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1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 138

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


THE SENATE

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.

Clerk of the Senate

Commission Issued to Nicole Proulx

The Hon. the Speaker: Colleagues, welcome back. I hope you’ve all had a fruitful and healthy summer and had some time to spend with friends and family.

Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that a commission under the Great Seal has been issued to Nicole Proulx, Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments, appointing her a Commissioner to administer the oath of allegiance to members of the Senate, and also to take and receive their declarations of qualification.

Honourable senators, we seem to be having some technical difficulties. We have an issue with the microphones.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): The speaker is on.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we have called for a technician to make sure we don’t have interruptions later on.

For now, honourable senators, there have been consultations and there is an agreement to allow a photographer in the Senate Chamber to photograph the introduction of a new senator. Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, with your indulgence, we will wait for a couple of minutes to make sure this technical problem has been addressed before calling on our new senator. With your permission, we will suspend and resume after a five-minute bell. Is that agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)

(1430)

(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)

New Senator

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that the Clerk has received a certificate from the Registrar General of Canada showing that David Adams Richards has been summoned to the Senate.

Introduction

The Hon. the Speaker, having informed the Senate that there was a senator without, waiting to be introduced:

The following honourable senator was introduced; presented Her Majesty’s writ of summons; took the oath prescribed by law, which was administered by the Clerk; and was seated:

Hon. David Adams Richards, of Fredericton, New Brunswick, introduced between Hon. Peter Harder, P.C., and Hon. Elaine McCoy.

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that the honourable senator named above had made and subscribed the Declaration of Qualification required by the Constitution Act, 1867, in the presence of the Clerk of the Senate, the Commissioner appointed to receive and witness the said declaration.

(1440)

Congratulations on Appointment

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senator, better later than never, and, if we’ve kept you waiting, it is my pleasure, as the Government Representative in the Senate, to welcome our newest colleague, the Honourable David Adams Richards, to represent his home province of New Brunswick. He comes from the beautiful region of Miramichi and is a resident of Fredericton.

[Translation]

Senator Richards was just 20 when his first novel was published.

[English]

Starting with an extraordinary early success, he has written more than 30 books and has become one of Canada’s most decorated writers. Among his honours, he won the Giller Prize, two Gemini Awards for scriptwriting, the Canadian Authors Association Award and the Matt Cohen Award for a distinguished lifetime contribution to Canadian literature. Senator Richards is also one of only three writers to have won both the fiction and the nonfiction category of the Governor General’s Literary Award.

[Translation]

Let us welcome Senator Richards, who joins us as he starts a new chapter in his career.

[English]

We will no doubt benefit from his gift for connecting people and allowing them to feel and to understand the experiences of others, especially those who have been marginalized.

[Translation]

We will also benefit from his passion for the arts and education.

[English]

As he starts this new chapter, Senator Richards may discover that our work here involves both fiction and nonfiction. The work of a senator can involve surprising developments, narratives with many twists and turns and, on occasion, a bit of drama. In short, senator, I think you’ll find yourself very comfortable in our midst. We welcome you.

[Translation]

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I am pleased to welcome our newest colleague, Senator David Adams Richards, who is taking his seat in the Senate of Canada for the first time today to represent the province of New Brunswick.

[English]

In this chamber, we have the opportunity to debate legislation on issues that will affect all Canadians. Debate, by nature, has a proponent and an opponent. I believe that a critical step in the legislative process is the debate that is open to the public here, through our committees and in the chamber.

Debate allows Canadians to listen to the concerns and benefits of the bill being reviewed. The process of adjourning the debate allows time for further consultation and research. The end result, through possible amendments, allows us, as a group, to put forward the very best legislation for the citizens of our great country, Canada.

On behalf of this Conservative caucus, I welcome you, sir, to this chamber and look forward to healthy debate in the future and, of course, to having the opportunity for all of us to meet you.

Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable colleagues, I would like to welcome you all back to Parliament Hill.

[Translation]

I hope you all had a good and restful summer because we have some busy days ahead of us.

[English]

In particular, I would like to welcome our newest colleague, a fellow New Brunswicker, Senator David Adams Richards. As an award-winning author — I have noted as well, as Senator Harder pointed out — that he has won awards in both fiction and nonfiction, and it will be interesting for us to see which genre better prepared you for this new role that you have here.

As you join the Senate on the path to learning more about our institution while also participating in its renewal, I would like, if I may be so bold, Senator Richards, to offer you some advice.

The Senate is most commonly referred to as a chamber of sober second thought, and we all do our best to heed that motto. But there is another important component that helps us in our role as a complementary legislative body. The other place, as we sometimes refer to the House of Commons, is often more focused on the immediate and on what is politically profitable. Our chamber is better poised to take the long view and to consider policies and legislation with regard to their long-term consequences.

Our committees are typically thought to ask more difficult questions of witnesses as we try to consider all possible impacts of policy and legislation.

We are also proud of our diversity here in this chamber and our ability to speak for all Canadians. I have no doubt that you will be a strong voice not only for New Brunswickers but also for rural Canadians in particular.

I encourage you to take your time to get acquainted with the Red Chamber. It will, at times, appear to be a steep learning process, and I assure you that you have many colleagues who will be pleased to answer any questions and familiarize you with this ever-changing institution. We often have a reputation for being averse to change, but I assure you that we are not. Many of us simply wish to ensure that we get things right as we reconsider how to operate and how this reflects our long-term thinking.

[Translation]

I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that we look forward to working with you, honourable senator. On behalf of the independent Liberal senators, welcome to the Senate of Canada.

[English]

Hon. Elaine McCoy: I, too, am delighted to welcome Senator Richards to this chamber. On behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I’m delighted to see that you are sitting in an independent Senate seat. I had the great pleasure of meeting Senator Richards a little earlier today, after pictures with the family were taken. As he was walking away from me with his dark jacket on, I noticed this little white string on his back. I raced over and I said, “Senator Richards, please stop; somebody is already trying to put strings on an independent senator.” So we rectified that immediately.

(1450)

I look forward to your long and what I’m sure will be a distinguished career in this chamber. You are, as others have said, noted for your insight; you’re a student of human nature. There is nothing that will stand you in better stead than being a student of human nature, both in understanding your colleagues in this chamber and the dynamics of this chamber, and also in understanding the hopes and desires of people in this chamber and all Canadians for the future of our country.

I think at bottom, every one of our best desires is to leave after a day’s work in the Senate saying, “I did something to help Canadians today.” I think that’s what we are pleased to do.

When people write reviews about you, they use words like “no room for small dreams,” and there’s no question: There is no room for small dreams in the Senate of Canada. My colleagues and I will encourage you to dream big and dream generously for the future of all of us.

People use words like “he writes tales of force, gravitas, complexity, universality and compassionate understanding.” They say of you that you write of heartbreak, and you find joy in the midst of tragedy. All of that will stand you in good stead as we look forward to finding a new way in a modern Senate to take us into the remainder of the 21st century.

We are at a transition. We are now poised. We have three groups in the Senate, at least three groups. Not one of us has an absolute majority. We’re in a perfect equilibrium at the moment, which encourages conversations around the entire chamber. No one at the moment has the gavel. No one has the power to dictate to anyone else. To me, that would seem to be a perfect equilibrium, and it does help us all to be what Canadians have always been: We’re a country built on conversation, not on confrontation. We look forward to having you as part of our conversation. Thank you very much.

SENATORS’ STATEMENTS

The Late Honourable Allan J. MacEachen, P.C., O.C.

Tributes

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have received notice from the Leader of the Senate Liberals, who requests, pursuant to rule 4-3(1) that the time provided for the consideration of Senators’ Statements be extended today for the purpose of paying tribute to the Honourable Allan J. MacEachen, whose death occurred on September 12, 2017.

I remind senators that pursuant to our Rules, each senator will be allowed only three minutes and may speak only once, and the time for tributes shall not exceed 15 minutes. A number of senators have asked if they could go over the three-minute time limit; I’m sorry to have to inform you that there are more senators who wish to speak than time allows, so the three minutes will be strictly enforced.

As all senators know, at any time a senator can give notice of an inquiry to draw attention to our late colleague, at which time you will be allowed 15 minutes, should you so choose.

Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, today as I speak, a funeral is taking place in Cape Breton for one of our more remarkable former colleagues, the Honourable Allan J. MacEachen. The service is taking place in the Stella Maris Catholic Church in Inverness, Nova Scotia, in Cape Breton, in the same church where he was baptized 96 years ago.

Allan J., as he was known, was a Cape Bretoner through and through. He may have travelled throughout Canada and then as Minister of External Affairs throughout the world, but his heart and his soul always belonged to Cape Breton, and that is where he has always returned, and that is where his mortal remains are being laid to rest at this very moment.

On Sunday, a celebration of his life was held at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish where he first studied and subsequently taught economics. The speakers included the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Nova Scotia, Bob Rae and a long-serving executive assistant, Kenzie MacKinnon. They all spoke very eloquently about the remarkable life of this coal miner’s son.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of the close relationship between Allan J. and his father, saying that were it not for his extraordinary skills as a parliamentarian, “it’s no stretch to say that we wouldn’t have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms today.” The Prime Minister went on to say: “Allan J. understood that strong public institutions are the only way to make sure that regular people have a fair shot at life . . . . Whether they credit him or not, Canadians are living in the country that Allan J. built, and they like it.”

But just as Allan J. MacEachen transformed Canadian social policy, he also transformed the Senate. Senator MacEachen arrived in the Senate in 1984 as a social activist, but the Senate at the time was seen as a defender of powerful corporate interests, particularly through the technique of pre-studying all important government financial legislation in one committee, the Banking Committee. As one reviewer put it, “The interests of big business could not be in better hands.”

But not only did Senator MacEachen quickly end the routine use of pre-study, but in one of his first actions as leader of the majority Senate opposition in early 1985, he refused passage of a Borrowing Authority Act because the government had not announced its spending plans.

The government fumed, but when the Main Estimates were finally tabled a month later, Senator MacEachen allowed the borrowing bill to proceed.

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry to interrupt you, Senator Day, but your time has expired.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I rise today to speak in honour of the late Allan J. MacEachen.

[Translation]

His life, a life devoted to serving his country, can serve as an inspiration to parliamentarians.

[English]

Few can hope to match the far-reaching impact of the contributions Senator MacEachen made to the Canada we know today — as Senator Day so rightly pointed to, the Canada of universal health care, the Canada where people can find fairness in the workplace and the unemployed can find support, the Canada where the elderly can find a pension supplement. Few can hope over the course of their career to affect the day-to-day lives of their fellow citizens and leave a legacy that is synonymous with the social policy of our nation.

[Translation]

We admire and are so grateful to him for everything he accomplished, but as parliamentarians, we must also acknowledge his path to political success.

[English]

He was a wily and canny political strategist — many have stripes to show — a pragmatist, and importantly, a great listener. He heard the voices and concerns of his constituents and his community, understanding, as great politicians do, that they were the source of his power.

Allan J. MacEachen, in turn, used the power of politics to do good for the people of Cape Breton and across this country. He believed in the power of government to look after the sick, the poor and the elderly.

And for the people of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, he used that power to make sure that the roads, airports and harbours were built, that the steel and coal industries were strengthened and that the region’s Celtic heritage could find its expression through the revival of Gaelic language.

He was appointed to the Senate in 1984, where he served as the government and opposition leader, leading the Liberal caucus and providing a great deal of intense sober second scrutiny to government legislation until retiring in 1996.

Having twice served as Canada’s foreign minister, he was well placed to co-chair the Atlantik-Brücke, a transatlantic group that organizes annual conferences between Germany and Canada to address current issues in foreign, economic and security policy. I participated regularly in these meetings and had the privilege of chatting with him and seeing firsthand the leadership and deft diplomatic skills of this Celtic sphinx.

(1500)

[Translation]

He inspired many people throughout his life and career.

[English]

He was a mentor and friend to countless MPs — one of whom is here to hear these tributes — senators, staffers, public servants and public policy aficionados across the country. Many of those who were lucky enough to have learned from him, if they were to learn at all, went on to become leaders in politics, business and academia, ensuring that his legacy of service to a better Canada endures to this day and beyond.

[Translation]

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a former member of our chamber, the Honourable Senator Allan MacEachen, who passed away last week.

[English]

A driving force from his beloved Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, for over 50 years, he won the support of constituents there an impressive nine times between 1953 and 1980.

During the governments of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson and the Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau, he served in numerous cabinet portfolios, including Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Finance.

In 1977, Prime Minister Trudeau named him as Canada’s first deputy prime minister.

For a brief time following the 1979 general election that brought the Right Honourable Joe Clark to government, he served briefly as the Leader of the Opposition.

In 1984, MacEachen was named to the Senate of Canada on the recommendation of John Turner and served briefly as Leader of the Government. However, for the majority of his time in this place, he served as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. On that point, I can certainly empathize with the responsibilities he took on with that role.

As Leader of the Opposition, he mounted a fierce challenge to both the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the Goods and Services Tax. I think it’s worth noting that at the time of his passing, both trade with the United States and taxation are two key issues that are still front and centre in today’s political discourse, as they were during his period in the Senate.

Senator MacEachen retired from the Senate in 1996, long before I was named to this place. However, I would like for his friends and family to know, during their time of loss, that he is remembered here today in this chamber where he served for so many years.

On behalf of the Conservative Senate caucus and all my colleagues, I extend the most sincere condolences to his family.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Political genius. Godfather of Cape Breton. Architect of Medicare. Champion of the worker. The Laird of Lake Ainslie. Even with all those titles, everyone knew him simply as Allan J. To try to extol the virtues of this man in such a short statement is a task worthy of Allan J. himself.

A man of principle, Allan J. had a passion for politics like no other. He was never hesitant to express his opinion and always stood up for his home, his province and his country. He believed that politics was the avenue through which we achieve great things for the public good.

Allan J. was like no other I had ever met growing up in politics. I remember meeting him for the first time. It was like meeting a movie star in Nova Scotia. In many chats we had over the years after that, it was clear that he cared deeply for his country, his native Cape Breton and his home at Lake Ainslie and wanted to make it a better place. We may have shared a tipple or two along the way.

Honourable senators, the Liberal Party has lost a lion. We would all do well to remember just how much Allan J. shaped the party through sheer political instinct and, more importantly, common sense, something that many in this business often forget will fix many problems and create new ideas.

In his tenure as senator, Allan J. brought back a sense of prestige to this institution, a place he believed was an important tool in fixing the problems the country was facing. He believed in the Senate and its role in shaping political debate in this country, something we should all seek to emulate.

Allan J. was a party volunteer, MP, senior adviser, minister, deputy prime minister, leadership candidate, senator and friend. I would add one more thing to that long list of accomplishments: a truly honourable gentleman.

Rest in peace, Allan J.

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I join colleagues to pay tribute to Senator Allan J. MacEachen, who passed away on September 12 last, age 96. On June 19, 1996, here, we paid tribute to him, Nova Scotia’s great son. MacEachen served for 31 years in the House of Commons and 12 years in this Senate. He retired on July 6, 1996, his seventy-fifth birthday.

This Liberal titan was born in Inverness, the small mining town of 3,000 people on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. A child during the Great Depression, his father was a coal miner. On March 2, 1996, here, Allan spoke about his dad. He said, at page 103 of the Debates of the Senate:

My father worked in the coal mines for 46 years. When he left the mines, he left with nothing. He had no pension.

Honourable senators, he spoke about the hardship of coal miners’ lives and the significance of the whistle and its signals, in the daily life of these miners and these towns. He said, also at page 103:

The whistle was also the voice of tragedy, because every time the whistle blew in a certain pattern, the people would rush to the colliery to determine who had been killed or injured.

Inverness gave Canada one of its greatest political leaders. This child of Scottish heritage, who spoke Gaelic, made a large and profound contribution to the social and political life of Canada. Honourable senators, I note that often, small insignificant little communities like Inverness give remarkable men and women to this country. This man came from a community that was merely a dot on the map.

Colleagues, in his honour, Allan’s alma mater, St. Francis Xavier University, organized a conference, titled “The Public Good: Lessons for the Third Millennium.” I was invited to and attended this event. Lifelong friends Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Gérard Pelletier and Senator Jacques Hébert also attended this magnificent learned event. They had driven together from Montreal. I was very sad; I knew that day that I would never see them alive together again.

Honourable senators, Senator MacEachen was most endeared to me. As Senate Liberal leader, he often thanked me for my faithfulness. All leaders need reliability in their flocks. In our years here and later, I always held Allan J. MacEachen in my great affection. On this Senate floor, this resourceful Liberal leader, this political being, moved with terrific force on the life and politics of this country. MacEachen well understood the need for the sacred in the human soul. This need is best described by St. Augustine who, in his famous work The Confessions of St. Augustine, wrote:

Yet man, this part of your creation, wishes to praise you. You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

In every dimension of his work for the public good, a deeply spiritual man, MacEachen was devoted to the service of Canada and Canadians. I close with the traditional Gaelic Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

May he rest in peace.

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Allan Joseph MacEachen — or as he was known to virtually everyone in Cape Breton, Allan J. — was unquestionably one of Canada’s true elder statesman and certainly in Cape Breton a legend in his own time.

His record of service is remarkable. He was elected under Liberal Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent in 1953. With the exception of the 1958 Diefenbaker sweep, he was elected in 10 out of 11 elections until his last election, when he retired to the Senate in 1984.

When he was first elected in 1953, his constituency was known as Inverness—Richmond. It contained not only all of Inverness and Richmond Counties, but also western Cape Breton County, west of the Mira River, which included my hometown of Louisbourg. He was our MP when I was born and he always swept the four polls in Louisbourg. I know; my mother was always a Tory poll captain. When redistribution put Louisbourg in Cape Breton—East Richmond before the 1968 election, mom was glad to see him go to the riding of Cape Breton Highlands—Canso. Mom said he was too hard to beat, and she was right.

(1510)

Allan J. was a product of his generation and his environment. His father, like my father’s father and grandfather, was a coal miner. Allan J. saw a lot of poverty. He wanted to do something about it and he did just that throughout his career.

He was a great champion for Cape Breton. When Canada’s nuclear reactor program was being established in the late 1960s, Deuterium of Canada had to build two state-of-the-art heavy water plants to provide the coolant for the reactors. Mysteriously, they both ended up being built in Cape Breton. Well, maybe it’s not such a mystery.

Allan J. was also durable. He suffered a severe stroke a few years after his retirement from the Senate and most thought he could not recover. But he did. He proved them wrong. He was very resilient.

Although I didn’t see him over the last few years, I did visit him after my appointment to the Senate at his winter home in Antigonish across from St. Francis Xavier campus. It was two hours well spent. He was a gracious host and he was so appreciative that the senator for Cape Breton would drop in to see him and seek his counsel.

My dad was president of the first fish plant workers’ union in the country, in Louisbourg, in 1953, and he and Allan J. knew each other well. He was a highlander. Like my father, he grew up in a Gaelic-speaking household and a Cape Breton that is rapidly disappearing in the rearview mirror. He was patient, intelligent and shrewd. He loved politics and was a master of it. His advice to MPs was simple: “I don’t care how important you think you are in Ottawa. If your constituents don’t think you are important to them, you won’t be in Ottawa.”

Allan J. is being buried today in his native Cape Breton at the church that he was baptized in over 96 years ago. Sith air a thoirt dha. Eternal peace be granted to him.

Hon. Jane Cordy: The Laird of Lake Ainslie, the godfather of Cape Breton, a member of Parliament, a senator and a gentleman: Honourable senators, that was Allan MacEachen, better known in my province of Nova Scotia as Allan J.

Allan J. was a fervent believer in making things better for Canadians and he implemented legislation to do just that. He was Minister of National Health and Welfare during the creation of universal public medicare. The Medical Care Act, which passed in 1966, created Medicare, and it also created a guaranteed income supplement for seniors.

When he was Minister of Labour, the Labour Code was reformed and new standards for minimum wage were established. Bob Rae, a great friend of his, said that Allan J. was the greatest parliamentarian of our generation.

One thing for sure is that he loved politics. As former Prime Minister Chrétien said, he and Allan J. talked about politics the way hockey players talked about hockey.

Allan J. was the son of a coal miner and he was born in Inverness, Cape Breton. He had a lifelong love of his Scottish heritage, including the Gaelic language and Scottish music. Allan J. spoke fluent Gaelic.

There is a story that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was coming to Cape Breton to Allan J’s riding. The PMO told Allan J. that the driver for the Prime Minister would have to be bilingual, and Allan J. agreed quickly to that. The driver was indeed bilingual. He spoke Gaelic and English.

Allan J. worked very hard for the people of his riding. He believed that as an MP he should always be looking for projects that would help the communities in Cape Breton. I’ll tell you a true story about his persistence when dealing with government departments in getting things done for his constituents.

