1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 162
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Senate Commemorative Medal
Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, I rise today to honour ten individuals and two organizations that I have nominated to receive the Senate of Canada 150 Medal. All show uncommon character and commitment to the greater good.
The Wadena News has kept people informed and connected for more than a century, recording the story of people building communities. Publisher Alison Squires and former co-owner — and lifelong nurse — Marge Headington are great givers and doers.
June Draude, business owner turned politician, is considered Saskatchewan’s most innovative Minister of Social Services, launching the first social impact bond in Canada to help mothers keep access to children. She works tirelessly with high risk and people with disabilities.
Murad Al-Katib, entrepreneur, quite literally helps feed the world. He learned from his immigrant parents the importance of giving back — he does — and earned the Oslo Business for Peace Award for incredible efforts to feed thousands of Syrian refugees.
Major General Wayne Eyre serves his country with passion and continues to mentor recruits, lead his fellow soldiers in service at home and abroad, and serves veterans in need. He inspires with his message: You can achieve more when you learn that personal boundaries are artificial.
W. Brett Wilson, North Battleford-born entrepreneur and “serial” philanthropist, has shaved his head for kids’ cancer, climbed a mountain for Alzheimer’s, and funds and mentors start-ups for veterans. He believes social responsibility is an opportunity not an obligation.
Dr. Michael D. Jackson, former Chief of Protocol for Lieutenant Governors, has spent a lifetime building bridges from the monarchy to the people, ensuring we keep a personal connection to our past.
Jimmy Pattison is an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose business acumen is legendary. He is the economic lifeline for dozens of communities in Saskatchewan and made the largest donation in our history to Saskatoon’s new Children’s Hospital. His quiet good works, his vision and his work ethic change lives.
Steve McLellan has a commitment to building cities and communities that nurture the human factor. He believes businesses must “be present” in our communities, helping to make us resilient in the face of challenges.
Dorothy Knowles, a gardener, a mother and one of Canada’s foremost artists, has brought the magic of prairie landscapes to the world and has communicated on canvas what makes us a people who see no boundaries.
Paul and Carol Hill, whose philanthropic projects “care for the soul” of the community, are best understood through the creation of and devotion to the unique Mother Teresa Middle School for at-risk indigenous children.
Kenneth Levene, a business leader who was intent on changing attitudes — we are world class and can compete — and so he created the Levene Graduate School of Business at the University of Regina.
The Snowbirds are the RCAF’s iconic aerobatic team who hone their skills in the skies over Moose Jaw. They inspire young and old alike and are among Canada’s foremost ambassadors to the world. Lieutenant Colonel Mike French represents Snowbirds past and present.
Congratulations to you all.
Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel—Commission Issued to Jacqueline J. Kuehl
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that a commission under the Great Seal of Canada has been issued to Jacqueline J. Kuehl, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, 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.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Late Bettie Duff
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, after a short absence in order to conduct some necessary research, today I’m pleased to present chapter 23 of “Telling Our Story.” I also would like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate Ms. Nicole Proulx on her appointment as the first female clerk of the Senate of Canada.
Newfoundland and Labrador was the last province to enter Confederation, but it holds the title to a very important Canadian first.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s House of Assembly has the honour and distinction of having the first female clerk of any legislature or Parliament in Canada. Ms. Elizabeth Duff, fondly referred to as “Bettie,” became the Clerk of the House of Assembly in 1977 and held that position until her retirement in 1991. During her long years of service, Bettie worked for four premiers, including our first, Joseph R. Smallwood, five different Speakers and experienced four general elections.
In her role as the Clerk of the House of Assembly, Bettie had the total respect of all parties and was much-admired for her graciousness and wonderful sense of humour.
She had the ability to foster an atmosphere of healthy and respectful debate on the important issues in our province. Many former members of the House of Assembly have commented on the valued guidance and support Bettie provided during her time as Clerk.
When a reporter from the Daily News asked her about her work in November of 1981, she replied, “The job as Clerk was challenging and different from anything that I ever did before. I’m really enjoying it.”
Her career previous to becoming Clerk of the House of Assembly was equally interesting. She was private secretary to Premier Joey Smallwood for 23 years and then held executive assistant positions within the government as well as in the House of Assembly with Speaker Gerald Ottenheimer before becoming Clerk.
When asked about Duff, Smallwood stated that he had only the utmost respect for her “after 23 years of absolutely magnificent work and dependability,” and that “she was privy to more government secrets than almost anyone else.” Ottenheimer also spoke highly of her, stating that she was “extremely intelligent and loyal, with a good sense of responsibility and a good sense of humour.”
Upon her retirement in 1991, Premier Clyde Wells paid tribute, noting that Bettie “has served the entire House, both sides and the middle, quite well,” as he acknowledged her tremendous record of service.
In her personal life, Duff had a lifelong interest in photography and travel, and she was a dedicated member of her local Catholic Church, St. Theresa’s Parish, in St. John’s.
Bettie Duff passed away on August 28, 2016, on her ninetieth birthday.
I ask all colleagues to join with me in paying tribute to a real Canadian trailblazer, a wonderful lady who is fondly remembered and indeed an important part of our history — Ms. Bettie Duff.
Canadian Alliance of Student Associations
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, or CASA, represents roughly 255,000 students and 27 associations. In April, it published an important report entitled Student (Un)Employment in Canada.
I was very impressed by the quality of this report and its comprehensive analysis of the problems faced by young people making the transition from school to the job market.
The report very clearly outlines young people’s aspirations when it says, and I quote:
CASA envisions a country where all youth, students and recent graduates who want to work have opportunities to do so, where they can make the most of their skills and abilities, and where they earn a living that allows them to live comfortably while contributing to the broader economy and society.
These young students and I share the same belief, one that I have worked toward for almost 40 years. It is that productive and suitable employment is a fundamental and universal goal. This goal is referred to by the United Nations and international organizations as the goal of full employment.
Although the official statistics show an upturn in employment in Canada and Quebec, and many people are talking about a labour shortage and even full employment, not everyone is benefitting from the upturn in the job market.
According to the CASA report, the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average, or around 13 per cent, and underemployment is not uncommon and affects nearly 20 per cent of young people with a university degree. Again according to the report, the number of young people in temporary, part time, or underpaid jobs is higher than the national average, and meanwhile, the average debt for recent graduates was upwards of $26,000 in 2015.
I met with the representatives of the alliance just this morning to discuss their proposals regarding the transition from school to work.
Speaking with them, I realized that what these students want is precisely what the European Union has committed to with its member countries: to put in place what they call a youth employment guarantee.
Transitioning young people into the job market is an urgent matter because our population is aging and the working age population is starting to shrink. CASA is asking us to study this issue.
Thank you for your attention, honourable colleagues.
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
Twenty-First Report of Committee Presented
Hon. Larry W. Campbell, Chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, presented the following report:
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration has the honour to present its
Your committee, which is authorized by the Rules of the Senate to consider financial and administrative matters, recommends the following:
That the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament develop and propose amendments to the Rules of the Senate and any other necessary modifications to the Rules to establish the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, with five members, and develop its general mandate consistent with the audit and oversight principles and best practices contained in the fifth report of the Subcommittee on the Senate Estimates, including an authorization to consider issues on its own initiative;
That any proposed amendments to the Rules of the Senate include no cross-membership between members of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight; and
That consultations be undertaken by the leadership of all caucuses and recognized groups in the Senate to propose amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act to provide intersessional authority to the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, once the new committee is established and has begun its work. A delay in receiving this intersessional authority should not prevent the committee from beginning its work.
The fifth report from the Subcommittee on the Senate Estimates is appended to this report.
LARRY W. CAMPBELL
(For text of fifth report, see today’s Journals of the Senate, Appendix, p. 2727.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Campbell, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Bill to Amend—First Reading
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Harder, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Fisheries and Oceans
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Issues Relating to the Federal Government’s Current and Evolving Policy Framework for Managing Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in relation to its study of issues relating to the federal government’s current and evolving policy framework for managing Canada’s fisheries and oceans be extended from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
Business of the Senate
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, pursuant to the motion adopted in this chamber Thursday, November 23, 2017, Question Period will take place at 3:30 p.m.
Answer to Order Paper Question Tabled
Correctional Service—Annual Number of Active Offenders for the Period of 2012-17
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) tabled the reply to Question No. 58, dated October 4, 2017, appearing on the Order Paper and Notice Paper in the name of the Honourable Senator Boisvenu, respecting the annual number of active offenders from specific groups for the period of 2012-17.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
National Sickle Cell Awareness Day Bill
Message from Commons
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons returning Bill S-211, An Act respecting National Sickle Cell Awareness Day, and acquainting the Senate that they had passed this bill without amendment.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Civil Marriage Act
Bill to Amend a Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Jaffer, seconded by the Honourable Senator McPhedran, for the third reading of Bill S-210, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Honourable senators, today I rise in support of Bill S-210, tabled in the Senate by my colleague and seatmate, Senator Mobina Jaffer, on December 8, 2015, almost two years ago.
Chaput for her work on this bill.
This bill is simple. It proposes to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code to repeal the short title of “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.”
On a personal note, the term “zero tolerance” actually originates with a task force that I chaired in Ontario in 1991, so I am highly sensitized to when the term is used in other applications.
Although the act does address polygamy, child marriage, forced marriage and provocation—values and practices that violate Canadian human rights standards—linking the label of “barbaric” as related only to certain cultural groups is a misrepresentation of reality. It is a targeting of certain cultural groups in a manner that diverts our attention from the fact that the harmful practices are on a spectrum of violence that runs through our entire society.
When those of us given the privilege and the responsibility to create laws that cover our entire society choose to pair words like “barbaric” with “cultural,” we shift attention away from the perpetrators. This is misleading and unjust; perpetrators of violence against women and children are in every social stratum and every cultural community in this country.
The UN expert treaty bodies that monitor the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted on November 14, 2014, a joint general recommendation No. 31. This general recommendation and general comment is more constructively named as it addresses what we’re really trying to end here, that of harmful practices rather than labelling them subjectively as “barbaric.”
Words have meaning, a theme I have often carried to this place. Labelling harmful practices that a minority of members in some cultural groups in Canada may be perpetrating as “barbaric” and specific to those groups is destructive to the fabric of our society. To choose to condemn a cultural practice as harmful has a different impact. It is fact based. It demonstrates understanding of the practice but acknowledges the key point in regard to the practice, that it is indeed harmful and individuals who break Canadian law need to be held accountable.
Therefore, colleagues, I hope this chamber will pass Bill S-210 and continue to demonstrate that this floor is truly a chamber of sober second thought — capable of critical analysis and addressing key issues as part of our promise to serve the nation and, by doing so, to contribute to strengthening our inclusive democracy predicated on human rights articulated in our constitution.
In closing, let me say that it is not often said out loud, but the truth is that the “cultural groups” most often linked to the “barbaric” practices that are illegal in Canada share the religion of Islam.
To quote my colleague Senator Salma Ataullahjan, when she supported the bill in committee: Honourable senators, I ask you to consider that when we have “barbaric” and “culture” together, we separate our communities. That is not the Canadian way.
In thanking Senator Jaffer for her leadership, I send her healing thoughts today, and I want to close by quoting something she said also to the standing committee, that the definition of the word from the Oxford dictionary for barbaric is:
. . . savagely cruel, primitive, unsophisticated, uncivilized and uncultured.
That is how we describe cultures when we associate them with barbaric practices. We paint entire groups as cruel and uncivilized. We live in a country that prides itself on its diversity. By calling other cultures barbaric, we are going against the very value that lets Canada stand out among other countries around the world. This is not what Canadian parliamentarians do.
Thank you. Meegwetch.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I rise today as Government Representative in the Senate to speak to Bill S-210 and to signal government support for this legislation.
Let me begin, as my predecessor speaking paid tribute to Senator Jaffer by equally paying tribute to the senator for her long attention to this matter and her dogged determination to bring this out of this chamber and into the other chamber for consideration.
As all senators will know, the bill proposes to repeal the short title found in section 1 of Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Civil Marriage Act and the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
With the passage of Bill S-210, the short title of Bill S-7, Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, will be repealed. The substance of the existing act we are proposing to amend today is not the focus of Bill S-210. Bill S-7 strengthened efforts to prevent early and forced marriage and worked to protect and support vulnerable Canadians, particularly immigrant women and girls. The short title, however, as others have pointed out, detracted from this substance, and in the words of one stakeholder:
. . . detracts from Canadians having a real and honest discussion about domestic violence and from seeing domestic violence for what it really is, namely, an issue of gender inequality and not an issue of cultural identity.
The government’s support for Bill S-210 reflects not only its support for inclusion and acceptance but also its commitment to protect vulnerable individuals in Canada, particularly girls and women. Bill S-210 is also about a commitment to common sense to ensure that inaccurate and inflammatory language does not divide us.
I should note that during the parliamentary review process, stakeholders, senators, members of Parliament, committee witnesses and the media criticized the short title. Stakeholders as diverse as the Metropolitan Toronto Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children and the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic opposed the short title, stating that it would create divisions within Canadian society by targeting certain communities.
Avvy Yao-Yao Go, the director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, stated during her testimony that the title:
. . . invokes racist stereotypes and fuels xenophobia towards certain radicalized communities.
Further, representatives from the Canadian Bar Association and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants raised similar concerns about the divisiveness of the short title.
Noted immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges also stated that the short title:
. . . deters citizens from engaging in meaningful discussion of the bill’s actual content.
Dr. Rupaleem Bhuyan, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Social Work, also pointed out at committee hearings that the title is “misleading from the serious issues that this bill speaks to address” and recommended instead attention on promoting gender equality.
These are just a few examples of voices that spoke out about the short title. As you can see, many individuals and organizations shared similar sentiments.
Honourable colleagues, Canada values diversity. Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded culturally, politically and economically because of our diversity, not in spite of it. How we express that commitment to diversity is important.
