellemare: I do not have specific answers to all of those questions, but I can give you an example of what is currently happening on the job market. Young people get out of university after completing their studies in communications. Space in such programs is limited because there are many communications graduates. What happens to these graduates? They will often end up in receptionist jobs.
Receptionists certainly need to communicate and have to solve a lot of problems, but receptionist positions can be filled by people without a university education. The problem is that when we compare our young people to young people in other countries, many of our young people take the university track instead of the vocational, scientific or technical track.
They have to make career choices after high school, and parents often play a role in that.
Parents have a role to play. Every parent dreams of seeing their children go to university, but the well-paid jobs that are available on the labour market do not always necessarily go to university graduates; many of them go to graduates of technical and vocational programs.
Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: I thank Senator Bellemare for the information. Are there barriers to labour mobility in Canada? I have a good friend who has a 21-year-old son in Quebec who has just finished his training as an electrician. He cannot find work in Quebec, but without working for six months as an apprentice, he cannot get his complete certification. In the West, he could find a job as a newly trained electrical helper very quickly.
Is there a way to break down these barriers between the provinces in recognizing the trades?
Senator Bellemare: In 1959, Canada established the Red Seal program, which connects the training programs in the various provinces, particularly in the field of construction. This program ensures that the credentials a young person obtains through training in Quebec, for example, are recognized as equivalent to the training or requirements needed in British Columbia.
Since 1959, 59 Red Seals have been negotiated, which is very few considering the number of existing trades. There may be many Red Seal trades in the field of construction, but overall, very few trades have the Red Seal designation. We must step up our efforts when it comes to credential recognition.
Senator Raine: To get the Red Seal endorsement, do you have to work with someone in your province? If you have been trained and there are no jobs in your province, how do you do that?
Senator Bellemare: I cannot answer that question. It does not fall within my area of expertise.
Hon. Art Eggleton: Congratulations on this endeavour for youth unemployment. Earlier today I spoke to the report of the Social Affairs Committee on social inclusion, and I included some similar statistics on youth unemployment. The Social Affairs Committee also did a study that came out a couple of years ago on access to post-secondary education. Both of these reports address some of the issues you have raised here today.
There are a couple of things that we have seen more recently that I would like to have your comment on. One is a report from the Certified General Accountants Association that said while youth unemployment is high, they think the biggest issue is underemployment. You talked about someone graduating but not being able to get into their field of endeavour and having to wait on tables or take other work, and it is taking them longer to get to the jobs they are trained for. The other was the linking of jobs without people and people without jobs. Perhaps you could comment on both issues.
Senator Bellemare: I read the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada's report entitled: Youth Unemployment in Canada, Challenging Conventional Thinking.
It is true that the association believes that underemployment may be more of a problem than unemployment. I tend to agree because many young people are underemployed. That is why I think that we should do an in-depth study of Canada's employment problem at the local level. I feel strongly that we must not accept such high youth unemployment rates. The average unemployment rate is 14 per cent.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to draw your attention to the nationwide issue of youth unemployment, with special focus on racialized Canadians. First off, I would like to thank Senator Callbeck for calling the attention of the Senate to the need to address the high rate of youth unemployment in Canada, which has remained consistently high for more than two years.
As honourable senators are aware, the youth unemployment rate has remained at 14 per cent for the past two years — twice the national average. According to a report written by the Wellesley Institute entitled Canada's Colour Coded Labour Market, racialized Canadians earn only 81.4 cents for every dollar paid to you non-racialized Canadians. This figure differs between different racialized groups.
Those who identify as Black earn 75.6 cents for every dollar that a non-racialized worker earns, with an annual earning gap of $9,101. Those who identify as Chinese earn 89 cents for every dollar. Poverty rates for racialized families are three times higher than for non-racialized families. These figures have a heavy impact on health risks among poor Canadians.
In fact, a growing number of studies link unemployment, underemployment, insecurity and poor health. Dr. Yogendra Shakya, senior research scientist at Access Alliance, stated:
While immigrants and immigration is the heart and soul of this country, if you look at the main basis of inequality in Canada, along with gender, it's based on race and immigrant status.
