- SENATORS' STATEMENTS
- ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
- QUESTION PERIOD
- Ministry of Finance
- Business of the Senate
- ORDERS OF THE DAY
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
The Senate met at 2:15 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Victor Oh: Honourable senators, it is with great pride that I rise today to speak on Asian Heritage Month, as May marks its fifteenth annual celebration.
I am pleased that Asian Heritage Month can trace its roots back to the Senate of Canada. Fifteen years ago, former Senator Vivienne Poy introduced a motion in the Senate to adopt May as the time to celebrate the achievements made by many Canadians of Asian descent.
Today, Asia is one of the largest sources of immigrants to Canada, who make up nearly 20 per cent of our population. Asian Heritage Month is a perfect opportunity to learn more about the historical, cultural and social contributions of Asian Canadians to our country.
As a Canadian, I am proud to live in a country that welcomes diversity. Our commitment to multiculturalism serves as a powerful example of how people of different backgrounds and beliefs are able to live in harmony. I truly believe that this is one of our biggest strengths.
As a father, and now a grandfather, I am proud that my family has the opportunity to openly explore their heritage and learn about cultures other than their own. Having lived in Mississauga for more than 30 years, we have had the privilege to interact with the diverse and vibrant Asian community.
As a senator from Singapore of Chinese descent, I am proud to represent the multicultural character of Canada and its connection to the global community.
Such diversity is reflected in the Senate. We now have senators who come from different Asian countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, India and Korea. Having senators of Asian descent in this chamber is a testament to Canada's ethnic and cultural mosaic.
Tonight, the Honourable Senators Martin, Ataullahjan, Dyck, Enverga, Jaffer, Ngo, Omidvar and I will co-host a reception with Speaker Furey and an honoured guest, the Honourable Dr. Vivienne Poy, in recognition of the fifteenth anniversary of her motion to establish May as Asian Heritage Month.
I invite you to join us tonight to celebrate the long and rich history of Asian immigrants and their valuable contributions to our great country. Thank you.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, this week, May 1 to 7, marks National Hospice Palliative Care Week, an awareness campaign on the availability of hospice and palliative care services across the country. The theme this year encourages Canadians to advocate for quality hospice palliative care at their local levels.
According to the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, only 16 per cent to 30 per cent of Canadians who die have access to or receive hospice palliative care or end-of-life care services. Access depends on where they live. Services vary from province to province, and while most people would prefer to die at home surrounded by loved ones, the fact remains that 70 per cent of deaths occur in a hospital.
Caring for a loved one can bring a steep cost to Canadian families, not only financially but personally. Families often bear a significant portion of the total cost of home-based care — about 25 per cent. People miss work, and they use their savings to survive. The caregiving itself can take a personal toll as well — it is not surprising that many caregivers report adverse effects on their mental and physical health.
We are lucky in my home province of Prince Edward Island to have Hospice PEI, a not-for-profit organization that has been operating on the island for the last 30 years. They provide care province-wide in a variety of settings, such as in the home, in long-term care and in the Provincial Palliative Care Unit, as well as providing grief support after the death of a loved one. In 2015, Hospice PEI provided over 12,000 volunteer hours to more than 500 Island families. Their services are provided at no cost, and anyone can be referred to Hospice PEI; no doctor's referral is required.
We know the positive impact that the volunteers from organizations like Hospice PEI have on the lives and deaths of our fellow citizens, and we owe them a debt of thanks. But as I said, access is limited to a small percentage of Canadians, and even fewer have access to grief and bereavement services. Despite the progress that has been made, both on Prince Edward Island and elsewhere in the country, more needs to be done. National Hospice Palliative Care Week is a good opportunity to start a dialogue, and I would encourage all senators to be part of the discussion. Thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of our former colleague, the Honourable Asha Seth.
On behalf of all senators, I welcome you back to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, I rise today as I do every year to remind colleagues that May is National Vision Health Month. As honourable senators know, this initiative was adopted by this chamber on March 25, 2014, on a motion by our dear former colleague, the Honourable Asha Seth.
As I have mentioned in the past, honourable senators, the promotion of vision health and the elimination of preventable vision loss was the first charitable cause that I volunteered for in Canada. This was because I recognize the importance of vision health, as do many Canadians. According to the first National Vision Health Report released by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind last year, Canadians rank maintaining vision health and preventing vision loss third among the most important options for maintaining their overall health, falling behind only heart health and weight management.
Honourable senators, this positive belief about vision health is extremely heartening, but as the same CNIB report shows, there is a big difference between belief and awareness and between belief and behaviour. For example, only half of Canadians who use computers in their jobs are aware of key recommendations for reducing eye strain, and although most Canadians own sunglasses, only half wear them year-round as recommended. It is this gap that awareness campaigns during this month aim to close. It is simply not enough for Canadians to believe in the importance of eye health; they must also gain the knowledge they need to keep healthy vision and eliminate preventable vision loss.
Honourable senators, the awareness campaign this year revolves around the theme "Open Your Eyes to Blindness," which emphasizes the importance of keeping healthy vision by raising awareness about what it means to succumb to the serious loss of sight. We are counting on your support to elevate meaningful discussions on this very important issue that affects millions of Canadians. To this end, we hope that you will join the Honourable Asha Seth and me, together with our friends from the CNIB, in room 256-S Centre Block at 5:30 p.m. today to celebrate National Vision Health Month. Thank you.
Hon. Betty Unger: Honourable senators, this week is National Hospice Palliative Care Week, and today I want to take a moment to thank and honour the many palliative caregivers across Canada.
At the most vulnerable time of life, palliative caregivers are there to lessen the suffering, loneliness and grief for those living with chronic pain and life-limiting illnesses.
Palliative care workers do not often experience the joy of seeing their patients improve. The rewards do not usually include that victory over illness, those reunions after recovery or the laughter that accompanies an improved prognosis. No, honourable senators, the experience of a palliative care worker is different, and yet no less fulfilling.
Palliative care is person-centred, rather than condition-centred. It's about much more than simply treating symptoms, problems and medical issues. It's about caring for people: vulnerable people, people who are in a life transition and may be anxious about their future, those who may be in pain and need expert medical assistance to alleviate it, people who may be struggling with frailties they have never had before, and people who may have been confronted with a chronic illness that no one expected or wanted.
Honourable senators, palliative care has always been important, but now, with the introduction of legalized doctor-assisted suicide, it's more important than ever.
Studies and reports are good. Debates and discussions are valuable. But what Canada needs today is not another government committee on palliative care but a government committed to palliative care.
So today I wish to honour those who selflessly give of themselves to make the lives of others better. Today I salute you, the doctors, nurses, health care practitioners, volunteers and all those who serve in the field of palliative care. Thank you for your heart, your dedication and your service.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Spring 2016 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada, pursuant to section 7(3) of the Auditor General's Act.
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I will move:
That, in order to ensure that legislative reports of Senate committees follow a transparent, comprehensible and non-partisan methodology, the Rules of the Senate be amended by replacing rule 12-23(1) by the following:
"Obligation to report bill
12-23. (1) The committee to which a bill has been referred shall report the bill to the Senate. The report shall set out any amendments that the committee is recommending. In addition, the report shall have appended to it the committee's observations on:
(a) whether the bill generally conforms with the Constitution of Canada, including:
(i) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and
(ii) the division of legislative powers between Parliament and the provincial and territorial legislatures;
(b) whether the bill conforms with treaties and international agreements that Canada has signed or ratified;
(c) whether the bill unduly impinges on any minority or economically disadvantaged groups;
(d) whether the bill has any impact on one or more provinces or territories;
(e) whether the appropriate consultations have been conducted;
(f) whether the bill contains any obvious drafting errors;
(g) all amendments moved but not adopted in the committee, including the text of these amendments; and
(h) any other matter that, in the committee's opinion, should be brought to the attention of the Senate."
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, just before today's sitting, we learned that Senator Bellemare has been appointed as the Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate and that Senator Mitchell has been appointed as the Government Liaison.
I would like to know what their duties and roles will be under our Rules. Does the Leader of the Government intend to apply our Rules to those positions in the same way as they would apply to the positions of government leader and whip? Will these individuals be entitled to the bonuses for the deputy leader and the whip set out in the Parliament of Canada Act? It is important to define their duties for the purpose of getting on with our business today, particularly since Senator Bellemare just presented a notice of motion under Routine Proceedings rather than under the government notices of motion. What roles will these two individuals play in this chamber?
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Carignan, I'm not sure if you're raising a point of order or you wish to raise a point of order?
Senator Carignan: Yes, it is a point of order because I would like clarification regarding the title of Leader of the Government. If not, the sitting may not be properly convened.
The Hon. the Speaker: If you want to ask the leader a question, perhaps you should wait until Question Period.
Senator Carignan: It is a point of order. In order for the sitting to continue, we need to know whether we have a government leader and a whip. It is essential that we know that in order to continue the sitting because, under the Rules of the Senate, those individuals have certain rights that they could invoke or exercise during today's sitting.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I would be happy to reply to the Honourable Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
I made an announcement late this morning with respect to two colleagues who have agreed to be part of a team helping me. As my note to colleagues indicated, Senator Bellemare is acting in the role of legislative deputy to me in my function. This is, of course, technically an appointment as deputy leader in the Senate, as I was appointed in that role as leader. You will recall that the Prime Minister asked that I be styled as Government Representative in the Senate. I'm asking honourable senators to recognize Senator Bellemare in the role of Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate.
This reflects the intention of the government and me as the government's representative to emphasize a non-partisan, independent approach to the role of government representative. But I need assistance, as honourable senators will have recognized over the last two weeks, to pay attention to the legislative agenda of the Senate and to assist in the management of the legislative agenda in coordination with other colleagues designated for roles in caucuses, and for those senators who are not in caucuses, to coordinate their participation.
With respect to Senator Grant Mitchell, again, it is a function of the office holding, given the nature of law in the Senate and the rules and procedures, that this is an appointment in the title of whip, to be styled Government Liaison, and to work with other colleagues, both whipped and not whipped, in the functions necessary to perform the duties of the Government Representative in the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Carignan, before I call on you to reply, I want to be clear whether or not we are debating a matter of house business or you are raising a point of order. That would be for you to decide. Perhaps you could inform us. Are we going to continue with discussion on this matter as house business, or do you wish to actually raise a point of order?