There was an application to build a rink in a Cape Breton community. Allan J. forwarded the project to the bureaucrats to approve funding for the rink. The answer was: It doesn’t qualify for funding under the rules.

He wrote back: The community has no rink and they need a rink.

The answer from the bureaucrats was: We’ll do a study and report back.

They reported back that after studying the situation, the population didn’t qualify for such a project.

Allan J. wrote back again: Study it again.

The department wrote back: After further study, as requested, we have determined the community does not qualify under the rules for a rink.

Allan J. wrote back: “Build the goddamn rink.”

They built the rink.

Of course, Allan J. served in the Senate from 1984 until 1996. He was made Leader of the Opposition in the Senate after the fall election of 1984. He revived the role of the Senate and believed that the Senate was a legislative body, not just an advocacy one. He believed that the Senate should exercise its power to amend or reject legislation, which is an extremely important concept.

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, Senator Cordy, but your time has expired.

Honourable senators, I would ask you to please rise and join me in a moment of silence for our former colleague, the Honourable Allan Joseph MacEachen.

(Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.)

[Translation]

Police Services

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize the wonderful work that was done by police officers from Quebec and Ontario after an AMBER Alert was issued on Thursday, September 14, in the Saint-Eustache region of Quebec.

The police operation was a real interprovincial manhunt that covered over 1,500 kilometres and lasted 24 hours. When the AMBER Alert was issued, police and citizens worked together to save the life of a young six-year-old child who was kidnapped by a father on a murderous rampage who had just killed his wife. Given the circumstances, quick action was required, and there was every reason to fear the worst for the child. When a child disappears, the first few hours are critical.

The AMBER Alert program was created in 1996 in Texas, in the United States. Amber is the name of a nine-year-old girl who was kidnapped and murdered. In Canada, the AMBER Alert program has been up and running since 2000, and it became a very effective tool in 2010-11 when cell phone companies and social networks got involved. Now, when the police carry out this type of operation, they have eyes everywhere to help them look for a missing child, and as you can see, it works in 90 per cent of cases.

Last Friday, another child was saved thanks to the AMBER Alert program. As unbelievable as it may seem, Canadian police register some 40,000 missing children a year. That’s 800 children a week. Fortunately, an AMBER Alert does not have to be issued in all cases.

Under the Canadian protocol currently in place, the police can quickly mobilize the news media, primarily the radio, television and news websites, transportation systems and the general public. In this particular case, by sharing effective and timely information, including photos of the child, the father, the vehicle used and many other identifying details, the Sûreté du Québec was able to mobilize a veritable army of citizens, who relayed important tips regarding the father and son’s movements and whereabouts.

As we saw last week, an AMBER Alert has no borders or boundaries, which facilitated quick and effective cooperation from Ontario police officers, who were the ones to eventually capture the father and recover the son in the small municipality of Griffith, located about 150 kilometres north of Ottawa.

Today I wish to congratulate the Sûreté du Québec and the Ontario Provincial Police on their efficiency, as well as thank everyone who contributed to the efforts to save a kidnapped child.

[English]

Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Bill Hahn. He is the guest of the Honourable Senator Batters.

On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

[Translation]

Tribute to Two New Brunswick Artists

Hon. René Cormier: Honourable senators, the multidisciplinary Acadian artist and former Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick Herménégilde Chiasson once said, and I quote:

Being an artist means having the courage to invent our own worlds and to give generously of those worlds to others not knowing whether our creation will ever matter to anyone, not knowing if we will ever discover that what we have painted, printed, sculpted, photographed, moulded, or drawn resonates with another human being.

(1520)

[English]

He also said that being an artist is an important and dangerous job because the artists have the power to speak the language of emotions. It’s a great responsibility since they have the capacity to tell and see what other people sometimes cannot see or say because they have forgotten or have been distracted by everyday life to the point that they do not see colours, shapes or the people that surround them.

[Translation]

New Brunswick is home to amazing artists whose work contributes to the well-being of their fellow citizens. Sadly, some of them leave us much too soon.

On August 28, at the age of 55, one of the greatest Acadian songwriters passed away. Denis Richard lost his battle with cancer, but the impressive body of work he created will live on.

[English]

Actor, singer and composer, Denis Richard is especially well known across Canada as one of the most talented French songwriters. He wrote a multitude of songs that became classics.

[Translation]

He wrote wonderful songs such as Petit-Rocher, Cap-Enragé, Si le temps m’est permis, and La pluie tombe encore, as well as songs for film and theatre and for other artists, including Zachary Richard, Jean-François Breau, and Roch Voisine.

Denis Richard’s legacy to Acadia, New Brunswick, and Canada is a timeless body of work brimming with passion, tenderness, resilience, insightfulness, and love. He died peacefully while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and, like that enduring work, will never be forgotten.

I would like to take the opportunity afforded by this tribute to welcome to the Senate of Canada another New Brunswick artist, David Adams Richards, whose work is known well beyond the borders of our province.

[English]

If it’s the role of the artist to reveal the complexity of the world, your works, career and achievements speak for themselves, Senator Richards. You are a prolific writer, an incredible storyteller and a great connoisseur of the human spirit, if I may add.

Today you have decided to contribute your talent, knowledge and experience to enlighten the work of the Senate, and we all thank you for that commitment. On behalf of Canadian artists and New Brunswickers, thank you for your tremendous work and welcome to the Senate of Canada, Senator Richards.

U-Boat Attacks on Bell Island

Seventy-fifth Anniversary

Hon. David M. Wells: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about the seventy-fifth anniversary of the U-boat attacks that occurred on the stores of Bell Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, in 1942.

This past Saturday, September 16, the people of Bell Island and indeed the people of Newfoundland and Labrador commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of these attacks. I had the honour to be invited to speak at this commemoration.

Bell Island, where iron ore was mined, supplied one third of Canada’s raw material for steel necessary for the allied war effort. Bell Island was one of the few locations in North America that German forces directly attacked during the Second World War. Indeed, at the end of the war in 1945, a U-boat surrendered at Bay Bulls, on the outskirts of St. John’s, and an iron chain that protected the entrance to St. John’s Harbour was lowered and eventually removed.

The attacks demonstrated the extreme vulnerability of the Dominion of Newfoundland to enemy attack. In all, 69 men, merchant mariners and members of the Royal Navy, died in Conception Bay near St. John’s when the steamships, fully loaded with iron ore, were torpedoed and sunk.

On September 5, the SS Saganaga, with Merchant Navy and Royal Navy sailors on board, was hit by two stern torpedoes from a U-boat, U-513. It sank in three minutes with a loss of 29 men. The crew of the SS Lord Strathcona witnessed the attack, and the 44 men on board immediately prepared to abandon ship. After being struck by two bow torpedoes, the Lord Strathcona went down in only 90 seconds.

The second attack was carried out less than two months later, on November 2, 1942, by German U-boat U-518. The SS Rose Castle, a Canadian steamship out of Halifax carrying 43 men, was first to be targeted.

The ship had come across a U-boat just two weeks prior when it was struck by a dud torpedo that did no damage, but on this occasion the SS Rose Castle was struck by two torpedoes, and 28 men lost their lives. The third torpedo fired by German U-boat U-518 struck and sank the P.L.M. 27, and along with it 12 more men died.

On the night of that second attack, Bell Island became the only location in North America to suffer damage as a result of a U-boat attack. The first torpedo fired by U-518 was aimed at the Anna T, but when it missed its mark, it struck the Scotia Pier, destroying it completely.

Bell Islanders recognize the losses suffered during these attacks as part of the annual Battle of the Atlantic Commemorative Ceremony in May. However, on this, the seventy-fifth anniversary, a special commemoration was held.

Colleagues, this event provided Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and all Canadians with an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and sacrifices of those who served during the Second World War and to tie their sacrifices to the peace and freedom we enjoy today.

We must preserve the memory of all those who lost their lives simply by doing what they felt was their duty without any regard for the incredible risks they faced. However, in honouring those who lost their lives and those injured, as we always have and as we do today, we must never forget their sacrifice.

[Translation]

Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée

Hon Éric Forest: Honourable senators, I would like to bring to the attention of the Senate a tragedy that struck last August 15, National Acadian Day, in the village of Petite-Vallée, in the Gaspé. A terrible fire completely destroyed the Théâtre de la Vieille Forge, an invaluable part of Quebec’s cultural scene where the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée was held every year.

Since 1983, the festival has introduced thousands of people to newcomers to the musical scene and has provided an excellent platform for many emerging artists. The festival launched the careers of many artists, including Isabelle Boulay and Daniel Boucher, who performed at the festival in 1990 and 1997 respectively.

The festival went on to also host the biggest names on the French music scene—such as Gilles Vigneault, Plume Latraverse, Michel Rivard, Louise Forestier and Claude Gauthier—who mentored the emerging artists.

The organizers of the festival are visionary pioneers and exceptional creators. I want to acknowledge here the tenacity and courage of executive director Alan Côté and his wife, Danièle Vaillancourt, who have shown extraordinary resilience in the face of this tragedy. I also want to recognize the entire team of the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée and Théâtre de la Vieille Forge, who in these dark days continue to move heaven and earth to ensure the survival of this institution, which is important to the culture of the region and of Quebec. I am sure that all senators join me in expressing our support.

The festival is an incredible mobilizing force and certainly has a profound and lasting impact on the entire community of Petite-Vallée and the greater Lower St. Lawrence—Gaspésie region. That is why it is especially important to come together to preserve this essential cultural event.

Today I am launching an urgent appeal that we might come together to ensure that the 2018 Festival can be held in a new Théâtre de la Vieille Forge. On September 10, I attended a benefit concert in support of rebuilding the theatre. More than 50 artists graciously offered their talent to raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Other such events will take place across Quebec, including the benefit concert that was held this evening in Rimouski. I want to thank ROSEQ and Spect’Art Rimouski for donating some of the proceeds of the Émile Gruff show to the Théâtre de la Vieille Forge reconstruction fund.

The future of francophone music in North America is never secure. It takes events like the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée to foster creativity in our young people, and provide them with a platform on which to shine, dream, and broaden our horizons. We all know the virtues of music, but I am absolutely certain that music back home, by our artists, by the next generation, will take us even further.

Alan, Danièle and your entire team, my heart goes out to you. Long live the Festival en chanson de Petite-Vallée.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

(1530)

[English]

National Day of Service

Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, every September 11 here in Canada we quietly mark our National Day of Service. It is about recognizing and inspiring selfless service to your fellow citizens. That is why it marks the anniversary of 9/11.

Last week in Newfoundland, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Veterans Affairs commemorated that day with some of the cast of the Broadway hit musical, Come from Away. The play tells the story of the astonishing response of Gander and area residents to help almost 7,000 international air travellers diverted to Newfoundland in the aftermath of the horrific terror attack 16 years ago.

The amazing story speaks to the very reason we should mark a National Day of Service. The unexpected visitors, many of them American, could not reach family or get home. They were fearful, desperate and hostage to the unknown.

Officials worried there might be terrorists on board the planes so they warned the locals to keep their distance, but that’s not who Newfoundlanders are. The people of Gander, Appleton, Gambo, Lewisport and Norris Arm and everywhere in between, in an extraordinary but completely predictable way, opened their hearts and homes and gave comfort to those lost souls, and embraced these strangers as family. It was a powerful example of compassion.

Too few Canadians know that this is the genesis of Canada’s National Day of Service. Canadian Maureen Basnicki, who lost her husband in the attack on New York’s twin towers, appealed to several of us years ago to see if we in this chamber would follow the U.S. Congress and declare 9/11 to be a National Day of Service. On the tenth anniversary that plea was finally heard and formally recognized with the unanimous support of both the House of Commons and the Senate.

So now a day of grieving and reflection has also become a day to inspire others to engage in quiet acts of kindness, to honour the spirit of the first responders, the men and women of the military and ordinary folks on 9/11, and of course to remember those who lost their lives, including 24 Canadians.

Honourable senators, 9/11 changed all of us forever, but we must turn mourning into memory and anger into action, acts of kindness between strangers — hands reaching out to those in need. The folks of Newfoundland understood that, so let them be an inspiration to us all every September 11 to mark our National Day of Service with that spirit of generosity.


[Translation]

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

The Senate

Rules of the Senate of Canada—September 2017 Version Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Rules of the Senate of Canada, dated September 2017.

Copies will be distributed to senators as soon as possible.

Study on the Financial Implications and Regional Considerations of the Aging Population

Nineteenth Report of National Finance Committee Deposited with Clerk during Adjournment of the Senate

Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I would be remiss if I did not first acknowledge the arrival of Senator Richards from New Brunswick.

[English]

He is the tenth senator from New Brunswick to basically complete the great team in New Brunswick and there is no doubt in my mind that he will make a great addition.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the orders adopted by the Senate on April 12, 2016, and June 5, 2017, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on June 27, 2017, its nineteenth report (interim) entitled Getting Ready: For a new generation of active seniors.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Mockler, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

Study on the Design and Delivery of the Federal Government’s Multi-Billion Dollar Infrastructure Funding Program

Twentieth Report of National Finance Committee Deposited with Clerk during Adjournment of the Senate

Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the orders adopted by the Senate on February 23, 2016, and June 5, 2017, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on July 6, 2017, its twentieth report (interim) entitled Smarter Planning, Smarter Spending: Ensuring Transparency, Accountability and Predictability in Federal Infrastructure Programs.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Mockler, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

[English]


QUESTION PERIOD

Finance

Small Business Tax

Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): My question today is for the Government Representative in the Senate and it concerns the proposed tax changes for small business announced by the Minister of Finance on July 18.

Running a small business is hard work, more often than not requiring long hours, significant financial risk and personal sacrifice. Plumbers, electricians, mechanics, florists, restaurant owners, convenience store operators and more, these are small businesses which create much-needed jobs in communities across our country and make a substantial contribution to Canada’s economic growth.

Through last year’s debate on Bill C-2, we learned that the government could not provide a definition of what exactly constitutes the middle class in Canada.

Senator Harder, you may remember that I questioned you on this matter almost a year ago. I wish to point out that the profile of small businesses across our country conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows that two thirds of small business owners are earning less than $73,000 annually.

Senator Harder, would your government not agree that these hard-working small business owners are in fact the middle class? How can your government therefore provide assurances that middle class Canadians would not be hurt by the proposed tax changes if your government does not even know what constitutes “middle class”?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again I thank the honourable senator for his question and welcome him back to this forum and also to this period of questions and responses from the government.

With respect to the consultation that is under way, the government, as is well known by all senators, is consulting Canadians on the actions to address tax planning that enables some owners of private corporations to gain unfair tax advantages. The government welcomes the comments it has received and is continuing to receive from business owners and Canadians.

For businesses large and small, Canada already has one of the most competitive corporate tax systems, and the government will ensure that the tax treatment of private corporations continues to be aimed towards growth and job creation.

The changes, I should add, will only occur on a go-forward basis, and neither existing savings nor investment income from those savings will be touched. But the government is committed to fixing the inherent unfairness in our tax system, and that is the purpose of the consultations under way. The government’s proposals are not targeted at any one group or profession. They’re intended to provide tax fairness for the middle class, while addressing tax planning strategies that allow some individuals to use private corporations to pay less tax than other Canadians. That is the purpose of the consultation. That is what is under way.

(1540)

Senator Smith: As a point in fact, when we talk about the $73,000 earned by small business people in terms of income, there is an astonishing number that somewhere around 90 per cent of small business owners are in that category; other reports say that two thirds are. That is between two thirds and 90 per cent. A lot of people in small businesses are not earning the type of money that I think your government is trying to chase in terms of individuals.

I think it’s fair to say that many small business owners will be impacted by these tax changes. They don’t feel their concerns are being heard by government — our government; their government. Senators have a responsibility to listen to Canadians and understand how they view these tax changes and how their businesses will be affected.

I have a simple question, sir. Would you support the study of these tax proposals at several standing Senate committees — we talked about that today — particularly National Finance? Would you support these studies so that we can get more in-depth information to truly understand the implications on Canadian taxpayers?

Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for his question. Not only am I disposed to having the Senate examine the proposals that are being consulted on but also I would like to indicate to all honourable senators that the Minister of Finance has responded to a letter from Senator Black, copied to Senator Tkachuk as Chair of the Banking Committee, and has indicated his support for the Senate to initiate what the Senate feels it wishes to do with regard to consulting Canadians on this set of proposals. The minister has assured the senators — and I pass on that assurance — that he is prepared to participate in those hearings and urges us, as the Senate, to do so as quickly as possible.

Yes, senator, the government would encourage the Senate to exercise its sober reflection on the consultations and to provide its input in a timely fashion. I do think it’s not up to me — or during Question Period — to determine which committee it should be. That is probably a conversation best left to the usual channels. However, I think it’s important for us, on this first day back, to signal that the Senate of Canada is open to conducting its sober reflection on this important issue of tax fairness.

Hon. Elizabeth Marshall: My question for Senator Harder is on the tax proposals. The Prime Minister and Minister Morneau, in explaining their proposed tax increases, want to ensure that “everyone pays their fair share.” Both the Prime Minister and Minister Morneau keep using that term, but they don’t tell us what it is and they haven’t defined it. If taxpayers knew what it meant, they would know when they’re finally paying their fair share of taxes.

Could you tell us what, exactly, that term means? What does “fair share” of taxes mean?

Senator Harder: Senator, the tax code of Canada is one where repeated governments have, in their day, sought to ensure that the tax code reflects the values of Canadians and the appropriate balance of burden-sharing amongst all Canadian taxpayers. It is not unusual for governments, as this government said in the campaign that it won two years ago, that it sought tax fairness for Canadians, especially the middle class, who have disproportionately burdened with taxes in the view of the government. It is in the spirit of tax fairness that the government initiated first the tax cut, and other economic measures such as the Canada Child Benefit, to ensure that the needs of the middle class and those aspiring to the middle class are addressed as a priority.

The phase in which the government is presently engaged in terms of consulting with Canadians on the corporate tax rate is designed to ensure that broad approach of tax fairness so that there isn’t a particular advantage to using a particular financial structure to avoid taxes when Canadians who don’t have the benefit of a corporate tax regime pay a greater share of the tax burden.

I would also point out that the Canadian Coalition for Tax Fairness has welcomed this dialogue that has commenced and looks forward to the government not only concluding the consultation but also coming forward at the appropriate time and with the appropriate means with a set of proposals.

Senator Marshall: Thank you very much for that explanation. I was hoping for something a bit more definitive, but it does give rise to another question.

Since the Prime Minister and Minister Morneau have concluded that many taxpayers aren’t paying their fair share, who is paying more than their fair share and when can they expect a tax decrease?

Senator Harder: Again, senator, I hope that the sobriety of the Senate’s reflection on these tax proposals reflects the overall sense of what is fair at the end of the day as measures are debated. The purpose of the consultation and eventual legislation is to ensure that Canadians, whether through corporate structures or the payroll system itself, are paid fairly and proportionately to the tax burden that we all pay.

Foreign Affairs

Burma—Persecution of Rohingya Muslims

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is also to the leader in the Senate. According to a recent CBC report, 412,000 Rohingya people have fled from their homes because of the escalating violence against them from Myanmar’s security forces. The stories from Rohingya refugees are absolutely heartbreaking. For example, Asif and Suleman are young Rohingya brothers who lived in the Rakhine region before it was attacked. In early August, the two children, who were 8 and 12 years old, were playing in their backyard and were unaware that the security forces had forced their way into their home. When they heard gunshots coming from inside, they knew their parents and little brother had been killed and they ran for their lives. Today, the two boys struggle with trauma inside a refugee camp in Bangladesh. We all saw last night that those refugee camps are now flooded.

Leader, Canada must take swift action to end the crisis. I know that Minister Freeland has spoken. I know that she’s made a strong statement. I know that the Prime Minister — and I applaud him for that — has spoken to the authorities in Myanmar to express our concerns.

We know that the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is currently leading a commission investigating the crisis unfolding in Myanmar, but how are we supporting Kofi Annan’s advisory commission? What resources are we providing and are we playing a leading role there?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank Senator Jaffer for her questions on this subject. We spoke about this in June. Frankly, the fears of June have been exceeded by the circumstances, and that is absolutely appalling. As the senator has referenced, the Prime Minister has not only called the state councillor to condemn and call on her to intervene but has also followed up with a very strong letter to urge personal attention to this matter.

Canada has contributed $9.8 million of humanitarian assistance that is being coordinated through the international organizations and stands ready to do more.