The government supports Bill S-210 to remove a short title that was seen by so many as promoting division and intolerance and as targeting specific communities.
I encourage you, honourable colleagues, to support this bill and to work together to foster an open, generous and inclusive Canada. I trust we can move this bill forward as soon as possible.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Several senators will be speaking to this, and we look forward to getting to the question on this item.
(On motion of Senator Martin, for Senator Eaton, debate adjourned.)
Constitution Act, 1867
Parliament of Canada Act
Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Order Reset
On Other Business, Senate Public Bills, Third Reading, Order No. 2, by the Honourable Terry M. Mercer:
Third reading of Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Parliament of Canada Act (Speakership of the Senate).
Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): I note that this item is on day 15, and I do intend to speak to it; therefore, with leave of the Senate, I ask that consideration of this item be postponed until the next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon Senators: Agreed.
Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Bill
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eaton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Seidman, for the third reading of Bill C-277, An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.
Hon. Lucie Moncion: Honourable senators, I would like to say a few words today about Bill C-277, An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada. First of all, I wholeheartedly support this bill. It deals with an issue that affects us all, or will someday.
Medical advances are increasing in frequency, and they are making treatments ever more effective, prolonging life expectancies even for people who are seriously ill. I will not reiterate the arguments of my eminent colleagues. I merely wish to focus on two points that are worth highlighting.
The first point concerns the categories of palliative care offered, namely hospital or institutional care for patients with a serious or prolonged illness, and hospice care for patients who have only a few weeks or days to live.
Our hospitals and long-term care facilities provide care in a traditional medical framework that is highly technical and scientific, whereas proponents of palliative care in specialized hospice-style residences have developed a system of medicine that puts patient comfort first and seeks to mitigate the consequences of incurable illness. This is a patient-oriented redefinition of what it means to be “well,” and it marks a shift in what determines the legitimacy of medical interventions, from what were purely biomedical considerations to a new set of beliefs around the intended outcomes of the care we provide terminal patients. This approach focuses on the quality of life remaining, not the length of time left, which implies a rejection of euthanasia and aggressive therapy, both.
Palliative care in specialized facilities recognizes the importance of “those who are dying” in our society, and the importance that must be placed on patient suffering as a whole, including its physical, social, psychological and spiritual dimensions.
In an interdisciplinary approach, caregivers, volunteers and health professionals support the dying with an approach to care that is often offered in a non-traditional setting. These hospices often do not receive adequate funding and must constantly solicit donations in order to continue their work and stay viable.
The second aspect has to do with access to adequate funding for hospices. In Ontario, for example, building a hospice-style palliative care home requires a financial commitment from the local community, which can be as much as 50 per cent of the total cost of the project before the province even contributes anything. Once up and running, these facilities are often only partially funded and must constantly rely on the generosity of their local communities. I hope that Bill C-277 can correct this injustice in our health care system.
These facilities are different than hospitals because of their purpose, how they operate and how they are funded. It is therefore crucial that palliative care be available all across Canada, in both urban centres as well as rural areas, and that it be entirely publicly funded.
The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association wants to be able to provide equitable access to the same quality of care to all Canadians, regardless of where they live. Hospitalization and medical assistance in dying must not be the only options available.
The vast majority of Canadians who responded to the Ipsos poll on palliative care beginning on September 1, 2016, believe that the federal government should develop and implement national standards. They would like a palliative care program to become an insured service.
I support Bill C-277 and the comments of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. I therefore recommend that we vote in favour of the final approval of this bill.
I thank you for your attention.
Hon. Renée Dupuis: Honourable senators, I rise today to debate Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada, which passed in the other place on May 30.
The third paragraph of the preamble talks about, and I quote:
. . . the importance of ensuring that all Canadians have access to high-quality palliative care, especially in the context of physician-assisted death;
Many witnesses involved in health care, including palliative care, spoke in favour of the bill when they appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health and the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. I would like to draw your attention to two points that were raised by various witnesses who appeared before these two committees.
First, we must ensure that all Canadians have equal access to palliative care. At present, all Canadians do not have equal access to health care nor to palliative care.
Generally speaking, children are forgotten when we talk about pediatric palliative care. The patchy data that is available show that only a small proportion of children are currently receiving this type of care. Although it is difficult to think about children dying, we must not let that prevent us from ensuring that children have the same access to palliative care as adults. Although it may be difficult to establish conditions for access, the fact remains that young patients too can be faced with the prospect of death, sometimes after undergoing multiple rounds of exhausting and painful treatment. Children’s consent or refusal to receive care must be considered separately from that of their parents.
The executive director of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, Sharon Baxter, also identified some vulnerable populations. She said:
Vulnerable populations, including those who are indigenous, disabled, homeless or vulnerably housed, impoverished, or incarcerated are often forgotten.
That is why she is calling for the creation of innovative models to, and I quote:
. . . meet these populations’ unique needs and to address the barriers they face when accessing services.
These barriers include geography, poverty, lack of supports, comorbidities, mental health and substance abuse.
Second, a Canadian palliative care framework must include advanced care planning, the fourth pillar of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association’s Blueprint for Action 2010 to 2020. The executive director of that association indicated that palliative care programs and services are, and I quote:
. . . often reserved for individuals designated as “dying”. Those tend to be the patient who is dying . . . that needs specialist care . . . but not necessarily those . . . like the dementia patient.
According to Ms. Baxter, 65 per cent of Canadians die of diseases that do not necessarily need specialist palliative care, but do need what she calls a palliative approach to care. The purpose of such an approach is to ensure more Canadians can live well until death by enhancing their quality of life through the course of illness and through the process of aging, and not just in the last days or weeks of life.
This position is supported by the Canadian Nurses Association, which believes we need to place a “greater emphasis on a palliative approach to care . . . enabled by advance care planning” rather than “limiting the discussion to a specific service provided in the patient’s final days.” This approach is guided by core tenets of palliative care, such as dignity, hope, comfort, quality of life, and relief of suffering. According to the Canadian Nurses Association, this care must be provided early in the course of the illness by a range of health care professionals.
Demographic analyses show that Canada’s population will age rapidly, placing greater pressure on health care spending in the coming decades. As the president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, Dr. J. David Henderson, pointed out, we also have to consider the fact that medical science is much more complex than it was 50 years ago, which means that, as he said:
. . . people are living longer with multiple comorbidities because we’ve been able to manage their renal failure and manage their heart failure.
He added that the current situation means that “so often there are not as many caregivers around family-wise to help provide the care in the home.”
Another witness who appeared before the standing committee, Dr. Martin Chasen, who is an internal medicine specialist and medical oncologist and has a degree in palliative medicine, mentioned that Canada ranks 11th on the quality of death index, well behind Great Britain, other Commonwealth countries, the United States, and Western European countries according to a 2015 report by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The index took into account the quality and cost of palliative care, moral support measures, community engagement, and available end-of-life medical care. Canada has plenty of room for improvement. Dr. Chasen said that palliative care is not just about end-of-life care but “has a goal of enhancing quality of life” and should be applicable early in the course of illness. He said the following about palliative care:
It . . . involves the psychosocial, spiritual, physical, and every other domain of a human being. It’s holistic care.
Another witness who appeared before the committee, Dr. Pereira, a palliative care physician and director of research for the College of Family Physicians of Canada, referred to this in terms of integrating palliative care into the continuum of care.
Geriatricians say they provide care to patients for years before the decision to receive palliative care is made. Preparations for palliative care, including discussions about advance care planning and care objectives, cannot and should not be separated from the framework on palliative care.
Subclause 2(1) of Bill C-277 states that the framework must be developed in consultation with the representatives of the provincial and territorial governments. This consultation is essential if we are to take into account the choices that provincial departments have made on this aspect of health care, which falls within their jurisdiction. In addition to this consultation, the Government of Canada should carefully analyze the work that led up to the end-of-life care act passed by Quebec’s National Assembly. I was a member of the Barreau du Québec working group that was created in 2010, at the request of the Collège des médecins du Québec and other bodies, to take part in the study by the National Assembly’s travelling commission on the right to die with dignity, and our work led us to conclude that a legal framework was needed to recognize the right of health care users to palliative care and the obligation of various health institutions to make palliative care accessible.
This work, which representatives of the Collège des médecins participated in, also examined the issue of adult patients who are unable to express their wishes, a core dilemma for physicians. When a patient becomes unfit to consent to or refuse care, how can their wishes be honoured when family members cannot agree on what the patient would want? The Barreau du Québec therefore recommended that care planning be recognized and that adults of sound mind be given the option of preparing advance directives for end-of-life care. I think this approach should be incorporated into the framework on palliative care under Bill C-277, first in the definition of what palliative care is and second in the identification of measures to facilitate a consistent access to palliative care across Canada. This way, palliative care will be fully integrated into the health care continuum and will be there to meet patients’ needs long before they reach the end-of-life stage, so that “existential suffering,” as one witness called it, gets as much recognition as physical suffering already does.
In addition, any palliative care framework in Canada must be created and developed from a new perspective of patients’ relationships with all health care providers, not just doctors. This relationship has progressed from being primarily technical and based on the doctor’s knowledge, where he or she is the only one who decides what is best for the patient, to a partnership between the patient and all health care professionals, where collaboration between them is key. This partnership is defined as a collaborative relationship between the patient, his or her loved ones and health and social services professionals. This approach is consistent with a process of dynamic interaction and learning that encourages the patient’s right to self-determination, free and informed decision making, optimal health outcomes, as set out in the Guide d’implantation du partenariat de soins et de services, published in French only by the Réseau universitaire intégré de santé de l’Université de Montréal. Once a diagnosis has been made and potential care and treatment have been identified, a joint and tailored decision can be made based on each individual’s needs and preferences.
We believe that this is the best approach to take when it comes to palliative care in Canada and that it should be included in Bill C-277. We therefore believe that the third paragraph of the preamble should be amended to replace the word “especially” with the word “including”.
Dear colleagues, we need to listen to what the Chief Executive Officer of the Alzheimer Society of Canada told the members of the Senate committee. She said, and I quote:
One of the biggest challenges . . . is we delay the conversation about palliative care to the very end stages of life. It is time that we take a look at the resources being allocated and that we distil all that is happening in silos across the country into a single framework of best practices for palliative care.
In closing, the societal debate on the right to die with dignity has brought to the fore the debate on palliative care. The absence of appropriate palliative care that is accessible to everyone must not compromise the right to die with dignity. Every patient has the right to plan for, with their health care provider, and to receive the palliative care they need according to their changing condition, while retaining the right to decide to end their life when they deem their existential and physical suffering to be intolerable.
Hon. Marie-Françoise Mégie: Honourable senators, as a physician, I devoted part of my 35-year practice to end-of-life care. In light of the alarming situation I saw, beginning in 1999 I participated in the construction of a specially designed space to care for people at the end of life with respect and dignity. Despite countless setbacks, we were able to open Maison de soins palliatifs de Laval in 2009. You will understand, dear colleagues, that I wish to rise today to speak to this matter that is so important to me. I am referring to Bill C-277, An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.
As you know, this bill would provide quality end-of-life care to Canadians of any age who need it. People who are ill should be able to go through this stage of their lives with serenity, with their loved ones, and in an environment that is reassuring and appropriate for their condition.
Several of my colleagues who are present have spoken on this matter. They talked about the definition of palliative care and end of life. This care is not just for those suffering from cancer. Those suffering from a chronic illness who have reached the terminal stage also need palliative care, but often for a longer period of time.
It is not about healing the patient, but providing holistic and acute care to improve the quality of life of the patient and his or her loved ones. Effective relief from pain and other symptoms as well as spiritual and psychological counselling contribute to achieving that objective. This definition was not widely known by the public only 15 years ago. I often faced opposition from patients or family members at the time of admission into palliative care. The fear of being “put down” — an expression I heard often — can compromise one’s access to these resources either out of an unawareness that such services are provided, or out of apprehension.
During the discussions on medical assistance in dying, that apprehension ratcheted up a notch. Then, the opioid crisis only compounded uncertainty. For example, fentanyl is an opioid-based drug that is part of the therapeutic arsenal used in palliative care. It is administered by skin patch according to a clearly defined dosage. However, media reports on the recreational fentanyl epidemic have sown confusion among the general public. Now, patients tend to panic when this medical means of relief is proposed. In order to facilitate our approach, we must be sure to provide the appropriate information to those concerned.
My colleagues also talked to you about the statistics showing ever- growing needs in this area and the disparity in access to care and services. These demographic, territorial, and ethnocultural inequalities present a tremendous challenge to the fair allocation of resources.
There was also talk of the existing plans adopted by the provinces, such as Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta, which inspired the members of the working committee on the 2015-20 development plan for the Province of Quebec. This committee also looked at the measures in place in other countries such as the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Australia.
These action plans include public awareness and training for both professionals in the field and family caregivers. With proper training, health care providers can become involved earlier in the care continuum. They will be able to take a palliative care approach as soon as necessary, in the patient’s various living environments. That will help better integrate palliative care into the health care network.
In order to fulfill this medical and social mandate, there needs to be a seamless partnership between the provincial and federal governments. Effective coordination between the various levels of government will help promote the proper management of chronic illness and health care that seeks to alleviate the burden on families.
Let us not forget that people have the right to die in adequate conditions. It is the right to dignity. Still today, many Canadians fear that they will not be able to exercise this right that they have as human beings. Bill C-277 promotes the adoption of a palliative care approach in which patients are treated locally. Involving all of the various stakeholders will expand the reach of programs that are already in place and build on current medical advances.
It is for all these reasons, honourable senators, that I urge you to support these most vulnerable members of our society by voting in favour of the bill to develop a palliative care framework in Canada. Thank you.
Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Honourable senators, in this day and age, it would seem normal that no matter who we are, where we come from and how old we are, access to palliative care would be easily accessible and available to all of us, but it is not the case. A lot still needs to be done.
That is why I am rising today to reiterate my support for Bill C-277, An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.