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): On the point of order, Your Honour —
The Hon. the Speaker: I'm sorry, Senator Martin. Does Senator Carignan wish to continue the discussion as a point of order?
Senator Carignan: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you.
Senator Martin: Honourable senators, I wish to support the point of order raised in that it is very confusing for all of us as a chamber to proceed. I appreciate the hard work that Senator Bellemare will be putting in. In the email we received prior to the sitting, a Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate, as a Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, is quite different from the description that is given. Senator Harder has been sitting with me and Senator Fraser for scroll and performing both duties. I appreciate how difficult and challenging that is, but I'm trying to wrap my head around all of these new titles and how a Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate would fit into some of the routines and important procedures that we have as a Senate institution as well as going forward with getting organized for the day. These titles are not in any of our Rules or how we govern and function in this house.
I do support the point of order raised in that to move forward with senators taking on these titles, all senators should be very clear as to their roles.
Hon. Joan Fraser (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): On the point of order, Your Honour, let me preface this by saying that I congratulate Senator Mitchell and Senator Bellemare on their elevation to I'm not quite sure what position at this point, but I know they will work very hard and I wish them every success.
I think Senator Carignan is making an important point here. Our Rules and the Parliament of Canada Act refer to people who are officially titled the Deputy Leader of the Government and the Government Whip.
We know from official statements that Senator Harder is in law the government leader even though he prefers to be styled the Government Representative, but it's clear he's the government leader. But what we have attached to the announcement he issued today makes no reference to Deputy Leader of the Government or Government Whip.
What we do have, in attachment to that announcement, is something called the Mandate of the Legislative Deputy, which refers to the Legislative Deputy's role and tasks and nowhere refers to the Deputy Leader of the Government. The role and tasks of the Legislative Deputy in Senator Harder's announcement are quite different from what our Rules have to say about the role of the Deputy Leader of the Government.
The Legislative Deputy is, we are told, to assist:
. . . the Government's Representative so that all bills . . . receive a fair and non-partisan treatment;
This is very interesting in that the government leader represents the government, and maybe not all bills, including the private members' bills of senators, are partisanly comfortable for the government that he represents, that the three of them represent, we gather.
The preceding paragraph also refers to:
. . . process the legislation coming from the House of Commons (government, private members' bills and government bills in the Senate) in a transparent, impartial, constructive and non-partisan manner;
I think these are wonderful goals, but they bear only a partial resemblance to what our Rules have to say about the role of the Deputy Leader of the Government. The same is true for what we are told about the role of the — forgive me, Senator Mitchell — the whip, styled the Government Liaison in the Senate.
I suggest, Your Honour, we are not at this moment in complete conformity with the Rules and traditions of the Senate. But this can be fixed if we were to see mandate letters confirming that these persons occupy the positions of Deputy Leader of the Government and Government Whip, to be styled any way they want — Government Jack-in-the-Box.
Senator Harder: Thank you for the suggestion on names.
I can confirm that I did send a letter to the Speaker, with copies to the Leaders of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Caucus, simultaneous with the note to all senators, asking the Speaker to note that Senator Bellemare would be appointed as Deputy Leader in the Senate, to be styled, et cetera, and that Senator Mitchell would be appointed whip, to be styled, et cetera.
I thought for clarity's sake, although obviously I wasn't successful in that, it would be appropriate to use and describe the styling for senators so that as I am referred to as Government Representative, they would be styled and referred to in the nomenclature that I am describing. But I leave it to honourable senators to determine which role or appellation they wish to use in respect of my two colleagues.
Suffice to say that as the Prime Minister requested of the Speaker in the case of my appointment to be styled Government Representative, I am seeking the good will of honourable senators to similarly style the appointments made today as I have indicated.
Again, legally, as I conveyed to the Speaker, with copies to the leaders, I acknowledge that the law has not kept up with the practice. The Senate is an evolving institution and this reflects that evolution.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Let me also add my congratulations to Senators Bellemare and Mitchell. I know Senator Mitchell will continue to operate in his very non-partisan manner as he has done in the past.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Plett: And he will fit in as an independent very well.
I'm anxious, Senator Mitchell, to work with you in this non-partisan role that you have.
The Leader of the Government, in his reply to our leader, used the term "my team." I'm wondering if he could clarify.
I have here the note from the Clerk of the Senate that states Senator Mitchell's new political responsibility, Government Liaison. Whether we in fact have officially adopted something like this — for this to come from the clerk — as well as whether the government leader, in referring to the word "team," means in fact a caucus, I believe a caucus needs to be part of a clearly affiliated party.
Certainly, Senator Mitchell is very much a part of an affiliated party and has been for many years. But I'm thinking the rest of the team hasn't been styled that way, so is Senator Mitchell by himself the whip of the recognized Liberal Party or is he a whip of a separate caucus? If so, what caucus does this particular caucus affiliate with?
Senator Carignan: Who would be whipped?
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I have been listening to the debate with some interest. I think, Your Honour, that you have been invited to make a most challenging decision on this matter.
I begin by saying that I welcome Senator Harder and congratulate the two senators in question, Senators Mitchell and Bellemare. Yet I hasten always to remind us that this Senate and the House of Commons are ancient institutions that have developed practices over centuries. We rely on precedents and customs. These Parliament systems are known not to respond easily, or to take heartily to novelties, actions or titles.
Your Honour, you are being asked really to decide whether or not senators' self-styling of new positions, Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate and Government Liaison in the Senate is acceptable to this entire Senate. That is no simple decision because the Parliament of Canada Act is pretty clear about the titles of these positions: government leader, deputy leader, whips and so on.
Colleagues, maybe there is room here for adaptation, modernization and flexibility, but these names, these choices, are not simply to be decided by the two affected individual senators.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Cools: Senators cannot simply announce to the Senate that they have occupied certain positions, and have styled them, using terms that are not of the Senate. These positions and their styles are legally unknown to this Senate, unknown to its lexicon and unknown to its vocabulary.
Your Honour, this is a very serious matter that has been put before you. I question in no way the motivation of these two senators. I know that Senator Harder, Senator Mitchell and Senator Bellemare operate from the highest motives and the highest motivations. I want to be crystal clear in what I am trying to present to you.
Colleagues, this institution is not open to 105 senators walking in daily to say, "I am Senator So-and-so, I wish to do this and that, and I wish to be styled such-and-such." Parliament does not work that way. I am very sorry that you are in this position. But if this Senate will choose to accept these stylings, then this whole Senate has to take decisions respecting the nature, names, titles, meanings, tasks and duties of these positions that are styled such and such.
Your Honour, I hope I have been helpful. Maybe the best thing would be for Senator Carignan to withdraw the point of order —
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Cools: — and proceed with a study of this new occurrence. I do not know. There are many options. But I say to you that it is not open for any senator to walk in here and simply rise and say, "I am so-and-so, you do know me by the title per the Parliament of Canada Act, but in reality I am this other thing and so styled." We have to find out what "this other thing" means.
I was not expecting this point of order. I am not prepared as is my usual way, as I would have been had I planned to speak on a point of order.
So it's over to you, Your Honour. You have a tough job to define that which does not exist, these styles.
Hon. Jim Munson: Your Honour, I know what it's like to be a whip. I used to be six feet two inches, so good luck to Mr. Liaison.
Listen, can't we just simplify this? Why, Mr. Government Representative, leader in the Senate, are you putting all these stylized words that you have into what is really a new political group here in the Senate of Canada? None of us was born yesterday; that's for darn sure. Why are you playing with these words? This is pretty serious business. Why can't you simply rewrite or get somebody in your office to rewrite what you have there? You don't even have to do a mandate letter. Just tell us like it is. Just put it down in plain language, in two official languages, that you are the Leader of the Government in the Senate. And I applaud you for that. Senator Bellemare is the new Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senator Mitchell is the new Government Whip in the Senate. It's not that complicated, so could you answer that question? Let's keep it simple.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Frances Lankin: Thank you, Your Honour. I'm hesitant to speak on a point of order, being so new to this chamber and there being much that I need to learn; and I'll ask my honourable colleagues to respect that, in fact, my views may lack a depth of knowledge and might seem naive to some of you.
As I listen to this discussion, I'm reminded of the last week that I spent talking to Ontarians, in which they were talking about the Senate having been in the news and about much of what they heard. This discussion does not resonate with what they're hoping we will do. So I would hope, unlike the discussion about who gets to tell an independent where they sit, whatever, that we won't spend as long on this. With that, I'll keep my remarks that I'm contributing here brief.
What I understand to be happening is an attempt to bring an opening for us to discuss the vision of what a modern Senate will be. I recognize that much work has been done. I've read the observations of the senator who chairs the Internal Economy Committee that much has been done, and I would say that's true and that much more needs to be done.
Coming from the outside, I think there are elements of these discussions — I dare use street language, but it's insider baseball. While it is important, perhaps where we need to discuss this is not on a point or order. I don't know what the actual rule is. I didn't hear you raise the actual rule. However, I understand it is the precedent. I understand it is the practice that is being challenged here, and I don't suggest that it is unimportant.
I think it's important to suggest that perhaps this issue is better discussed at the Modernization Committee or in a venue where we can give reason and thought to it. Perhaps that means that the Government Representative slows down on bombarding us with a number of new things for us to consider. But let's put it before us to have some reasoned discussion. Let's have representatives of all groups within the Senate taking part, and perhaps even being able to vote on things, which is not the case for independents new to the Senate at this point in time. Thank you.
Hon. Leo Housakos: Thank you, Your Honour. Honourable colleagues, I rise again to bring up a couple of points that I've raised in the past and that I know Senator Joyal, who is not in the chamber, has also raised very recently.
To start, I want to point out, Senator Lankin, that you may be right that this might not be a debate that interests the Canadian public, but it should be. When we're talking about the governance of our legislature and the governance of our country, when it comes to the Parliament of Canada Act and the Constitution, this is very serious business. We're not talking about just any minute rule on some committee or some tradition. We're talking about the way that we've governed this country.
When we change distinctions and roles such as Governor General, Prime Minister, senator and Leader of the Government in the Senate, we're changing the nature of our Constitution and the Parliament of Canada Act, and there are ways to do that. These kinds of changes don't happen from Langevin Block. They're not just sent over here on a paper saying, "I know by law I have to recognize Senator Harder as the Leader of the Government in the Senate; thus, I'm following the law by giving him a summons, but I want him to be styled as . . ."