This is United Nations General Assembly Week. The Prime Minister and key ministers will be in New York. Among other urgent issues, this is one that is high on Minister Freeland’s agenda. I can assure the honourable senator and all honourable senators that Canada will do what Canadians expect, namely, to be part of the forefront of concerted international action not only to deal with the humanitarian crisis but also to do what we can to deal with the root cause of this, which we all know is a very complex but very tragic situation.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you very much for your answer. I appreciate it.

Leader, you are one person who has designed many peace processes and done a lot of peace building in your career. If there ever was an opportunity for Canada to play a role in peace building with Bangladesh and with Myanmar, it is now.

(1550)

May I ask that you ask the minister what she is doing, what resources we are giving to Kofi Annan, and what resources we are putting aside for peace building? Are we going to be an active country when it comes to peace building?

Senator Harder: Again, I want to assure the honourable senator that Canada will be and is an active partner in this. I will bring her concerns and the concerns of the Senate at large to the attention of the appropriate ministers. The Minister of International Development is part of the group in New York, as well, to meet with her colleagues on this matter. I look forward to an early opportunity to report back to the senator.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Asylum Seekers

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It’s also about asylum seekers, but not asylum seekers. I appreciate Senator Jaffer’s question, but I want to focus our attention on what is happening in Canada about the asylum seekers coming over from the United States to Quebec.

I think you will agree with me that it is essential for us to retain public confidence in the governance systems that we have set up, and it is in all our interests to make decisions on claims in a way that is both fast and fair. But when I look at what’s happening at the IRB, an institution you know well, there are 34,000 cases already in the backlog. In addition, there are 40 vacancies in the Immigration Appeal Division and Refugee Appeal Division.

I went back in time, and on January 1, 2016, there were 23 vacancies. On August 31, 2017, there were 40 vacancies. I don’t quite see how we can address current claims, let alone backlog claims, without making these GIC appointments.

Perhaps you can share with me what the government’s plans are to fill these vacancies in a fast and fair manner.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question and for her appropriate concern with regard to the processing, in both time and consequence, of the Immigration and Refugee Board’s activities.

It is entirely essential, and Parliament designed a refugee determination system that is independent of government, and that is appropriate. I would also, though, like to report to the Senate that the IRB on its own has initiated an action plan into its operations to ensure that it is improving its efficiency, greater productivity and faster processing, and that itself improves the fairness. That task force, known as the Legacy Task Force, has a number of recommendations, which I understand from officials are being implemented, and the government looks forward to its implementation and its impact on the very important issue of timeliness that you raised.

I would also point out that this government has appointed 60 highly qualified adjudicators who are part of this determination system, but I will also undertake to bring to the attention of the government the concerns of the honourable senator with respect to members of the Immigration and Refugee Board, particularly the refugee determination division and their essential presence for the appropriate and timely fashion for adjudication.

[Translation]

Official Languages

Action Plan

Hon. René Cormier: My question is for the government representative in the Senate.

Whereas official languages are a vital part of Canadian living and a part of the social contract that is the basis for the founding of our country; whereas the Minister of Canadian Heritage began consulting community organizations in the summer of 2016 in order to introduce a new multi-year action plan on official languages in Canada; whereas the current Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality expires on March 31, 2018 and that, for more than 10 years, funding for francophone and Acadian community organizations has not increased or been indexed to the cost of living; whereas the action plan and the related funding must help official language minority communities to thrive; therefore, can you confirm that the government is committed to ensuring the development and sustainability of official language minority communities by guaranteeing they receive the funds needed to ensure they can attain their objectives and by indexing the fund to the cost of living to ensure they can continue their activity in the long term?

Also, when does the government plan to disclose the content of this action plan that Canadians have been waiting so long for?

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and for his ongoing interest on this important matter. I would note that the work being done by the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages concerning ways to modernize the Official Languages Act, and the recent round table that senators had with the Fédération de la jeunesse canadienne-française, help inform the government, as well as the Senate, on the way forward.

I would like to, on behalf of the government, assure the honourable senator that the role of official language communities is a critical part of the development under way of the multi-year Action Plan for Official Languages. From June to December 2016, the government held 22 round table discussions, and in addition to that, approximately 300 people responded online.

I would also point out that in the last budget the government committed $80 million over 10 years to support the construction of educational infrastructure projects in the official language minority communities. The minister is now in the process of facilitating that work on the ground level, and I would be happy to bring to the attention of the minister the specific concerns that you have raised here in this house.

[Translation]

Senator Cormier: We certainly thank the government of Canada for holding consultations in various communities in order to better understand the issues that affect Canadians living in minority situations. It is true that these consultations have been ongoing for some time, now.

Canadians want to know what they can expect to see in this action plan on official languages and how it will help official language minority communities meet their objectives.

I understand the response from the Government Representative, but I did not get a clear answer regarding when the action plan will be announced. Those communities are waiting for answers so they can plan their work for the benefit of all Canadians living in official language minority communities.

[English]

Senator Harder: I assure the honourable senator that the minister is looking forward to making an announcement on this matter.

[Translation]

Finance

Small Business Tax

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. With its fiscal reform to eliminate tax benefits for many small businesses, the Trudeau government hopes to collect an extra $250 million every year in taxes—probably to pay for the huge deficit it is running up only to leave for future generations. Meanwhile, the same government is somewhat carelessly handing out millions of dollars in subsidies to large million-dollar Canadian and multinational corporations.

If this reform is adopted, it could be a huge blow to the agricultural sector, where some 43,000 Canadian farms are incorporated in order to make it easier to bring family members into the business and prepare succession.

How can this government, which has already demonstrated its inability to count, justify its decision to bring tax fairness by jeopardizing one of the most important sectors of our economy, specifically agriculture? Will you once again be among those senators that try to ram a poorly drafted and unfair bill from the Trudeau government down our throats?

[English]

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I would like to emphasize that the consultation under way is in advance of any legislation the government might bring forward and that the issue of tax fairness in any sector, including the agriculture sector, is one that it is intended to address.

The question also raised issues around the fiscal probity of this government, which gives me the opportunity to share with all senators the results that were announced today as part of the Annual Financial Report for the Government of Canada for fiscal year 2016-17 in which the government posted, yes, a budget deficit of $17.8 billion for the end of the fiscal year, March 31 of this year. But that is less than the $23 billion projected in Budget 2017 and $11.6 billion less than originally indicated in Budget 2016.

As the government has indicated, its fiscal anchor remains the debt-to-GDP ratio, and the Government of Canada feels that the economic response and the economic growth that we see are putting us on the appropriate fiscal course, one that we very much welcome.

(1600)

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: This is the same strategy used by former Prime Minister Paul Martin when he announced a $20 billion dollar deficit and then later told us that we were lucky that it turned out to be only $12 billion.

[English]

Senator Harder: I recall that the government of Mr. Chrétien, through significant effort by Canadians and through the courage of the government of the day, did significant program review leading to a balanced budget in the period that the government took office. That balanced budget over many years was inherited by the successive government, which never quite achieved the fiscal discipline of that government, and I would simply note for the Senate that it would be useful for us all to take the economic timing and circumstances into account when we provide our analysis.

Finance

Small Business Tax

Hon. Denise Batters: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Harder, people in my province of Saskatchewan are angry about your government’s unfair tax changes. Especially alarming is the devastating effect this scheme will have on Canadian farmers. Several hard-working Saskatchewan farmers, people like Megz Reynolds and Brett McBride, have had to turn to social media to voice their concerns about what these changes will mean for their family farms.

It was no accident that the Trudeau government has chosen to hold brief consultations on these complicated tax measures during harvest, the busiest season of the year for Canadian farmers. This whole scheme displays the Trudeau government’s fundamental misunderstanding of Canadian agriculture.

Family farms depend on the contribution of all family members. Even young kids are responsible for chores, older children drive trucks and tractors and the adults work from dawn until dusk and often beyond that to contribute to the success of their family farm operation. Their labour feeds you, it feeds me and it feeds the world, and yet the Trudeau government’s tax scheme will ultimately penalize these family contributions. Accountant Peter Weissman says these tax changes will produce “terrible collateral damage” for family farms and other family businesses. Shockingly, it will be easier and less costly for farmers to sell their farms — and their family’s legacy — to a stranger, taxed at 25 per cent than to their own children, which this Liberal government would tax at 45 per cent.

The Trudeau government is introducing these unfair tax changes because they are broke. They have a massive spending problem. They brag about an $18 billion deficit. The very people this Trudeau government constantly claims to help — “the middle class and those working hard to join it” — will be hurt most severely by this scheme.

Prime Minister Trudeau claims these changes are simply a tweak that will only affect the wealthiest Canadians — the 1 per cent. Canada’s farmers are not the 1 per cent.

Does the Trudeau government actually consider it a “tweak” to charge Canada’s farm families a dramatically higher tax rate to transfer their legacy farms to their own children than to a stranger?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question. The consultation process that is still under way is one in which a number of concerns or situations have been raised. The ministers and others have responded to the facts as they understand them to be. The consultation process, I hope, can be extended to including the Senate of Canada, where the concerns of the honourable senator can be addressed and informed, so that we can all, I hope, stand together and say we are supportive of tax fairness. Taxpayers ought to be confident that the system we have in place is one that ensures appropriate fairness across income levels in Canada.

International Trade

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

Hon. Percy E. Downe: My question is for Senator Harder as well. I understand from media reports that we have good news on the CETA deal, the Canada-Europe trade agreement, and I’m wondering if you can confirm the reports that it will be implemented this week.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and for his ongoing interest in asking this question, both earlier in the spring and just before we rose. I can identify to this chamber that at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, the Prime Minister and President of the European Commission agreed to establish September 21 as the implementation date. That will see 98 per cent of tariff lines between Canada and the EU to be duty-free and that will mean the dropping of 9,000 tariff lines to zero.

As of today, Canadians have access to a market of more than 500 million consumers and a procurement market worth a staggering $3.3 trillion. It is certainly the government’s view that consumers will be getting more choice and lower prices and that’s all good for access and competition and great news for Canadians looking to expand, succeed and win in the world’s most lucrative market.

This preferential access is very important as we move forward in these times where trade agreements are under threat in some jurisdictions. Canada and Europe stand ready to demonstrate that trade agreements are here for the benefit of our populations, both the workers and the consumers.

Senator Downe: This is certainly good news. I would just draw your attention, of course, to the little irritant that became more than a little irritant. That was that the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade committee finished their analysis and review of this agreement on May 10 and it was passed the next day in the Senate, on May 11, with the understanding that it would likely be implemented by July 1. There was considerable pressure in the committee to wrap up our extensive hearings.

But there were two threads in particular that were left hanging: the shipbuilding concerns, which are something we would like to pursue, and pharmaceuticals. At the end of June, I had an opportunity to speak to the European trade negotiator and he advised me that the very concerns raised at our committees regarding the regulations, the secrecy, the lack of transparency and the lack of consultation with those not involved in the secret discussions were the very concerns they had. At that point, they had put in 19 inquiries in the Government of Canada about the details.

These were the very issues raised at our committee and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity, because of the perceived time restraints, to pursue them. That caused the delay. I think had the committee continued, a lot of these questions would have been answered to the Europeans’ satisfaction and we could have concluded earlier.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired.

Delayed Answers to Oral Questions

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the answers to the following oral questions:   response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Boisvenu on December 8, 2016, concerning the rights of victims of criminal acts; on May 11, 2017, concerning illegal immigration; on June 5, 2017, concerning the legalization of marijuana; on June 6, 2017, concerning the legalization of marijuana; on June 15, 2017, concerning the protection of children; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Carignan, P.C. on December 8, 2016, concerning amendments to the Judges Act; on April 6, 2017, concerning the Juno Awards—linguistic duality; on May 18, 2017, concerning Invest in Canada—selection process for President; on June 13, 2017, concerning the icebreaker fleet; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Cormier on April 6, 2017, concerning the absence of reference to the deportation of Acadians in the CBC program “Canada: The Story of Us”; on May 3, 2017, concerning francophone immigration and French language tests; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Downe on June 7, 2017, concerning the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement; on June 5, 2017, concerning the Confederation Bridge—tolls; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Dupuis on April 13, 2017, concerning assistance for women’s organizations; on May 17, 2017, concerning support for children’s literacy; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Dyck on June 19, 2017, concerning the status registry; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Enverga on March 2, 2017, concerning the Scarborough Subway Extension; on April 12, 2017, concerning polling costs; on May 4, 2017, concerning the processing of work permits for caregivers; on June 1, 2017, concerning funding for the giant rubber duck; on June 7, 2017, concerning the Express Entry immigration program; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Frum on May 3, 2017, concerning foreign election donations; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Gagné on June 13, 2017, concerning francophone immigration—french language tests; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Greene Raine on April 6, 2017, concerning gender differences in youth suicide rates; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Jaffer on May 4, 2017, concerning funding to combat malaria; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Lang on June 1, 2017, concerning the cost of surface combatants; on June 21, 2017, concerning the Defence Policy Review; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Maltais on December 13, 2016, concerning softwood lumber negotiations; on April 13, 2017, concerning the CBC program “Canada: The Story of Us”; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Manning on May 18, 2017, concerning the Atlantic Fisheries Fund; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Martin on April 13, 2017, concerning Taiwan—participation at World Health Assembly meetings; on June 20, 2017, concerning government spending; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator McCoy on May 3, 2017, concerning the Vegreville Case Processing Centre; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator McIntyre on November 30, 2016, concerning official languages—census; on February 15, 2017, concerning the judicial appointment process and court delays; on June 13, 2017, concerning Judicial Advisory Committees; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator McPhedran on June 19, 2017, concerning the statements of a Minister; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Mercer on April 12, 2017, concerning the Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Munson on June 8, 2017, concerning autism support and funding; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Ngo on May 31, 2017, concerning Vietnam—human rights; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Oh on June 13, 2017, concerning the export of pulse crops to India; on June 21, 2017, concerning application fees for minors; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Omidvar on December 15, 2016, concerning the commitment to diversity; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Pate on June 19, 2017, concerning the deadline of Bill S-3; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Patterson on March 2, 2017, concerning Nunavut—health transfer; on May 9, 2017, concerning Nunavut—sewage infrastructure; on May 17, 2017, concerning the satellite licensing framework; on June 15, 2017, concerning the request for extradition of Joannes Rivoire; on June 21, 2017, concerning the Defence Policy Review; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Plett on May 31, 2017, concerning the Justice department website; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Poirier on June 6, 2017, concerning bilingual status for Canadian cities; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Runciman on February 2, 2017, concerning detention in custody—bail reform; on May 31, 2017, concerning the care of prisoners—leadership; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Smith on April 13, 2017, concerning the legalization and regulation of cannabis; on May 3, 2017, concerning softwood lumber negotiations; on May 11, 2017, concerning the downgrading of the credit rating of Canada’s major banks—economic growth; on June 5, 2017, concerning the indexed tax on beer, wine and spirits; on June 13, 2017, concerning the indexed tax on beer, wine and spirits; on June 14, 2017, concerning economic growth—housing market; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Tardif on May 30, 2017, concerning refugee resettlement—francophone minority communities; on June 14, 2017, concerning minority language child care; response to the oral questions by the Honourable Senator Tkachuk on December 13, 2016, concerning the Trudeau Foundation; on February 9, 2017, concerning electoral reform; on March 9, 2017, concerning the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award; on March 29, 2017, concerning the Prime Minister’s travel—tour technician; on March 30, 2017, concerning the Prime Minister’s travel—tour technician—travel support; on April 6, 2017, concerning the Prime Minister’s travel—tour technician; on May 3, 2017, concerning a breakfast for public servants; response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Unger on June 8, 2017, concerning the Vegreville Case Processing Centre; and response to the oral question by the Honourable Senator Wallin on February 9, 2017, concerning pensions and disability benefits.

Justice

Rights of Victims of Criminal Acts

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu on December 8, 2016)

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that our criminal justice system keeps communities safe, protects and shows compassion to victims, and holds offenders to account. This includes ensuring that survivors of sexual assault and gender-based violence are treated with the utmost respect and dignity.

In 2016-17 alone, the Government made available through its Victims Fund more than $21 million to provincial and territorial governments and non-governmental organizations to increase awareness and knowledge of victim issues, legislation, and services available, as well as to develop and deliver programs, services, and assistance to meet gaps in services for victims of crime. More specifically, the Victims Fund provides funding to the provinces and territories to undertake various activities and training to support the implementation of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

The Victims Fund is also providing $12 million over three years for projects designed to improve the criminal justice system’s responses to sexual assaults against adults and other forms of gender-based violence. This is in addition to the Government’s funding of $2.7 million over five years and $500,000 per year afterwards for judicial training and judicial conduct, including training on sexual assault.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Illegal Immigration

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu on May 11, 2017)

The Government remains unwavering in its commitment to protect the safety of Canadians and keep Canada’s borders secure.

Canadian law enforcement and border security agencies are applying the law and reallocating resources as required to ensure that the integrity of our borders is maintained. Every asylum claimant is thoroughly screened by Canadian security agencies against Canadian and international databases.

While Canada is a welcoming country, applying to become a refugee is not a free ticket to remain here. In the event of a negative determination by the Immigration and Refugee Board, removal orders are enforced as quickly as possible.

Canadian authorities work closely with international partners, including the United States (US), to identify, interdict, investigate, dismantle and advance the prosecution of persons and organizations involved in cross-border criminal activities, including human trafficking and smuggling.

A number of joint Canada-US law enforcement initiatives are in place to address cross-border criminality. Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations (Shiprider), for example, patrols marine areas in shared waterways on both sides of the border, while Integrated Border Enforcement Teams support joint investigations and law enforcement action at and between ports of entry.

Information-sharing agreements are also in place between Canadian and US law enforcement agencies, with the exchange of information governed by applicable Canadian and US legislation, government directives, and agency policies and procedures.

Moreover, the Canada Border Services Agency’s liaison officer network abroad works with domestic and international partners to identify and interdict smuggled migrants and human smuggling operations

Justice

Legalization of Marijuana

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu on June 5, 2017)

In June 2016, our Government established a Task Force to consult on the design of a framework for restricted access to cannabis. In consultation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and mental health experts, it received almost 30,000 submissions from individuals and organizations, including from l’Association pour la santé publique du Québec and the Canadian Mental Health Association, but not l’Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec. Our Government continues to work with all provinces and territories.

In determining the minimum age for consumption, the Task Force advised that a balance should be struck between known health risks and the reality that Canadian youth use cannabis at very high rates. The legislation restricts access to cannabis to adults, however, provinces and territories could set a higher age as they deem appropriate.

The proposed Cannabis Act would create a strict legal framework for the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis. Possession of small amounts would not be a criminal offence and criminal profits would decrease. The legislation would make it a criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and create penalties for engaging youth in cannabis-related offences. Subject to Parliamentary approval, our Government intends to provide regulated access to cannabis no later than July 2018.

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu on June 6, 2017)

The proposed Cannabis Act would create a strict legal framework for the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis. Possession of small amounts by adults would not be a criminal offence and selling to a minor and engaging youth in cannabis-related offences would carry strict penalties. Subject to Parliamentary approval, our Government intends to provide regulated access to cannabis no later than July 2018.

Our Government acknowledges that involvement of provincial and territorial governments is critical in implementing cannabis legalization and regulation. Federal/provincial/territorial working groups meet regularly to discuss this file.

Provinces and territories may take responsibility for the distribution and sale of cannabis, in collaboration with municipalities. If a retail system is not established upon coming into force, adults could purchase cannabis from a federally licensed producer.

Budget 2017 indicated that $9.6 million be directed to public education and awareness and monitoring and surveillance activities.

Our Government will invest so there is capacity within Health Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Public Safety to licence, inspect and enforce the proposed legislation. Working with provinces, territories, and communities, the Government will invest in training law enforcement so Canada’s roads are safe.

Public Safety

Protection of Children

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu on June 15, 2017)

The Government has no greater responsibility than protecting public safety, especially the safety of Canadian children.

That is why the Government is engaging with stakeholders, including victims’ advocates, law enforcement experts, and provinces and territories, about the database included in the former Bill C-26.

This database would not make new information available to Canadians. Rather, it would compile information regarding high-risk child sex offenders already released by police in communities where these offenders reside.

The Government is giving the matter careful consideration, taking into account the needs of victims, the importance of helping parents and communities protect their children, the evidence about the utility and effectiveness of public sex offender databases, and the experiences of other jurisdictions.

The Government’s approach will be based on evidence about what works to protect communities and keep Canadian children safe.

Justice

Amendments to the Judges Act

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on December 8, 2016)

The Government has taken significant steps to ensure that the process for appointing judges is transparent and accountable to Canadians, and promotes greater diversity on the bench. From day one, the Government has been working to strengthen the judiciary.