What we learned from the debates at second reading stage and the witnesses who appeared before our committee is that there are no national standards of care or common frameworks. From one province to the next, the data on palliative care is incomplete because of inconsistent definitions and gaps in data collection.
In addition, not all health professionals are adequately trained to understand palliative care, and sometimes assimilate it with end-of-life care. Sadly, patients do not always know that care can begin well before their last days. I, myself, before taking the role of critic of this bill, admit that I would not have been able to define exactly what palliative care is and what the best practices are.
Everyone agrees that better access to information could alleviate some unnecessary suffering and improve the quality of life, and of death, of many patients. Grieving loved ones would also benefit. The measures set forth in this bill should help address most of these gaps.
I applaud the efforts of the bill’s sponsor, MP Gladue, and Senator Eaton, who introduced the bill in the Senate. This is a bill whose time has come.
Honourable senators, at second reading debate and in committee, I questioned the relevance and importance of restoring the secretariat on palliative care and end-of-life care, which was dismantled in 2007.
It was import for me to understand why they wanted to restore a system that was dismantled five years after it was created, taking the Canadian strategy for palliative and end-of-life care along with it. This framework was supposed to assist us in this present endeavour.
The experts’ response is clear and unanimous. There is no doubt about the importance of the secretariat. In fact, its dismantling was not justified in the first place. All in all, it was a bit of wasted time. I hope the work already done by the secretariat will be used to develop a coordinated pan-Canadian approach to palliative care.
Pediatric palliative care is another issue that caught my attention during the study in committee. I share the concerns of the senator who said that, every year, 50,000 Canadian children are diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease, and that 6,000 of them die from it. However, when we talk about palliative care in general, the group that naturally springs to mind is always adults. Children and adolescents are often forgotten. As a matter of fact, not a single witness mentioned pediatric palliative care in committee until I asked a question about it. Nevertheless, this seems to me to be a very important issue.
According to a 2012 study of SickKids Hospital in Toronto, only 18.6 per cent of the deceased children who should have benefited from specialized pediatric palliative care received such care.
According to a Canadian Paediatric Society paper released in October 2017, many patients today who could benefit from specialized pediatric palliative care do not receive it.
My wish is that a future framework will provide a real place for pediatric palliative care that is designed to meet the needs of children and their families. In general, it will be necessary to be vigilant and never forget anyone. It will be necessary to ensure that groups such as persons with disabilities, for example, are not forgotten. The same thing, of course, applies to palliative care for Aboriginal people. We should ensure that the needs of each group, physical needs, of course, but also cultural and spiritual needs, are always taken into account.
In my second reading speech, I mentioned that this bill did not highlight the importance of public information and awareness about palliative care. The amendment that I will introduce later is intended to help Canadians know what palliative care is, what it does and when it should be accessed.
Honourable colleagues, the last time that we talked at length about palliative care in this chamber was in June 2016, when we examined Bill C-14 on physician-assisted dying. Thanks to Senator Eaton’s proposal, in order to get medical assistance in dying, a patient must first be informed of the methods available to ease his or her suffering, in other words, palliative care.
In introducing her amendment, Senator Eaton made the following comment:
We’ve heard much about palliative care in the debate around this issue, but my research has taught me that few truly understand the real nature of palliative care and its benefits.
In her remarks in the same debate, Senator Cordy highlighted that Canadians really need to know better what palliative is because it allows them to die with dignity.
Senator Unger told us the story of a young man who wanted nothing to do with hospice care because he and his family were “focused on life.” They were convinced that people died shortly after being admitted to hospice. Of course, that is not the case. When this young man’s symptoms grew worse, his family finally decided to take him to the palliative care unit, a decision they did not regret.
According to a 2014 Harris/Decima survey, 73 per cent of Canadians would like more information to plan and start important conversations about palliative and end-of-life care. According to the same survey, 80 per cent also think that these conversations should begin when people are in good health or when they have been diagnosed with an illness limiting their life expectancy.
As it stands, the bill addresses the definition of palliative care, research and data collection, and emphasizes, among other things, equal access and training for health care providers and other caregivers. It seems to me that all these efforts would not have the desired effect if Canadians, for whom we are working to increase and improve the quality of palliative care, are not informed of the benefits that they can derive from this type of care. While equal access is very important, public awareness is, in my opinion, equally important, and the bill does not address this issue directly. That is what I’m trying to correct with my proposal.
My intention is certainly not to undermine or to kill the bill; I want to make it better. I know the process can take longer for a private member’s bill, but I truly believe the bill is so important that, if my proposal is accepted, the House of Commons will find a way to get it back to us as quickly as possible. I understand the concerns related to private members’ bills, but I don’t see that as a reason not to give them due consideration.
It is, after all, our duty to help improve the bill, and that is my intention here. I am not the only one who believes this amendment is the right thing to do. In its recommendation No. 19, the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying proposed developing a public awareness campaign on palliative care.
During the Senate committee’s hearings on this bill in October, witnesses from the Canadian Cancer Society told us that only 54 per cent of Canadians knew the care was available and that very few of them actually access it. According to one of the witnesses, this speaks to the need for public education about how palliative care does not refer only to end-of-life care and should be discussed at the diagnosis stage and even before that.
Dr. Henderson, of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, also emphasized that raising public awareness would help people understand what we are talking about. When the Canadian Nurses Association appeared before the committee, it also talked about the need for such a public awareness campaign.
I will stick to these examples because there are a great many of them, and they are readily accessible.
My intention with this amendment is to ensure that these recommendations are not put in drawers or boxes. I must admit that I hesitated because I am aware of the urgency that drives us to pass this bill as quickly as possible. It is important to not waste time and to ensure that palliative care is accessible everywhere in Canada and to all Canadians: the youngest and the oldest, at home, in the hospital, in a care facility or in a long-term or palliative care home. This strong desire of Canadians to have palliative care should motivate us to pass this bill as soon as possible.
The debate on medical aid in dying highlighted the failures of our palliative care system. While it’s urgent to correct these shortcomings, rushing the process should not be an option for such an important issue.
I would understand that some of us may suggest governments will not ignore the public awareness component despite its absence in the bill. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, and I believe that by adding this clause to the bill we will make it a requirement and, at the same time, ensure that this component will really be taken into account as it should.
In conclusion, I want to remind senators that public information and awareness were two of the five key areas for action of the former Secretariat on Palliative and End-of-Life Care. One of the five working groups was tasked with increasing awareness of these issues among Canadians by identifying tools for disseminating information, with attention given to ethical and spiritual considerations and to community-based and cultural sensitivities.
Adopting my proposal will help put Canadians at the centre of this debate, which vitally concerns them.
Motion in Amendment
Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:
That Bill C-277 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 2, on page 2,
(a)by replacing line 12 with the following:
“frameworks, strategies and best practices;”; and
(b)by replacing line 15 with the following:
“End-of-Life Care; and
(h)identifies measures for public education and awareness on palliative care.”.
The Hon. the Speaker: On debate, Senator Martin?
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I have one question for Senator Petitclerc.
Senator, I listened carefully to you. I know in all your work with bills up to this point, including this bill, you put considerable thought and research into what you do, but I’m curious about something. I know this is a very concise bill, but couldn’t what you’re proposing in your amendment be done at the regulatory level?
Senator Petitclerc: It could be addressed by regulation. You are correct. However, from everything that we have heard in committee — both by reading and from research — when we look at the numbers, only one Canadian out of two even knows what those health care services are. Furthermore, even if some of them know what they are, they wouldn’t know where to get them or when they should go to access it.
Looking at all the priorities, you are right. The bill isn’t that long. Some priorities are identified when it comes to addressing this framework. However, after deep reflection on my part, I feel that public education and awareness belongs there. I feel this is important. When you think about it, we have all of these recommendations and priorities when it comes to access to and education of medical experts. However, if all this is done in the best way possible and we come up with the best framework ever for palliative care but Canadians don’t know about it, how will we succeed? To me, it is really a priority at the same level as the ones that have been identified.
That’s where I come from by proposing this amendment.
Senator Martin: I agree with you that education is essential. On something as critical as a health service that all of us — whether it’s ourselves or our family members — will be utilizing, it is important that people know what they have available to them. However, isn’t it a given that in passing this bill unamended, public education will be part of what Health Canada will do because it is such an essential service that everyone should be aware of?
Moving this amendment will do certain things. We’ve had a discussion about this with other bills, but sending it back further delays it. The Minister of Health was in our chamber and she recognized the importance of it.
I’m just wondering why you are moving the amendment at this time.
Senator Petitclerc: When we looked at the past — because we have had the secretariat and different strategies, initiatives and frameworks in different provinces and on a national level — we realized that people still didn’t know what palliative care was. I think the way to address it is to really make it a priority.
You are correct; we think we can assume it should be done. However, clearly it has not been done because we would have results when it comes to people knowing what the care is and how to access it.
I say in my speech “better be safe than sorry,” but that’s how I feel. If we want this bill to pass, and if the framework is so important for Canadians, then it has to be done right in order to have results. That’s what we want. We want results. We want Canadians to have access to everything that we are going to do in this framework in the best possible way that they can. But they need to know about it, and that needs to be the priority.
If I had the confidence that it would be done, I would totally agree with you. However, if we look at the history, clearly it wasn’t enough. I think we have to be very specific.
Hon. Art Eggleton: I can’t recall all the observations that were made at committee at the time, but have you considered that this could be part of an observation?
Senator Petitclerc: Thank you for your question.
I didn’t consider it at the time. I have to be honest with you about this reflection. I had it at the time because so many people mentioned it and at all levels. So many people mentioned how important it was to have public education and awareness that I was also under the impression that it was obvious that it would happen. However, after studying, thinking and re-reading and getting ready for third reading debate, I came to the strong belief that we have to go one step further with this amendment.
Hon. Renée Dupuis: Thank you for your speech, Senator Petitclerc. I have a question about the vocabulary used in the amendment. Clause 2 of Bill C-277 before us lists a certain number of items. You propose adding item (h). The list goes from (a) to (g) inclusive, and it is clear that there are some nuances in the way the chosen wording calls for a framework that “defines,” “determines,” and “identifies.” There is a kind of descending order.
To make sure I understand your amendment, you want this to be included in the bill, because you want to make sure that there are education and awareness measures in place. Would it not be better to formulate it in a way that rules out any possibility of merely identifying — or “envisager” — without taking any practical action, which would go against your proposal?
In other words, I think we need to choose the term carefully, because someone could sit for the next 40 years and identify all kinds of measures without ever including any in the plan, all because we chose to say “identify measures” — “envisager des mesures” — without specifying that these must be included in the plan.
Do you want the people tasked with developing the plan to propose measures or adopt them?
Senator Petitclerc: Thank you for your question. With the help of legal counsel, we really took the time to carefully choose the words and make sure they are consistent with the recommendations based on the various priorities. My understanding is that they are essentially consistent with the other recommendations and priorities. For instance, paragraph 2(1)(c) reads as follows: “identifies measures to support palliative care providers”. We essentially took the same approach, acting on the advice I was given.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: I would like to ask if the honourable senator would take a question.
Senator Petitclerc, this bill has been widely supported in the other place, which doesn’t always happen, and it has been blessed by the government. The principle of palliative care was widely discussed in the debate in this chamber on the assisted death and dying legislation. I’ve heard strong support from our colleagues in this chamber.
I guess I just want to ask you this frankly, not having been in the committee discussion. I think it’s a principle that we should not tamper lightly with the will of the elected lower house. I’m just wondering if you’ve thought of the implications. We had this debate in chamber on Bill S-3, the implications of sending it back to the other chamber. Are you concerned there’s a risk that with all the other legislative priorities and pressures upon all of us and the other place, the effect of your amendment being to kill the bill?
Senator Petitclerc: Thank you for your question.
My short answer is that I am more trustful than worried. I believe that this bill is clearly not political, that everybody, no matter where they are, cares very much about making sure that we have the best possible framework on palliative care.
You are right that this bill has a huge amount of support. I also support it. I am trying to make sure that it is not only good but efficient.
The best way I can answer your question is that I just trust that your worries and concerns, which I addressed in my speech, will not play out. This bill, amended or not, will be treated with the priority and sense of urgency that it requires and deserves.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I would like to speak in support of the amendment proposed by Senator Petitclerc.
During the study of this bill before the Social Affairs Committee, Ms. Baxter, the Executive Director of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, testified in response to a question at the committee hearings. She said:
We actually are a big proponent of the need to have a public awareness campaign or education campaign, and it was part of the comments that I made. It is not in the bill as it is, and, if there were amendments to the bill, it might be a good thing to have.
Honourable senators, please let me remind you that it was only in 1974 that the first palliative care programs in Canada were established in Winnipeg and Montreal. We are dealing with what is still a relatively young field. Although we have made great strides since those first programs were established, palliative care has always had and continues to have challenges with public awareness. Practitioners in the field understand what palliative care is. Those of us in the public realm who have worked in this area understand what palliative care is. But there is still often a problem with awareness and understanding in the general public.
Another witness who appeared before the Social Affairs, Science and Technology study of Bill C-277 was Dr. Jill Rice, the Interim Medical Chief of the Department of Palliative Medicine at Bruyère Continuing Care, HealthCareCAN. She noted how in other countries there are education curricula in palliative and end-of-life care at elementary and secondary school levels.
Recently I attended an event with Pallium Canada. There was a strong emphasis on the need to educate the public on palliative care. The common refrain that afternoon was that palliative care is “everyone’s business.”
Dr. José Pereira, one of this nation’s leading palliative care specialists, told the story at the meeting about wanting to administer pain control medication to a suffering patient who was dying and in great pain. The family said no to pain medication and to allowing the patient to die pain-free because they did not believe in euthanasia. Unfortunately, they did not understand the difference between pain management and actively ending someone’s life.
Senator Mégie spoke earlier this afternoon about the fear that some families have about palliative care, and much of that is likely due to a lack of knowledge about it.