Those of us in this chamber who are lawyers by profession know that language is fundamental when it comes to law; it has to be very accurate. Style in language has a huge impact on how law is interpreted, how it evolves and how it gets applied as well.
Therefore, the government has to be very careful when they decide to style things. Senator Cools is absolutely right; we just can't come into this chamber and call the clerk and say, "As of today, Clerk of the Parliaments, I want to be styled as the representative of Wellington in Quebec." I'm not. I've been summoned here to the Parliament of Canada as a senator representing Wellington in the province of Quebec. Senator Harder is right; we live in a period of evolution and everything needs to evolve, but there are ways to do it.
If people think there's a noble reason to change the titles and the way this institution operates, the government should rise in the other place and put forward changes to the Parliament of Canada Act. That's where that discussion should be taking place. I agree it shouldn't be on the Senate floor. It certainly shouldn't be at some committee, and neither in the Rules of the Senate. These changes should be discussed legitimately. If we want to make changes to the Senate of Canada and the public wants to engage in that dialogue, let's open up the Constitution and have a discussion. That's the way the country was put together, and that's the only way to amend the Constitution. If we want to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, it starts on the other side.
I think, colleagues, this is a very serious issue. As we go forward, we shouldn't continue to go down this slippery slope and take it very lightly. Thank you.
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I would like to participate in this debate by adding that we find ourselves with the chicken and egg conundrum. Many of us want change. Canadians are asking the Senate to change. They, too, are convinced that amending the Constitution is not the right way to make short-term changes. If we want to change, we have to start somewhere. A change in titles or styles may signal that things will be done differently by an independent and non-partisan Senate, in other words, a Senate that has political duties to perform, but that is a chamber of sober second thought and legislative review, and that must undertake this review in an impartial manner.
In the past — and this is obvious from the number of amendments to government bills that were proposed during the 41st Parliament — there was only one: Bill C-10. Are we going to continue to act merely as rubber stamps? Is that what Canadians expect of us? No. We need to improve our legislative work, and one possible solution to accelerate the change — because change must come from a host of rules, procedures and conventions — is to have some sort of signal indicating what direction this change will take.
I would like to conclude my remarks with a quotation from Andrew Heard, a professor of political science. It might seem academic, but I can assure you that what he has to say is very timely. Here is what he said:
As an appointed body in the modern democratic era, the Senate must work hard to claim and sustain public confidence. The public has faith in appointed judges but principally because of the belief that judges interpret and enforce established legal rules, principles and rights.
Thus the long-term prospect for public support for the appointed Senate's role in Parliament must rely on how constructive its role is seen to be. The Senate must provide clear and visible suggestions to improve legislation and a large enough number of bills to justify its value in the system. It must not be seen as an unaccountable entity, obstructing or vetoing choices endorsed by the people's elected representatives. Neither should the Senate be seen principally as a forum for some interesting committee discussions over bills that seldom get improved through amendments.
In other words, if the Senate is to become the independent, non-partisan chamber that Canadians want, we have to start somewhere. Often, stylistic designations can help us see a little further ahead than today's debates.
Some Hon Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Fraser: I wish to repeat in part what I think I've already said, Your Honour. This discussion, while extremely interesting, has come a long way from the original point of order. If we come back to the point of order, the question is this: Are the titles that we have been given — we, the Senate at large, as distinct from your honourable self — in conformity with our Rules and with the Parliament of Canada Act?
Senator Harder said that he did indeed follow what I would think would be the appropriate procedure when he wrote to you, to the Leader of the Opposition and to the leader of the caucus to which I have the honour to belong. It seems to me that if in your ruling on this point of order you were to reproduce those letters, we might then call a halt to this whole procedure.
Some Hon. Senators: No, no.
Hon. Nicole Eaton: I find the whole discussion very interesting and rather critical. If we are to modernize this institution, I always thought it would come from us, from the Committee on Modernization — that there would be some consensus on changes brought to any formal title in the Senate. As we know, Senator Harder, as non-partisan and independent as you are, you were appointed by the present Prime Minister. You were asked to style yourself by the present Prime Minister. Senator Bellemare has changed her title by the present Prime Minister. How non-partisan can that be?
If you really want to be independent and non-partisan, I would have thought that would have been discussed with us out of courtesy, with the committee that's looking at rules and modernization and not in a letter from across the street from the Langevin Block. I find it rather distressing.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: To add to the comments just made, I think it's important for us to know not only why these changes are being made, because I see a creeping back to using the titles, which is part of our Rules, and no civilized democratic society should run on individual beliefs in an institution; it's the collective consensus of rules or the laws that govern us.
So I would like Senator Harder to tell me: You're using new terms, and you said only for styling. I accept that, as modern words probably mean more to a broader crowd. Yet, when it comes to responsibilities, I haven't heard whether you're going to have the exact responsibilities as the old titles, which leads also to Internal Economy and resources to do that. With the new titles, if you simply wanted the new titles and to create, perhaps you wouldn't need to use the old ones to get yourself to functioning as we always have, which is with resources, which I believe you would need if you're going to be the leader.
I'm concerned when I hear Senator Bellemare change the position and, in some discussion, limit the deputy's role. I want to be assured that it isn't just a stylistic change. If that's all it is, please tell us. If it's going to be more, I think you have a duty to tell us what the responsibilities will be. How can you curtail a position that is already described with responsibilities?
I think we do need to have the conversation here. It isn't our rights we're protecting. These are the rights of the people of Canada to have their democratic institutions run according to the rule of law and the precedents, not by anyone's opinion of what they believe the public believes. We haven't had a full debate with the public about this.
Senator Plett: When I spoke earlier, I posed a question that I didn't get an answer to, and I'm still wondering whether I can get an answer to that question. The Clerk of the Senate called Senator Mitchell — although in brackets — a whip. I would like to know what caucus or what team? The leader referred to a team. What team is it? What caucus is it? Is it the entire other side of this chamber? Is it only to his right or only to part of his right? What part of the other side of this chamber is Senator Mitchell going to be the whip of? And is that a caucus, or is it a team?
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, thank you for your contributions to this debate.
I will take the matter under advisement.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 5-10(1), I ask leave of the Senate to modify the motion so that it reads as follows:
That, in accordance with rule 10-11(1), the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to examine the subject matter of all of Bill C-15, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2016 and other measures, introduced in the House of Commons on April 20, 2016, in advance of the said bill coming before the Senate;
That the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to meet for the purposes of its study of the subject matter of Bill C-15 even though the Senate may then be sitting, with the application of rule 12-18(1) being suspended in relation thereto;
That, in addition, and notwithstanding any normal practice:
1. The following committees be separately authorized to examine the subject matter of the following elements contained in Bill C-15 in advance of it coming before the Senate:
(a) the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence: those elements contained in Division 2 of Part 4;
(b) the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce: those elements contained in Divisions 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10 of Part 4;
(c) the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology: those elements contained in Division 12 of Part 4;
2. The various committees listed in point one that are authorized to examine the subject matter of particular elements of Bill C-15 be authorized to meet for the purposes of their studies of the those elements even though the Senate may then be sitting, with the application of rule 12-18(1) being suspended in relation thereto;
3. The various committees listed in point one that are authorized to examine the subject matter of particular elements of Bill C-15 submit their final reports to the Senate no later than June 9, 2016;
4. As the reports from the various committees authorized to examine the subject matter of particular elements of Bill C-15 are tabled in the Senate, they be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting; and
5. The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be simultaneously authorized to take any reports tabled under point four into consideration during its study of the subject matter of all of Bill C-15.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: So ordered. On debate.
Senator Harder: Honourable senators, there have been discussions through the usual channels to amend the motion to reflect various and so-named committees of interest, and I would commend the motion for the question.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Perhaps the Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate could enlighten us. Is this an attempt by the government to avoid something I've been complaining about since I've been here, which is that the budget will arrive here — I just checked my June calendar — probably either on June 23 or 28, and the government will expect this chamber to pass it in due course so that we can continue to meet the parliamentary calendar and be out of here by the scheduled date of June 30?
It seems to me that government after government, no matter which stripe, continue to send bills here at the last minute and expect us to give due diligence to them, to do our jobs properly, and then also expect us to meet the parliamentary calendar.
I continue to be frustrated by this, and I know many of my colleagues are as well. I'm curious as to whether this is an attempt by the new government to change this? If so, are we going to have a commitment from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that we will have this legislation in plenty of time to do the due diligence that we're famous for?
Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for raising his question. While I have no capacity to determine the schedule of events in the other house, I do acknowledge and welcome the support of senators for the motion of pre-study to ensure that appropriate study of this important measure is conducted in the Senate. It would advantage the Senate in its conduct of the bill once it arrives formally to have this pre-study launched.
In that spirit, I welcome the support of the senators and the leadership for this pre-study to assure Canadians and senators that their responsibilities are taken seriously.
Yes, it is the expectation of the government that the budget implementation bill will be passed by Parliament and meet its commitment to unfold the benefits referenced in the budget before the summer pause.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to, as modified.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Manning, seconded by the Honourable Senator Housakos, for the third reading of Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, as amended.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak to third reading of "An Act Respecting National Seal Products Day." I am happy that I am able to give this speech while its sponsor, Senator Hervieux-Payette, is still a member of this chamber. She's been a champion of sealing in Canada and has herself gone seal hunting with the Inuit on the floe edge of the Arctic Ocean on Frobisher Bay. She understands how vitally important the seal hunt has been to the Inuit of Canada for survival over millennia, and recognizes it as the hallmark of a way of life which has been cruelly attacked by ignorant people who have been manipulated by propaganda and utterly misplaced moral outrage. I salute Senator Hervieux-Payette and thank her for knowing and speaking the truth.
In reflecting on the importance of this bill to the Inuit of Canada, I want to recognize not only the brave hunters who endure one of the harshest and most dangerous climates in the world to hunt seals on the ice, on the floe edges and in the few months of open water in summer, but also the experts in crafting the best clothing for Arctic conditions, warm and waterproof footwear, kamiks, parkas and pants, anorak and sillapaaq. And now, as this bill celebrates, their beautiful designs are being recognized in the world of international high fashion, including in Europe, despite the amount of misinformation animal rights activists have spread there.
In speaking to this bill, I also wish to pay tribute to two Inuit women who have spoken out courageously against the lies and distortions of the animal rights movement. The first, Leona Aglukkaq, was brought up amongst the Netsilikmiut, the people of the seal, and was honoured by being chosen to be the minister representing Canada at the Arctic Council, as well as the Canadian Chair of the Arctic Council from 2013 to 2015.