Budget 2017 proposes funding for 28 new federally-appointed judges. Twelve of these positions are for Alberta and one for the Yukon, to address their demonstrated immediate needs. The remaining 15 “pool positions” will be accorded in an equitable manner to trial and appellate courts across Canada, based on the validated needs of each court and jurisdiction. This will provide some measure of relief, and flexibility to deal with further requests.

The Minister of Justice is committed to filling judicial vacancies as quickly as possible and to date has appointed 92 judges across the country, including 14 in Quebec, and 22 deputy judges. The Judicial Advisory Committee for Quebec West was announced on January 19, 2017, and the Judicial Advisory Committee for Quebec East was announced on April 13, 2017. As the Committees continue their important work, the Minister of Justice will be in a position to appoint more outstanding jurists to the bench in Quebec and throughout Canada.

Canadian Heritage

Juno Awards—Linguistic Duality

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on April 6, 2017)

As per Part VII of the Official Languages Act, the Department of Canadian Heritage must put in place measures that it considers appropriate to foster the promotion of both official languages as well as the development of Official Languages Minority Communities. The Canada Music Fund, which is the Department’s main support program for Canadian music, thereby adheres to the respective realities and challenges of English- and French-language musical artists and entrepreneurs. This is achieved by designating separate third-party administrators for each linguistic market, namely Musicaction for the French-language market and the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings (FACTOR) for the English-language market. It is through FACTOR that the Fund provides financial support to the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, better known as CARAS, the organization responsible for the JUNO Awards.

CARAS is an entity which is totally independent from the Government of Canada and, as such, does not organize the awards gala on behalf or for the benefit of Canadian Heritage nor FACTOR. Consequently, CARAS is not subject to Part IV of the Official Languages Act nor does it have an obligation to communicate in both official languages. CARAS has full autonomy over the programming of the various events surrounding JUNO week, which culminates with the televised awards gala. As part of its key funded activities, the Canada Music Fund supports music Awards highlighting the achievements of Canadian artists from both English and French language markets, such as the Junos, the ADISQ, the Polaris Prize and the Gala des prix Trille Or, to name a few.

On this basis, the Department of Canadian Heritage takes its responsibility for the promotion of the Canadian cultural sector as a whole very seriously, as it does its obligations under the Official Languages Act.

Infrastructure

Invest in Canada—Selection Process for President

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on May 18, 2017)

The Government is committed to open and transparent processes for selecting Governor in Council (GIC) appointees, to encourage continued trust in Canada’s democracy and ensure the integrity of its public institutions. These open, transparent, and merit-based selection processes reflect the fundamental role that GIC appointees play in our democracy as they serve on commissions, boards, Crown corporations, agencies, and tribunals across the country. As of May 24, the formal selection process to select the CEO of the Invest in Canada Hub has not been launched.

National Defence

Icebreaker Fleet

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claude Carignan on June 13, 2017)

The Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaking Program operates 17 icebreakers and 2 air cushioned icebreaking vehicles year round, including during summer in the Arctic and winter South of 60. The program maintains commerce on the East Coast for 12 months of the year, ensures year-long ferry service, prevents floods, clears ice from harbours and wharfs. In 2014/15 in the Atlantic Region alone, the Coast Guard conducted 155 vessels escorts for a distance of almost 10,000 nautical miles and conducted almost 400 icebreaker taskings. In the Arctic, the icebreaking program supports Canadian sovereignty, supplies remote communities, and supports economic development.

The Coast Guard is currently working on the next iteration of its Fleet Renewal Plan which will address the replacement of the Coast Guard’s icebreaking fleet. The first new icebreaker is expected to be delivered in 2023 under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, with others to follow. Building ships takes time, so the Coast Guard is also taking steps to ensure continued program delivery in the short-term. We can expect the Fleet Renewal Plan to include work to further extend the lives of existing ships, as well as interim measures to fill potential gaps in icebreaking services and add interim heavy-tow capacity.

Canadian Heritage

Absence of Reference to Deportation of Acadians in CBC Program—“Canada: The Story of Us”

(Response to question raised by the Honourable René Cormier on April 6, 2017)

In an open and inclusive society like ours, whose diversity is its strength, the contribution of Francophone and Anglophone minority communities is particularly valuable. The Government of Canada has at heart to foster the growth of these communities, especially when they live in a minority situation, such as Acadian communities.

CBC/Radio-Canada is an independent Crown corporation that is responsible for its day-to-day operations, including its programming and online content.

On April 11, 2017, the Corporation published a press release in response to the reactions generated by the series and announced that there would be live digital conversations to discuss the series with Canadians, which are archived on an online repository.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Francophone Immigration—Aptitude Testing

(Response to question raised by the Honourable René Cormier on May 3, 2017)

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is committed to supporting Francophone minority communities by implementing a full range of measures to support French speaking newcomers.

To ensure that a foreign national’s language proficiency demonstrated for federal economic immigration purposes is objectively, consistently, and accurately evaluated, IRCC requires test results from a designated independent language testing organization. There are three organizations designated; two in English and one in French.

IRCC has increased efforts to implement concrete measures that would result in both a greater number of test sites and similar test fees for French and English tests. This includes: working with the designated organization to explore possible actions to reduce the current French test fees; reviewing a submission for the designation of a second French language test in the near future; and, raising awareness of the designation process within the language testing community to encourage eligible organizations to seek designation.

IRCC expects that an increase in the number of designated independent French language testing organizations would increase the number of testing sites available and provide options for lower test fees by testing organizations.

International Trade

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Percy E. Downe on June 7, 2017)

On July 8, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, made a commitment to provisionally apply CETA on September 21, 2017. This commitment allowed Canada to proceed with the completion of domestic implementation procedures. As a first step, the necessary regulatory changes were published in the Canada Gazette Part I on July 15, 2017 for a 15-day notification and comment period. On August 31, 2017, Treasury Board approved the final regulatory changes and the regulations were published in a special edition of the Canada Gazette Part II on September 7, 2017. Prior to provisional application, Canada will exchange diplomatic notes with the EU to confirm the completion of Canada’s implementation process. The diligent work of the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee (AEFA) supported the Government of Canada’s commitment to provisionally apply CETA as soon as possible and to deliver the very real and substantial benefits this progressive trade agreement will have for Canadians.

Infrastructure and Communities

Confederation Bridge—Bridge Tolls

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Percy E. Downe on June 5, 2017)

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of the Confederation Bridge for the economy of the region as it ensures a permanent connection with the mainland.

The toll structure established in 1997 for the Confederation Bridge was based on previous ferry rates. A new axle-based toll structure was implemented in January 2006, and is still in effect today. Axle-based toll structures are used on bridges and roads across North America and for the most part, fees are charged based on the number of axles.

The Confederation Bridge is a federally-owned asset and the Government of Canada has an agreement with Strait Crossing Bridge Limited (SCBL) to operate the Bridge until 2032. Transport Canada will evaluate options for the Confederation Bridge operations well in advance of the end of the current agreement. Transport Canada intends to respect its agreement with SCBL.

International Development

Assistance for Women’s Organizations

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Renée Dupuis on April 13, 2017)

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of investing in women’s rights organizations that play a critical role in mobilizing communities and voicing social concerns to advance gender equality and improve the lives of the most vulnerable.

Canada works with a range of partners including governments, multilateral institutions, and civil society organizations to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. These partners support and engage both at regional and country levels with women’s rights organizations.

For example, in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Global Affairs Canada is helping to protect girls and young women from sexual violence through a $13.5 million project with the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation and a coalition of eleven experienced women’s organizations from Burundi, Congo and Rwanda. We are also working with Oxfam-Quebec to support local women’s organizations in Burkina Faso, Bénin and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to advance women’s rights and empowerment. In 2016-17, through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, we funded 85 women’s rights organizations to carry out local, small-scale projects worth approximately $2.1 million.

On June 9, in support of Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy, Minister Bibeau announced the new Women’s Voice and Leadership Program. As part of this initiative, the Government of Canada will allocate $150 million over five years to respond to needs of local women’s organizations in developing countries that are working to advance the rights of women and girls and promote gender equality. This will make Canada a leading donor in supporting women’s rights organizations in developing countries.

Families, Children and Social Development

Support for Children’s Literacy

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Renée Dupuis on May 17, 2017)

The Government of Canada is committed to helping Canadian children get the best start in life and better support Canadian families. Budget 2017 proposed to invest $7.5 billion over 11 years, starting in 2017-2018, to support and create more high-quality, affordable child care across the country.

On June 12, 2017, the Government of Canada announced a historic agreement with provincial and territorial governments on a Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework. The Framework will be seeking to increase the quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, and inclusivity in early learning and child care, in particular for families that need child care the most.

The Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework is part of a suite of commitments intended to support Canadian families, including the Canada Child Benefit - a tax-free, income-tested monthly child benefit.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Status Registry

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Lillian Eva Dyck on June 19, 2017)

The demographic projections currently available to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada with respect to changes to the Indian Act similar to Senator McPhedran’s proposal date back to a 2010 report done by Stewart Clatworthy. While these projections are informative, they are outdated, and contain various scenarios with different results depending on which source data is relied upon.

The purpose of referencing these numbers is not fearmongering or to suggest either end of the spectrum is what the likely impact would be, but to highlight the huge range of the currently available estimates and the need for better data.

These estimates do not provide sufficient information to adequately assess the potential impacts of the proposed approach, or to support meaningful consultations with potentially impacted communities or individuals. Therefore, the Department has started work to retain the services of demographic experts to update this information.

Infrastructure

Scarborough Subway Extension

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., on March 2, 2017)

The Prime Minister and Minister Sohi have stated that the government supports municipalities and local decision making. The government maintains its commitment of $660M made to this project. Our goal is to move forwards as quickly as possible with improving transit for the residents of Scarborough.

Budget 2017 is an ambitious plan to make smart investments that will create jobs, grow the economy, and provide more opportunities for the middle class and those working hard to join it. It proposes to provide $20.1 billion over 11 years to support public transit networks and service extensions the Greater Toronto Area, in Ontario, and across Canada.

Prime Minister’s Office

Polling Costs

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., on April 12, 2017)

The Privy Council Office expanded its public opinion research program to enable the Government of Canada to listen continuously to Canadians on various government issues and priorities that impact their daily lives.

The government is committed to openness, transparency and collaboration. Findings collected from public opinion research are reflected in the development of policies, government communications, the delivery of programs and services, and supports the government’s approach to evidence-based decision-making. All contracting for public opinion research has been managed in compliance with contracting and procurement policies.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Processing of Work Permits for Caregivers

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., on May 4, 2017)

IRCC continues to focus its efforts in reducing the Live-In Caregiver inventory. Since reaching its peak of roughly 60,000 persons in 2014, the inventory has been significantly reduced, and stood at 27,500 as of May 10, 2017. IRCC takes this matter seriously and is looking at ways to further expedite the processing of Live-In Caregiver applications. Intake into the Live-in Caregiver Program was paused in 2014 and new programs were introduced, which has helped limit the creation of future backlogs, while also reducing wait times for applicants under these new programs.

Canada’s immigration program is mindful of gender, diversity and accessibility considerations. Most caregivers are women; many come to Canada as temporary workers and subsequently apply, along with their family members, for permanent residence. Clients who apply for permanent residence through the new programs encounter much shorter processing times, currently processed within 3 months, which reduces family separation by years. As such, caregivers who leave their families to work in Canada as temporary workers and then become permanent residents, can now be reunited much faster than under the previous Live-In Caregiver Program.

Canadian Heritage

Funding for Giant Rubber Duck

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., on June 1, 2017)

As part of the Canada 150 celebrations, the Government is focusing on four themes, one of which is encouraging Reconciliation with Indigenous People. The Canada 150 Fund has awarded $ 250,000 to the Water’s Edge Festivals and Events for the Rhythm of the Nation music and dance performance component of its Ontario 150 Tour. This component will be showcased in many cities across Ontario between July 1 and August 13, 2017. None of the committed funds are allocated to the giant duck.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Express Entry Immigration Program

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Tobias C. Enverga Jr., on June 7, 2017)

The Government recognizes that Canada’s bilingual nature strengthens both our economy and society. One of the objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is to assist the development and help enhance the vitality of minority official languages communities in Canada. This includes meeting a 4% target for French-speaking economic immigrants outside Quebec, by 2018. This target was negotiated with Francophone minority communities following the development of the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-2018, a federal policy statement to strengthen and promote linguistic duality. To date, the percentage of French-speaking economic immigrants outside of Quebec has been below target.

The Express Entry system has always awarded points for language ability in either of Canada’s two official languages- English or French. Candidates continue to get up to 136 points for their first official language and up to 24 points for their second official language. The recent changes now award up to 30 additional points for good French proficiency and are aimed to help improve Francophone immigration. These additional points are available to and can benefit any candidate, as long as French language test results are provided by the candidate.

Democratic Institutions

Foreign Election Donations

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Linda Frum on May 3, 2017)

The Government takes the threat of foreign interference in Canadian elections seriously. The Minister of Democratic Institutions’ mandate letter includes a commitment to have the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to analyze risks to Canada’s political and electoral activities from hackers, and to release this assessment publicly. Further, our Government has asked CSE to offer advice to Canada’s political parties and Elections Canada on best practices when it comes to cyber security.

The Minister of Democratic Institutions released an analysis of cyber threats to Canadian democracy on June 16th, 2017. This was the first public report of this kind. Since the release of the threat assessment, CSE has briefed federal political parties and provincial elections agencies on cyber security. CSE will continue to provide advice and support as requested.

Moreover, our political financing regime ensures that Canadian elections are for Canadians to decide. Using foreign contributions for election advertising purposes is an offence under the Canada Elections Act. The potential penalty on conviction is a fine of up to $2,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than three months, or both, in the case of third parties. Participation by foreign third parties is also strictly limited – they cannot spend more than $500 in advertising expenses. Individuals who are not citizens or permanent residents are prohibited from directly influencing the outcome of Canadian elections.

The Chief Electoral Officer has made recommendations on third party activities that are currently being considered by the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and were central to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ Seventeenth Report entitled, Controlling Foreign Influence in Canadian Elections, presented on June 8, 2017. We are open to considering ways to further strengthen and protect our electoral system.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Francophone Immigration

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Raymonde Gagné on June 13, 2017)

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is committed to supporting francophone immigration and will continue to take concrete measures to address differences in costs and availability between French and English language tests.

To ensure that a foreign national’s language proficiency demonstrated for federal economic immigration purposes is objectively, consistently, and accurately evaluated, IRCC requires applicants to submit test results from a designated independent language testing organization. There are currently three organizations designated; two in English and one in French.

IRCC is implementing measures that will result in both a greater number of test sites and lower fees for French tests including: finalizing the review of a submission for the designation of a second French language test, and raising awareness of the designation process within the language testing community to encourage more eligible organizations to seek designation. The designation process takes a number of months in order to ensure the testing organization and its test meet IRCC’s criteria. We anticipate designation, by the end of 2017 of a new organization that will offer increased availability and reduced fees for French language tests by mid-2018.

Health

Reducing the Stigma of Depression

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Nancy Greene Raine on April 6, 2017)

Our government recognizes the devastating impacts suicide has on families and on communities. As announced in Budget 2017, our Government’s commitment of $11.5 billion over ten years includes $11 billion for the Provinces and Territories to support better home care and mental health services. This includes $5 billion over ten years to improve access to mental health services for Canadians, especially for youth, who can benefit most from early intervention.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is committed to sex and gender based analysis for all health conditions and behaviours, and routinely analyzes data by sex. For children aged 10-14 years, suicide rates are similar among males and females. In the 15-19 year age group, more males die by suicide than do females. In both those age groups, the rates for females increased where the rates for males declined. For ages 20-24 years, more males die by suicide than females. Here, the rates for males declined while the rates for females stayed the same. 

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) invested more than $2.3 million between 2011-12 and 2015-16 to support research into gender differences in youth suicide. CIHR is currently supporting research which aims to document the trends in health inequities, risk and protective factors among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth, including self-harm, suicide and substance misuse.

The First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) of Health Canada funded two Statistics Canada analyses (released in 2012 and 2013 respectively) to estimate rates of mortality, including self-inflicted injury, among Inuit and First Nations youth.  Sex was included as a variable in both reports.

International Development

Funding to Combat Malaria

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Mobina S. B. Jaffer on May 4, 2017)

Canada is committed to the elimination of malaria by 2030 as part of its contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Canada has also endorsed the WHO’s Global Technical Malaria Strategy 2016-2030. Globally, deaths from malaria have fallen by 48 percent between 2000 and 2015.

Canada’s key partner in combatting malaria is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which provides 50 percent of all international financing supporting the fight against malaria. The Global Fund has invested over US$8.3 billion in malaria control programs in over 100 countries. As of mid-2016, more than 713 million bed nets and 626 million treatments have been distributed through Global Fund programs. It is the best investment Canada can make to fight malaria.

Last year, Canada hosted the Global Fund Replenishment Conference and mobilized US$12.9 billion. At the event, Canada increased its own commitment by 23 percent, to CAD$804 million.

Finally, a comprehensive approach is indeed critical. This is why 40 percent of Global Fund investments go toward building resilient and sustainable systems for health; to ensure that integrated health services are available to communities.

National Defence

Cost of Surface Combatants

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Daniel Lang on June 1, 2017)

Through Canada’s Defence Policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged – the Government has committed to acquiring 15 Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) ships. This is an integral part of our Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy and will be one of the largest acquisitions in Canadian shipbuilding history.

The budget for the CSC was re-examined as part of the Defence Policy Review and is now estimated at between $56 and $60 billion. This is consistent with the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s cost estimate of approximately $63 billion. The new defence policy sets aside funding to deliver the full complement of ships the Navy needs to provide capability across the full range of operations. These ships will be built in Canada and the Government is committed to maximizing Canadian content.

The approved procurement strategy for the CSC project remains aligned with that which was approved last year; Canada is seeking to select a mature warship design that has completed the critical design review phase known as functional or contract design. It is expected that the design will be modified to accommodate Canadian specific design requirements such as the integration of the Cyclone helicopter. Design maturity will be a key factor in the selection of the warship. The CSC will be designed to ensure that these ships will continue to serve Canada for decades into the future.

Defence Policy Review

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Daniel Lang on June 21, 2017)

The Royal Canadian Navy is in the midst of the most comprehensive modernization in its peacetime history. Recapitalizing the Royal Canadian Navy’s surface fleet is an important element of Canada’s defence policy. Through the National Shipbuilding Strategy and Strong, Secure, Engaged the Government has committed to acquiring two Joint Support Ships. These ships will deliver core replenishment, sealift capabilities and support operations ashore.

Replenishment ships are a fundamental requirement for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) as they allow the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to sustain operations at sea. As the PROTECTEUR-class ships have ceased at-sea operations, this has created a gap in replenishment capabilities for the RCN.

To bridge the gap until the arrival of the Joint Support ships, the Government signed a contract with Federal Fleet Services to provide an interim auxiliary oiler replenishment ship and at-sea support services by Fall 2017. In addition to the agreement with Federal Fleet Services, the Government negotiates, as required, Mutual Logistics Support Arrangements with Spain and Chile to provide at-sea replenishment services to the RCN until the arrival of the Joint Support Ships.

There are no plans at this time to pursue an additional interim auxiliary oiler replenishment ship and at sea support contract with Federal Fleet Services.

Natural Resources

Softwood Lumber Negotiations

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Ghislain Maltais on December 13, 2016)

The Government of Canada believes in the Softwood Lumber industry and is committed to helping it and its workers get through this difficult time and emerge stronger on the other side.

To this end, the Government created the Federal-Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber in February to develop measures to protect Canadian middle-class jobs and ensure the growth and vibrancy of this sector. Moreover, on June 1, it announced $867 million in measures to strengthen the Softwood Lumber industry, support its workers and communities, and diversify the uses and markets for Canadian wood and wood products.

Budget 2017 also provides $40 million over four years to increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure, helping to create new markets for sustainable Canadian products.

Federal Cabinet ministers have travelled to the U.K., continental Europe and Asia to enhance trade and promote market diversification. This includes the Minister of Natural Resources, who recently travelled to China accompanied by Canadian forest industry representatives.

These actions deliver on the Government’s pledge to take swift and reasonable action to defend Canada’s Softwood Lumber industry and charts a stronger future for the workers, families and communities that depend on it.

Canadian Heritage

CBC Program—“Canada: The Story of Us”

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Ghislain Maltais on April 13, 2017)

CBC/Radio-Canada is an independent Crown corporation that is responsible for its day-to-day operations, including its programming and online content.

On April 11, 2017, the Corporation published a press release in response to the reactions generated by the series announcing that there will be live digital conversations to discuss the series with Canadians.

The series “Canada: The Story of Us” was produced by Bristow Global Media Inc., a Toronto-based private production company. The series’ production costs relate to agreements negotiated in private between independent parties, according to market forces.