This is not a case of a lack of education of our medical practitioners, as that is covered in this bill. Rather, it exemplifies the gaps in public education. Still, to this day, it would seem that a number of Canadians equate palliative care with euthanasia. We need to have those discussions, honourable senators, and that is why Senator Petitclerc’s amendment is so important.
In Canada, we are a death-denying society, and it is very difficult for many Canadians to discuss or even listen to discussions about our own mortality. Understanding goals of care is critical to providing appropriate care, yet in our death-denying society, those conversations are often not happening as they should.
We know that palliative care sometimes suffers from misconceptions, lack of awareness and cultural attitudes. Other countries are making sure that their children — their elementary school children — are aware of palliative care. Yet this bill, directing the creation of a national framework, has somehow neglected this important component. We have acknowledged that more education for professionals and caregivers is required, but we have somehow left out public awareness and public education. This is a glaring omission in this bill.
The bill’s preamble affirms the importance of ensuring all Canadians have access to high-quality palliative care. A key part of access, honourable senators, is awareness. You will not access what you don’t know exists.
Honourable senators, I fully support this amendment because, as Pallium Canada says, palliative care is “everyone’s business.”
The Hon. the Speaker: Excuse me, Senator Cordy. I’m sorry to have to interrupt you but it’s 3:30. Are you finished?
Senator Cordy: I am.
Visitors in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of members from the Agricultural Institute of Canada. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Griffin.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Business of the Senate
Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on December 10, 2015, to receive a Minister of the Crown, the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism, appeared before honourable senators during Question Period.
The Hon. the Speaker: Today we have with us for Question Period the Honourable Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism. On behalf of all senators, welcome to the Senate.
Ministry of Small Business and Tourism
Prime Minister’s Travel—Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Good afternoon, minister. My question is in regard to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Minister, during the ongoing investigation into his 2016 Christmas vacation by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and the Ethics Commissioner, the Prime Minister has recused himself from the appointment of the new Ethics Commissioner. Instead, the Prime Minister tasked you to lead this appointment process.
The Globe and Mail reported yesterday that four senior PMO staff members have recused themselves from the selection process as they are now involved in defending the Prime Minister against these allegations.
Minister, you have routinely defended the Prime Minister in the other place on questions that relate directly to the investigation.
My question is: Do you still stand by your defence of the Prime Minister for his decision to vacation at the private resort? If so, do you believe your involvement in this selection process is appropriate?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you. To all senators in this place, I begin by saying once again that it’s an honour and a privilege to be here. I sincerely appreciate the work that you do and I know that Canadians appreciate the work that all of you do as well.
In response to the senator’s question, I will kindly remind all senators that I was invited to this place as the Minister of Small Business and Tourism. I know that all of us work really hard, so I will definitely address that question, but I am one of the few ministers, if not the only minister, who hold two hats, and the third being the most important as a Member of Parliament for Waterloo.
In regard to the ethics question that you asked, the Prime Minister has stated on numerous occasions that he will always work with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. There was a conflict of interest, so he has recused himself and asked me to step in to be able to make this decision.
We as a government, and I’m sure all parliamentarians, respect officers of Parliament and the good work they do. We have brought forward, as we committed to Canadians, an open, transparent, merit-based appointment process to ensure that we have a good candidate for the job who is able to do the work that is expected of them. The officers of Parliament work diligently. They work really hard. All members of Parliament I know work closely with the current commissioner’s office to ensure that we are always in compliance.
Senator Smith: Four of the Prime Minister’s top advisers, including the chief of staff and his principal secretary, recused themselves from the process of selecting Mary Dawson’s replacement as Ethics Commissioner specifically due to their involvement in defending their boss, the Prime Minister, against the allegations.
Minister, you have not recused yourself from the selection process and you have defended the Prime Minister against these allegations on numerous occasions.
For example, you told the other place on January 30:
As was previously stated, the Prime Minister was on a personal family vacation with a long-standing friend. The Prime Minister has known the Aga Khan ever since childhood.
The question is a simple one: Do you stand by your words in defence of your boss, the Prime Minister?
Ms. Chagger: Members of Parliament are elected to represent their constituents and to work in the best interest of Canadians. We have the utmost respect for the work that the commissioner does. She has a responsibility. We know that she is looking into these travels. We believe that it’s in all Canadians’ best interests to allow her to do that work.
As you have stated, in addition to the Prime Minister, four members of his staff have also put in place a screen to ensure that they are not involved in these discussions. However, the team that works on appointments will continue to support me and my team, the same support they offered to every other minister’s office, as they have done with hundreds of other appointments across government.
There is an open, transparent, merit-based appointment process that is in place. We look forward to seeing the candidates who come forward. We look forward to having a thorough interview process to ensure that a new commissioner is selected in due course.
Report of Parliamentary Budget Officer
Hon. Paul E. McIntyre: Welcome to the Senate, minister. My question for you concerns last Thursday’s report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer which looked at your government’s tax changes for passive investment income held by incorporated small businesses.
Minister, could you please tell us: Were you or any of your officials in your office made aware of the contents of the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report prior to its being posted on the PBO’s website or in advance of the briefing given to parliamentary staff?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: First of all, thank you for that kind welcome. This is place that I appreciate being able to come to, and I, as well as many other ministers, have come here for Question Period because we do respect the work that you do.
In regard to the Parliamentary Budget Officer report, it highlighted the impacts of the changes that the government put forward. I received that information, like all parliamentarians received that information.
I was pleased to see that the Parliamentary Budget Officer recognized that the changes would actually impact the wealthiest businesses, as we were endeavouring to do. We know that small business is the backbone of the Canadian economy. We know that 98 to 99 per cent of all business is small business. We know that small businesses employ 90 per cent of the private sector workforce. We know that they help communities across this country to grow and succeed. That’s why I am very proud to have a full voice at the cabinet table to ensure that they will succeed, and I will continue to work closely with the Minister of Finance to ensure that their voices are heard.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister of Finance — I was with him at the announcement — state that our government will be fulfilling our commitment to lower the small business tax rate to 9 per cent by 2019. That was an announcement that very well received by the stakeholders that I represent at the cabinet table.
Budget Implementation Bill
Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Minister, I join my colleagues in welcoming you back to the Senate. My question to you today relates to your responsibilities as Government House Leader in the other place.
As you will recall, just before the summer break the Senate amended Bill C-44, the first budget implementation bill for the 2017 Budget.
On Wednesday, June 21, with unanimous consent in the other place, you introduced a six-part motion — in essence, an omnibus motion — dealing with four different bills.
The fourth clause of this motion rejected the amendments we made, saying that “these amendments infringe on the rights and privileges of this house.” This house being the other place.
The omnibus motion then passed without a word of debate or explanation as to why our amendments were being rejected.
My question has two parts to it.
First, what rights and privileges did the Senate infringe with the amendments to the bill?
Second, the Senate conducted a thorough examination of that bill and proposed a carefully thought out amendment on the tax escalator clause. Colleagues will remember this. To the best of my knowledge, never before has the House of Commons rejected a Senate amendment without some explanation being provided by a minister. Why, then, was that practice abandoned in this particular case? Is this how your government is going to deal with any other work that we do in this chamber?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you. Senator, I appreciate the welcome that you provided me as well. I recall our last time interacting was not too long ago. I’m glad to see you have arrived safely to this place.
I would like to stress, senator, that we have the utmost respect for this place. We know the important work that you do. I know that both the House of Commons and the Senate do essential work in the best interests of Canadians, and that will always be the case. We know that members of Parliament as well as senators play a key role in the legislative process, and this is part of the work that we will continue to do. I really do appreciate any constructive feedback, constructive amendments that are provided. We have seen on numerous occasions where amendments were provided from this place and very well received by the other place.
I will also continue to encourage members of Parliament, as well as ministers, to make sure that we are providing important information that senators are requesting, to ensure that we have good legislation that is advancing.
When it comes to the conversation, the discussion in the other place, members of Parliament have certain views. They are able to share them and I believe that is always going to be the case. We are here to share our views and to have, I would say, a diverse, respectful debate. That’s what we will continue to do. I personally will always say that I appreciate your work and I look forward to continuing to work with yourself, as well as all senators.
Senator Day: I have a short supplementary question. We’re interested in knowing what rights and privileges we might have infringed. There was no debate whatsoever, so we have no understanding as to why our amendment was rejected.
Ms. Chagger: I would say, senator, that the Government Representative shared your views, both in this place as well as the other place. We will continue to ensure that those views are heard and shared.
Workers in the Arts Community
Hon. René Cormier: As I have already mentioned in this chamber, according to an investigation conducted by LaRochelle-Côté and Uppal for Statistics Canada, the unincorporated self-employed earn an average annual income of $38,900, compared to an average of $52,400 among salaried Canadian. This gap widens even more when we consider self-employed workers in the arts and cultural industries. Indeed, with an average annual income of $22,700, the Canadian artist lives below the poverty line set at $23,640.
In light of this information and of the need, as you and your cabinet colleagues have repeated many times, to increase the number of qualified, creative, and innovative workers, it is apparent that one of the most creative categories of our workforce in Canada live in very precarious situations. What do you intend to do to ensure that the programs for which you are responsible, such as the Canada small business financing program and the Business Development Bank of Canada, are well matched to the needs and specific circumstances of the arts and cultural industries in order to improve the socio-economic status of this category of workers?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you for your question. It is a pleasure to talk about artists and the work that they do. I will speak in English because I can speak more quickly in English and our time is limited. I want all senators to have the opportunity to ask questions.
Therefore, with respect to the Business Development Bank of Canada, I can tell you wholeheartedly that I’ve been working closely with them over the last few years. I have pushed to help change the way that institution is working.
We know that the Business Development Bank of Canada is the bank for small businesses to be able to grow and do the good work they do in communities across this country. Something we were able to do was bring forward a $700 million fund devoted to women-owned businesses. The BDC had committed to advancing that fund and having it hit Canadians and businesses within three years. The good news is that in just over two years they have maxed out on that fund. I am pushing to see what those results are to ensure that we can continue creating those opportunities.
In regard to your direct question, I would say that the government is taking a whole-of-government approach for the very first time. Rather than working in silos, all ministers work closely together. Your question is closely related to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. I work closely with her to ensure that those voices are heard. We are creating opportunities to ensure that their voices are heard, to ensure that the system we put in place is not just about headlines but about delivering for the people who need it.
When it comes to the Waterloo region that I represent — and I’m elected by the constituents of the riding of Waterloo — we are an innovation hub. People across the country and around the world know us very well.
The one contingent of the population we have not voiced very well is the arts community. I have been pushing to make sure their voices are heard. When it comes to the economy of today and tomorrow, the arts community will be leaders. And unless we start respecting the work they do, unless we start engaging with them, they will not have their voices heard.
Something I do every single time I hold a round table, every single time I have a meeting, is ask who has been invited to this meeting before and how many new people are coming. How can we push to ensure more people are invited to the table so they recognize that they have a responsibility to not only fight for the challenges they are facing but the ones who come after them?
I thank the people who have laid track for me to be an elected official and do the good work I am doing today. I will keep battling for the people who come after me to ensure that we are overcoming those challenges and creating better ways moving forward.
Small Business Tax Regime—Camping Sector
Hon. Frances Lankin: Thank you for joining us today, minister.
I would like to raise a question about eligibility requirements for campgrounds in order to claim small business deductions. I believe we provided you with notice that this question would be coming.
First of all, I did ask this question of the Government Representative and received a written answer back from various departments. I appreciate the information that was provided there. It wasn’t very voluminous but I appreciated getting that.
I have reviewed all the answers of the Minister of National Revenue from the other place. It consists of about three sentences, in every single response, that we want people to pay their fair share of taxes, we support small and medium enterprise, and we have not changed the tax rate rules. They are the same as they were before.
You’re a co-signatory on a letter to the Executive Director of the Canadian Camping and RV Council that says the CRA is committed to ensuring that business owners have all the necessary information; that if they don’t like the ruling about their eligibility, they can appeal that; and you will base this on accurate information. You have provided a background note on the website, and I would say that while the note says whether or not the business is an investment business or a legitimate small business, it is a question of fact. But this goes on to say that if a campground has less than five full-time employees but does provide significant additional services, the CRA may consider providing services such as these, may change the business purposes of the business, and the more services, the greater the likelihood that the corporation may be eligible for this.
This is not certainty for small business. As you can understand, in some of these small campgrounds, five full-time employees is not the norm. In fact, most of the employees are seasonal. The owner may be the only full-time employee or an overall manager.
We’re talking about 2,400 businesses. The last information we have is that although it was committed to the council that they would receive information at the end of the camping season on the compliance review that was done, they have not done so. But there are 2,400 campgrounds. We have heard that 15 per cent of the 70 that were reviewed in this compliance review have been denied. That’s 10 businesses. It may not sound like a lot but if that number holds for 2,400, that would be 360 small businesses.
If under five employees is the number that is relevant — there are 1,800 of them — it would be 240 campgrounds.
Minister, it’s not good enough for a lot of “may happen, may happen, may happen.” The lack of clarity is the issue here. I would hope we can go beyond arguing whether the rules have changed; they haven’t. The interpretation has changed, and it’s not clear to small businesses. They deserve better from the government than this.
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you, senator. I have to say it puts a smile on my face because this place is filled with really credible people that are able to champion causes that are essential to Canadians and our communities.
The work you have done on this file has been tremendous, and I appreciated receiving the information beforehand. I, too, agree that “may” is not good enough. The challenge in communicating with a large population is that everyone has their own situation, and so the Canada Revenue Agency is dealing with these files on a case-by-case basis. I have been asked to be notified on those cases because we cannot make one ruling for all businesses.
Part of my portfolio, as Minister of Small Business, is also tourism. Ecotourism is one of those areas where people want to come to our country, and Canadians want to travel our country to see everything we have to offer. We’re not just talking about large urban centres. We are talking about remote rural areas; we are talking about that camping experience and whatever it might be.