Canadian Inuit, numbering only just under 60,000 in the 2011 Canada Census, had very few powers and influence against the well-funded propaganda machines of Greenpeace and PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — and their celebrity champions like Brigitte Bardot and Pamela Anderson.
In 2009, the EU passed regulations banning the import of seal products with the reasoning that a ban would "[increase] the welfare of seals by reducing their suffering experienced during hunts". It was argued that while, in principle, it is possible to harvest seals humanely, it is not possible in practice. While this ban applied to all seal products, Canada and Norway felt that, de facto, the regulations discriminated against their products. Under WTO rules, import rules may not discriminate on the basis of origin, whether it be formally or de facto. In light of this, Canada and Norway launched a dispute against the EU with the WTO later in 2009, but it did not advance until a panel was stuck in 2011.
In 2013, the WTO panel ruling upheld the regulation banning the import of seal products, but it did identify that it discriminated against indigenous communities and marine resource management exceptions and implementations. That decision was appealed by all parties.
In 2014, the WTO Appellate Body confirmed the panel ruling, only slightly modifying the reasoning, ruling that "the market circumstances in which Canadian Inuit operate make it unduly difficult for them to use the IC" — indigenous communities — "exception, requiring extra efforts to allow them effective access." The EU was given until October 18, 2015, to comply with the ruling.
As these rulings demonstrated, although its case was vigorously argued, Canada had very little leverage with which to fight for truth and justice for Canada's sealers, including its Inuit sealers. However, the EU was very anxious to become an observer to the Arctic Council. As Chair of the Arctic Council when the European Union applied for observer status, Minister Aglukkaq, with the full support of Prime Minister Harper and her cabinet colleagues, was able to persuade members of the Arctic Council to hold off considering the EU's application for observer status until the European Union met the criteria that were developed and approved at an Arctic Council meeting in Greenland in 2011. During that 2011 meeting, Minister Aglukkaq pushed the Arctic Council to include in its criteria two key provisions respecting indigenous communities. The criteria developed read:
. . . to take into account the extent to which observers respect the values, interests, culture and traditions of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants; (and) have demonstrated a political willingness as well as a financial ability to contribute to the work of the Permanent Participants and other Arctic indigenous peoples.
This was the lever that was used to persuade the EU to remove its ban on the import of seal products from indigenous hunters to the European market. I'd like to thank Leona Aglukkaq for being the champion of the Inuit of Canada and speaking out strongly for them when Canada was in a position to stand up for Inuit sealers.
Colleagues, as the senator for Nunavut, where Inuit make up 84 per cent of the population, I felt that it was important to speak about the seal hunt from the perspective of the Inuit of Canada when speaking to this bill. I'm not Inuk, so I'd like to use the words of another strong Inuk woman whose upcoming film Angry Inuk tells the story of Inuit victimization and long repressed anger. This woman's name is Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. She grew up in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and tells the story of the Inuit so eloquently in her own words. Her film also features among others another strong woman who is a superb seamstress and champion of sealing, Aaju Peter.
I'd like to read today quotes from Alethea who, as the director and narrator of this excellent film, I believe has summed up the Inuit perspective of the seal products this bill aims to celebrate and the truth that animal rights activists work so diligently to hide. She says:
Every spring, I'd watch people on the news call seal hunters horrible things.
I wanted to make this film because it bothered me when I saw animal welfare groups portray seal hunting as an evil and greedy thing.
The image and statements they put out don't reflect the seal hunting I know. They don't even mention Inuit.
Economic options are very few so the sealskin market is very important to us. Unfortunately, we have fewer and fewer places to sell our products because animal groups have been fighting since the 1960s to shut down the sealskin trade.
Most seal hunters in Canada and the world are actually Inuit. We hunt seals all over the Canadian Arctic as well as Alaska, Greenland and Russia. But animal groups make it sound like sealskins all come from that one seal hunt in the south of Canada. They call it "the Canadian seal hunt" or even just "the seal hunt," which completely fails to acknowledge that Inuit are an important part of the sealskin market. We need to remind the world we exist, but it's difficult to get our message heard because anti-sealing protests tend to be loud and confrontational, whereas Inuit anger is much quieter.
Losing your temper can be a sign of a guilty conscience.
How does a culture with an understated anger fight back against a group that is infamous for the exact opposite behaviour? How could these groups work for so many decades to crush our industry without ever having seen it with their own eyes?
I've seen many campaigns argue that sealing should end because it's not moral to kill a seal just for the fur. They say fur is shame and a frivolous luxury. But Inuit defy that argument because we eat the meat, and for us a warm coat is not a luxury; it's necessary for day-to-day survival. When I look at sealskin, I see an ethical and sustainable economy that feeds people. Natural fur also keeps our hunters afloat if they fall through the ice, which is happening more often due to climate change.
Suicide was once a rare thing in our communities, but as a result of the trauma from residential school abuse, forced relocations, and other destructive government policies, Inuit began taking their own lives at alarming rates in the 1970s. When the ban hit in 1983, it was yet another layer of stress on our communities, causing widespread hunger and hardship. Within a year, our suicide rates spiked even higher and have been amongst the worst in the world ever since. To this day, we're still working to undo the damage. It took us 25 years to repair the reputation of sealskins and rebuild demand.
I grew up thinking the poverty and hunger I see around me every day is normal. To think the hard-earned recovery could actually relieve some of this hardship makes me so hopeful.
On May 5th, 2009, the EU Parliament passed the ban by a vote of 440 in favour to 49 against.
Since no one thought to ask Inuit to be part of the discussion, we didn't stand a chance at stopping this ban from happening.
When animal groups pretend we don't exist or that we're frozen in time and untouched by the modern economy, this is what happens.
They could have chosen a certification program based on animal welfare standards. They could have regulated things such as killing methods or quotas; boat size or daily catch limits. But instead they chose the harshest option, designed to crush the entire market.
We're already the most food insecure indigenous people in any developed country, with 7 out of 10 children going to school hungry. . . . Hunting is still the best way to feed Inuit and the cash from sealskins keeps that cycle going. When that cycle is interrupted, the pressure to look at other economic options increases and we have very few options.
In addition to Alethea's powerful words, the movie also follows and interviews key community members in real time as they actively oppose the EU ban. The day the EU passed its 2009 ban, Joshua Kango, the Chairperson of the Iqaluit Hunters and Trappers Organization said, "My feelings were so intense today, it even seemed impossible to smile. It felt like a darkness over the heart and mind."
While I will spare all of you, honourable senators, from my quoting the entire movie, the final scene I wanted to describe involves an excerpt from a 1978 interview with Barbara Frum, a CBC reporter and mother of our colleague Linda Frum; and Paul Watson, a former Greenpeace leader, in which Mr. Watson admits that:
. . . the seal hunt has always turned a profit for the Greenpeace Foundation. And then other organizations like IFAW, API, Fund for Animals also make a profit off the seal hunt. . . there are over a thousand animals on the endangered species list and the seal isn't one of them. See, the thing is, the seal is very easy to exploit as an image.
Honourable senators, let us do our part to continue combating the self-serving exploitation of the seal by misguided animal rights activists. I hope that you will all join me on May 17 for this year's Seal Day on the Hill, as we continue to celebrate how Inuit have leapt into the fashion world, creating stunning new designs and arresting creations, while also building their market for healthy and nutritious omega-3-laden seal oil and meat.
In conclusion, I hope that you will support me in voting for the passage of Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of a former colleague, the originator of this bill, the Honourable Céline Hervieux-Payette.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it is now 3:30 p.m.
Pursuant to the order adopted April 21, 2016, the Senate will proceed to Question Period.
We will ask Minister Morneau to please take a seat.
Honourable senators, I wish to advise you that pursuant to the order adopted on December 10, 2015, the Honourable William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance, is with us today to take part in proceedings by responding to questions relating to his ministerial responsibilities. As was the case in past weeks, I would ask colleagues to limit themselves to one question and, if necessary, at most one supplementary question. This will allow us to get in as many questions as possible.
Welcome to the Senate of Canada, Minister Morneau.
Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on December 10, 2015, to receive a Minister of the Crown, the Honourable William Morneau, the Minister of Finance, appeared before honourable senators during Question Period.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Hello, Mr. Minister. Welcome to the Senate of Canada.
From April 14 to 16, the finance ministers of the G20 countries met to discuss the possibility of creating a tax haven blacklist. According to the reports we received, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain would be prepared to create a blacklist of those tax haven countries. However, it seems that Canada is refusing to take part in this exercise.
On May 9, as part of the Panama Papers affair, the identity of more than 200,000 foreign corporations that use tax havens will be disclosed.
My question is twofold. First, why is Canada refusing to take part in creating a tax haven blacklist? Second, does your government promise to go after every Canadian taxpayer, without exception, who used such strategies to avoid paying taxes?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: First, I would like to thank the senator for the question and say what an honour it is for me to be here. This is my first occasion to be in the Senate Chamber, other than standing behind and looking in, and I'm honoured to be here and to have the opportunity to respond to your questions. Thank you for having me.
I appreciate the question specifically around the issue of how the G20 is working towards ensuring that we eliminate the possibility for people and organizations to evade taxes. I can tell you that at the G20 we've been a strong supporter of the common reporting system so we can ensure that countries do need to report back on whom, in fact, is moving money from their country to the other country. So we have signed on to that accord.
We've also been working with other countries on the base erosion and profit shifting initiative to ensure that companies pay their taxes in the place where they actually earn their revenues and profits. So those are two initiatives that we're working together on with G20 countries and will continue to do so.
With respect to our actions nationally, what you will have seen in Budget 2016 is that we put $444 million into the budget, and that was a specific initiative to allow the Canada Revenue Agency to make sure that they have adequate resources to enforce our taxation laws.
Our goal is to make sure that Canadians pay their taxes that are due and to ensure tax fairness for all Canadians. We believe that by putting this money in the budget — which I will remind you was put in the budget before the Panama Papers came out — will help enable the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure that we do enforce upon every Canadian that they do need to pay taxes that are due.
To the extent that we find Canadians are not complying with the law, yes, we will proceed to find those Canadians and ensure that they comply or face the penalties as a result.
Senator Carignan: I was talking about the blacklist or creating a tax haven blacklist, and putting pressure on the countries that are somewhat complicit. In that sense, Mr. Minister, section 24.05 of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement stipulates that the agreement can be terminated with six months' notice in writing.