Fisheries and Oceans

Atlantic Fisheries Fund

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Fabian Manning on May 18, 2017)

The $325 million Atlantic Fisheries Fund is currently being negotiated with the Atlantic Provinces. Once negotiations are concluded, investments from the fund will transform and drive innovation in the fish and seafood sector in Canada with a focus on developing the sector to better meet growing market demands for sustainably sourced, high quality fish and seafood products.

Specific areas the Fund will focus on are:

innovative processes and technologies;

infrastructure that could improve fish and seafood product quality and sustainability;

enhancing partnerships to improve our scientific knowledge of the North Atlantic marine environment and the related changing oceanic conditions.

A portion of the Fund will also be available to increase the capacity of the Canadian fish and seafood sector to develop existing markets and enter new markets.

The Government of Canada and the Atlantic Provinces are collaboratively developing the parameters of the Fund and further details will be made available in the coming months. This will be a partnership where projects will be identified, prioritized and cost-shared with provinces, and where private sector investments can be leveraged. The federal and provincial governments will work with industry, unions and Indigenous communities, scientific and other experts in the fish and seafood sector to help identify priorities for investments, project possibilities, and potential partnerships.

Foreign Affairs

Taiwan—Participation at World Health Assembly Meetings

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Yonah Martin on April 13, 2017)

Canada has consistently supported Taiwanese participation in international organizations where there is a practical imperative and where Taiwanese absence would be detrimental to global interests. In May 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed Canada’s view that “global health is a global responsibility,” and that Canada welcomes “the participation from all civil society and the entire global community, including Taiwan.”

Unfortunately, Taiwan was not invited in the 2017 World Health Assembly meeting. Canada notes that Taiwan was an observer in the annual World Health Assembly meetings from 2009 to 2016 (participating under the name Chinese Taipei) and the Government of Canada is of the view that Taiwan’s continued participation is in the interest of the global health community. Taiwan’s presence at the WHO allowed it to actively participate in the global fight against pandemics and disease. Additionally Taiwan’s presence allowed it to join with the global community in sharing information and developing innovative solutions and improvements to global health issues. Taiwan’s exclusion is counter-productive and could create a critical gap in the global health network, in the event of another highly-contagious global or regional pandemic such as the 2003 SARS outbreak. Canada has made its views known to the World Health Organization.

Finance

Government Spending

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Yonah Martin on June 20, 2017)

Given the current economic uncertainty, the Government of Canada believes that targeted, necessary investments to support the economy while preserving Canada’s low-debt advantage is the best strategy for strong, sustainable economic growth.

The Government’s priority is making investments that will strengthen the middle class and grow the economy long term. At the same time, the Government is being responsible, and the budget shows a downward track for the deficit and the federal debt-to-GDP ratio.

Canada remains in a strong fiscal position with the lowest total government net debt-to-GDP ratio of all G7 countries in 2017 and the IMF recently stated that the Government’s medium-term fiscal stance is appropriate given the current economic environment.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Vegreville Case Processing Centre

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Elaine McCoy on May 3, 2017)

The decision to relocate the Case Processing Centre (CPC) was difficult, as is recognized that the relocation will have an impact on employees and the community. The announcement was made as far in advance as possible with the intention of giving stakeholders enough time to prepare for the transition.

IRCC intends to expand its operations in Alberta in the coming years, and this relocation will permit the Department to recruit and retain employees. It is recognized that the staff in Vegreville are doing good work. However, business requirements must be met to sustain and enable the future growth of the Department’s operations.

The office location has posed significant challenges to recruitment. Vegreville has no post-secondary educational institutions, limited availability of housing rentals, limited capacity to recruit bilingual staff, and no public transportation.

To date, recruitment efforts include student recruitment, opportunities advertised nationally to the public, and casual employment. These efforts have been unsuccessful.

In order to retain our employees, all indeterminate and term staff will be offered their jobs in Edmonton. Indeterminate employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate their households, but may choose to commute from their current residence (approximately 33 employees currently live in Edmonton and commute to Vegreville).

In addition to meeting with the Mayor of Vegreville, the Minister has also held meetings with union officials, as well as the local Member of Parliament.

Canadian Heritage

Official Languages—Census

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Paul E. McIntyre on November 30, 2016)

Official Languages are a priority for the Government of Canada. We are well aware of the challenges faced by official language minority communities across the country, be they the Francophone and Acadian communities outside of Quebec, or the English-speaking communities in Quebec. Our Government is committed to supporting and strengthening the vitality of these communities.

In accordance with the Official Languages Act, all federal institutions must take positive measures to implement the Government of Canada commitment to enhance the vitality of official language minorities, to support their development, and to foster the full recognition and use of our two official languages. As the minister responsible for official languages, it is also my duty to coordinate the implementation of this commitment.

The Official Languages Act does not, however, define “positive measure”. On the basis of its mandate, each federal institution must determine the type of positive measure to be taken. The beauty of this approach is that it allows for innovation and creativity on the part of federal institutions to contribute to the wider governmental effort with tangible and beneficial impacts on minority communities and on Canada’s linguistic duality.   

The Government of Canada understands that access to, and participation in, the Francophone minority-language education system outside Québec by eligible children are key to the long-term vitality of Francophone and Acadian communities in minority settings.

The eligibility of children to attend Francophone minority-language schools outside Québec is a complex issue, and takes into account the mother tongue of the parents, the language in which the parents received their elementary or secondary education, the language in which the student’s siblings received their schooling, and the language in which the child received any previous elementary or secondary schooling in Canada.

On May 9th, 2017, the Standing Committee on Official Languages tabled its report following its study of the enumeration, through the Census, of rights-holders under section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Senate Committee on Official Languages also touched upon this question in its May 31st, 2017 report entitled “Horizon 2018: Toward Stronger Support of French-Language Learning in British Columbia”.

The Government is favourable to any measure that would support the full exercise of the right to minority-language schools. We will examine with interest the recommendations of both the Standing Committee on Official Languages and the Senate Committee on Official Languages on this matter.

Given the priority and complexity of this issue, and respecting that Statistics Canada is an independent portfolio agency under the responsibility of the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic development, I have instructed my officials to work in collaboration with representatives from Statistics Canada to explore the issue further and propose solutions. A Government response to the report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages mentioned above will be tabled in the very near future.

Justice

Judicial Appointment Process—Court Delays

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Paul E. McIntyre on February 15, 2017)

The Government has taken significant steps to ensure that the process for appointing judges is transparent and accountable to Canadians, and promotes greater diversity on the bench. From day one, the Government has been working to strengthen the judiciary.

Budget 2017 proposes funding for 28 new federally-appointed judges. Twelve of these positions are for Alberta and one for the Yukon, to address their demonstrated immediate needs. The remaining 15 “pool positions” will be accorded in an equitable manner to trial and appellate courts across Canada, based on the validated needs of each court and jurisdiction. This will provide some measure of relief, and flexibility to deal with further requests.

The Minister of Justice is committed to filling judicial vacancies as quickly as possible and to date has appointed 92 judges across the country, and 22 deputy judges. The Minister looks forward to appointing more outstanding jurists to the benches across the country in the near future.

New Brunswick—Judicial Advisory Committee

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Paul E. McIntyre on June 13, 2017)

The Government has taken significant steps to ensure that the process for appointing judges is transparent and accountable to Canadians, and promotes greater diversity on the bench. From day one, the Government has been working to strengthen the judiciary.

The Government is committed to filling judicial vacancies as quickly as possible and to date has made 107 judicial appointments to courts across the country. The Government is pleased that 15 of the Judicial Advisory Committees (JAC) have been reconstituted thus far, including the JAC for New Brunswick. The New Brunswick JAC will hold its first meeting in September, and will subsequently provide a list of recommended and highly recommended candidates to the Minister of Justice.

As the Committees continue their important work, the Minister of Justice will be in a position to appoint outstanding jurists to the bench in New Brunswick and throughout Canada in the very near future.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Statements of Minister

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Marilou McPhedran on June 19, 2017)

The statements in question made were in relation to statements made by Senator Sinclair on the record, and in particular, the May 17, 2017 recorded vote on Senator McPhedran’s amendment.

On May 17, 2017, during clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration) by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Senator Sinclair raised concerns with the motion in amendment to Bill S-3, introduced by Senator McPhedran, that would grant eligibility for Indian registration under paragraph 6(1)?(a.1) to all direct descendants, born prior to April 17, 1985, of individuals previously entitled as Indians under past Indian Acts, and opposed the amendment during the recorded vote of 11-3 in favour of the amendment. In this committee meeting Senator Sinclair stated, “The draft doesn’t accomplish what I think you’re trying to accomplish, Senator, and that was my concern when I saw it.” He added that, “This is not the wording that I would have come up with, and I don’t approve of this wording myself.”

On June 1, 2017, during Third Reading of Bill S-3 in the Senate, the Senate agreed to pass the bill as amended. , However, there was no recorded vote.

Committee of Selection

Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Terry M. Mercer on April 12, 2017)

Committees are masters of their proceedings and discussions amongst whips from all parties typically take place to determine when Chairs for joint committees are to be elected. On the House of Commons side, our government has committed to a secret ballot process for the election of Chairs for parliamentary committees.

Health

Autism Support and Funding

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Jim Munson on June 8, 2017)

Our Government recognizes that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has a significant and lifelong impact on individuals and families.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is working with provinces and territories to establish the National ASD Surveillance System (NASS), which will collect and track reliable information to: estimate the prevalence of Canadians living with ASD and incidence of new cases; describe the population living with ASD; and compare patterns domestically and internationally. Public reporting of prevalence and incidence is planned to begin in 2018.

Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the federal government invests approximately $8 million yearly in research related to ASD. This contributes to ongoing efforts to advance knowledge about underlying causes of ASD and translate this knowledge into better diagnosis tools and treatments for patients.

Through the $40 million Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities, Employment and Social Development Canada funds organizations that help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain and maintain employment.

The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities conducted Canada’s largest national consultation in recent decades to inform the development of new federal accessibility legislation. This legislation will ensure greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with visible and invisible disabilities (including ASD) in their communities and workplaces.

International Trade

Vietnam—Human Rights

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Thanh Hai Ngo on May 31, 2017)

Canada actively engages with Vietnam on the protection of human rights at all levels. The Canadian Embassy makes frequent bilateral and multilateral representations to the Vietnamese government, calling for adherence to international obligations. The Canadian Embassy and Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City work closely with Vietnamese civil society, government, and like-minded embassies in Vietnam to advocate for greater respect for human rights. 

On May 17, 2017, Canada’s Embassy in Vietnam promoted human rights by participating in the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In July 2017, in response to the sentencing of blogger Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (“Mother Mushroom”), the Canadian Embassy and like-minded missions (New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland) jointly and directly expressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Pham Binh Minh their significant concerns regarding the case.

On May 20, 2017, Minister Champagne met with Vietnam’s President and Minister of Trade and Industry in Hanoi, and emphasized the Government of Canada’s Progressive Trade Agenda. The promotion and protection of human rights, including labour rights, environmental protections, lifting up micro, small and medium sized enterprises, supporting young people and promoting the rights of Indigenous peoples all form part of the Government’s plan to ensure the economic benefits of trade are felt by all people, not just a wealthy few.  Progressive trade is about raising standards and Canada is setting a new, more inclusive and more fair agenda for global trade in the world.

On July 7, 2017, Global Affairs Canada conducted bilateral consultations with Vietnam, where Canada raised its concerns over the restriction of speech, press and association in Vietnam, and underlined the importance of the promotion of these rights for all people around the world.

Export of Pulse Crops to India

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Victor Oh on June 13, 2017)

Export of Pulse Crops to India

Ensuring stability in Canada’s pulse trade with India is a key priority of the Government. On July 5, 2017, Canada received another exemption to India’s fumigation requirement with an end date of September 30, 2017. This will allow continued access to the Indian market for Canadian pulse exporters while technical discussions are ongoing towards a long-term, commercially viable solution.

Export of Grains and Oilseeds to Pakistan

Canada has secured an exemption to Pakistan’s mandatory fumigation requirement of canola, pulses and soybean until November 30, 2017. This short-term exemption will allow Canadian exports to be exempt from mandatory fumigation in Canada and ensures that trade can continue while both sides work on a long-term solution.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Application Fees for Minors

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Victor Oh on June 21, 2017)

As noted by Senator Oh, Bill C-6, which received Royal Assent in June 2017, included an amendment that makes it easier for minors to apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent, under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act

The Government is aware that as a result of this amendment there is now a difference in the processing fee paid by minors under either subsection 5(1) or 5(2) of the Act. The requirements for minors applying under subsection 5(1) of the Citizenship Act and the assessment of the application against those requirements will generally be the same as that for an adult. The processing fee for such an application is currently $530, which reflects the cost of processing a 5(1) application.

Despite this, as part of its ongoing review of the impact of changes to the citizenship program, consideration is being given to this processing fee difference created by the amendment.

Treasury Board Secretariat

Commitment to Diversity

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Ratna Omidvar on December 15, 2016)

The Government of Canada encourages all candidates to self-identify when they apply for a Governor in Council position. Position-specific recruitment strategies can be used to attract diverse and highly qualified individuals to positions. This approach allows Ministers, in making their appointment recommendations, to take into consideration the commitment to achieve gender parity and reflect Canada’s diversity, in terms of linguistic, regional and employment equity representation in Governor in Council appointments. Information on Governor in Council appointments, including diversity information, will be included in the Privy Council Office’s annual Departmental Performance Report. This will contribute to the Government of Canada’s commitment to more openness and transparency.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Deadline of Bill S-3

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Kim Pate on June 19, 2017)

Department of Justice

On June 26, 2017, the Attorney General of Canada filed a motion to extend the suspension of invalidity under ss. 6(1)a), c) and f) and s. 6(2) of the Indian Act for a period of six (6) months. The Quebec Superior Court dismissed the motion. The Quebec Court of Appeal allowed the Attorney General of Canada’s appeal and granted an extension of the suspension of invalidity to December 22, 2017. The extension was sought to ensure that individuals would still be able to register under ss. 6(1)a), c) and f) until Bill S-3 is passed, upholding the integrity of the registration regime.

Health

Nunavut—Health Transfer

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on March 2, 2017)

Our Government recognizes that Nunavut faces higher costs to deliver health care and is committed to working collaboratively with its government to address the health care needs of its residents. Budget 2017 proposes to invest $108 million over four years, starting in 2017–18, to renew and expand the Territorial Health Investment Fund. Of this amount, $54 million will be allocated to Nunavut to support territorial efforts to innovate and transform its health care system and ensure its residents have access to the health care they need.

Further, as part of the Health Accord, Nunavut will receive $11.2 million over 10 years in targeted federal funding to improve access to home care and mental health services.

This new Budget 2017 funding is in addition to federal health funding provided through the Canada Health Transfer, which will reach $38 million in 2017-18 and will continue to grow in coming years. Our Government ?also supports the delivery of public services in Nunavut, including health care, through Territorial Formula Financing, valued at close to $1.53 billion in 2017-18?.

Nunavut will also benefit from new federal investments in Indigenous health totalling $828 million over 5 years, including $305 million for Non-Insured Health Benefits.

Infrastructure

Nunavut—Sewage Infrastructure

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on May 9, 2017)

This Government is committed to working with the North to find acceptable solutions that may address the community needs while maintaining aviation safety.

There are 10 airports in Nunavut with Airport Zoning Regulations that contain clauses (Wildlife Hazard and Disposal of Waste) that prohibit the construction of infrastructure such as sewage lagoons and waste sites because they attract wildlife (especially birds). These clauses were included to maintain aviation safety by reducing the potential risk of bird strikes in critical phases of flight. Nine of these regulations were enacted at the request of the Government of Nunavut.

In terms of solid waste and sewage improvement projects in Nunavut, Minister Sohi, who has raised this matter since your question, announced funding for projects that will improve the quality and reliability of drinking water and improve the capacity to manage solid waste and recyclables. In addition, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada has the First Nations Waste Management Initiative, which supports First Nations in developing sustainable waste management systems through modern infrastructure, operations, training and partnerships.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Satellite Licensing Framework

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on May 17, 2017)

Under the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (RSSSA), the Government of Canada licenses the Inuvik Satellite Station Facility, which includes important investments from Germany, Sweden and France.   Officials from Global Affairs Canada are assessing, as thoroughly as possible, two new license applications from foreign companies seeking to operate remotely via a facility in Inuvik. Though the Government of Canada cannot comment on the details of these specific cases, the licensing process for these systems is complex and must ensure that all pertinent national security and commercial issues are considered. Under this regime, companies are encouraged to engage during the early stages of planning a remote sensing space system. This ensures that all necessary licence application information is provided in a timely manner for this complex assessment and avoids having companies assume financial risk prior to any assurance that they can be licensed under the RSSSA. 

Global Affairs Canada will continue to promote the innovative Canadian space sector and to provide the best possible service to RSSSA licensees and license applicants, while also ensuring the department meets its obligations to consider the impact of remote sensing activities on Canada’s national security and national defence.  

Justice

Request for Extradition of Joannes Rivoire

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on June 15, 2017)

Department of Justice

Canada and France are parties to a bilateral extradition treaty. As extradition requests are confidential state-to-state communications, the Minister of Justice can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an extradition request in this matter. Where an extradition request is made to a foreign state, such as France, it is for foreign authorities to decide whether or not to grant extradition pursuant to their law.

The Extradition Act provides that the Minister of Justice is responsible for making extradition requests to a foreign state but only at the behest of a prosecution or corrections authority in Canada (competent authority).  In this case, the competent authority is the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC). Like other prosecutorial authorities in Canada, the PPSC exercises its functions independently, of the Minister and Justice Canada, without interference. As a result, the Minister of Justice is not able to direct any Justice Canada officials to initiate formal extradition processes without an originating request from a competent authority.

National Defence

Defence Policy Review

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on June 21, 2017)

Enhancing the Canadian Armed Forces’ capabilities, reach, and footprint in the North is a key element of Canada’s defence policy. Through Strong, Secure, Engaged the Government committed to acquiring a number of new Arctic-focused capabilities, including five to six Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Despite some production challenges, the delivery of the first ship is expected as planned in 2018 with the balance of the ships scheduled to be completed by 2022.

Canada’s new defence policy also commits to the modernization of the Victoria Class Submarines. This modernization project is expected to begin in the early 2020s. Work will be planned and sequenced to coincide with the extended docking work periods of each submarine, with the last submarine expected to complete its extended docking work period in the mid-2030s.

The Victoria Class submarines, like most diesel electric submarines, are not designed to operate under consolidated sea ice; they are, however, capable of operating in the Arctic in the area of water between the open ocean and consolidated sea ice which is commonly referred to as the marginal ice zone. This capability will continue to exist post modernization.

Justice

Bill C-16—Ministry Website Explanatory Notes

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Donald Neil Plett on May 31, 2017)

The information about Bill C-16, including the Questions and Answers, has been available on the Justice web site (justice.gc.ca) since it was originally posted, May 17, 2016. In early December 2016, the Department of Justice created a new web section to bring together all information about proposed legislation in an effort to make information about bills easier to find. Content related to Bill C-16 was moved to this new section when it launched. This move would have caused the original URL for the page to stop working, making it seem as if the page was taken offline. However, the content had simply been moved to the following link: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/pl/identity-identite/faq.html.

Official Languages

Bilingual Status for Canadian Cities

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Rose-May Poirier on June 6, 2017)

The Government of Canada is working to promote the use of our two official languages throughout Canadian society. In all our cities and regions, from coast to coast, the vitality of official language minority communities is important to us.

In particular, the National Capital Region is playing a unique role in the 150th anniversary of Confederation by hosting numerous events that reflect our values and common identity, including our official languages and bilingualism, both individual and collective.

The Government of Canada encourages all municipalities across the country to take the needs of official language communities into account, and to promote their development.

However, in accordance with our laws, the designation of a city as bilingual - the choice to provide municipal services in one official language or the other - is the responsibility of the municipality and of the provincial legislature. This is the case for the City of Ottawa, even though it is our nation’s capital. To state it clearly, our government supports bilingualism in the City of Ottawa, but the Government of Canada will respect provincial and municipal prerogatives in the area of language policy. The City of Ottawa adopted a bilingualism policy in 2001, and the Government of Canada has supported the implementation of this policy several times.

The Government of Canada will continue to play a leadership role wherever it is needed, in order to promote our two official languages. Through the concerted actions of provincial, territorial and federal governments, such as the upcoming 22nd Ministerial Conference on the Canadian Francophonie in Ottawa, Canadians have increased opportunities to learn the official languages of this country, and will benefit from increased provincial and municipal services in the language of their choice.