I have asked for that information. In regard to campgrounds, the Canada Revenue Agency has informed me that they understand that in many cases a corporation carrying on a business may not typically employ more than five full-time employees throughout the year, like you are saying. Therefore, claiming the small business tax deduction is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the Canada Revenue Agency considers the specific facts of each case.
In certain instances, the Canada Revenue Agency will review, on a case-by-case basis, eligibility of the campground business to claim the small business tax rate. Of the over 20,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises reviewed by the Canada Revenue Agency, we understand that fewer than 20 businesses classified as recreational vehicle parks and recreation camps were denied the deduction. Of those, we have followed up to ensure and to challenge to make sure that those rulings were accurate because we want a system that works for Canadians. We want to ensure that when people are coming to discover our country, they are able to have those experiences.
I will also say that as someone who has worked diligently on this file, I welcome the opportunity to continue to push. Because I do believe, when the Prime Minister says better is always possible, that better is not only possible, it is necessary. I look forward to advancing that with you to ensure that the voices of these individuals are heard.
I will go one step further and say that, as a small-business owner, oftentimes, when you are small enough, you are not only the innovator, you are also the accountant, the marketer and so forth. One other challenge does not make your job any easier. If we want our small businesses to grow through innovation and trade, we have to ensure that we are listening to them, engaging with them, and taking their constructive feedback seriously to ensure that we have a system and a government that work for them.
Small Business Tax Regime—Retroactivity
Hon. Denise Batters: This past July, the Trudeau government proposed huge changes to passive investments for small businesses in Canada. These changes were to be applied retroactively, starting on the date they were released in mid-July.
After significant opposition, Minister Morneau, during his climb-down week, said he was backing off that idea. Instead, the passive investment changes would come into effect on January 1, 2018.
Farmers and small-business owners across Canada assumed they would finally get details in order to properly plan, but your government offered none.
At the Senate Finance Committee, Minister Morneau urged senators to “. . . suspend disbelief for a few months until we get to our budget.”
Senator Harder confirmed in Question Period last week that this crucial information would be coming in Budget 2018.
It’s draconian to inflict a 73 per cent tax on Canadian small-business owners. To make that tax retroactive is unbelievable. Clearly the Trudeau government has not learned its lesson on retroactivity. These huge and unfair tax changes on passive investments will start being applied in a month, but no one will know what the changes are until maybe March.
You shouldn’t have proposed retroactivity in July, and, given the outcry on your unfair tax changes, it’s preposterous that you’re trying to implement it now.
Will you agree today to remove retroactivity from the Trudeau government’s tax scheme?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you, honourable senator, for that question. As you know, as the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I work closely with the Minister of Finance, as tax changes fall under his portfolio.
We had released proposals to Canadians. This is definitely a new way of doing government where we are engaging with Canadians to ensure their voices are heard.
What you might refer to as one way, I would respectfully say that we had committed to engaging with Canadians. That was part of the work I was doing by having town halls across the country. The tax rate you referred to I would also respectively disagree with.
The PBO has given a report on passive incomes. We now know that under our plan, going forward, 97 per cent of businesses will see no tax increases on investment income. Changes will protect past investments and income from those investments.
A direct quote from the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report:
We also find that 60 per cent of all passive income is earned by CCPCs with no active business income, suggesting they were set up solely for the purpose of generating passive income.
As a government, we are trying to ensure that our small businesses are able to grow through innovation and trade. They are our job creators. We need to ensure that we are making strategic investments to create the conditions of growth for them, to create those jobs for Canadians. That is the work that I will continue to do.
When it comes to the proposals put forward, I can assure you that I and all members of Parliament were definitely voicing concerns and engaging with the various stakeholders whose voices needed to be heard. We believe we have found a way forward that works in the best interest of Canadians to ensure that our small businesses continue to grow and that the preferential tax rate works for the very people who need that benefit. Thank you.
Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program
Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: Minister Chagger, thank you again for coming.
As you know, Canada has a program to provide an incentive for foreign tour operators to sell tourism packages to Canada. I was very disturbed to learn recently of an experience with this program by a company that brings special programs to our ski resorts in British Columbia, especially since they have been designed to come at a time of year when the resorts are not busy.
This company followed all the rules as laid out in the rebate program as implemented by the Canada Revenue Agency, but after submitting a GST tax rebate application under the Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program on July 25, 2017, they received their rebate on October 6, 2017, two and a half months later, and, they said, “We were disappointed to find that our company was awarded less than one third of the rebate we qualified for.”
Madam Minister, this company had priced their product counting on the GST rebate that they were entitled to under the existing program. They are now out several thousands of dollars and have appealed the decision to the CRA.
Minister Chagger, I am sure you recognize that being treated like this is not an incentive for a foreign tour operator to bring people to Canada.
Can you tell us how this can happen? How can the CRA deny tourism partners that we rely on the very rebates that they are entitled to? Can the CRA change the rules and retroactively deny our tourism partners the money they are due?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you, honourable senator. I have to say that your work on the tourism file has been greatly appreciated, and you know that I have said that to you as well. Even when we met with the all-party tourism caucus, to have your presence helps raise the level of discourse to ensure that those voices are heard.
I welcome the opportunity to follow up on that file; I’m not personally aware of that specific file. I would welcome the opportunity.
What I do know is that we want to see tourism year-round. What we have been trying to do by working with tourism operators — I must say that the tourism industry is a $90 billion industry. For the first time, we have a full Minister of Small Business and Tourism at the cabinet table. This year we saw the one hundred and fiftieth celebrations of Confederation bring in a record number of tourists, second only to 2016.
Next year is the year of Canada-China tourism. I know many tour operators from abroad will be coming to Canada. I would not want to see that incident repeated. I would welcome the opportunity to follow up on that file.
We want people to have a good experience. We want tour operators to bring people to our country. We know that tourism is our largest service export. I look forward to working with you on this.
Not only will I work with you, but as you know that falls under the jurisdiction of the minister of the Canada Revenue Agency. I have no problem, once again, similar to the previous question, of working closely with that minister to ensure that those concerns are addressed.
Policy Communication for Newcomers
Hon. Ratna Omidvar: I join my voice in welcoming you to the chamber.
Minister, my question is about a group of people that I know you feel strongly about — entrepreneurs. May they do well for themselves and for our country. You will also know that immigrants are drawn to entrepreneurship for a number of reasons.
One is that they are entrepreneurial, possibly by nature, taking the risk to come to a new country. Second, they could be pushed toward entrepreneurship because they’re not able to find work, and they often then take their own family’s capital and sometimes the community’s capital into a business venture that has not been soundly proofed.
The Ryerson University Diversity Institute has just tabled a new report that tells us, again, things that we already know, but let me tell you what they are. Immigrant entrepreneurs have a particularly hard time understanding legislation, regulations, the tax system and accessing financing, and they conclude this is not new. It was true 30 years ago and it is still true today that immigrant entrepreneurs do not start off on the same footing as other entrepreneurs in Canada.
What is your government doing to ensure that newcomer entrepreneurs are able to navigate federal and provincial laws and access appropriate financing?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you, senator for that question. In Canada, we often say that diversity is our strength, and not only is it our strength but it is also one of our challenges for those very reasons. We have a system in place that not everyone is able to navigate. We need to ensure that that system is easier to work with, especially as we understand that an entrepreneur holds many hats within their business.
One of the things I would like to highlight is the Accelerated Growth Service. It is a program we brought forward, and I’m very proud of because it actually respects the work of an entrepreneur or a small business owner. It helps you actually get through the pipeline of services that government offers.
We know that there are many programs and services. BizPaL is the website to go through when it comes to regulations and licences that a business needs. It caters, based on the province, territory or community you’re from, to ensure you’re receiving the right information. That website is definitely not perfect and we continue to improve upon it.
Canada Business Network is another website where you’re able to see the grants and programs available to you. Once again, the entrepreneur who is not aware of that website is not able to find that information, so how do we do a better job of ensuring that the right people are accessing that information and have it available to them?
I go back to the Accelerated Growth Service. It works with the whole-of-government approach of bringing together the Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada, the NRC and Global Affairs Canada to ensure that the entrepreneur is provided with an individual who is able to help them get through the pipeline of programs and services so that they know which ones are available to them to ensure they would have some success.
The challenge in that program, once again, is that I too recognize that not everyone knows about it. We have been advancing this program. It is a pilot that is working. The numbers are not quite satisfactory to me. They are greater than were anticipated but, once again, I would say that better is always possible. I need every single Canadian to know of these opportunities.
You’re right: The economy of today and tomorrow is changing. Many people are entering business. One of the things I’m trying to take on is ensuring that when it comes to our young people, they are considering entrepreneurship at an earlier age. So let’s talk to our young people about financial management, entrepreneurship and the importance of business — not when they have to use business because they cannot find a job, but because it is an avenue that they want to consider. That’s part of the world that we will continue fighting for and advancing.
I hope that partially addresses your question.
Support for Indigenous and Racialized Women Entrepreneurs
Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Thank you, Minister, for being here today.
My question is also about expanding opportunity. As you know, women entrepreneurs make up a strong portion of small- and medium-sized businesses in Canada and provide a strong boost to our economy. I want to thank you, Minister Chagger, for your announcement to provide the Business Development Bank of Canada with a $20 million increase to a fund supporting women-led businesses in our technology sector.
We both know the digital divide is real and it is wide. Indigenous and other racialized women often face barriers to accessing financial opportunities, and this can include opportunities from government programs. Nicole Robertson, the president and chief communications specialist at Muskwa Productions & Consulting, told Maclean’s magazine in June of this year that the indigenous business corporation has acknowledged it has a greater demand for loans from indigenous entrepreneurs than capital to lend.
A report commissioned by the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association and Business Development Bank of Canada found that for every one dollar invested by an indigenous financing program, $3.60 is added to Canada’s GDP. There are many examples of indigenous women’s leadership in economic development to support their communities.
How will the government ensure fair access for indigenous and other racialized women to public funding sources as they look to start or strengthen their business ventures?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you for that excellent question.
Part of my mandate as Minister of Small Business and Tourism is to ensure that underrepresented groups are better represented. We know that 98 or 99 per cent of all business is small business, and we also know that 15.7 per cent of those businesses are majority owned by women, and that is unfortunate at best.
What we are not doing very well is maximizing the potential of our individuals. On the other side, today we are seeing an apology to a certain community that was not able to maximize its potential. At some point we have to start putting actions behind what we want to see. That’s why the original commitment of $50 million to that fund for women in tech was essential. To fight for it and increase that funding by $20 million was the right thing to do.
Not only was it a battle to fight for, but it was also so exciting to be able to show the return on it because many people believed we would not have a return. But we do, and our economy is growing.
I entirely agree with you when it comes to the indigenous community. We have to make sure those opportunities exist. Indigenous tourism is part of the world we are trying to explore. We want authentic experiences. Not only do we want them, but we know that Canadians and the world want to experience them. The demand is there and we need to ensure that they are able to set up.
I work closely with the minister responsible. We were able to receive a substantial amount of funding for indigenous tourism in the previous budget, and I will continue to fight for more of that funding.
I will also take a moment to talk about our federal boards and corporations. The reality is that we don’t look at them. That’s why Bill C-25 is such an essential piece of legislation: If we don’t look we will not see, and we don’t know what we don’t know. Bill C-25 is one that we brought forward and that I believe is good legislation that is going to hold people to account, not by having to do something but by making them aware of what their corporations look like.
I believe that is federal leadership and hopefully the private sector will follow. But if people do not take leadership we will never see the changes that are owed to Canadians. I do not want to see us apologizing decades later; I want us to see us putting action to what we know is the right thing to do. We must maximize the potential of every single Canadian in this country from coast to coast to coast, and the best way to do it is by working together and ensure their voices are heard at the table. If they’re not coming to the table, let’s take a moment to ask why they’re not there.
I will talk once again about my round tables and the work that I do. Every single time I look around my table, not only do I look at who is there, but I also take a moment to reflect upon who is not at the table and what I will do to ensure their voices are heard. I will continue to go above and beyond just like I know every senator in this place and every member of Parliament in the other place endeavours to do. I know that together we will make it happen.
I thank you for that excellent question.
2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism
Hon. Victor Oh: Minister, welcome to the Senate.
My question concerns the 2018 Year of Canada-China Tourism. Minister, since our former Conservative government obtained Approved Destination Status, or ADS, for Canada in 2009, over half a million Chinese tourists visit Canada annually, and that number reached more than 600,000 in 2016. However, in the last couple of years, there have been more complaints about a backlog of visa applications and other related issues.
Minister, in your October 19 news release, you say that:
As we approach the 2018 Canada-China Year of Tourism, I look forward to seeing Canada welcoming a record number of Chinese tourists and showing them why Canada is such a great place to visit.
My question is: Do we have the capability to process visa applications efficiently while ensuring regulatory compliance? Do we have enough facilities and resources to host these visitors in 2018? What support, if any, is the federal government giving to our tourism industry to cope with the increased influx of tourists?
Hon. Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism: Thank you for that excellent question as well, senator. I am very excited about 2018 being the Canada-China Year of Tourism.
You are correct that in 2016, 600,000 visitors from China came to Canada. I am pleased to report that within the first eight months of 2017 we have exceeded these numbers.
So I would say yes, Canada has the capacity to welcome record numbers of visitors from China. I look forward to seeing that number grow. As a government, we have committed to doubling the number of visitors from China by 2021. I have spoken with both the Ambassador to Canada from China as well as the Canadian Ambassador to China. Both of them are confident that we can hit that record number well before 2021 by working together.
The Government of Canada recognizes that tourism is an economic driver. It creates jobs in every single community across this country, so when we talk about not only urban growth but rural remote growth, tourism will be the way to go forward.
We’re talking about 200,000 businesses and over 1.8 million jobs in communities across this country. The tourism industry is the number one employer of youth and I’m proud to continue advancing and sharing that message.