Does the Trudeau government plan on putting an end to this free trade agreement — or plan on threatening to do so — to pressure Panama into addressing tax evasion and to force this country to stop being complicit in tax evasion?
Mr. Morneau: Again, senator, thank you for your question. We did work together with other countries in developing the communiqué for the G20 meeting that was held most recently in Washington. That strong communiqué identified very clearly not only that we expect countries to come on board with common reporting standards, but that in fact we will consider actually taking actions against those countries that don't comply with the common reporting standards.
That communiqué was developed together with 20 countries. We felt that we were a strong voice in pushing for not only the fact that we need to have countries come on board with the common reporting system, but also that if they don't there would be repercussions.
As you may know, prior to that communiqué, two countries were not in compliance, and I am encouraged to think that there will be potential movement on behalf of those countries based on what we put together. I am confident that the G20 will maintain this issue on its agenda moving forward. It will be an agenda that our current government will push for as part of our efforts to ensure that individuals and corporations comply with what we see as the appropriate way for them to pay taxes in the countries where they earn their revenues.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Mr. Minister, thank you very much for being here.
Yesterday, during the appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, Commissioner Bob Paulson said that the RCMP is currently reviewing the resources of one of his departments or sections to see what extra funds they need in order to perform the functions that are being asked of them.
We have also learned that the RCMP will be investigating the Panama Papers. You've just heard about the tremendous number of documents that the RCMP and Canada will be receiving, and they intend to review those documents once they have been received.
It's pretty clear, Mr. Minister, that the RCMP, through its work, plays a key role in not only the security but the prosperity of the Canadian economy.
Minister, are you aware of the review the RCMP is currently conducting in relation to the resources it has available to perform the tasks that are being asked of them, and can you assure us that you're working with the Minister of Public Works to ensure that our Royal Canadian Mounted Police are properly funded to do that work?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: I'd like to start by thanking the senator for the question.
I can tell you that during the budget process we did have the Minister for Public Safety come forward with a plan for the RCMP. I know that he will be continuing to look at the adequate resources or to make sure that he has the adequate resources to perform the functions that the RCMP is expected to perform.
I don't have any insights into the particular initiative you're referring to at this time, but I would be happy to get back to you with further information on that.
Part of our initiative in putting $444 million to the Canada Revenue Agency was specifically around ensuring that we do have Canadians comply with our tax rules. To the extent that part of this initiative is part of the CRA's necessary function, we believe that we've put the adequate resources there.
I will get back to you, though, with respect to further information on the RCMP.
Senator Day: Before your appearance today, I had a chance to review the budget. There's very little in the budget with respect to the RCMP or indeed with respect to CSIS. I do appreciate the Canada Revenue Agency funding. I then went to the Main Estimates, which show that for operations the RCMP have less funds by a significant number of millions of dollars than in previous Main Estimates. Both of these sources indicate that there is not the government's attention to the role of the RCMP in this group of agencies and departments of the federal government in providing security and prosperity for Canada.
I wanted to make that point, Mr. Minister. Hopefully when you do get back to us, you will let the RCMP know that we have raised this issue because they continually say, "We will do the best job that we can with the resources that are made available." It's now clear that the resources being made available are not adequate.
Mr. Morneau: Well, in the case of the RCMP, we did review the spending requests that came from Public Safety. In a number of cases, we did look at how we could augment services of the RCMP. If you look deeply into the budget, you will see a number of initiatives that we have taken on behalf of the RCMP, looking at some spending pressures that they do have.
In the case of CSIS, we did make some significant investments around CSIS that were important from the standpoint of the Minister of Public Safety.
We have, in fact, made some investments in the budget. However, as I said, I will come back to you with further specifics.
Senator Day: Thank you.
Hon. Larry W. Smith: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for being with us. I've been charged with studying Bill C-2, and the question will be around the TFSAs.
In 2013, there were 999,630 TFSA accounts held by seniors over 65 years of age and earning less than $24,422. In fact, a total of 3.3 million accounts were held by people all earning less than $24,000, and another 3.2 million account holders were people whose income was below $45,000.
Maybe you could help us out in terms of trying to understand the strategy in not removing the benefit but reducing the benefit from the $10,000 to the $5,500, which it was originally. Help us with the strategy of reducing this amount for 6.5 million Canadians, because it has been implied that it was done because of the 340,000 Canadians earning over $200,000. As you know, TFSAs represent after-tax money that each Canadian can invest into his or her account. It can be taken out at any time during their lives for any form of benefits. All demographics have the advantage of benefiting from this, and so you would think that it would be something the government would encourage as opposed to discourage by reducing the amount.
Could you help us out with the strategy behind that move?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: Thank you, Senator Smith, for the question.
I'd like to give you a broader sense of our strategy around what we would like to achieve with respect to retirement. In our view, we do need to focus on retirement dignity in this country. We need to look at how we can help the broadest cross-section of Canadians to have a successful retirement.
TFSAs, in our estimation, are an important part of that. In our view, the movement from $5,500 to $10,000 was not something that was going to help the large cross-section of Canadians. In fact, only 13 per cent of Canadians were maxing out on their TFSA. We wanted to look at how we could help Canadians with a number of measures, the TFSA being one of them.
What have we set about doing? First of all, we looked at the Old Age Security system, and we said that for many Canadians being able to retire at 67 would be a challenge for them. So we brought back the Old Age Security age from 67 to 65. That was an initiative focused on how we could ensure that those Canadians that need it because they need to retire early have the opportunity.
We then looked at the Guaranteed Income Supplement. We know we have done well over the last generation in retirement outcomes in this country. We have actually been quite successful, but single seniors are three times more likely to live in poverty in this country than other seniors. So we looked at the GIS top-up and increased that by 10 per cent. A single senior can now get up to $947 more dollars, which helps a very significant number of seniors that are in poverty.
We also realized that the long-term issue is ensuring that Canadians who now have not got as much retirement security as they had a generation ago because of the decline in defined benefit pension plans have the opportunity to save enough. I'm working together with the finance ministers from the provinces to consider whether we can enhance our Canada Pension Plan. We started that effort in December. It's something that's ongoing. We're having a meeting in June in order to look at the possibility of getting seven out of ten provinces to agree on a potential Canada Pension Plan. We think that if we are able to get that Canada Pension Plan enhancement, we'll have an enhanced CPP and the opportunity for Canadians to save through RRSPs. The TFSA will remain an important part of that $5,500 indexed annually, so it will stay as an important opportunity for people to save. We think that together those measures, along with personal saving, will put Canadians in a much better situation to retire in dignity.
Senator L. Smith: As a follow-up, in studying Bill C-2, when you look at the amount of money coming back between the different income categories, people under $45,000 will not be getting anything back. Basically, it's kicking in at higher income levels.
When you really analyze it, the highest level of return is going to be for people earning $150,000 to $180,000 — almost $200,000 — at around $600, $700, $800 a year. Then people at the lower end — and I'm trying to understand that this is a benefit to people — will be getting $260 or $300, maybe $400 if they're earning anywhere from $50,000 to $90,000 dollars.
I'm trying to understand the benefit of creating a $1.9 billion hole to help people marginally, especially when you're helping the people at the higher end and not at the lower end. My understanding is that a program like this is supposed to help people at the lower end.
I understand what you're saying about the other elements of the tax program and income distribution for retirement, but when you look at the combination of this program to aid people and the TFSAs, it doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense to go into the hole for $1.9 billion when you're not helping out the majority of your people. Approximately 17 million people in Canada have some form of income, 6 million people have a TFSA and then the rest of the population is in that other area.
I wondered what type of comment you might have because I'm not sure the thing is in proper balance. One of the elements senators have to consider is to ensure that it makes economic sense and to try and make suggestions for improvements to it. I'm wondering if you've had a chance to really go into the weeds on this particular issue.
Mr. Morneau: First, let me thank you for the constructive nature of the question.
We believe that what we've constructed in total makes a lot of sense. We did put in place tax changes that, as you point out, focus on the tax bracket between $45,000 and $90,000.
In that tax bracket, people will get a tax reduction of 7 per cent. That tax bracket, of course, will be for anybody who earns $45,000, plus they'll get a benefit. That benefit will be at its highest, yes, at $90,000, and it will stay at that same rate until people get to a much higher income, and then it will be entirely clawed back by the time they are at $216,000.
However, a number of other measures in our budget help other cohorts of Canadians. The one that I think is most important is the Canada Child Benefit. The Canada Child Benefit will help families that are earning more middle incomes, and it will help them at the time of their life when they have the greatest need for greater income. That's when they have families.
So, for a family that is under $175,000 with children, they will find themselves getting more money if they have this access to the Canada Child Benefit, which they will. On top of that, those that are most impoverished in our society that have children — a woman with $30,000 worth of income, if she's a single woman — will now get $6,400 a year because of having that child.
So we looked at those measures together and said they make sense. We've also — and I think it's important to remember — focused on how we can improve our infrastructure in this country. Some of those efforts will significantly assist people that are striving to get into the middle class. So we've put significant funding against social infrastructure, which will be, in many cases, affordable housing. It will be housing for seniors in some cases. That will help people that are under-housed or unable to access affordable housing to get into that sort of housing. In Budget 2016, that was $3.4 billion put against that.
So there are a number of different measures that we think will make a difference. Of course, as we mentioned, the GIS will help single seniors who are impoverished. We have others measures that will help, for example, students. Lower-income and middle-income students will have better access to grants. Their grants will go up 50 per cent in our new budget measures.
I think we need to look at all of these things together in order to determine the measures and how they're going to impact families. We're convinced that families will be better off as a result of these measures, and we've shown financially how much better off they'll be in our budget.
Hon. Denise Batters: Minister, the Trudeau government has given Saskatchewan the short end of the stick in its budget. The Liberal government excluded two thirds of Saskatchewan's oil patch from changes to Employment Insurance, then told families in these suffering areas that they should consider themselves lucky they weren't harder hit. Saskatchewan farmers can't find support in the Trudeau government's budget, either. Your budget speech barely mentioned agriculture in passing. Even this was nothing but flowery language, stating:
Wherever the sun shines and the wind blows, farmers and landowners can become energy producers.