Justice

Detention in Custody—Bail Reform

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Bob Runciman on February 2, 2017)

The Government recognizes the pain caused to Constable Wynn’s family and friends, especially Shelly McInnis-Wynn, their three sons, Constable Wynn’s RCMP colleagues, and the St. Albert community and beyond. Situations like the senseless murder of an RCMP officer must be avoided.

As part of her mandate, the Minister of Justice is committed to modernizing and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, including bail reform.

Various aspects of the bail system are currently being examined in collaboration with the provinces and territories and other criminal justice stakeholders to ensure we have the best system possible to protect Canadians.

At their recent Federal-Provincial Territorial meeting, Ministers identified four priorities for legislative reform, including bail and administration of justice offences, which they will look at more carefully in the months to come.

The Minister of Justice remains committed to ensuring our bail system keeps communities safe, protects victims, and holds offenders to account.

Public Safety

Correctional Service Canada—Care of Prisoners—Leadership

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Bob Runciman on May 31, 2017)

The death of an inmate in custody is a tragic event. Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Matthew Hines.

The special Report of the Correctional Investigator of Canada into the death of Matthew Ryan Hines was tabled in the Senate on May 3, 2017, along with CSC’s response.

The Government thanks the Correctional Investigator for his independent investigation, which Mr. Hines’ family has called “thorough and detailed.” CSC has accepted all of the recommendations put forward by the Office of the Correctional Investigator. The Commissioner has formally apologized to Mr. Hines’ family for the inaccurate information that was shared with them at the time of his death. The Commissioner has further acknowledged that there are significant areas of concern with respect to the use of force against Mr. Hines, as well as with the overall response to his medical distress that concluded with his death, and he has committed that CSC will learn from the incident and take concrete actions to prevent a similar situation in the future.

CSC is also cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Government is focused on ensuring that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and the protection of the public. To that end, the Government included almost $58 million over five years in Budget 2017 to enhance mental health capacity in correctional facilities, and it introduced legislation to restrict the use of administrative segregation and strengthen Canada’s federal corrections system.

Justice

Cannabis Legalization Legislation

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Larry W. Smith on April 13, 2017)

Our Government recognizes that the legalization and regulation of cannabis requires a pan-Canadian approach.

In line with the report of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, proposes a shared framework for the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Under the proposed Cannabis Act, the federal government would be responsible for establishing and maintaining a comprehensive national framework for regulating production, setting standards for health and safety, and establishing criminal prohibitions. The Provinces and Territories (P/Ts) would license and oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis, subject to minimum federal conditions.

Our Government has accepted the advice of the Task Force in determining 18 to be the minimum age for consumption of legal cannabis. However, if desired, P/Ts will be able to set access at a higher age as they deem appropriate for regulating adult consumption.

In addition, our Government will invest additional resources to ensure there is appropriate capacity to license, inspect and enforce all aspects of the proposed legislation. In addition, working in partnership with P/Ts, municipalities and local communities, our Government will make appropriate investments to train and equip law enforcement so that roads and highways are safe for all Canadians.

We will also work with P/Ts to raise public awareness and educate Canadians regarding the risks associated with cannabis use. Budget 2017 indicated that existing funding of $9.6 million will be directed to public education and awareness and monitoring and surveillance activities.

International Trade

Softwood Lumber Negotiations

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Larry W. Smith on May 3, 2017)

The Government of Canada believes in the Softwood Lumber industry and is committed to helping it and its workers get through this difficult time and emerge stronger on the other side.

To this end, the Government created the Federal-Provincial Task Force on Softwood Lumber in February to develop measures to protect Canadian middle-class jobs and ensure the growth and vibrancy of this sector. Moreover, on June 1, it announced $867 million in measures to strengthen the Softwood Lumber industry, support its workers and communities, and diversify the uses and markets for Canadian wood and wood products.

Budget 2017 also provides $40 million over four years to increase the use of wood as a greener substitute material in infrastructure, helping to create new markets for sustainable Canadian products.

Federal Cabinet ministers have travelled to the U.K., continental Europe and Asia to enhance trade and promote market diversification. This includes the Minister of Natural Resources, who recently travelled to China accompanied by Canadian forest industry representatives.

These actions deliver on the Government’s pledge to take swift and reasonable action to defend Canada’s Softwood Lumber industry and charts a stronger future for the workers, families and communities that depend on it.

Finance

Downgrading of Credit Rating of Canada’s Major Banks—Economic Growth

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Larry W. Smith on May 11, 2017)

Financial stability and security are the backbone of a strong and resilient economy, and Canadians can continue to be confident in their banks and in the financial sector.

The Canadian financial sector is sound and well capitalized and has proven its resilience time and time again. Canada’s big six banks continue to be highly rated by the credit rating agencies. Moody’s has indicated in discussions with analysts that Canada’s sovereign AAA credit rating and stable outlook will not be impacted.

Over the past two years, the Government of Canada has made significant investments that will strengthen the middle class and grow the economy over the long term, in a fiscally responsible way. These investments include cutting taxes for the middle class, putting more money in the pockets of 9 out of 10 families through the Canada Child Benefit, and making historic investments in infrastructure worth an additional $81 billion over the next 11 years. Economic indicators show that the government’s targeted investments are paying off. Growth has strengthened notably in the second half of last year. In addition, over the past year, over 275,000 jobs were created, the majority of which were full-time jobs.

Going forward, the Government will continue to invest in the middle class and in the long-term productive capacity of the Canadian economy.

Indexed Tax on Beer, Wine and Spirits

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Larry W. Smith on June 5, 2017)

The Government is proposing that excise duty rates on alcohol products be increased by two per cent effective March 23, 2017 (the day after Budget Day) and that rates be automatically adjusted to the Consumer Price Index on April 1 of every year starting in 2018.

The proposal will only have a small impact on excise duty rates in 2017: less than one cent per standard bottle of wine, about five cents per 24 bottles of beer, and about seven cents per typical bottle of spirits.

Going forward, alcohol excise duty rates will be adjusted by the Consumer Price Index every year. In effect, this adjustment has no real impact for consumers since it simply accounts for inflation.

The Department of Finance estimates that the proposal will have a negligible impact on the demand for alcoholic beverages. This assessment is supported by economic analysis showing that demand for alcohol products is relatively inelastic, or does not tend to change with small price movements.

This proposal will have no impact on wine produced from 100-per-cent Canadian-grown agricultural products given that they continue to benefit from an exemption of the excise duty. Canadian brewers would also continue to benefit from decreased rates on the first 75,000 hectolitres of beer produced per year.

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Larry W. Smith on June 13, 2017)

In Budget 2017, the Government proposed to increase alcohol excise duty rates by two per cent effective March 23, 2017 and automatically adjust these rates by the Consumer Price Index on April 1 annually starting in 2018. An automatic inflation adjustment is already in place for tobacco excise duty rates.

In its evaluation of proposals to adjust excise duty rates, the Department of Finance normally estimates impacts of rate changes using Public Accounts excise duty revenues and current excise duty rates to calculate implied sales volumes of spirits, wine and beer. Expected growth rates are determined for forecasting purposes, considering recent Public Accounts and additional sales data. Considering a range of price elasticities of demand for alcohol products from academic/external literature, a sensitivity analysis is conducted around potential price changes stemming from potential excise duty rate and resulting demand changes. Forecast sales are adjusted as necessary.

The changes in excise duty rates introduced in Budget 2017 were sufficiently small that no adjustment to forecasted sales was necessary. This assessment was supported by external studies showing that demand for alcohol products is relatively inelastic. That is, it does not tend to change with small price movements.

In addition, these changes have no impact on wine produced from 100-per-cent Canadian-grown agricultural products given that they continue to benefit from an exemption of the excise duty. Canadian brewers will also continue to benefit from decreased rates on the first 75,000 hectolitres of beer produced per year.

Finance

Economic Growth—Housing Market

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Larry W. Smith on June 14, 2017)

A recent Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) report projects that mortgage rates will rise about 2 percentage points by 2021. As a result, PBO expects the debt service of an average Canadian household to rise from 14.2% of disposable income to 16.3% by 2021.

For example, a household with $80,000 in income, a $400,000 house, a 5% down payment, a 25-year amortization and 2.25% interest rate, the monthly mortgage payment is roughly $1660, or 25% of their income. If their interest rate rises by 2 percentage points, the monthly mortgage payment rises to $2060, or 31% of their income.

About 85% of mortgages in Canada have fixed interest rates, with the large majority of these for 5 years. Thus, even when interest rates rise, most households will have significant time to adjust. Also, when interest rates increase, it is generally because the economy is doing better, with more jobs and rising incomes. As such, households are better able to support any rise in interest rates.

The Government closely monitors household debt service, along with other indicators of household financial health. The Government is prepared to take further action to help ensure financial and economic stability.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Refugee Resettlement—Francophone Minority Communities

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claudette Tardif on May 30, 2017)

IRCC engaged with Francophone Minority Communities to ensure their state of readiness and to determine subsequent progress made to welcome and resettle Syrian refugees. To ensure Syrian refugees were aware of the availability of French services, all Resettlement Assistance Program Service Provider Organizations were encouraged to collaborate with Francophone Minority Communities and the Réseaux en immigration francophone. All Resettlement Assistance Program Service Provider Organizations are able to provide services in French where needed and have up to five official language requirements identified in their contribution agreements to ensure they can deliver additional official language services as required.

The Government of Canada recognizes the vitality of francophone minority communities and has committed to increasing the number of French-speaking immigrants settling outside Quebec. Recent policy efforts to increase the number of francophone immigrants include:

The launch of Mobilité Francophone in June 2016, a new International Mobility Program stream to attract skilled French-speaking temporary workers to Canada.

Significant promotional activity targeting French-speaking immigrants through numerous events in Canada and in French-speaking countries (e.g. Destination Canada).

Recent changes to Express Entry are benefiting French-speaking candidates. These changes include additional points to candidates with good French-language proficiency and exemptions from requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment to support a job offer under Express Entry in particular cases, including for temporary workers who came to Canada under Mobilité Francophone.

Families, Children and Social Development

Minority Language Child Care

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Claudette Tardif on June 14, 2017)

To help Canadian children get the best start in life and better support Canadian families, Budget 2016 and 2017 proposed to invest $7.5 billion over 11 years, starting in 2017-2018, to support and create more high-quality, affordable child care across the country.

On June 12, 2017, the Government of Canada announced a historic agreement with provincial and territorial governments on a Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework. The Framework will be seeking to increase the quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, and inclusivity in early learning and child care, in particular for families that need child care the most.

The Multilateral Framework recognizes the important connection between early learning and child care and the development and growth of official language minority communities. In the coming months, the federal government will work with each province and territory to enter into three-year bilateral agreements that will address the early learning and child care needs unique to its jurisdiction and funding allocation.

Prime Minister’s Office

Trudeau Foundation

(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on December 13, 2016)

The Prime Minister has not received remuneration from the Trudeau Foundation.

Democratic Institutions

Electoral Reform

(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on February 9, 2017)

It would be inappropriate for the Government of Canada to ask a political party to change the information on its Web site.

Canadian Heritage

John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award

(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on March 9, 2017)

The Government of Canada understands the importance of recognizing the vital work of human rights defenders abroad.

Most human rights defenders are not people in positions of power. They are everyday people, and they face real risks. That is why the Government has issued new guidelines for Canada’s diplomats related to support for human rights defenders. In addition, all Canadian ambassadors and heads of mission have been given a specific mandate to advance human rights.

Human rights defenders around the world deserve not just recognition, but practical support. The Government believes in providing support tailored to their needs whenever possible, whether through training, diplomacy, or recognition through awards such as the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award. The Government of Canada is proud that this award has supported several human rights defenders over the years, and is reviewing new ways to recognize these defenders moving forward.

Privy Council Office

Prime Minister’s Travel—Tour Technician

(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on March 29, 2017)

Irrespective of his schedule or location, the Prime Minister must always be in a position to carry out official government duties. As has been the case for many years and for previous Prime Ministers, the Prime Minister is provided with technical and tour (audio and visual) support during all travel, domestically and internationally, regardless of whether he or she is on personal or government business.

The travel to and from Bell Island required the PCO technician to stay in Nassau the first night of arrival and the last night before departure. All expenses, including per diems, are in line with Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines.

Part of the role of the temporary secure office is to ensure that the Prime Minister’s public statements are properly archived and to ensure that the Prime Minister has secure communications, should the need arise. The PCO tour group also provides audio and visual technical support to the Prime Minister for events and media availabilities, as the need arises. This support is provided in the event that the Prime Minister needs to react in his capacity as Prime Minister.

Prime Minister’s Travel—Tour Technician—Travel Support

(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on March 30, 2017)

Irrespective of his schedule or location, the Prime Minister must always be in a position to carry out official government duties. As has been the case for many years and for previous Prime Ministers, the Prime Minister is provided with technical and tour (audio and visual) support during all travel, domestically and internationally, regardless of whether he or she is on personal or government business.

The travel to and from Bell Island required the PCO technician to stay in Nassau the first night of arrival and the last night before departure. All expenses, including per diems, are in line with Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines.

Part of the role of the temporary secure office is to ensure that the Prime Minister’s public statements are properly archived and to ensure that the Prime Minister has secure communications, should the need arise. The PCO tour group also provides audio and visual technical support to the Prime Minister for events and media availabilities, as the need arises. This support is provided in the event that the Prime Minister needs to react in his capacity as Prime Minister.

Prime Minister’s Travel—Tour Technician

(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on April 6, 2017)

Irrespective of his schedule or location, the Prime Minister must always be in a position to carry out official government duties. As has been the case for many years and for previous Prime Ministers, the Prime Minister is provided with technical and tour (audio and visual) support during all travel, domestically and internationally, regardless of whether he or she is on personal or government business.

The travel to and from Bell Island required the PCO technician to stay in Nassau the first night of arrival and the last night before departure. All expenses, including per diems, are in line with Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines.

Part of the role of the temporary secure office is to ensure that the Prime Minister’s public statements are properly archived and to ensure that the Prime Minister has secure communications, should the need arise. The PCO tour group also provides audio and visual technical support to the Prime Minister for events and media availabilities, as the need arises. This support is provided in the event that the Prime Minister needs to react in his capacity as Prime Minister.

Democratic Institutions

Breakfast for Public Servants

(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on May 3, 2017)

The electoral system is foundational to any democratic system and any changes to how we vote must have the broad support of Canadians. In this regard, the Government of Canada launched a series of consultations in 2016 to engage Canadians on electoral reform, study the issue, and listen to what they have to say about this important issue. Complementary engagement activities, such as meetings with stakeholders, town-halls, and cross-country consultations took place to listen to the values and priorities of Canadians.

The Government regrets a reporting error which incorrectly indicated that 74 Government of Canada employees attended a breakfast hosted by the then Minister of Democratic Institutions on January 26, 2016.  In fact, the breakfast was attended by Senators and Members of the House of Commons and their staff to discuss reforming Canada’s democratic institutions.

The Government remains committed to strengthening the openness and fairness of Canada’s public institutions to improving our democratic institutions. The Government will continue to focus its efforts to make our democracy stronger by removing barriers to voting, encouraging participation, and strengthening and safeguarding our democratic institutions.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Vegreville Case Processing Centre

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Betty Unger on June 8, 2017)

The decision to relocate the Case Processing Centre (CPC) was difficult, recognizing the relocation will have an impact on employees and the community. The announcement was made as far in advance as possible to give stakeholders time to prepare for the transition.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) intends to expand its operations in Alberta in the coming years, and this relocation will permit the Department to recruit and retain new employees. It is recognized that the staff in Vegreville are doing great work. However, business requirements must be met to sustain current operations and enable future growth in order to meet growing demand, and achieve the goal of lowering processing times.

The office location has posed significant challenges to recruitment.

To date, IRCC has undertaken significant recruitment efforts, including student recruitment, national publicly advertised opportunities, and casual employment. These efforts have been unsuccessful. Currently, about 20% of the positions are vacant.

In order to retain these valued employees, all indeterminate staff will be offered their jobs in Edmonton, as will those who are term staff at the time of the move. Indeterminate employees will be offered the opportunity to relocate their households, but may choose to commute from their current residence (approximately 33 employees currently live in Edmonton and commute to Vegreville).

In addition to meeting with the Mayor of Vegreville, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has held meetings with union officials, as well as the local Member of Parliament. The Department is in regular contact with stakeholders and is committed to supporting employees during the transition and minimize the impact.

Veterans Affairs

Pensions and Disability Benefits

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Pamela Wallin on February 9, 2017)

While the Department cannot comment on individual cases, Veterans Affairs Canada takes the financial security and well-being of Veterans seriously.

The Department is reviewing the entire disability application process from intake to decision with the view to expedite decisions and respond to Veterans’ needs more quickly.

When a specific case issue is raised, Veterans Affairs Canada is fully committed to making every effort to address the issues and to find ways to improve the system.

New processes that have been put in place are starting to take effect. Further process improvements are being implemented with a focus on hearing loss, psychological, and musculoskeletal conditions. As a result, approximately 56% of all disability applications received by the Department go through these streamlined processes.

Budget 2017 focuses on the overall well-being of Veterans and their families by investing in mental health, supports, education, opportunities and career transition services.

Veterans Affairs Canada remains committed to Veterans and their families. This builds on the momentum of Budget 2016 when the Department delivered 5.6 billion dollars in financial security for Veterans Earning Loss Benefit as well as the Disability Award. To that end, 67 000 Veterans will be receiving benefits in their pockets soon, and better outcomes for their families.

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Answers to Order Paper Questions Tabled

Prime Minister’s Office—GIC Appointments

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 26, dated December 14, 2016, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Carignan, P.C., respecting GIC appointments.

Agriculture and Agri-Food—Growing Forward 2 Program

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 28, dated December 14, 2016, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Carignan, P.C., respecting the program Growing Forward 2.

Veterans Affairs—Creation of a Position at Veterans Affairs Canada

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 37, dated January 31, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Downe, respecting the creation of a position at Veterans Affairs Canada.

National Revenue—Advertising for the Canada Revenue Agency for the Years 2015-17 Inclusively

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 42, dated March 8, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Downe, respecting advertising for the Canada Revenue Agency for the years 2015-17 inclusively

National Revenue—“How Canada is Cracking Down on Offshore Tax Evasion and Aggressive Tax Avoidance”

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 44, dated March 8, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Downe, respecting the item “How Canada is cracking down on offshore tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance” published in the National Post on March 3, 2017.

Veterans Affairs—Veterans Priority Program Secretariat

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 45, dated March 29, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Downe, respecting the Veterans Priority Program Secretariat.

National Revenue—Canada Revenue Agency—New Branch

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 46, dated March 29, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Downe, respecting the Canada Revenue Agency-new branch.

Treasury Board—Federal Public Service Employment

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 47, dated April 4, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Downe, respecting federal public service employment.

National Revenue—April 11, 2016 CRA Announcement (Tax Evasion)

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 48, dated April 4, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Downe, respecting the April 11, 2016 CRA announcement (tax evasion).

Justice—Travel by Members of the Tax Court, Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 49, dated April 6, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Mercer, respecting travel by members of the Tax Court of Canada, the Federal Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada.

Public Safety—Halifax Security Forum

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 51, dated April 13, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Kenny, respecting the Halifax Security Forum.

Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees—Bill C-6

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 52, dated May 11, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Pate, respecting Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Canada Business Corporations Act

Canada Cooperatives Act

Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act

Competition Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Howard Wetston moved second reading of Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.

He said: Honourable senators, thank you for your attention as I rise to address this chamber on Bill C-25.

Bill C-25 proposes to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act — I’ll call it the co-ops act — and to improve the director-election process for distributing corporations and cooperatives by requiring annual director elections, directors to be elected individually and majority voting for directors in uncontested elections.

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In addition, the bill includes amendments requiring distributing corporations to disclose their policies for diversity on their board and senior management.

Improving communications between distributing corporations and cooperatives and their shareholders or members is also addressed. Applicable firms will be allowed to make use of provincial securities commissions’ rules on notice and access.

Furthermore, Bill C-25 proposes to make the deadlines for submitting shareholder proposals clearer as well as to prohibit the use of bearer share certificates and bearer share warrants.

The Competition Act would also be amended to expand the concept of affiliation to a broader range of business organizations.

These proposed amendments are designed to ensure that activities between affiliated entities do not unintentionally trigger investigations by the Competition Bureau. The intended result is to lower the administrative burden on businesses and reduce business uncertainty.

Finally, a number of technical amendments are proposed to the CBCA, the co-ops act and the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act.

I would like to spend a moment, if I may, to share with honourable colleagues a few thoughts on the statutes being addressed in the bill before you.