That’s why the Government of Canada increased funding to Destination Canada by $37.5 million starting in 2018-19 for a total of $95.5 million in annual funding to attract more international visitors to Canada.
So not only do we want people to come and visit Canada, we want them to come visit to experience what they want to see, because we know that when a person comes to visit and we give them a great experience, they will keep returning for more experiences. As the federal minister, my challenge to every single visitor will always be 10 great provinces, 3 great territories, 1 great Waterloo. But I will always say keep coming back because there’s so much to see. We’re not only talking about the busiest seasons, but we’re talking about the offseason periods as well.
Destination Canada is working closely with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada as well as the Hotel Association of Canada. We have been setting up roundtables across this country to ensure that we are China-ready, to ensure that visitors who are coming will be able to have the experiences they are looking for.
On your question in regard to visas, as you probably know, we committed to opening up seven new visa application centres to be able to satisfy the demands of people coming. Those centres are working well and we are working with our counterparts in China to ensure that the concerns that they have or any challenges they are facing are being addressed.
When it comes to the best interests of Canadians, that is what I will fight for, so I will ensure that they are receiving accurate information to understand some of the challenges for some people who are requiring a visa. For the most part, I will say that we know that people who want to come and visit are able to come visit and tour this great country of ours, Canada.
Thank you, senator.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired. I am certain that senators will want to join me in thanking Minister Chagger for being with us today. Thank you, minister.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Bill
Third Reading—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eaton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Seidman, for the third reading of Bill C-277, An Act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada.
And on the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Petitclerc, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lankin, P.C.:
That Bill C-277 be not now read a third time, but that it be amended in clause 2, on page 2,
(a)by replacing line 12 with the following:
“frameworks, strategies and best practices;”; and
(b)by replacing line 15 with the following:
“End-of-Life Care; and
(h)identifies measures for public education and awareness on palliative care.”.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I move the adjournment of the debate.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Bill
Seventh Report of Fisheries and Oceans Committee—Debate Adjourned
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the seventh report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (Bill S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins), with amendments), presented in the Senate on October 31, 2017.
Hon. Fabian Manning moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans completed its review of Bill S-203, an act to amend the Criminal Code and other acts ending the captivity of whales and dolphins.
The committee devoted 17 meetings to study the bill and heard from over 30 witnesses. I would like to begin by thanking all present and past members of that committee for their great work on this piece of legislation.
A special note: Our late colleague, Senator Tobias Enverga, Jr., was a member of our committee for the past three years. He certainly served very well on our committee and had great input into not only this piece of legislation but everything we did on the committee. He was very well in tune.
During joint clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-203, Senator Sinclair, a member of the committee, proposed six amendments which were adopted.
The first amendment to Bill S-203 will create an exception to the Criminal Code prohibition when the captivity is in the best interest of the cetacean’s welfare and for scientific research. This amendment was proposed to ensure that research can continue to be conducted on captive cetaceans. This was a concern raised during the committee’s hearings.
The second amendment will limit the offence to summary procedure and the fine will be increased to $200,000. This amendment was suggested to address the concern related to the enactment of the new indictable offence under the Criminal Code. The maximum amount of the fine, $200,000, was suggested by former Senator Moore. He stated that the fine needed to be sufficient to deter captivity.
The third amendment made to Bill S-203 would limit the proposed import-export prohibition under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act to living cetaceans.
The fourth amendment is a consequential amendment to a new clause added to Bill S-203, namely clause 5.
The fifth amendment added the new clause 5 which will create an exception to the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act import/export prohibition when the captivity is in the best interests of the cetacean’s welfare and for scientific research. This amendment was suggested to ensure the continuity of research that is conducted with scientists from other countries. This, too, was a concern raised during our hearings.
The last amendment also added a new clause, clause 6, which is a non-derogation clause. This clause is added to ensure the protection of the rights of the Aboriginal Peoples as set out in section 35 of the Constitution. This is in response to a concern raised during the committee’s hearings.
Honourable senators, once again, I want to thank all the committee members. When Senator Moore, brought this piece of legislation to the chamber, we felt at the time that our committee would be able to deal with this measure in a couple of months at the most. But it took on a life of its own and we heard from many people from across the spectrum, pro and con. These hearings were emotional at times, but I feel that committee members put a lot of time and effort into this study and I am pleased today to present the report here, Bill S-203, with amendments.
(On motion of Senator Plett, for Senator McInnis, debate adjourned.)
Canada Revenue Agency Act
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Percy E. Downe moved second reading of Bill S-243, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (reporting on unpaid income tax).
He said: Colleagues, I’d like to say a few words about a bill I introduced last week, Bill S-243, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (reporting on unpaid income tax). Let me highlight some of my earlier remarks.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act to require the Canada Revenue Agency to report on all convictions for tax evasion, including a separate report listing all convictions for overseas tax evasion and an annual report to Parliament. As well, it would require the Minister of National Revenue to report to Parliament yearly on the tax gap, the difference between what taxes should have been collected and what was actually collected.
The bill would also require the CRA to provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with the data it has collected on the tax gap, as well as any additional data the PBO considers relevant to the PBO’s own independent analysis of the tax gap. The reason the tax gap is important, colleagues, is that it’s not a silver bullet — it’s difficult to estimate — but a host of other countries around the world do it. I will outline the reason they do it in the next few comments I make.
The United Kingdom just published a report on their tax gap for the most recent year in October of this year. They indicate they do it because it provides a foundation; thinking about the tax gap helps the department to understand how non-compliance occurs and how the causes can be addressed. It provides important information that helps them understand their long-term performance.
The United States, of course, estimates their tax gap, as do a number of states individually, including California and others. The United States government considers:
An understanding of the Tax Gap and its components allows the legislative and executive branches of government to make better decisions about tax policy and the allocation of resources for tax administration.
In Sweden, as well as giving a general picture of how well the tax agency has succeeded in its task of determining the correct tax, the tax gap map may also help to improve the agency’s risk management. More detailed knowledge of the form of the tax gap and the driving forces conducive to cooperation with the tax system will help make them better placed to use their resources where they have the greatest effort and impact on the tax gap.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that with respect to the tax gap, the governments’ tax administrators and others have sought to gauge the extent of revenue leakage from countries’ tax systems to better understand the impact of revenue bodies’ compliance improvement activities.
Tax gap estimates are also important for us to better understand levels of compliance and risk in the tax and superannuation systems, to inform our resource allocation, and to assess the effectiveness of our work over time.
The problem in Canada quite simply, colleagues, is that five years ago, when I first wrote the Parliamentary Budget Officer — Kevin Page at the time — because of all these other countries analyzing the tax gap, he said he could do it and make it public so that we would be like those other countries and know the size of the problem. The Canada Revenue Agency has refused to cooperate.
A year and a half ago I introduced a similar bill. I didn’t proceed with it because we were very close to a deal with the CRA; we thought we were. That did not happen. There are continuing roadblocks and excuses as to why they can’t do it, even though all these other countries are doing it and their citizens are informed about the size of the tax gap.
In my bill, the reason that I require and ask the Canada Revenue Agency to send the information on their tax gap analysis to the Parliamentary Budget Officer is that quite simply, given their recent track record, Canadians can’t trust them. It’s a strong statement, but we saw last week the Auditor General report that the Canada Revenue Agency was telling Canadians that 90 per cent of their phone calls were answered in two minutes. That is simply wrong. It was 34 per cent. The reason they got to 90 per cent is that they hung up on most of the calls or they sent them to automatic voice messaging.
In the last two weeks they had the government repeating the line that they received $1 billion in additional funds, which is true, but they tried to leave the impression that they were spending the $1 billion to fight tax evasion, when in fiscal year 2016-17, in answer to a question I asked in the Senate, we find out they spent less than $40 million last year, even though they tried to leave the impression that they spent the entire $1 billion. They do have the $1 billion, but it’s over the next five years.
They talked about their international large business investigative branch. I found out, again through another written question, that it was really a reorganization. And when asked specifically, the CRA confirmed that this reorganization did not necessitate an increase or transfer of resources. So that’s another claim that they’re working on.
They also have a track record that causes concern. They spent $288,000 on sponsored content. In February and March, I picked up the National Post one day and there was a glowing article about how hard the revenue agency was working but nothing about what they weren’t doing. It was the most positive article I read about the CRA. At the bottom in very fine print it indicated it was prepared by an outside company and purchased to look like a newspaper article. They did the same thing in La Presse. As I said, they spent over $288,000. So if they can’t earn good press, they simply buy it.
Then we have the more serious problem with the CRA, which is their lack of creativity. They formed in 2013 and announced in the budget an offshore tax information program, a reward for information about major cases of international tax non-compliance. Tremendous program. The informants would receive up to 15 per cent of the money recovered over $100,000. This was a very good program. CRA took great credit for it in 2013. Then we find out it’s an exact duplication of a program that has been in the United States for 100 years, with one major difference: The Americans get up to 30 per cent. If you turned somebody in, a corporation or an individual, you would get up to 30 per cent in reward. We even did that on the cheap in Canada when the CRA tried to reproduce the program.
More recently we heard — and Senator Harder was going to check whether this was corrected — that with the Canada Child Tax Benefit, a wonderful social program introduced by the government, the CRA requires that all applications — and I’m talking about people who are in abusive relationships and may have had to go to shelters with their children, predominantly women — require that unless a couple has been separated for more than 90 days, both parents have to sign the application for the benefits.
Now, imagine you’ve left an abusive relationship and you have to go back to that abusive partner to get them to sign the form before you can get the child benefit. Hopefully that has been corrected, but it speaks to the mindset of the Canada Revenue Agency that they would do that in the first place. I brought this to their attention in the spring, and we hope it has been corrected.
We’ve all heard about the Disability Tax Credit. The CRA quite correctly — again, there’s always partial truth in what they say — said there’s been no change in the policy, which is correct. The difference, of course, according to the diabetes association, is that there’s been a change in the technology. The assisting policy was you had to have more than 14 hours of treatment a week. With the new technology, that speeds it up; we don’t need 14 hours.
But as a result, 80 to 90 per cent of the claims are being rejected. Before this year, the new technology, they were approved. Again, it’s part of the sensitivity that the department lacks when they are dealing with Canadians.
And then, of course, the reason we need the PBO to do more and the reason we need the CRA to table convictions in Parliament is because they simply won’t tell us. You go on the CRA website and there are all kinds of convictions for domestic tax evasion where the department does an outstanding job. If you try to cheat on taxes in Canada, your chances of being caught are extremely high. Your chances of being charged, convicted, going to jail, having your name posted on the CRA website are equally high.
But the record on overseas tax evasion is the reverse. The last time I checked, there wasn’t one name there. Then we have the track record. With Liechtenstein in 2008, one employee stole a list of all the clients. The Government of Germany purchased that list, shared it with all the other countries and gave it to Canada. There were 106 Canadians with accounts in that bank with over $100 million.
As you know, it’s not illegal to have an account overseas. It is, however, illegal not to announce the proceeds from those accounts. The CRA investigated that $100 million account for years and determined that $22 million in taxes were owing. So this is one bank, Liechtenstein, $100 million,$22 million owing. It gives you an indication of the size of the problem we’re facing and how much money we are losing.
Of that $22 million identified, the last time I checked in 2013 they had collected $8 million. But what the $22 million tells me is that some of these people, unfortunately, were trying to avoid paying taxes in Canada. Why were they treated differently than domestic tax evaders? Why was nobody charged or convicted? Because the CRA didn’t charge anyone.
In 2009, a year later, an employee in a bank in Switzerland, seeing what happened in Liechtenstein where the employee who stole the list received a lot of money from the Government of Germany, stole a list. This time, this one bank in Liechtenstein had 1,785 Canadians with accounts. Now, this information fell into the hands of the Government of France. To show you how proactive our government is, our officials from CRA met with the French officials sometime between January 4, 2010 and January 9, 2010. They knew France had the information. Canada and France have an agreement to share tax information.
At the meeting — this is the document I obtained from access to information — Mr. Éric Woerth, French Minister for Budget, Public Accounts, Public Service and State Reformat the time, acknowledged that Canadians were on a list now in possession of France “of named individuals with investment in a Swiss bank.” He invited our government to make a formal request for the names of those Canadian individuals. Just think about that for a moment. We had to be asked to ask for the names. That’s how proactive our revenue agency is in overseas tax evasion. We never did find out how much money was in those accounts because we made such a commotion over Liechtenstein, the CRA simply wouldn’t tell us. We found out since then that nobody ever got charged. Not one of those 1,785 Canadians got charged.
So those are the reasons, colleagues, it’s important that the CRA not be left to their own devices and that we have some supervision of what they are doing over there. The best place to do that is with the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who can get the raw data from the CRA. He has a legal opinion that he can get it. CRA has a corresponding legal opinion. I’m urging the Parliamentary Budget Officer to go to court under his mandate. We met a couple of weeks ago on this very topic. We’ll see what develops. But the purpose of this bill — and for the Parliamentary Budget Officer, if he eventually goes to court — and the whole purpose exercise is for the CRA to be more transparent and open.
There are many hard-working, conscientious employees at CRA. But it must be very discouraging to have a management team that operates the way I just disclosed, that they got caught in a few things.
Senator Harder is here, and I know he had an outstanding, impeccable reputation when he worked in the Government of Canada for leading various departments. But I don’t think any department he ever led would have the understanding that they could act the way the CRA is acting.
This is serious, but you also need to have a little fun. Last week, when I announced my bill, I put out a press release to 20 or 30 journalists who follow this overseas tax evasion. It wasn’t a wide distribution. In the afternoon, my office received a phone call. Somebody was wondering if the press release and the bill were publicly posted. My office staff said, “No, are you a reporter?” No, they were not a reporter. Strange; there was a bit of a pause. My office assistant said, “So you’re just an interested citizen?” “Yes, just an interested citizen. Here is my email. Can you send it to me?” “Sure.”
So my staff member was smart enough to Google the person’s name and found out, lo and behold, not only were they an interested citizen, they worked at the CRA. Had they told us that, we would have sent them the bill.