Statistics Canada has reported that last year the youth unemployment rate was 2.4 times that of workers aged 25 to 54, which is the biggest gap recorded since 1977. Again, there are differences within certain racialized groups. The overall unemployment rate for Toronto youth was 19.6 per cent compared with 38 per cent for African and Black youth. This critical issue must be addressed as youth unemployment is a link in the chain of many negative consequences.
These high rates of youth unemployment can be linked to homicide among young Black men in Toronto. The Canadian Journal of Public Health links crimes to social isolation, persistent high unemployment and concentrated poverty. Of gang members within Canada, the National Crime Prevention Centre notes that 48 per cent are below the age of 18.
The high rate of Black homicide in Toronto may be generated and sustained by an intersection of multiple health determinants, including racialized status, racism-induced stress and intensified poverty. Examination of the ethnic composition of gangs across Canada reveals that African-Canadians make up 38 per cent and a close second is First Nations people at 22 per cent.
Although there may be many reasons why Canadian youth may join gangs, one glamorized notion is the ability to acquire material possessions especially when coming from a lower socio-economic background. Unemployment, gang involvement and homicide can account for high incarceration rates for Black youth. The Toronto Star reported that in 2011 that Black male youth made up 5 per cent of boys in Ontario but, and I say but, 24 per cent of incarcerated male youth — almost five times more than they represent in the general population.
These high involvement rates and incarceration rates are due to a complex web of social problems, including lack of employment, poverty, family situations, lack of education and unaddressed mental health issues. A combination of these factors can marginalize these youth, who may not believe they have other opportunities for success.
Following the largest mass shooting in Toronto history last summer, the Ontario government revisited its plan to address the roots of youth violence. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services prepared the Roots of Youth Violence report. The report illustrates that youth from disadvantaged communities face barriers from things as simple as lack of transportation to get to a job interview to more complex barriers such as institutional racism.
The Roots of Youth Violence report also recognizes that many youth are frustrated and angered by their inability to support themselves or their families. When these and other factors are combined with the high value our society places on economic success and possessions, the consequences for self-esteem and any sense of hope, opportunity or belonging can be serious.
Honourable senators, investing in families, education, healthy communities and opportunities for Canadian youth will bring about positive change nationwide. These positive investments are less costly than the tab incurred by health care costs, policing and jails. The youth of Canada are the future, and we must do them justice by providing them with opportunities for growth, success and employment in which they can thrive.
(On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of a distinguished group of professors and students who are participating in a Tony Blair Faith Foundation activity conducted by McGill University's Religion and Foreign Policy Program. The students are from Asia, Singapore, China, Australia, Malaysia, the United States and other parts. They are led by Professor Cere, from McGill; the Dean of Religious Studies at McGill, Professor Ellen Aitkin; and also our distinguished former Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See, Anne Leahy.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Deputy Leader of the Government), for the Honourable David Tkachuk, pursuant to notice of June 13, 2013, moved:
That the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration be permitted, notwithstanding usual practices, to deposit reports with the Clerk of the Senate between July 1, 2013, and September 30, 2013, if the Senate is not then sitting, and the reports be deemed to have been presented or tabled in the chamber, as the case may be; and
That, notwithstanding any usual practice or provision of the Rules, any presented report deposited with the Clerk under the terms of this order be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next day thereafter during the session that the Senate sits and published in the Journals of that day.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. Richard Neufeld, pursuant to notice of June 17, 2013, moved:
That, pursuant to rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources be authorized to sit for two days between Friday, June 21, 2013 and Friday, September 20, 2013 for the purpose of considering a draft report relating to its study on the current state of the safety elements of the bulk transport of hydrocarbon products in Canada, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week; and
That, notwithstanding usual practices, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources be permitted to deposit with the Clerk of the Senate the above mentioned report if the Senate is not then sitting; and that the report be deemed to have been tabled in the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 9 a.m.)