The Canada Business Corporations Act, or CBCA, and the Competition Act are framework laws of general application that affect the structure and activities of many Canadian firms, shareholders, executives and consumers. I would include investors in that as well.

[Translation]

The Canada Business Corporations Act provides significant aspects of the governance framework for companies of all sizes. The Canada Business Corporations Act is the incorporating statute for nearly 270,000 corporations, including 600 entities listed on the TSX. Corporations that are subject to the Canada Business Corporations Act represent roughly half of the largest publicly-traded corporations in Canada, and roughly 10 per cent of all Canadian corporations.

As framework legislation, the Canada Business Corporations Act provides the basic structure and standards for corporate governance, but it does not prescribe the way in which a corporation is to be run. The legislation establishes rules and provides mechanisms for facilitating interaction between the shareholders, administrators, management, and other interested parties who are part of the company’s decision-making process.

[English]

The other acts amended under Bill C-25, the Canada Cooperatives Act and the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, are modelled on the CBCA. These acts provide a similar framework for the 98 federally incorporated non-financial cooperatives as well as numerous not-for-profit corporations.

The Competition Act is a federal law governing most business conduct in Canada. It contains both criminal and civil provisions aimed at addressing anti-competitive practices in the marketplace. Taken together these framework laws are part of the foundation that provides Canadian companies with some of the rights and obligations regarding their governance and their practices.

Historically, the clarity provided by the CBCA and the Competition Act have promoted investor confidence and a competitive marketplace. Bill C-25 allows the CBCA and the Competition Act to continue that tradition of improving and clarifying some of the legal requirements for corporate Canada.

I believe the changes proposed in Bill C-25 are positive steps. However, any amendments to the CBCA will impact not only companies that are incorporated under the CBCA but also those incorporated under provincial corporate statutes as well, of which, as you know, there are 13 others plus the CBCA. Reforms made to the CBCA might precipitate, and have in the past, reform to provincial corporate statutes.

The CBCA has set the standard for corporate law reform in Canada, and the proposed amendments will set a new and higher standard for other corporate legislation to follow.

These amendments also recognize the overlapping and complementary role of securities regulations in addressing corporate governance for public companies. Today securities law and corporate law are both guided by the ultimate goal of improving corporate governance in public companies to create long-term sustainable value for shareholders and the economy.

This requires pragmatic regulation that reflects current governance challenges to strengthen board oversight, give shareholders more voice in electing directors and increasing the diversity of our boards so that they are more adaptable and resilient. Securities regulation, and now the CBCA, are addressing these challenges in ways that are appropriate to their mandates.

Honourable senators, in April 1971, Robert Dickerson, co-author of the report providing the foundation for the CBCA, explained the economic impact of corporations. I believe his view remains an accurate reflection. He said:

The importance of the corporation in the economic system can scarcely be exaggerated. It has been and remains the chief vehicle of economic advance, and its influence in the society in which we live is pervasive.

The Canada Business Corporations Act came into force in 1975 and was comprehensively amended in 2001 to reflect the evolution of the Canadian marketplace.

Canada’s corporate governance framework was recognized as a global leader by the World Bank in 2013. Specifically, the World Bank ranked Canada third among 185 economies for a regulatory environment that is conducive to starting and operating a business and fourth in protecting investors. In 2016-17, the protection of minority shareholders’ interests and the strength of investor protection were identified by the World Economic Forum as factors that give Canada a competitive advantage over other countries.

This international attention indicates the CBCA remains an effective statute. However, as in 2001, developments in the marketplace have highlighted the need to ensure Canada’s corporate regulatory structure meets future challenges.

Therefore, the intention of Bill C-25 is to build on Canada’s legal and corporate governance framework to further facilitate entrepreneurship. Moreover, the amendments in Bill C-25 aim to assist corporations to meet numerous challenges associated with an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Honourable senators, I wish to focus the remainder of my remarks on three elements of Bill C-25: the proposed improvements to the director election process, the provisions aimed at improving communications between distributing corporations and shareholders, and amendments requiring distributing corporations to disclose their policies for diversity on their board and in senior management.

I contend this series of targeted amendments will better align Canada’s business framework legislation with recognized international best practices.

Bill C-25 will improve corporate governance, particularly for public companies, to create long-term sustainable value for shareholders and the economy. Moreover, these changes will further foster a corporate culture that promotes and generates sustainable diversity as an essential part of commercial success.

Honourable senators, the strengthening of shareholder democracy through Bill C-25 reflects the values of both Canadian and international markets. The proposed amendments will provide for meaningful director elections for the boards of distributing corporations governed by the CBCA, enhancing good corporate governance and creating further accountability to their shareholders.

This result would arise through requiring annual director elections, prohibiting the practice of slate voting, and introducing a true majority voting system.

[Translation]

The proposed changes to the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act would require corporations and publicly traded co-operatives to hold annual votes for the election of corporate directors. Under the current model, directors can hold office for three years. By limiting each director’s mandate to one year, to the close of the company’s next annual meeting, shareholders can make necessary and timely changes to the board’s membership.

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Colleagues, Bill C-25 will also put an end to slate voting. Directors will have to be elected individually rather than as a group. This will enable shareholders to exercise their voting rights more effectively and to have their say about each of the candidates, which will in turn make directors more accountable.

[English]

The provisions that would provide for true majority voting are particularly important. The plurality voting system that is currently in place requires a director to obtain at least one vote in their favour in order to be elected when running unopposed.

Shareholders may withhold votes, but they are not permitted to vote against directors under the current CBCA regime. To make this perfectly clear, a nominated candidate could be elected today with only a single vote cast in their favour.

The creation of a true majority voting model will empower shareholders to vote against a candidate if they choose to do so. This mechanism will ensure that directors can only be elected if they are well supported, as evidenced by receiving the majority of all votes cast.

For companies traded publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange, rules have been developed in recent years. Now when a director running unopposed fails to garner a majority of votes, he or she must submit a resignation letter to the board. There has traditionally been some board discretion as to whether to reject the resignation, and the questions that this has raised have led to further recent staff guidance under TSX rules.

However, Bill C-25 will build on the TSX rules for uncontested elections by including additional clarification and taking a stronger stance in favour of shareholder democracy.

Honourable senators, there are a number of requirements that a corporation’s board of directors must meet. Each corporation’s bylaws specify the minimum number of elected directors required at a meeting to reach a quorum. Under section 105 of the CBCA, at least 25 per cent of the directors of a corporation must be resident Canadians. If a corporation has fewer than four directors, at least one director must be a resident Canadian. Additionally, the majority of a corporation’s directors must be independent as required by Canadian Securities Administrators’ National Policy 58-201. That’s the corporate governance policy.

An issue has been raised that the adoption of majority voting could produce election results that do not meet the requirements I have just discussed. However, legislation has provided provisions to deal with an uncontested election, quorum failure, failure to elect enough resident Canadians, and an insufficient number of independent directors. These situations are referred to as failed elections, and while possible, they are highly unlikely. Majority voting is already widely practised by TSX corporations, and there does not appear to have been any failed elections in Canada to date.

Even still, Bill C-25 does provide for a process to ensure that a corporation can continue functioning while new candidates are in the process of being considered and elected. It should be pointed out that for many Canadian companies, some of these changes I have described will be quite seamless. For example, in this respect, publicly traded federal corporations listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange are already required to conduct annual and individual director elections.

Bill C-25 serves to formalize these requirements in federal legislation to enhance our business framework laws creating a foundation on which companies can innovate and grow in the modern economy.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, I would like to talk about another important part of Bill C-25: improved communication between publicly traded companies and cooperatives and their shareholders and members. We will achieve that by amending the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act so that companies, cooperatives, and organizations can use provincial securities commission rules on notification and access.

[English]

Since March 2013, the Canadian Securities Administrators have allowed issuers to provide meeting materials to shareholders through the Internet. For many entities, using existing digital technology to modernize shareholder communications is, simply put, cost-effective.

Rather than continuing an inefficient paper-based communications system, these changes allow CBCA corporations to better reflect the modern business environment and ensure that corporate decision making is more efficient. However, corporations must still provide documentation to shareholders in paper format upon request. Moreover, non-distributing corporations would still be required to send financial statements to all shareholders other than those who state that they do not wish to receive them.

Honourable senators, I would now like to address the question of diversity on corporate boards and executive management. There is immense value in having a collection of unique perspectives and experiences, whether that be in our communities, in the workplace or on a board of directors. This is one place where I don’t have to state that too loudly.

There is strong economic evidence for the advancement of women in a corporate setting. In February 2016, the Peterson Institute for International Economics released a working paper examining the results of a global survey of 21,980 firms. Their analysis suggested that the inclusion of women in corporate leadership positions improves firm performance.

In March 2016, a working paper by the International Monetary Fund produced a similar conclusion. This study examined the link between gender diversity in senior corporate positions and the financial performance in 2 million companies in Europe. The report concluded there is a positive association between improved financial performance and the share of women in senior positions.

In 2015, McKinsey and Company provided statistical evidence that a positive correlation exists between diversity and performance. For instance, companies in the top quartile of gender diversity were 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry mean. Companies in the top quartile of ethnic diversity were 35 per cent more likely.

The sentiment behind these findings was effectively captured in 2016 by the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies. The Business Roundtable noted:

Diverse backgrounds and experiences on corporate boards, including those of directors who represent the broad range of society, strengthen board performance and promote the creation of long-term shareholder value.

All of these reports reflect a theme: Diversity matters. Diversity is impactful. Diversity achieves the goals that our society desires.

Colleagues, I believe that increasing diversity is not just about profit, but it is the right thing to do. It is a matter of fairness as well as social and economic justice. Talent, passion and dedication are not gender or ethnicity specific. We must create an environment where all people are given a chance to succeed.

Various mechanisms were considered for the purposes of Bill C-25 to help improve diversity. In Canada, most provincial securities regulators have adopted rules to require TSX corporations to disclose the gender representation of their boards and senior management. They are also required to disclose their policies for promoting gender diversity or to explain why they do not have such a policy.

This is known as the comply or explain approach, and it is similar to the one we introduced during my chairmanship at the Ontario Securities Commission.

Momentum toward gender diversity is growing, particularly in top-tier public companies. The largest financial institutions on the TSX in Canada have women comprising 23 per cent to 35 per cent of their boards. The 2016 CSA review of diversity disclosure has revealed progress, but it is slow-moving.

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From 2015 to 2016, there was a 6 per cent increase of companies adopting a gender diversity policy. Over the same time span, the number of board seats that women held increased from 11 to 12 per cent — it doesn’t seem like much, I know, but the direction of travel has been positive. Yet much more needs to be done. The legislative amendments found in Bill C-25 will speed things up and ensure this momentum continues to grow across our country.

[Translation]

The bill will require that companies falling under the Canada Business Corporations Act disclose information about diversity. Although many public companies may be confronted by similar requirements about disclosing gender information under their securities regimes, Bill C-25 does more. Companies quoted on the stock exchange will be required to disclose their diversity policies—and not just gender information—to their shareholders, or explain why they do not have such policies in place.

The “comply or explain” model has produced results in other countries. In the United Kingdom, diversity objectives have been reached on the FTSE 100 Exchange in five years. In Australia, gender diversity has increased in all corporate boards of public companies in six years.

[English]

Colleagues, we are facing an ever-changing business environment. Advances in technology, changing demographics and the interconnectedness of the global marketplace have increased pressure on companies to become more competitive and innovative. We cannot afford to ignore a large percentage of Canada’s workforce.

The proposals in this bill facilitate a balance between the need to construct more diverse corporate boards and executive management teams with the risk of these measures being too prescriptive.

As I said, talent is not gender specific. Talented people must be given the opportunity to succeed regardless of gender or ethnicity. Empowering our diverse and skilled talent to lead Canadian corporations will only benefit our investors, competition and the Canadian economy at large.

In summary, the OECD recently noted good corporate governance is a means to create environment of market confidence. The presence of good corporate governance allows entities to attain the trust of the community and its stakeholders. Moreover, the presence of enhanced business integrity supports capital market development and corporate access to equity capital for long-term productive investments.

Canadian firms are a key source of innovation and jobs, which can improve the standard of living and the economy of Canada. Implementing fair and transparent corporate governance principles can further investor confidence as well as director oversight and accountability.

It is essential that corporations continue to take the lead to create and promote a culture of diversity and innovation. To that end, Bill C-25 represents an enhancement of the Canadian business framework laws. The proposed annual and individual director elections will streamline practices with existing obligations.

They also allow distributing corporations to more efficiently engage stakeholders by modernizing shareholder communications.

Honourable colleagues, I believe the eventual legacy of Bill C-25 is the provisions facilitating greater diversity on public company boards and executive management. In my maiden speech in this chamber, I addressed this issue directly. I noted the dialogue regarding greater diversity on boards and executive management in Canada has shifted in a positive direction, but more action is needed.

I contend the proposed amendments in Bill C-25 will enable some of the necessary progress to ensure talented people continue to lead corporate Canada.

The bill before you symbolizes a necessary acceleration of the progress needed. It provides prudent measures to further propel an existing culture shift within corporate Canada so that leaders are allowed to lead and all genders and ethnicity are represented in our C-suites.

Much like the Senate itself, one of Canada’s strengths is in its diversity of voices. I view Bill C-25 as a tool ensuring those voices and their viewpoints are heard more often in Canadian corporate boardrooms.

Honourable senators, it is time that the statutes amended by Bill C-25 better reflect modern corporate governance principles and that they resonate not only with the changing marketplace but also with the values of modern society.

These enhancements will be good for innovation, for diversity and for a strong and prosperous Canada. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Will the senator take a few questions?

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Wetston, are you prepared to take questions?

Senator Wetston: Of course.

Senator Martin: Thank you for your speech on this bill, senator. I know that in principle it is something that I can, personally, speak to for myself, and I’m sure others support what the bill is proposing because it is something that our previous Conservative government had put in their budget and was working on. So thank you for what you have shared with us today.

You said diversity is the essence, and we all know that, especially in Canada, where we uphold diversity at the highest level. Is there a reason why the amendment that was proposed by MPs at committee regarding defining diversity was ignored and why that did not happen? That’s my first question.

Senator Wetston: Thank you for the question. I can only speak to my understanding after reviewing the committee discussions and the transcripts. I think the basic rationale is that defining diversity obviously has its challenges. I think the committee looked at a number of ways of defining it, thinking about the Employment Equity Act and a range of other possibilities. I think the decision was made by the government that the best way to proceed with this was to try to address it in the regulations, which I think it would have the authority to do, but then decide whether a regulation would require a definition or guidance.

My sense of it is that guidance will be provided in the regulations, and I think the sense the government had was that that would be the most appropriate way to deal with it.

I think it will evolve as the application of the statute evolves, and these considerations by corporate boards, both by way of directors and senior managers, evolve their policies to achieve the goals of a corporation. You must appreciate, as I’m sure you do, some flexibility is required by these boards and corporations to decide on the makeup of their senior management team on boards to meet the requirements of these corporations.

So I think guidance will be provided. Whether or not a definition is part of that, I cannot say.

Senator Martin: Perhaps that’s something the Senate committee could look at carefully as well, because I’m sure that those insights would be welcomed.

My second question is regarding the review of the diversity policy and other aspects of the bill and why a five-year term versus three years, which was proposed and also rejected. You’re right: We are in ever-evolving challenging times. But five years seems like a long period to wait before the review is done. Would you speak to why the three years was rejected?

Senator Wetston: I think regarding the suggestion of three to five years, the basis of that discussion did occur. There is no question that a review would be required, and indeed, part of that process is to examine. As I said in my remarks, the direction of travel is positive, but how positive it will be can be considered over that period.

At the securities commission when we put in the “comply or explain” approach with respect to women on boards, we adopted three years. This will be the third year coming up. It’s my understanding that the information from the review will be coming out sometime in the fall, so we’ll get a sense of the progress. We have the 2016 information; now we’ll have the 2017 information.

As to three years or five years, I guess my sense of it, without attempting to not answer your question because I’m not sure if I can answer it directly, is that I think this takes time. I think we’ll have a lot of information and probably more information in five years as to whether or not the objectives of the legislation are being met.

From my experience under the policy that we put in place, if I went back and thought about it, I probably would pick five years versus three years because you have to change culture, and you have to change the culture in these corporate boards to look at diversity, including women on boards, and that takes time. I don’t have a specific answer to say three versus five, but I’m not uncomfortable with five years.

Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator entertain another question?

(1650)

Senator Wetston: Of course.

Senator Joyal: Senator, I personally make the distinction between diversity and equality of sexes. Equality of sexes is the majority of the Canadian population, and it is women. Diversity is something different.

I don’t understand the rationale under the policy enshrined in this proposal that in relation to equality of sexes we would not zero in on that major objective whereby the Ontario government is contemplating to fix a “D-Date” whereby the board in Ontario will have to attain equality.

We are in 2017. This government has a feminist agenda. Each week we hear it on all kinds of platforms. I don’t understand this bill, which is for the Senate a golden opportunity to entrench equality and principle at a D-Date sometime in the reasonable future and that we do not contemplate an amendment that would enshrine that.

This chamber is 43 per cent women, and we have to reflect that in the legislation. We have to give the board a reasonable time to adjust, but at least we have a future and we know where the horizon line lies ahead.

I keep my appetite in relation to the fundamental objective of the equality of sexes because last summer I read that with regard to the professional background of all those people who sit on those boards of the IPS index you mentioned, the majority of them are women. So the professional capacity is there. We’re not in 1970 with a royal commission report that we have to educate women. Women are educated now. So that has to be reflected, in my opinion, in the proposal of the government.

Unfortunately, I did not hear in your presentation a clear sense of that in this bill, except of diversity. We’re talking about diversity, sure, but also about equality of sexes. This is the fundamental issue that is raised, in my opinion, in this bill, and we have to take a stand as such on that principle.

Senator Wetston: Thank you for the question, senator. I think there is no suggestion whatsoever that the issue of equality — that is, women on boards and in senior management — is not reflected in this bill. It is clearly reflected in this bill. What is not reflected in the bill and is necessary to reflect in the bill is the broader aspects of diversity in our society.

Clearly these boards are going to have to report on both women on boards as part of the diversity policy as well as the broader policy issues associated with diversity as you and I know that to be.

I don’t think there is any question this government is suggesting that you don’t report on a comply or explain basis, gender diversity as well as the broader questions of diversity as discussed. The issue that was raised previously is the definition of diversity and how that could be addressed. My suggestion, and I think this is what the government is attempting to achieve here, is to try and address that through guidelines in regulations.

If you’re asking for something more, for a legislated quota or a legislated target, that’s a whole other matter. Obviously, there was a lot of consultation on this. There was a lot of committee debate on this in the House of Commons , and the decision was not to adopt that.

You can argue that it might be better in some circumstances. My experience with quotas has not been particularly positive, but you might come to a different point of view in examining the same literature. I can only speak to the bill before the chamber, and I can only say that women on boards and in senior management are clearly included, will have to be reported on, along with the broader diversity characterizations that are discussed.

Senator Joyal: I know that Senator Fraser will want to ask a question along that line.

The one thing I want you to consider, honourable senators, is this: With the slow pace of movement that we presently see in certain segments of the economy, it’s not all the same; it’s not a one size fits all. There are sectors of the economy where women will reach the parity we want, but there are other sectors of the economy — and you know them very well — the financial institutions and the banks. Let’s name them. I’ve been involved in one of them for 30 years. When I look at the pace of movement, and if we just left things the way they are now, we will have to wait another 50 or 60 years before women reach parity. In fact, the argument given that they do not have the experience is no longer true.

I think we have to consider that the pace is not rapid enough to realistically reach the objective, and that’s why a legislative D-Date, as the Ontario government is considering, is, in my opinion, the way to go. I hope that the committee, honourable senators, will look into that option, which seems to be the preferred route, if we are serious in reaching parity in a reasonable period of time.

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m not sure if I actually heard a question there, Senator Joyal.

I do know, Senator Wetston, that other senators would like to ask questions. Are you prepared to take a few more questions?

Senator Wetston: Of course, Your Honour. And I’m relieved you didn’t hear a question.

Hon. Joan Fraser: I’ll try to phrase this as a question, Senator Wetston. The discussion about the definition of diversity does not apply to gender. It’s quite simple. Even with the evolving concepts of gender that we now have, the basic division is between men and women. This is a government that has found it appropriate to have a formal quota that 50 per cent of the cabinet be women. That has been done in the Province of Quebec. In both cases, the governments that resulted were at least as competent as others we have known.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the European precedent, not the British one but the continental European precedent, where actual quotas for women on boards of directors have been imposed by law and have been successful, and the sky has not fallen and the companies have not gone bankrupt.