Here is the fun part. We sent it to their CRA account and not their personal account. So they did get it eventually.
But that attitude goes through the department. That’s the problem with the CRA. That’s a problem that never would have happened — and I see Senator Dean, who had an equally impeccable reputation with the Ontario government. Leadership comes from the top. There is something wrong at the CRA that the employees of the department think they can act this way, they can buy fake news stories, that they cannot tell Canadians what the tax gap is. They refuse to be transparent.
This bill, as I said earlier, is not a silver bullet, but it would help move them down the road to be more transparent and open. Canadians would then understand the size of the problem, the resources we need and what we can do to collect the money.
The Conference Board of Canada, a very well respected think tank, produced a report in February of this year where they estimated — it’s a guesstimate because we don’t have information from the CRA — that the tax gap in Canada is up to $47 billion. Colleagues, if we had collected half of that, we would have no deficit. Taxes could be lowered and programs could be funded. It is a significant amount of money. The root problem, of course, is it’s grossly unfair. Those of us who are playing by the rules, paying our taxes, are being deceived by other Canadians who are skipping the system, hiding the money overseas.
I’ll conclude with this thought, colleagues; I hope I can get your support on the bill.
I always ask when people who hide their money overseas, if they or a member of their family become ill, I wonder if they get their medical care in Panama or the Caymans, or do they return to Canada to take advantage of our medicare, but they don’t want to pay for it. Thank you, colleagues.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Bill to Amend—Second Reading
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Day, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mercer, for the second reading of Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).
Hon. Donald Neil Plett: Colleagues, I rise today to speak to Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day).
I want to thank Senator Day for bringing this legislation forward, and in fact for all the work that he does to honour our men and women in uniform, and especially our veterans. Few people in this chamber, if any, are more dedicated to this cause.
Remembrance Day in Canada is unlike any other day, and the feeling of standing at a local cenotaph or monument surrounded by your community brings about a feeling that is unlike any other. We feel sadness as we recall those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and pride as we observe the unity demonstrated by the diverse crowds who gather together in a moment of silence to honour those who have fought valiantly for our freedoms.
Remembrance Day in Canada is currently listed as a “holiday” and not a “legal holiday,” some suggest, because of a drafting error or oversight. Victoria Day and Canada Day are the only two occasions currently listed as “legal holidays” in the Holidays Act. Bill C-31 reports to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday in Canada.
I read the debates in the other place and the witness testimony at committee with interest. The notion that we could find a way to commemorate or celebrate Remembrance Day in a more profound way is certainly appealing, but I do not believe that this legislation will achieve that. Senator Day is correct in his explanation that this bill will not make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday or give Canadians an additional day off from work or a new long weekend. Statutory holidays in Canada are determined by the provinces and territories, and thereby differ from province to province. Many provinces and territories already recognize Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday.
For example, Remembrance Day is currently a statutory holiday in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Nunavut. Nova Scotia has the Remembrance Day Act and the effect is the same as if it were a statutory holiday. In Manitoba, while it is not listed as a statutory holiday, most industries are not allowed to operate that day, with some specified exceptions.
Ontario and Quebec do not have a similar holiday, which may explain why the few vocal critics seem to hail from those two provinces. For example, while there was a lot of support for this legislation in committee in the other place, I know there were some concerns raised that this change could encourage the provinces to move forward making Remembrance Day a statutory holiday and thereby creating another day off of work or ridding schools of the opportunity to properly educate students on the sacrifices of our cherished veterans.
While this is a valid concern, there is no reason to believe that this would have an impact on how the provinces act. For example, even Victoria Day is not a statutory holiday in four provinces, even though it has legal holiday status federally. In the provinces that already have Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday, there does not appear to be any marked diminished appreciation from the residents, as can be seen by the increasing numbers of attendees at Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country.
In Senator Day’s home province of New Brunswick, attendance at Remembrance Day ceremonies is strong and growing significantly. Senator Day explained how the students in New Brunswick receive a thorough education and understanding of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices of our veterans by having local veterans come to the schools on the weeks and days leading up to Remembrance Day. Then, on Remembrance Day itself, the children have the opportunity to attend the local ceremonies with their families and their communities.
Whether that is the best approach is certainly debatable. However, regardless of our feelings on whether schools should be open or closed on November 11, this bill will have no impact on that. Provinces have the choice of whether to make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday now, and they will have that same choice should this legislation pass.
As for why we would make this change, some are suggesting that by changing the word “holiday” to “legal holiday,” that it would elevate the status of Remembrance Day and encourage Canadians to take the holiday more seriously. While that is an admirable goal, I cannot see how making this change will accomplish that.
Certainly, according to a recent Ipsos poll, millennials are already leading a gradual resurgence of interest when it comes to attending Remembrance Day ceremonies. Thirty-seven per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 34 attended a local Remembrance Day ceremony this year, which is up from previous years and well above the generations of their parents.
Historica Canada believes that the surge in interest in attending Remembrance Day ceremonies may be the result of an increased effort to share veterans’ stories in schools and other public spaces, exposing younger generations to real-life accounts of time in combat. The Historica CEO told CTV News that ready access to information beyond Canada’s borders may also play a role. He stated:
We are more aware of our place in the world, and that translates into greater appreciation of sacrifice in a global context . . .
I would venture to guess that if you asked these patriotic millennials what kind of a holiday Remembrance Day is, whether it is statutory, legal or otherwise, the vast majority would not have any idea. I would further presume that it would have little to no impact on an individual’s likelihood of attending a Remembrance Day ceremony.
Younger generations are becoming increasingly more patriotic and measurably more interested in commemorating our services. I do not think this legislation will have any impact on the significance of Remembrance Day in Canada.
However, whether the failure to make Remembrance Day a legal holiday rather than just a holiday was a drafting error or oversight, or whether it was to demonstrate a slightly lessened significance as compared to Canada Day or Victoria Day, that should be corrected, even if simply for the sake of consistency.
More importantly, if veterans and veterans’ groups feel that making this small change elevates the status of this important holiday and represents a symbolic and meaningful statement of support, I have no issue with that and indeed support that.
For those reasons, colleagues, I believe that this bill deserves further study at committee and will support it moving forward at second reading. Thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are senators ready for the question?
Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)
Referred to Committee
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Day, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)
First Report of Special Committee—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the first report (interim) of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization, entitled Senate Modernization: Moving Forward, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on October 4, 2016.
Hon. Marc Gold: Honourable senators, I would first like to commend the chair of the committee, Senator McInnis, and the committee members on the quality of their work. In fulfilling your mandate, you motivated us to think about how a modern Senate could better serve Canadians. You deserve all of our gratitude for the diligence with which you took on this difficult task.
As Senator Bellemare mentioned a little while ago in her speech, some of the recommendations set out in the report have already been implemented in practice and some are even set out in the Rules of the Senate. There are a lot of things in the report that we can all agree on.
However, both within the Modernization Committee and beyond, there are important issues upon which we do not agree. These surface regularly in our exchanges in this chamber and outside, and at the heart of many of these issues is the question of partisanship.
Some, such as our former colleague senators Kirby and Segal, argue that partisanship has undermined the effectiveness of the Senate and reduced its capacity to meet its constitutional obligations. Others, including many in this chamber, defend partisanship as fundamental and, indeed, necessary for the Senate to play its constitutional role.
This is not a new debate, as questions about the place of partisanship and its relationship to the independence of the Senate go back to the debate surrounding Confederation. But it has taken on a particular importance because of the arrival of a new group of senators, of which I am one, who are not affiliated with any political party, who are not members of a political caucus and who define ourselves as non-partisan.
Honourable senators, I believe the time has come that this fundamental question be discussed more fully and openly here in the chamber. To that end, I respectfully offer my remarks today. My purpose is to shed light on the role of partisanship in the Senate in the hope that it will clarify an issue that appears to divide us.
What are we talking about when we criticize or defend partisanship? In my opinion, our discussion to date has been hindered by a failure to properly define what we mean by partisanship, and to distinguish it from the questions of one’s own personal values and political beliefs. Let us start — but we won’t end — with some dictionary definitions of partisanship.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a partisan as “a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause or person; especially one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance.”
Similarly, the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines partisanship as “zealous support for a party, person or cause; lack of impartiality.”
Consider finally the definition of partisanship offered by The American Heritage Roget’s Thesaurus: “An inclination for or against that inhibits impartial judgment.” These are pretty harsh words; I would say fighting words. Let me offer a more descriptive and functional definition.
As applied to the Senate, I understand partisanship to be the orientation whereby one’s actions in debate, deliberation and decision are informed primarily by a consideration of the tactical, strategic and/or electoral interests of the political party with which one identifies. Otherwise put, partisanship is an attitude, an orientation, that translates into behaviour.
However, as important as it is to be clear about what we mean by partisanship, it is equally important to be clear about what we do not mean.
Partisanship does not just mean belonging to a political party or caucus. Senators can be part of a political caucus without necessarily taking a partisan attitude to their work in the Senate. My remarks on partisanship are in no way intended to disparage senators who belong to a political caucus or to question the legitimacy of caucus membership, provided that their independence and equality as senators are not compromised. I am also not using the term “partisanship” the way others do, to refer to a senator’s deeply held political values and beliefs. You will recall that this was one of the dictionary definitions I cited earlier.
Naturally, as senators, our values and beliefs are reflected in our Senate work. That is both inevitable and desirable. Nevertheless, we need to be clear.
Our constitutional responsibility is to ensure that the laws we pass or the policy recommendations we make respect our basic constitutional principles and values. This is the primary role of senators and of the Senate. We are not here to simply give effect to our personal political views, however deeply held.
To repeat: Partisanship is not the same thing as belonging to a political party or caucus, nor is it the same thing as holding strongly held political or ideological views.
Why, then, do so many people seem to think that partisanship is a problem in the Senate?
The first point to underline, honourable colleagues, is that it’s not partisanship per se, but it’s the behaviour driven by partisanship that is at issue. Here lies the rub. In my opinion, respectfully, partisanship negatively affects the quality of debate and deliberation and, more important, is fundamentally at odds with the constitutional role of the Senate properly understood.
Let me address each of these in turn.
As senators, we are summoned to exercise independent judgment on the matters before us. In this respect, I think of it, as others before me have, as something akin to adopting a judicial mindset. Whether arguing for or against a bill, we are called upon to give a reasoned justification for our positions. But what counts as a valid reason in debate and deliberation?
A valid reason is one that speaks to the merits of a bill or policy. Conversely, an invalid reason would be one that did not address the substance of the issue but was somehow extrinsic to it. An obvious example of that would be the personal self-interest of the speaker, and that is why we have conflict of interest rules for individual senators.
However, if that is so, equally invalid would be a reason that is rooted in the electoral agenda or political fortunes of the political party with which the speaker identifies. We may honestly believe that the party in power is the best — or worst — thing that ever happened to our country, and that we would all be better off if the government stayed in the same hands — or switched hands — but that surely cannot be a reason to support or oppose a bill that is before us in this chamber.
I will be very clear. I am not saying that belonging to a political caucus necessarily or invariably leads a senator to behave in a partisan way. As I said earlier, partisanship, properly understood, is an orientation that informs our actions in the Senate, and it has nothing to do with the political caucuses or parliamentary groups a senator might want to belong to.
More important, nothing in my critique of partisanship is intended to impugn the integrity of anyone in this chamber who defines themselves as partisan. When those senators affirm that they approach issues in a reasoned and impartial manner, I accept that they are sincere and in good faith. However, I still maintain that, to the extent that one sees oneself as partisan, there is a real risk that one’s judgment will be tempered by such partisan considerations. And if and when that occurs, that would compromise the ideal of reasoned, deliberate debate in the Senate, to which we should all aspire.
This brings me to the heart of the matter. In my view, partisanship is inconsistent with the constitutional role of the Senate.
Since my arrival in the Senate, I have often heard it argued that partisanship is necessary and desirable because it enables the Senate to hold the government to account. However, with the greatest of respect, honourable colleagues, I believe that this conception of the role of the Senate needs to be unpacked because, as often as it is invoked, I believe it is, at the very least, misleading and incomplete, if not actually wrong.
First, it is important to distinguish the concepts of accountability and responsibility in our parliamentary tradition. With the emergence of responsible government in the 19th century, the elected lower houses in the British parliamentary system came to be organized around political parties. Partisanship played, and continues to play, an important role in the formation of such political parties, in attracting adherence to such parties and in contributing to their internal cohesion.
More important, partisanship, as embodied in the role of the opposition in the Commons, plays a critical role in our system of responsible government. Opposition parties form governments in waiting. Their role is to criticize the government and to prepare policies to potentially replace the government. This is a fundamental and foundational aspect of responsible government, and it is at the very heart — indeed, it is the heart — of what we mean when we talk of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy.
However, honourable senators, holding the government responsible has everything to do with the House of Commons and nothing whatsoever to do with the Senate. Simply put, the Senate does not have a horse in this race.
If there is a meaning to be given to the notion of holding government to account, one that is consistent with our constitutional role as an independent and complementary law-making body, it must be this: It is the legislative output of the government — that is, government bills passed by the House of Commons — that the Senate holds to account. We have the constitutional obligation to review legislation to ensure that it respects our fundamental constitutional principles. In addition, our role is to guard against majoritarian excess and also, might I add, majoritarian sloppiness and haste. This is especially important when the government enjoys a majority in the other place. Again, however, our role is one that relates to government bills, not the government as such. In discharging this important role, there is no need for senators to act in a partisan manner.
Finally, let me address an important argument against the position I’m advancing. It’s an important one and one with which I continue to wrestle. The argument goes something like this: The Senate is a place of debate, and debate is, by definition, adversarial. For the Senate to do its job properly, it’s necessary that there be a confrontation between differing points of view. Moreover, it’s important that such debate be structured. We would not fulfill our constitutional role if we were to behave, to use a phrase that resonates with me as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, as nothing more than a “collection of loose fish.”