The Trudeau government gave Saskatchewan less than 1 per cent of the infrastructure money, even though we are 3 per cent of Canada's population. Employment Insurance, agriculture, infrastructure. When will this Trudeau government finally give Saskatchewan its fair share?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: Well, thank you, senator, for the question. We took a look at the challenges facing Canadians that are in the most difficult situation, most hard hit because of the changes in the resource prices. In doing that, we obviously focused on sharp and sustained changes in employment.
We saw that in a number of places, but, obviously, we looked at Alberta. We did look at Saskatchewan. We did look at Newfoundland and Labrador. We looked at parts of northern Ontario, and we came to the conclusion that we would enhance our Employment Insurance plan for those places that had had a sharp, 2 per cent increase in unemployment on a sustained basis. That was a decision we took in order to try to soften the blow.
There is, of course, another series of measures that we believe will be important for the economy across the country. As I said, we've made significant investments in infrastructure. We intend to move forward with those infrastructure funds now. You've seen the very first phase of infrastructure spending in our budget, which is the first $11.9 billion. But I would encourage you to look at what we've said we will do in the second phase of our spending.
We will be coming out later this year with what we're going to do with the second phase of our infrastructure spending, which will be significant. We've committed to $120 billion over 10 years. We've only laid down the track for that $11.9 billion, so we have much more work to do in that regard. With respect to our innovation agenda, we'll be coming forward to talk about how we can develop networks and clusters of successful firms, research institutes and universities, and among the places we'll be looking will be the agriculture sector. So we will be thinking about how Canada can be even more successful in agriculture than it's been in the past. One of the things that my Advisory Council on Economic Growth will be looking at is the agriculture sector, how we can be more successful by making investments in that sector. You'll be hearing more about that this year as well.
So we will remain committed to helping those areas that are hard hit, and we'll be moving forward with specific measures now, as well as further measures that you'll hear about in the fall.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Minister, thank you for being here. My questions pertain to Division 8 of the budget implementation act of 2016, respecting the Financial Administration Act. In particular, clause 182 provides a repeal of a section of the Financial Administration Act. I've been attempting, with the assistance and support of my colleague Senator Day and former colleagues Senator Murray and Senator Banks, to restore the requirement of the government to obtain the approval of Parliament to borrow money. I just want you to confirm that clause 182 of Division 8 does indeed do that.
Secondly, there are three exceptions to that, whereby the Governor-in-Council can authorize you to borrow money.
So I'd like you to confirm that the approval requirement is indeed being restored. I know some of these things were asked by members opposite in committee in the past, so what do these three exceptions permit you and your government to do?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: Senator Moore, I'd like to start by thanking you. Really, this inclusion in our budget is about the efforts that you've made. It's about the efforts that retired Senator Lowell Murray, retired Senator Tommy Banks and Senator Joe Day have made in order to clearly tell Canadians that we need to have a parliamentary authority for spending. So that's an effort that you've taken on, and I'd like you to know that we've taken that seriously and believe that, first of all, you're right, and your advocacy has made a real difference in helping people to understand this issue.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Mr. Morneau: We believe that this is important. We believe that we need to have the authority of Parliament in order to actually get the money required to run the government appropriately.
We did put in a clause that, as you said, enables us in times of emergency, in times of crisis, to have the authority. So that was a slight change that we believed was important in dealing with potential financial crises. Our view is that we've stayed very true to the objective and the spirit and the respect for Parliament that we should have by putting this into our Budget 2016. Again, I want to thank the members of this house who, frankly, have made that happen.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Thank you, minister. During the Chrétien and Martin years, there was no need for a borrowing authority bill because we had balanced budgets. In 2007, with the omnibus bill, that requirement was taken out, so therefore there were no more borrowing authority bills.
When do you think we might see a borrowing authority bill, minister?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: Well, thank you, senator. I have a hunch that's a question about balanced budgets. So maybe I can talk a little bit about our strategy. We believe that in a time of low growth and a time of global challenge around growth, Canada is in a particularly strong fiscal position. We look at our balance sheet as a country and see that we have the lowest net debt to GDP of G7 countries. I periodically have people say, "But what about including the provinces?"
My response is that when you do the analysis, when you look at our net debt to GDP, when you include federal debt and you include provincial debt and you include the assets that we have in our pension plans, we are still the country among the G7 that has the best balance sheet. Our view is that in a time of low growth, we should be making investments that use that balance sheet to enable us to actually have a better future.
We have the additional advantage, right now, that interest rates are the lowest they've ever been. We're in a historically low interest rate situation, and that has led us to say that we should be making investments right now to improve the long-term future of this country.
I can tell you it has been quite rewarding to travel around the world presenting our budget. I've had the opportunity now to go to Chicago, New York, Washington, London and Paris to talk about our budget, and we are receiving accolades from around the world for what we're doing. The Financial Times called us a "glimmer of light." The Wall Street Journal calls us the poster child for the IMF's global growth strategy; and Christine Lagarde at the International Monetary Fund credits us with being a leader for using fiscal measures to grow the economy. The reason they're saying these things is that the impact of monetary efforts at this stage is de minimis. It's much more challenging based on where interest rates have gone.
That means fiscal measures are the right measures. That's the strategy we're trying to pursue on behalf of Canadians: to enhance our long-term productive growth by making investments today. We do want to do that, though, in a prudent way. We want to do that in a way that ensures that we can have that net debt-to-GDP ratio continue to go down over time. That is what we presented in our budget, and we believe we're going to be able to continue to do that.
What we showed in our budget is that with the growth we expect, we can get into balance in about the five-year time frame. What we haven't done is give an exact date, and the reason we haven't done that is that we know those investments, which are necessary, will prove to be positive and enhance our growth rate, but we can't state with any certainty exactly what that growth rate will go to over the course of that time period.
I will tell you that our aspiration is to make those investments, ensure our net debt to GDP goes down over time and get to a balanced budget so that we can be fiscally prudent for the long term.
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Minister, yesterday it was announced that the government currently has a $7.5-billion surplus with one month to go. I know that you promised deficits in your election platform. Since there is just one month left, would the Minister of Finance rather end the year with a deficit or a surplus?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: Thank you for your question. We examined the state of our finances with officials at the Department of Finance. We noted that at over the past four years, at the end of the fiscal year, revenue was low and expenditures were higher. This is normally the case.
Currently, we are predicting a deficit for 2015-16. As you know, the report will be released in September. We will assess the situation at that time. We must determine what measures we should focus on to improve economic growth and our financial situation.
Our priority is to encourage investments to grow the economy, and we are taking measures to do so. With a balanced plan and significantly lower interest rates, we must invest to strengthen our economy. This is a priority for our government. I believe that Canadians across the country understand that this is the path to economic success.
Last month, I had the opportunity to travel across the country, from coast to coast, to talk about the measures in our budget. I can assure you that Canadians understand the current situation and that they realize it is important to invest to revive the economy.
Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Thank you for joining us, minister. I welcome the investments and announcements on infrastructure. They will create, I think, not only much-needed transit, affordable housing and child care, but also jobs.
My concern has to do with the people who will not have access to these jobs in the communities where the infrastructure is being built and located because they may not have the skills, education, training or social networks. I think you know what I'm speaking about in Toronto, where a lot of this infrastructure is currently being built by the province, but young people, people living in poverty, recent immigrants and racial minorities don't have access to these employment opportunities.
Community benefit agreements are an innovative approach being deployed by the province to bridge that gap by locating employment and training activities for people on the margins in the communities where the infrastructure is located. We will be left in Toronto not only with the hard assets of rapid transit but also with a stronger workforce for the future.
Will the federal government capitalize on this historic opportunity by working with the provinces and embedding community benefit agreements as part and parcel of infrastructure funding?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: I'd like to start by thanking the senator for her question. Since you're from my riding, I will say it's particularly great to get a question from you. I'd like to say also that it's an honour to be responding to your question because I've seen your work on Lifeline Syria, which has made such a huge impact.
We of course recognize that the only way we can deliver on infrastructure plans in this country is by collaborating with provinces and municipalities. There is no solution that includes us deciding what the projects are, nor is there one that includes us deciding exactly how those projects will get done without consulting with provinces and municipalities. We will be open to working with provinces in the method that they put forward for how we should move forward with infrastructure spending. We believe there will be significant opportunity for us to engage those that are more challenged in our communities and invite them into these projects. An enormous part of our budget is, as you know, the infrastructure spending, but also for helping these people in communities that are particularly disadvantaged to find themselves a better situation.
Working together with provinces will be our agenda, and we'll be working with them to find the specific way we can have the greatest impact on engaging Canadians as part of this project to make these historic investments.
Hon. Linda Frum: Minister, the Parliamentary Budget Officer says that your projected budget deficits are excessive and that you are ". . . inflating by billions of dollars the projected size of their deficits in the coming years." As one example, you're projecting a budgetary deficit of $29.4 billion this current year when the PBO says it will be closer to $20.5 billion. That's an $8.9 billion difference that has not been accounted for.
Minister, can you tell us why there is such a big difference between your numbers and the PBO's, and how you account for that difference, and can you assure us that this difference in math is not politically motivated padding done with future elections in mind?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: Thank you, senator, for your question. It's nice to see you.
Let me step back and tell you how we got to those numbers. First of all, I can't comment on the Parliamentary Budget Officer's numbers and how they actually got them, but I can comment on how we got our numbers and exactly why we did it.
We looked at the state of the economy when we came into office, and we looked at the global growth figures that were presented to us. We saw that the IMF marked down global growth twice during the course of the period from November 4 to the time we put our budget in place. We additionally saw that the price of oil, of course, had a significant downward trend from the time we were elected to the time we were preparing our budget. We saw that those factors were likely to impact the growth of the economy and, as a result, the government's revenues.
What we also saw is that over the last three years, when we went out and got the private sector economists' forecasts for growth, they overestimated what growth would be. On average, over those last three years, they overestimated the size of the GDP for our country by $40 billion. That's the average.
What we did in looking at the growth figures, recognizing that there's a volatile exterior environment, was to mark down the expectations for growth and GDP by the same $40 billion, which was the average of what happened over the last three years. And $40 billion relates to the federal budget with about $6 billion of actual revenues to the government. I suspect that's a significant issue in the difference between those two numbers.
We didn't want to have this as a political discussion. We wanted to show Canadians clearly what the potential growth line was based on what we're seeing globally and what we've seen historically. In our budget, we wanted to be as clear as we could with respect to what the potential outcomes might be. We looked at it and decided that rather give only one path of growth, we'd show clearly in the budget what the different paths of growth might show. In those paths of growth, we show that there could be different outcomes. We expect there will be different outcomes because the measures we're putting in place will grow the economy more rapidly than would have been the case otherwise. If you follow those lines of growth, you can see that we get to a more advantageous situation.