Can you please give me a reason why the government believes that a simple comply or report policy would be any more successful than a reasonable imposition of targets? Give it several years as Senator Joyal suggests. I’m not saying do it for tomorrow morning. Why would it not be possible, practicable and appropriate to say that within a reasonable number of years each of the two main genders shall hold, for example, at least 40 per cent of the seats on any given board of directors? Why would that not work?

Senator Wetston: Thank you for the question. Once again, I feel like the Government Representative here, and I don’t mean to be in that position. I think you can understand that.

When you think about diversity, I’m reaching into how corporations and governments have looked at this issue from the point of view of addressing these kinds of issues, and they have included women in considering diversity more broadly. That’s my experience. It may not be yours, and I understand you may have a different point of view.

There has been discussion, for example, around the Employment Equity Act defining designated groups, and included in that are women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities, and you can go on and on.

(1700)

That whole consultation process began — I think you’re correct, Senator Martin — with the previous government, so it has been around for two or three years at least in its consultation and discussion phase.

The best answer I can give you is that quotas have been implemented in some countries. My experience is that they don’t work so well because when you force this kind of requirement on corporations, they lose their capacity to look at what they need for their corporation. I know — and you know as well, I’m sure — that they can find very capable, talented women and very capable individuals who meet other definitions of diversity that you may be addressing.

The question is that you don’t want to constrain boards. You want to ensure that the boards and senior management of those companies are allowed to perform, to innovate and to succeed. It may be the case that the government decided that this country, the CBCA and these other acts, are not ready for this quota system. Frankly, when I worked on my “comply and explain” approach at the OSC, many women said, “Do not adopt that approach for Canada.” Catalyst was not supportive; the Women’s Network was not supportive. I was very much part of those discussions. They were very supportive of starting with the “comply or explain” approach and hoping we would see progress. The purpose of a five-year review I think is to see what tools they may rely on if progress isn’t made. It may be at that time or before that a decision is made to amend the legislation and impose a more rigorous system.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Fraser, if I may, I appear to be hearing the same answer to the same questions, and there are some other senators who want to pose a question. If not, we’ll go back to you, Senator Fraser. Do you want to ask a supplementary question?

Senator Fraser: Slightly different ones.

The Hon. the Speaker: A slightly different topic?

Senator Fraser: No; the same topic but slightly different questions.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, if at any time you wish to enter the debate, you may, but if you have questions different from the ones already posed. I think I’ve been hearing the same answer.

Senator Fraser: Senator Wetston, I have had some experience working with you on committee, and I have very great respect for your ability and integrity. But may I please suggest that your answer to me sounded a little bit too often, a little bit too much, like the familiar argument: There aren’t enough qualified women. I think if you go back and reread the transcript, you will see what I mean. Could I ask you to work even harder to adjust your vocabulary on this topic?

Senator Wetston: I never said that. I never implied it and I never suggested it. If you look at all the of the work I’ve done on this, I’ve always said that there is an ample supply of capable women to fill these board seats and be in senior management. I’m sorry; I did not say that. If I implied that, then I did not mean to do that.

There is no suggestion whatsoever that there aren’t sufficient women to fill these important positions in corporate Canada or in senior management. As a matter of fact, senator, there’s one that lives in my home who does this as well. I am fully aware of the capabilities of women in being able to fulfill these roles. So thank you.

[Translation]

Hon. Renée Dupuis: Senator Wetston, thank you for speaking on this topic. I think I’m going to need some help understanding the capacity of large organizations, including those in the world of finance, to adapt to advances in technology over the past 40 years or so. As we have seen, technology progresses very quickly. Those large organizations must be incredibly intelligent to understand all the subtleties of those changes.

Meanwhile, they do not seem to understand that Canadian legislation was amended 40 years ago, in 1978. The law in Canada prohibits discrimination in organizations that fall under federal jurisdiction. In principle, these organizations should have legal advisers to make people understand that that is the law. What I don’t understand is that in 1929, a London court ruling explained to everyone that the definition of a person includes women as well as men. Throughout all those years, those people should have known that it is the law and recognized that a radical change had taken place regarding gender equality. People will not like it if we try to water down a term or concept when it comes to equality, diversity or any reality, in an attempt to present it as though it were equal. I am trying to understand, in the system you are talking about, “comply or explain”, if what you are telling us is that we are going to give companies money so that they can tell us that they are discriminating against women.

[English]

The Hon. the Speaker: Excuse me, Senator Wetston, but your time has expired. At least one other senator, Senator Omidvar, wants to ask a question. Are you asking for five more minutes to respond to Senator Dupuis and perhaps Senator Omidvar?

Senator Wetston: Of course.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Wetston: I’m feeling more and more like the Government Representative, Senator Harder, and I don’t want to feel like that.

It’s a complicated question in this sense. I have to go back and simply refer to the identification of the fact that apparently there are insufficient women represented on corporate boards in Canada. think what was suggested before was very clear, namely that it’s a bit of a challenge in Canada because we have major sectors where women have been under-represented. We talked about the financial sector. I can name sectors like oil and gas and mining. They were very much sectors that did not have women on their boards. I know the oil and gas sector will be all over me for saying that, but I think that is the case. We started to focus very much on larger companies, but not looking at other legislation and not looking at discrimination, because basically it’s never realizing what your comment is about a person.

A corporation is a person as well, as we all know. And, as a person, it operates with a lot of legal obligations. Within that environment, its board of directors carries on an essential role.

The challenge, I think, is trying to identify the most competent people that can run these important companies. I think we all understand in this Senate that, over time, not enough attention was given to women on these boards, despite the talent pool. I think it’s 50 per cent now, if not more of the talent pool in the country. Looking at other legal requirements around discrimination and equality makes this very difficult because I think governments decided — I know we did this at the securities commission; we said, “Gender is male and female.” I’m not going to get into what Senator Plett asked me before; thank you so much. We looked at gender from that perspective.

Senator Plett: I might ask you another question.

Senator Wetston: Please, I thought you were just having a rest there.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

Senator Wetston: I never want to encourage you, senator.

We looked at gender as we all understand it. We looked at it very practically and decided not to look at other frameworks but to say, “We need to improve this.”

Senator Joyal talked about what the Ontario government is doing for Crown corporations — not private corporations, I might add. That’s in the Crown sector. It was never intended to apply to the publicly listed companies on the Toronto Stock Exchange or the Venture Exchange.

I understand your point, and it’s a difficult one. It’s a challenging point. However, the point of identifying gender, focusing on women and on diverse groups, is really important, and we must use a lot of common sense here. When all else fails, let’s rely on common sense to realize we need to change this and make it work.

I’m not trying not to answer your question. I’m just suggesting that we need to focus on gender as we know it and on improving the number of women on these boards and in senior management because we all know we’ll get better performance out of these corporations. I’m going to say one more time that I just have to go home to understand that.

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: .Thank you, Senator Wetston, for a very excellent debrief on the ins and outs of this act. I want to briefly align myself with Senator Martin’s questions around the depth and breadth of diversity. Gender diversity is important but so are other diversities. I worry that if we don’t define diversity, we will come up with a narrow definition.

(1710)

However, I do have a very specific question about the bill. It is entitled “An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.” The diversity features of this bill, including the development of a diversity policy, disclosure regulations, et cetera, that will be published later in the regulations, do they apply only to the Canadian business corporations or do they also extend to cooperatives and not-for-profits? If it’s good enough for business, why isn’t it good enough for cooperatives and not-for-profits as well?

Senator Wetston: The short answer to your question is it only applies to CBCA corporations that are listed on stock exchanges, and there is more than one stock exchange in this country. It does not apply to co-ops at this stage because there are no distributing corporate co-ops at this time in the country. There are 98 CBCA ones, but they’re not distributing corporations. So the diversity policy and the disclosure policy do not apply, nor does the majority voting apply, and it does not apply to the not-for-profit corporations as well.

I believe, once again, looking at the transcripts, it was discussed, and obviously the government decided not to have those provisions apply to co-ops as well as the not-for-profits. Maybe the reason is that — I think targeting these large CBCA corporations, which could include venture corporations as well, of which there are 2,300 of those , as well as over 1,000 TSX companies, and there are other companies in other exchanges but they may not be CBCA corporations, was the decision that was made.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

Business of the Senate

Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 5-7(k), I ask leave of the Senate for items No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 under the heading “Reports of Committees — Other” to be discharged from the Order Paper.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

[English]

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Bill to Amend—Fifteenth Report of Committee—Debate

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), with amendments), presented in the Senate on June 21, 2017.

Hon. Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie moved the adoption of the report.

He said: Honourable senators, this report deals with Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children).

The committee met to consider this bill in June of this year. The committee heard from the sponsor of the bill, Senator Raine. It heard from Health Canada officials, as well as 15 expert witnesses over a period of five hearings.

In the end, the committee agreed to five amendments which were all presented, brought forward by the sponsor of the bill, and will be explained in detail by the sponsor.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Senator Raine.

Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Yes, thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Rather than have you start and have to interrupt you, it now being 5:15, I must interrupt proceedings pursuant to rule 9-6.

The bells will ring to call in the senators for the taking of a deferred vote at 5:30 p.m. on the subamendment to Bill C-210. When we return, Senator Raine, you will have the floor.

Call in the senators.

(1730)

National Anthem Act

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Motion in Amendment Defeated—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Lankin, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, for the third reading of Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender).

And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Beyak, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dagenais:

That Bill C-210 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended, on page 1, by adding the following after line 6:

“2 This Act comes into force on the later of July 1, 2017 and the day on which it receives royal assent.”.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the question is as follows: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Beyak —

Shall I dispense, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker: All those in favour of the subamendment will please rise.

Subamendment negatived on the following division:

YEAS
The Honourable Senators

Ataullahjan Martin
Batters Mockler
Beyak Neufeld
Carignan Ogilvie
Cools Oh
Dagenais Plett
Doyle Raine
Eaton Seidman
Housakos Stewart Olsen
MacDonald Tkachuk
Maltais Unger
Marshall Wells—24

NAYS
The Honourable Senators

Bellemare Joyal
Bernard Lankin
Boniface Marwah
Bovey Massicotte
Christmas McPhedran
Cordy Mégie
Cormier Mercer
Day Mitchell
Dean Moncion
Downe Omidvar
Duffy Pate
Dupuis Petitclerc
Dyck Pratte
Eggleton Ringuette
Forest Saint-Germain
Fraser Sinclair
Gagné Tardif
Gold Verner
Greene Wallin
Griffin Wetston
Harder Woo—43
Hartling

ABSTENTIONS
The Honourable Senators

Boisvenu Richards—3
McInnis

(1740)

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Before I say a few words about this amendment, let me welcome our new colleague to this chamber. I have had the opportunity to read at least one of the senator’s books and am only a few pages away from finishing the second one. Indeed, if those two books are any indication, certainly Facing the Hunter is a marvellous book, and I have enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading more of what you have written.

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Senator Beyak’s amendment on Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender).

Now, I have spoken to this legislation a few times. However, today I would again like to offer some insight into why I believe there has been some delay on this bill reaching a vote.

Honourable senators, we in this chamber are not so different from the parliamentarians in the other place. Members of Parliament and senators alike are chosen to represent the people of their riding, their province and chiefly the people of Canada. Our bicameral legislature was first enacted to ensure that every piece of legislation that would go on to receive Royal Assent would truly be the will of the Canadian people. For any bill initiated in either chamber, we parliamentarians have a sworn duty. We have the duty to debate and improve the legislation in a way that will serve our country best.

When and if that legislation is passed, it is sent to the chamber opposite for the same thoughtful consideration. In the case of Bill C-210, MP Mauril Bélanger introduced the bill in January of 2016. This bill received very limited debate and committee time in the other place and was very quickly passed along to this chamber.

Honourable senators, I would submit to you that it is for these reasons that we have a flawed initiative before us. While this bill is not flawed in the same legal or contextual sense as other pieces of legislation, it is flawed in that it is not the will of the Canadian people.

As Senator Wells pointed out when we last debated this legislation, real, hardworking Canadians are adamantly opposed to this change in our anthem; whether it be in the Maritimes of Nova Scotia or the Prairies of Manitoba, the Canadian people take very seriously the idea of tradition and take offence at those who wish to alter it.

Throughout the course of the house and Senate committee hearings on this legislation, none of the few witnesses that were heard can honestly say that their opinion represents the will of all or even most Canadians. The sponsors of this bill, both in this chamber and in the other place, have not conducted opinion polls or research studies, let alone a referendum, to state unreservedly that this bill is a change that would be welcomed by the citizens of Canada.

Canadians deserve to have their voices heard on all legislation, especially on a bill that would alter the song and poem that every Canadian holds dear. However, this discussion goes beyond merely altering the words of the national anthem. The result of this debate will have a lasting effect on Canada and will dramatically change the way we view our shared traditions.

Again, as Senator Wells previously stated, traditions like these are part of our shared foundation.

Honourable senators, this is not the first time such a change has been proposed within our Parliament. Bill C-264 in 1996, Bill S-39 and Bill S-3 in 2002, Bill C-626 in 2011 and C-624 in 2014 were all proposed and were all rejected. Why? Because it was not the will of the Canadian people. Yes, Senator Lankin, this is the sixth bill brought forward on this matter in the last decade, and the wishes of Canadians have remained unchanged. Many amendments have been submitted to this chamber for consideration, and all have been discounted by my colleagues opposite.

For example, my amendment was set forth in order to appease both sides. It would have adhered to the values of integrity and tradition that most, if not all, Canadians value. It would have achieved the original intent of the bill. Only a bill that satisfied these conditions would have been agreeable to myself and many of my colleagues that sit on this side of the chamber.

This bill has been delayed not because of a handful of senators, as Senator Lankin has stated, rather this bill has been and will likely continue to be delayed to ensure that the wishes of our citizens are heard and respected. If similar legislation is brought forward at a later date, after a proper and thorough consultation with Canadians has taken place, then that would be something for us to consider. However, I maintain that this anthem does not belong to any senator in this chamber. It belongs to the Canadian people, and it is not ours to change.

An Hon. Senator: Hear, hear!

Motion in Subamendment

Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion in amendment moved by the Honourable Senator Beyak be amended by replacing the words “the later of July 1, 2017 and the day on which it receives royal assent” with the words “November 1, 2017”.

The Hon. the Speaker: On debate.

(On motion of Senator Woo, debate adjourned.)

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Bill to Amend—Fifteenth Report of Committee Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Ogilvie, seconded by the Honourable Senator Stewart Olsen, for the adoption of the fifteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), with amendments), presented in the Senate on June 21, 2017.

Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Honourable senators, I am pleased that Bill S-228 was passed at the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology after being studied in June. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues on the committee for their work in studying the bill, especially as I was unable to attend some of the final meetings.

Now I would like to say a few words of background to the amendments to the bill that were referred to by Senator Ogilvie.

As most of you know, Bill S-228 was introduced last September and was passed at second reading in this chamber on December 5. The genesis of the bill came both from the study that the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology did on the rising rates of obesity in Canada, where we learned that since 1980 rates of obesity in Canada have tripled and that one out of three children between the ages of 5 and 17 are either overweight or obese.

We also learned that overweight children are much more likely to develop chronic diseases later in life. Three years ago, I attended a conference on childhood obesity where many stakeholders came together to agree on a common road map for tackling the problem of childhood obesity. Their paper, the Ottawa Principles, outlines what they agreed on. Anyone informed on the issue of obesity knows there are many causes, but the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children does have a negative impact.

I soon realized that a Senate private member’s bill to prohibit the marketing of food and beverages to children using the Food and Drugs Act would be able to help address the problem. I worked with our legislative drafters and consulted broadly to draft the bill.

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I decided that Bill S-228 should be entitled, “The Child Health Protection Act,” as I am convinced that our children’s health is being undermined by the advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages intentionally directed at children. This kind of targeted advertising, including all forms of commercial marketing of unhealthy food products, has greatly increased over the years for the simple reason that the experts who design these marketing campaigns know full well that they work.

I met with the Minister of Canadian Heritage who understands that advertising to children is a concern, and I understand that she is collecting information on best practices with other jurisdictions because this is a problem that is recognized worldwide.

In our committee’s study on the rising rates of obesity, we heard testimony from witnesses who, with the exception of the food industry, unanimously supported strict controls on the advertising of unhealthy food and beverages to children. This testimony led the committee to recommend that the federal government design and implement a prohibition on the advertising of food and beverages to children based on an assessment of Quebec’s prohibition of all advertising to children, which has been in place since the 1980s. This is testimony we heard in our study for the obesity study.

Quebec has one of the lowest childhood obesity rates among 6- to 11-year-olds in Canada and one of the highest fruit and vegetable consumption rates. Some people will tell you that the Quebec experience has not had an impact on children’s health. However, others will explain that as Quebec’s prohibition on print and broadcast advertising came into effect, other forms of marketing such as labelling, grocery store promotions, event promotions et cetera all increased, not to mention online promotions.

Bill S-228, as originally introduced, prohibited the marketing of all food to children. I remind honourable senators that the Food and Drugs Act already defines food to include beverages.

I would now like to discuss the amendments.

Since the legislation was introduced, I have followed developments regarding the marketing to children as jurisdictions all over the world wrestle with the issue. In particular, I have come to understand that the World Health Organization and the PanAmerican Health Organization have done a great deal of work over the past few years to define “unhealthy,” specifically with regard to the marketing of food and beverages to children.

Both organizations are recommending restricting the advertising of these products to children. Dr. Mary L’Abbé, Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, who leads a research group on food and nutrition policy for population health, has been invaluable in outlining how these agencies went about arriving at definitions that are now becoming best practices in countries tackling the issue.

I also realize that legislation that limits what is being prohibited to food defined as “unhealthy” — but that does allow marketing of healthy food — would be much more difficult to challenge in court by the food and beverage industry.

For this reason, Bill S-228 was amended at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to limit the prohibition on advertising to children of “unhealthy” food.

This change was accompanied by an amendment to the preamble to acknowledge the existing evidence-based nutrient profiling models that will serve as a basis for classifying food or beverages as unhealthy.

Honourable senators, I have met with the Minister of Health and her officials. The minister was supportive of the proposed amendments to limit the prohibition to “unhealthy” foods and has given me the assurance that Health Canada will put in place a definition of “unhealthy” that takes into account the latest science and international models.

Bill S-228 as tabled last September prohibited the marketing of food to children under 13 years of age. That’s the age limit in the Quebec legislation.

Since the bill was introduced, I have had further discussions with stakeholders who informed me that new research confirms that the way adolescents process advertising is also very problematic.

Marketing specialists today understand that adolescents can be targeted with messaging that plays on certain specific emotions. Honourable senators, I’m sure that from our own experience most of us understand that during the teen years, a large number of adolescents reject guidance from their parents and are influenced strongly by their peers who determine what is cool. When this age group is targeted by marketers, they are vulnerable to developing habits that are likely to last a lifetime. A predilection to choosing foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat as teenagers can result in poor food choices for the rest of their lives, and it is recognized as one of the precursors to becoming overweight and obese, leading to all kinds of other chronic diseases.

Last spring, Australian media obtained confidential emails which explained how Facebook can use its technology to identify moments when young people need a confidence boost and then tailor commercials directed towards them. By monitoring posts, pictures, interactions and Internet activity in real time, an advertising-driven site can now determine when its users, some as young as 14, feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, nervous, useless or a failure. The Facebook algorithms are capable of target marketing to individual teenagers when they are most susceptible to a particular marketing message.

Honourable senators, I now believe we need to include teenagers in the protection offered by Bill S-228, which is why I proposed the amendment at clause-by-clause consideration of the bill to change the definition of “children” to include those up to age 16.

Finally, some clauses in the bill would be better dealt with in the regulations that will be developed by Health Canada following passage of the legislation. My original intent was to ensure that the bill would go beyond traditional advertising, including not only print, broadcast and by electronic means, including social media on the Internet. There are many ways to influence children to choose unhealthy food and beverages, and we know that the tools used to develop marketing campaigns are not only very creative but use the latest technology to become more and more effective.

I have learned that amending the Food and Drugs Act, as proposed by Bill S-228, is a long and arduous task. I now realize that the legislation should include the general intent and framework, but that the details are much better left to be dealt with by regulations which can be more easily changed to react to new ways of marketing.

Honourable senators, I am confident that there are many stakeholder groups that will watch and ensure that the regulations flowing from Bill S-228 will live up to their intent and purpose.

I know we have a busy schedule before us, honourable senators, but I sincerely ask that you consider carefully the positive impact that Bill S-228 can have on the health of Canadian children.

The goal of the bill, child health protection by prohibiting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, has not changed. The amendments have made it better legislation.

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 and report adopted.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill, as amended, be read the third time?

(On motion of Senator Raine, bill, as amended, placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)

(At 5:59 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)