If people read closely what we've done, they'll understand we're setting a line that we think is prudent and careful, and that we're also making investments that will allow us to grow at a more rapid rate. We expect it to put us in a positive situation not for electoral success but for Canadian success — for Canadians to do better because of those investments.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Welcome, Mr. Minister. I would like to quote Ms. Christine Lagarde, since you seem to know her. The International Monetary Fund declared that Canada "played a significant part in the development of tax havens, notably in the Caribbean." In fact, Canada has signed 92 tax treaties, 9 of which are with Caribbean countries that show they are used by Canadian taxpayers expecting to channel the money there to avoid paying taxes: the Cayman Islands, $13 billion; Barbados, $10 billion; and the Bahamas, $9 billion.
Is it your intention to reopen tax agreements with the countries I just mentioned in order to make sure that each Canadian assumes a fair share of the tax burden?
The Hon. the Speaker: Minister, the time for Question Period has expired, but if you wish to take a minute and give a brief answer or respond in writing, it's entirely up to you. Do you have a minute to respond briefly?
Hon. William Morneau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Finance: As I said before, our absolute intent is to work together internationally to ensure that countries comply with the common reporting standard to see where money flows around the world. We will work together to ensure that there's no base erosion profit-shifting activity so that companies aren't evading tax inappropriately.
To the extent we find that we need to take further actions we will consider them because we want to ensure that Canadians pay their fair share of tax. That will be an ongoing effort of this government.
I'd like to say thank you very much. It was a pleasure to be here with you today. I look forward to being invited back.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired. On behalf of all senators, we thank you, Minister Morneau, for coming. We hope to see you again in the near future.
Honourable senators, we will resume the remaining Orders of the Day.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Moore, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dawson, for the second reading of Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins).
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins).
Colleagues, I am unable to support this proposed legislation. This bill is fundamentally flawed, constitutionally suspect, contrary to over 100 years of environmental legislation and policy, scientifically unsound, contrary to public interest and bad for the economy.
First, there are serious constitutional issues raised by this proposed legislation. This bill in its scope and intent is certainly questionable as to whether it is beyond the scope of powers granted to the federal government in the Constitution. That issue should be of significant concern to each of us and in the forefront of our considerations as we debate this bill.
This proposed legislation has arisen out of and in direct response to a three-year legislative process in the Province of Ontario, commencing in 2012, leading to new Ontario provincial legislation and regulation directly governing the care of marine mammals. This provincially enacted legislation rejects what is proposed by this bill.
After lengthy public debate in Ontario, including the creation of an independent and international scientific advisory panel and receipt of its comprehensive report, the creation of a technical advisory group, composed of stakeholders from across the country and public hearings, provincial legislation has been passed in Ontario that expressly permits keeping marine mammals in human care and creates and implements stringent regulations regarding the care and treatment of marine mammals.
That lengthy and full democratic process in Ontario over the course of the three years specifically considered and rejected precisely what this bill now proposes to do. The very arguments made in support of this bill were considered at length, studied and rejected in a thorough legislative and independent scientific review process in Ontario. What a small number of activists could not persuade the Ontario legislature to do, they now seek to persuade this Senate to agree to by this bill and impose on the entire country.
Not only is this bill constitutionally unsound, it also fundamentally represents a complete negative departure from over a century of integrated Canadian and international wildlife policy and legislation that has guided every provincial and federal government since Confederation, and which today informs international treaties and efforts to preserve and protect our natural environment.
Our zoos and aquariums, the scientific work they support, the Canadian children they educate, and the rescued animals they care for are critical to an integrated federal and provincial legislative framework that seeks to ensure that wildlife and habitat continue to function in a biologically integrated web, with the goal of enhancing wildlife protection, conservation and management in Canada.
Simply banning the keeping of certain animals in human care, which is all this bill seeks to do, denies us the opportunity to educate our children and ourselves and rejects the cornerstone principles of a continent-wide network of legislation that demands and requires the active positive study, protection and preservation of all our wildlife.
This bill denies us the opportunity to study and learn from a very small number of captive animals in a way that will permit us to understand and address those animals' unique and special needs in much larger populations in the wild.
As a product of belief rather than science or fact, this legislation only leads to a denial of opportunity to educate, a loss of scientific study and research, a halt to advances in care and treatment, the loss of treatment facilities and valuable experienced staff, and the ultimate neglect and death of our marine mammals.
For those reasons and in support of positive, science-based legislation, research, education and development, I encourage you to consider carefully the very negative impact of this legislation on our environment and the positive legislative steps and regulations already implemented in Ontario and elsewhere.
For over 100 years, Canadians have adopted a strong and progressive policy of positive wildlife management, conservation and protection. In simple terms, wildlife are animals that are not domesticated. Individual animals in captivity are still wildlife, as they are not genetically different from those not in captivity.
That includes whales and dolphins. Whales and dolphins have always been part of the wildlife we seek to protect and preserve. Numerous laws, regulations and treaties seek to preserve and protect our whales and dolphins and have been largely successful in doing so. Canada and the United States have shown the foresight and leadership that would become the hallmark of our legislative efforts for over a century.
It was recognized in the early 19th century that human activity is the largest influence on the well-being and abundance of wildlife. Even then, legislators recognized that there is no "wild" that is not subject to the direct influence and control of humanity, and that no significant part of the globe remains truly "wild" without humankind's potential interference.
This led to the first wildlife conservation and management legislation in the world in Canada and in the United States. Conservation, preservation and research in relation to marine mammals have continually developed as our scientific capabilities to care for, treat and enrich the lives of those animals became possible.
For example, the Vancouver Aquarium is home to the only marine rescue facility in Canada. The aquarium is the only facility in Canada with the skills, expertise and resources necessary to respond to cetacean-stranding emergencies. The aquarium's ability as first responders has been developed over decades of caring for cetaceans that includes hands-on skills and experience that are gained daily in a controlled, professional setting. With the goal evident in Bill S-203 of eventually phasing out the keeping of any cetaceans in human care, we would be stunting the growth of professional development and research opportunities that may one day save already-threatened species.
The on-site research is so vital and so successful that the Vancouver Aquarium is the only place in Canada with a staff that can be readily mobilized to go out and rescue a whale or a dolphin. This is because their staff have everyday, hands-on experience and expertise with cetaceans in their care.
For example, in the Arctic, impacts of noise on beluga hearing and social structure as the ice melts and the shipping increases, the role of human-generated contaminants and changes in food supply are just three areas where research is needed to predict what will happen to these species and populations in the future.
The small group of cetaceans at the Vancouver Aquarium provides Canadian scientists and visiting scientists from around the world the rare opportunity to conduct important research that would be impossible to lead in the wild.
As Dr. Michael Kinsel, a zoological pathologist and program director at the University of Illinois said when asked about freeing all marine mammals from human care:
I don't know that those individual animals in the wild would be any better served by us being ignorant of their condition, of their medicine and their diseases, and things that we are gaining from keeping these animals in captivity, that are applicable to animals in the wild.
Should we ever wish to, for example, intervene in a disease outbreak in one of these free ranging species without any knowledge of how to treat, what the expression of the disease is, what the efficacy of treatment would be. These are all things that come from our experiences. In the wild, you would be entering into a situation where you are trying to intervene with complete ignorance behind you instead of a toolbox full of experience that affords a cogent way forward.
The impact of environmental changes on aquatic species requires more research today, not less. Peer-reviewed scientific literature has been published, demonstrating that cetaceans in professional care directly contribute to integral research and rescue programs that help save wild cetaceans and inform practices and policies to preserve ocean environments.
Absolutely no science-based evidence to the contrary has been presented.
Aquariums have an important role in connecting people to the natural world. They are widely recognized as an important educational tool. When we are able to connect with certain species, we are more likely to act as advocates for them. That is the irony here. The reason people feel connected to these species when they are in any kind of peril is because they have had the opportunity to connect with them in facilities like the Vancouver Aquarium or Marineland.
There are several species in the wild that are in grave danger that are largely ignored by activist groups. Dr. Lanny Cornell, a veterinarian for marine animals with over 40 years' experience, noted that he has personally removed bullets from killer whales and other marine mammals that were shot in the wild. Since the display of killer whales in facilities such as Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium, the number of animals killed or shot in the wild has decreased considerably.
On this note, Dr. Kinsel, the zoological pathologist from the University of Illinois, contended:
I think you could take examples from other species which aren't held routinely in captive facilities that are in trouble out in the wild and people really don't care because they have no connection with them.
I think it's important for people to make the connection with marine mammals in the setting of these captive holding facilities, because it changes the nature of the relationship. It goes from something theoretical, to something tangible.
Colleagues, the only way to effectively conserve species is to get people to care about species and to get people interested in the oceans and ocean life.
A tremendous number of emotional and false allegations have been made about animals in human care in Canada. First, there are no peer-reviewed scientific studies that credibly demonstrate that the keeping of cetaceans in human care is cruel. Any claim of cruelty has been based upon the illogical attribution of human displays of grief, for example, sounds and facial expressions to marine mammals. In fact, as is the case of the beluga whales at Marineland, low cortisol levels among all the animals is a very strong biological indicator of low stress and contentment.
The myth that marine mammals live for a shorter period of time in human care is also false. In fact, to the contrary, marine mammals lead far longer and healthier lives when they do not face harsh environmental conditions, being preyed upon, shortages of food, and the lack of medical care, all of which are not an issue in our zoos and aquariums.
Cruelty claims have also been based upon the notion that a collapsed dorsal fin represents a lack of well-being for the mammal, as well as a decrease in life expectancy. This claim is entirely unfounded.
In fact, theriogenologist Dr. Todd Robeck and Dr. Naomi Rose from the Animal Welfare Institute, who, in fact, are two leading animal rights activists who personally oppose the SeaWorld business model, both spoke at a round table discussion on this topic recently in San Diego. They agreed, unequivocally, that a collapsed dorsal fin is in no way symptomatic of physical or mental illness, dehydration or an overall decline in health or welfare. This phenomenon is simply the effect of gravity over time on the fibrous connective tissue that makes up dorsal fins and tail flukes. When the animal spends more time at the surface, the dorsal will collapse. This has zero effect on the orca's health, welfare or agility.
Marine mammal veterinarian Dr. Geraldine Lacave noted that of course there are differences between living in human care and living in the wild. However, the marine science community cannot say definitively that one is worse or one is better.
There has also been a lot of misinformation surrounding breeding in captivity in Canadian facilities. Breeding is very important for a number of reasons. First of all, it is absolutely normal and healthy behaviour. If a facility has two of the same species and separates them in order to prevent breeding, keeping them in isolation — that would be cruel. As Senator Moore has noted — and science has backed up — these are very social mammals and, where possible, they should be kept together.
There is no science to support the claim that mammals bred in human care are any worse off than their counterparts in the wild. Dr. Noonan, who has been studying beluga whales at Marineland for over 20 years, has concluded that the stress indicators for the beluga whales are very low, which explains why Marineland has a very healthy and active group of beluga whales, with a stellar record of births and longevity. For most of Canadians, the only way to see and experience a beluga whale is to visit Marineland or the Vancouver Aquarium, or, indeed, to come out to my province in Manitoba and go out to Churchill and see them in the wild there.
The water system at Marineland is a highly sophisticated, computerized multi-million dollar system which has been independently examined and approved by international water quality experts.
Marineland engages in meticulous recordkeeping and precise monitoring of animal health at all times. How do we know this? Marineland's animal care is carefully monitored by independent marine mammal experts from CAZA and frequent unannounced surprise inspections from the OSPCA and the Niagara Falls Humane Society, and inspections by the Ontario College of Veterinarians. All of Marineland's animal care records are reviewed by them, along with each animal.
Given those facts, it should come as no surprise that Marineland does not withhold food from its animals. That false allegation, among many others, is made over and over again by a very small group of very vocal and zealous radical activists who seek to close all zoos and aquariums and will say anything to achieve that goal.
Other recent allegations against Marineland by foreign activists include allegations of deliberate starvation of a young whale, Gia, and the stillborn death of a baby whale. The simple answer to those incredibly hurtful and false allegations is found at Marineland and on Marineland's website, on which anyone can view the video of a well-fed and happy Gia playing with her friends, and additional footage of another very much alive and very healthy baby whale swimming with her mother.
Those same allegations, including withholding food, have been made repeatedly over the last four years to the OSPCA, the NFHS, the College of Veterinarians, and the Government of Ontario. They were all investigated by multiple independent investigators, and all concluded the allegations are false.
The Superior Court of Ontario has asked protestors to stop allegations of animal abuse at Marineland because such repeated allegations have been proven to be false. Those allegations were rejected by the Government of Ontario. The government's legislation and regulations reflect its conclusion that marine mammals can be cared for properly in human care in Canada.
Sadly, a few zealous and radical activists are simply unwilling to accept any facts that do not support their rigid beliefs and sole goal — to close every zoo and aquarium.
Honourable senators, the passage of this legislation also has serious consequences for the economy. Specifically, Marineland attracts 1 million visitors a year to the Niagara region. The Niagara Falls Tourism Association reports that over 55 per cent of all hotel bookings in Niagara Falls are as a direct result of a visit to Marineland. Marineland employs over 700 people, many youth and senior citizens, who rely on their income to pay for school or support their retirement. Tens of thousands of jobs are indirectly supported by Marineland.
As the Chairman of the Niagara Falls Tourism Association and the former Mayor of Niagara Falls, Mr. Wayne Thomson, has stated:
A closure of Marineland would result in hundreds of immediate and directly related layoffs in our tourist businesses, the short-term closures of many businesses and the long-term devastating impact on our community.
Similarly, the Vancouver Aquarium attracts more than 1 million visitors annually, and the total economic impact of spending by all out-of-town visitors to the Vancouver Aquarium is $212 million. The aquarium engaged 80,000 schoolchildren last year. The aquarium also employs 450 Canadians, including the country's top scientists and marine mammal experts.
Colleagues, aside from the blatant disregard for the important reasons marine mammals are kept in human care in Canada, a serious objection I have to this bill is the fact that we are criminalizing Canada's leading marine biologists, animal welfare advocates, scientists, researchers and operators of the most impressive and innovative facilities in our country — facilities which advance the welfare of marine life. The work of these individuals will now be condemned and deemed criminal by this legislation.
It must be noted that any senator who has spoken in favour of this legislation to date has referenced the film Blackfish.
Blackfish is a film solely about SeaWorld, a U.S. company operating only in the United States and operating solely under U.S. legislation. It has nothing at all to do with Canada's zoos or aquariums.
Films have a way of playing to viewers' emotions. Most documentaries are, by nature, agenda driven. The filmmakers include the footage that supports their case and exclude anything to the contrary, with little regard for painting an accurate or a complete picture for the viewer.
For example, there is a scene in Blackfish where it appears that SeaWorld employees are mistreating an orca and the orca appears to be aggressively thrashing around as a result of psychoses due to isolation, the filmmakers allege. However, the marine science world is very familiar with that footage, where in actuality colleagues, it depicts a team of scientists performing an important dental procedure on the orca, and the orca is, as expected, thrashing around and reacting like most animals would do in a similar situation.
There are several examples of this throughout the film which have been brought to my attention by various marine scientists.
This is not a documentary, colleagues. This is propaganda. When I speak to colleagues who are in support of this bill, it becomes evident very quickly that their reasons for supporting this cause stem from this or another documentary with a similar motive.
Misrepresentation aside, whether or not you accept the message in Blackfish, SeaWorld is not Canadian, and it is not the Vancouver Aquarium or Marineland.
As policymakers, we need to educate ourselves with facts before making an emotional decision based on a Hollywood film with very serious, far-reaching and damaging consequences for our environment, our animals, our citizens and our economy. We are smarter than that, colleagues, and we owe it to Canadians to be more responsible than that.
Canada should be proud of the strict guidelines for the treatment of animals that we operate under. We have the best in the world, which allows for research to take place solely for the benefit of marine mammals.
Colleagues, I support nearly all legislation going to committee for thorough study. However, this bill is so fundamentally and constitutionally flawed, as well as predicated on activist claims that are entirely without merit, that I would encourage you to vote against Bill S-203.
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Your Honour, would Senator Plett take a question?
Senator Plett: Certainly.
Senator Moore: Senator, I expect that you've read my bill and that you have read my speech in support of it. I want to ask you, did you see any words in there that say that this bill would deny the continuation of research?
Senator Plett: First of all, Senator Moore, I listened to your speech. No, I have not read it, but I listened to it. I think I listened to it very attentively and, as a matter of fact, asked you questions on it. I am suggesting in here that, in your speech, as a matter of fact, you did talk about starvation of mammals, and I suggested that that was false. I still do.
You did talk about the transportation of mammals and how that should not be allowed, and, of course, I illustrated reasons why that should be allowed. So I guess those are a couple of issues where I, yes, listened to your speech, read the bill and disagreed with it.
Senator Moore: Would you take another question?
Senator Plett: Certainly.
Senator Moore: You mentioned in your remarks with regard to the Vancouver Aquarium and their expertise in research in responding to cetaceans who are stranded, emergency stranded. Was there anything in my bill or speech that would deny that?
Senator Plett: I'm sorry, I would ask you to repeat the front end of that question.
Senator Moore: Well, in your remarks you were referring to the Vancouver Aquarium and their research, and you stated that they do research on cetacean stranding emergencies. My question is: Did you hear me say anything that would deny that continuation? I guess you didn't read my speech, but you heard it. I may be wrong, but I don't think I said anything to deny or to cause discontinuation of those services.
Senator Plett: Well, Senator Moore, you have to agree that I was speaking not only about your speech. I was speaking about your bill and, for me to stand here and just say what all you said, my speech was about what I think this bill could do, the constitutional challenges that we have with this bill. I used illustrations of what activists do in order to get people to get onto your side in this particular case, whether it's you or any other senator speaking or, in fact, activists out there promoting that the Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland be shut down. My comments were that I believe that is the overall impact that a bill such as yours could have and that activists are trying to promote.
Senator Moore: At no time — at no time — have I ever called for the shutting down of Marineland or the Vancouver Aquarium. At no time, sir, did I do that.
In your remarks, you talked about Marineland being approved I think you said by CAZA. What was that? I didn't get the name of that organization. I'd like to know what it is and who the members of it are.
Senator Plett: CAZA is Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums; OSPCA, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The NFHS, the third one I used, is the Niagara Falls Humane Society. Both Marineland and the Vancouver Aquarium are very concerned that a bill such as yours would, in fact, shut them down.
So, again, you may or may not have that as your ultimate goal. We, however, need to look at, for anything that we bring forward, what the effects of that will be.
Senator Moore: Who are the officers of Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums? Who are the officers of that, and where are they based?
Senator Plett: Listen, Senator Moore, first of all, I think it is entirely irrelevant. I told you the organization. I am more than happy to send you the name of each and every officer if that's what you want, but, certainly, I did not take time, nor did I think it was relevant for me to name individual people here in my speech. But if you want to know the names of the officers, I'm happy to get them for you.
Senator Moore: Thank you. I will seek out those names. I want to make sure there's no conflict of interest, that people don't have a vested interest in what they're doing here, that they are, indeed, independent.
I was interested in your remarks with regard to dorsal fin collapse being caused by gravity. Do the spheres of the moon have an impact on that?
Senator Plett: You know, Senator Moore, you asked me a question. This takes me back to when we talked about the Canadian Wheat Board and you had no idea what they did or didn't do.
Again, I don't know whether the moon would have an impact. I'm not a scientist. I'm telling you what the scientists at the Vancouver Aquarium and Marineland tell me. If you suggest, sir, that you are a better scientist or have more knowledge about it, please, give us your facts.
Senator Moore: My question was: Do you think that the different phases of the moon impact on the degree of collapse of a dorsal fin? That's all.
Senator Plett: As a matter of fact, I didn't say that. I said that, if a whale spent more time above the surface, that's what happens. I think even you, Senator Moore, are a little lighter in water than you are out of water.
(On motion of Senator Campbell, debate adjourned.)
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cordy, seconded by the Honourable Senator Baker, P.C., for the second reading of Bill S-211, An Act respecting National Sickle Cell Awareness Day.
Hon. Don Meredith: Honourable senators, I have been preparing my speech on this sickle cell bill, and I will be completely ready two days hence. So I'm asking that this be adjourned in my name for the remainder of my time.
(On motion of Senator Meredith, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)