From this perspective, the argument goes, partisanship plays an indispensable role in ensuring that there is critical scrutiny of government legislation in the Senate. Since that is an essential part of our constitutional obligation, does it not follow that partisanship is an important, indeed necessary, part of the Senate in discharging its constitutional role? That’s a strong argument.
The short answer to this question is, respectfully, “no.” To say that there must be a real, structured debate where all points of view are heard is not to say that it must be driven or dominated by partisan considerations. There are several ways in which the work of the Senate could be reorganized to ensure that government legislation receives sustained, critical scrutiny from all points of view in a non-partisan way.
These include revisiting how we structure our processes and stages of legislative review as well as promulgating standing rules to ensure that all relevant perspectives are brought to bear on the legislation considered in this chamber. Indeed, elements of such an approach can be found in the documents and debates of the Modernization Committee, in ideas expressed by earlier generations of senators and in the academic literature.
For my part, along with some others, I have developed some relatively concrete ideas of my own, which I would be very happy to share with anyone who is interested, but time being what it is, a proper exploration of these, at least in the chamber and at least by me, will have to wait for another occasion.
Now, honourable senators, I don’t expect and don’t assume that all of you will agree with my views on partisanship and the role of the Senate. That is to be expected, if not welcomed. As I stated at the outset, I truly believe that these issues need to be discussed more openly and broadly among us and here in this chamber.
I am grateful for the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization for having set the table for us, and I look forward to debating these issues with you as we go forward. Thank you for your kind attention.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Woo, do you have a question?
Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: I do if Senate Gold would take a question.
Senator Gold: Yes, of course.
Senator Woo: Thank you, Senator Gold, for that very learned and thoughtful position. You have been quite clear about your views on “inappropriate” — I think it would be fair to say — role of partisanship in this chamber and how it does not conform to the mission and purpose of the Senate.
I would ask you to perhaps extend your thinking to what your reflections on partisanship would then mean for the presence of an opposition in this chamber, because it would seem to me that such an opposition is a very special class of partisanship that you did not explicitly discuss in your speech.
Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. I’m actually working on —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Excuse me, Senator Gold. Would you like leave to have five more minutes to answer questions?
Senator Gold: Yes, with leave.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, is it agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. I am in the process of working up a text on the role of the opposition. My purpose there is to try to understand better the arguments in support of it.
Very briefly, we’re told that the role of the opposition is rooted in our history and traditions, it is a necessary part of the Westminster model of parliamentary government and that it is necessary to ensure critical scrutiny. These are serious arguments and we need to wrestle with them seriously.
I would say only that some of the arguments, certainly those based upon history and the Westminster model — those arguments in support of an entrenched special status for an opposition in the Senate — are far less compelling than their proponents make them out to be. When we look carefully at our history, we see a much more subtle and nuanced picture. Indeed, we find some extraordinarily partisan senators — Senator Arthur Meighan comes to mind — who objected strongly that the Senate should somehow mirror the kind of government opposition structure we find in the House of Commons. That was a motif one finds throughout almost every decade of the Senate’s history.
Having said that, it is a subject that requires full debate in this chamber. I hope to contribute to it in the weeks to come. I hope that answers your question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Woo, do you have a supplementary?
Senator Woo: No.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Senator Gold, is getting rid of the opposition a political act?
Senator Gold: Senator Tkachuk, I’m not sure I said anything about getting rid of the opposition in either my remarks or in my —
Senator Tkachuk: Senator Harder has. I’m just asking whether you think it’s a political act.
Senator Gold: Again, I’m not sure I accept the premise of your question, senator, with all due respect. The question of the role of the opposition in the Senate, which has been raised in our Rules Committee, in tweets and articles on websites, is something we really need to discuss, and I hope we can discuss it, dare I say, in a non-partisan way. We’re all here to serve the country and to serve an institution that has served the country well for 150 years.
If you will allow me, in some sense, to duck your question, I do so because I don’t want to contribute to a debate that aggravates the polarization around what is too important an issue for us to deal with in that way.
I hope that’s an acceptable non-answer.
Senator Tkachuk: It’s an acceptable non-answer.
Hon. Leo Housakos: Senator Gold, you brought up in your speech that there is a way to have legislative accountability, which we have a right to claim in the Senate, but we don’t have the right to have executive accountability. How can the Senate have a responsibility to hold the government to account when it comes to its legislative agenda — and I think you said that in your speech — without holding the executive branch simultaneously to account in all realms of public policy?
I have another question. You seem to be quite adamant that somewhere along the line in history, this place was not as partisan as it is today. I was just wondering if you had looked into the Quebec Conference, the Charlottetown Accord, the founding of this chamber — the basis of it — and the first group of senators. Can you tell us on what premise they were appointed, and why were they appointed under that premise?
Senator Gold: Thank you for your questions. On the latter one, you’re quite right. You know, as all of us do, that the original idea was to have a Senate that reflected more or less a proportion of political parties, and indeed, that was the case. As I’m sure you also well know, Senator Housakos, almost immediately after, and certainly from the early 1900s and thereafter, on a regular basis, whether it be a Conservative or a Liberal senator — whether they were government leaders or opposition leaders, or in some cases both — and some, indeed, speakers — rose and said, “The way we have come to be doing things in this partisan way — the way we even sit on one side and the other — is anathema” — that’s my word — “is inconsistent with our role and needs to be abandoned.”
Our history is more complicated. We can all quote history selectively. Frankly, we all do it in debate; that’s what debate is about. I’m hoping, though, that we can take a more dispassionate look. And when we do, that it’s a more nuanced picture — one that frees us today to revisit the role the opposition may play.
To your other question —
The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, Senator Gold, your time has expired again. Are you asking for more time?
Senator Gold: I’m happy to stop.
(On motion of Senator Omidvar, debate adjourned.)
Study on the Role of Automation in the Healthcare System
Eighteenth Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee and Request for Government Response Adopted
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the eighteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, entitled Challenge Ahead: Integrating robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing technologies into Canada’s healthcare systems, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on October 31, 2017.
Hon. Art Eggleton moved:
That the eighteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, tabled with the Clerk of the Senate on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 12-24(1), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Health being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report, in consultation with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
He said: Colleagues, let’s talk robots. It is my pleasure today to move the adoption of the report entitled Challenge Ahead: Integrating Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing Technologies into Canada’s Health Care Systems.
It’s the latest report from the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and a study on the future role of automation in Canada’s healthcare systems. The study was conducted under the leadership of our chair, retired senator Dr. Kelvin Ogilvie, and the report recommendations were adopted unanimously by the committee.
We undertook this study within the context of the committee’s history of searching for solutions to help to build a healthier Canada. Most recently, the committee has reported on the needs for Canada’s healthcare systems to adapt and innovate in order to maintain viability, the complexities of caring for individuals with chronic disease, which can, in part, be prevented by lifestyle choices, and the increasing needs of an aging population, particularly of those individuals with dementia.
It was within this context that the committee undertook this latest study into the role of automation in the health care system. We held 12 meetings between February 1 and May 15 of this year and heard from witnesses, including researchers, research funders, ethicists, entrepreneurs and healthcare providers and futurists, who have studied deeply this technology and understand its potential.
In addition to formal hearings, we visited two Ottawa-area facilities where these new technologies are being developed. In recent years, we have seen the rapid rise of automated innovations that can be applied throughout the medical field for the benefit of all Canadians and for the benefit of the systems themselves. By automation, we mean a myriad of high-technology innovations with the potential to cut costs; make treatment and diagnosis quicker, easier and more accurate; and create a system that routinely goes to the patient rather than the other way around.
These technologies will help with hospital workflows and management. In home care, wearable devices and sensors will assess and predict patient needs, while personal robots will relieve home care helpers of many menial tasks.
How do we ensure that advanced technology and the health care system grow together in harmony, while keeping Canadians healthy and successfully treating those who need care in a timely manner? This was the starting point for the committee when we began our study on the use of robotics, artificial intelligence and 3-D printing in health care.
While experts come to the subject of automation from many different perspectives, there is one fundamental aspect they agree on. Our health care systems are on the edge of revolutionary change, and, in order to meet the inevitable challenges ahead, we must prepare, prepare soon and prepare well. The onus rests on the federal government to make sure that we take the fullest possible advantage of the opportunities that will come our way. I will come back to the crucial conclusion of our study shortly.
The most recent report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, released on November 7, estimates that health spending will grow by almost 4 per cent by the end of this year, to $242 billion. That’s roughly $6,604 per Canadian, an increase of $200 over last year. Costs per Canadian vary from province to province, from $7,378 in Newfoundland and Labrador, $7,329 in Alberta, $6,367 in Ontario and $6,321 in British Columbia, just to give you some examples. Spending on health care now represents about 11.5 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product. The unavoidable truth is that health spending is rising, and it will continue to rise. Despite these constantly increasing costs, Canada is not keeping pace with inflation and population growth. This should make us all concerned about the sustainability of Canada’s health care systems that are so treasured by Canadians. To put it bluntly, they are ailing.
Our committee emerged from this study convinced that automation has the potential to revitalize health care, while simultaneously boosting the fortunes of Canadian automation researchers and manufacturers, who have done brilliant work in getting us to the stage we are at. Nurturing the work of these Canadian innovators, encouraging them, supporting them and keeping them ahead of the pack in an increasingly competitive international environment offers great potential for our economy. Of course, the nurturing of innovation offers great promise for the good health of Canadians.
It is not science fiction to suggest that robotics, artificial intelligence and 3-D printing will eventually take us to a place where the average person will be able to anticipate his or her own heart attack, get immediate notice of an insulin deficiency and, in time, see vital organs and limbs regenerated and, who knows, completely artificially built.
The transition won’t always be simple or easy, but the potential benefits for patients in provincial and territorial health care systems will be huge. It could mean a leaner, more efficient delivery of health care, more accurate and quicker diagnosis, less invasive surgery, easier access to distant health care and remotely controlled surgeries for indigenous populations and others in remote and rural parts of Canada, personal robots to perform mundane tasks for home care patients and their caregivers and shorter hospital wait times.
As our committee chair, Kelvin Ogilvie, noted:
People will come to expect the same service on their bodies as they now get for their cars. Whatever the ailment, they will want it fixed today— not months or even years from now.
In short, people will not want to wait for treatment, and that’s going to take significant planning and significant change in corporate culture if the systems are going to cope with these new demands and expectations that patients will have because of the emergence of robotics and artificial intelligence in medicine.
Work on artificial intelligence began in the early 1960s, but rapid developments in computer capacity and the advent of both the home computer and the Internet led to a surge of interest during the 1990s. It can all sound quite overwhelming for the layperson, but, as one leading expert told us:
. . . artificial intelligence is only artificial intelligence until some critical mass understands how it works. Then it’s just a computer program. It’s nothing more.
Robotics and artificial intelligence are interconnected to a great degree. AI — I’ll call it that for short — is the brain; the robot is the body. Of course, AI is already used in speech therapy, diagnostics and blood tests, and we see robots becoming more useful in laboratory and pharmacy automation, surgery, exoskeletons, rehabilitation needing physical therapy, and the daily well-being of the elderly and the disabled. But Canadians are a long way from the full integration that our committee’s study envisions.
3-D printing involves producing several successive layers atop each other, ultimately producing a 3-D object. Another term that could be used is “additive manufacturing,” adding the different layers, which may be a more accurate way of describing the process. It uses a range of materials, including various plastics and metals, as well as biological material, namely, cells.
The technology for 3-D printing has evolved since its invention in the 1980s to the point that it is now economical to use in small-scale production and for customized purposes.
While the technology was initially used in engineering for the production of prototypes, there are several applications for 3-D printing in medicine, including the fabrication of prototypes for surgical planning, designing implants, producing prosthetics and orthotics, regenerating tissues and organs, manufacturing surgical and medical tools and enhancing medical research training and education. In fact, hearing aids are manufactured by the millions with 3-D printing nowadays.
Indeed, we committee members witnessed the 3-D production of a brace for a broken knuckle. It took 15 minutes. It’s anyone’s guess where this technology will be in 10 or 20 years, but the prospects are, to say the least, exciting.
Our report contains 14 recommendations. Most of them are predicated on support from the federal government, which has enormous influence and spending power in multiple areas of health care through the federal research granting agencies — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council — as well as directly for research conducted at the National Research Council of Canada. They are all engaged in this matter.
So we are proposing a federally sponsored national conference that will be a launchpad for initiatives that will lead to dynamic and organic change. Our recommendation is for a coming together of all stakeholders who would emerge from the conference and expert groups with mandates to monitor progress in their own areas of expertise. The groups would be supported and coordinated by a permanent secretariat led by chairs of the expert working groups and in turn would report regularly to the federal government.
For this integration to work efficiently in the longterm, we need to be prepared. We need to keep abreast of developments in the technology, in the use of the technology and in all other aspects those expert working groups would monitor.
Technological developments will be rapid, and if this integration is to work, the partners have to be well informed and develop a mutual understanding, respect and trust. The medical community and the people they serve must have confidence in these new systems.
For example, if the robot disagrees with the doctor’s diagnosis, who does the patient, and indeed the doctor, believe?
These are fundamental ethical considerations, the most fundamental being the need to keep the robotics under human control, however smart they may become.
We will be dealing with massive amounts of data, and, in turn, that raises privacy issues. If we don’t protect patients’ privacy, we cannot expect them to have confidence in the system.
Then there are jobs. Training and retraining must also be high on the to-do list. As with any technological revolution, jobs will be lost. But jobs will also be gained in some areas, and others will change. Properly educating, training and, where necessary, retraining our health care workforce will be vital to the efficient integration of this technology.
So regulatory oversight will be essential, and we look to Health Canada to provide that guidance and to monitor developments emerging internationally in all related areas.
So the challenge ahead, as the report is called, casts us into the future, but a future with a strong enough connection to the here and now to convince us that our hospitals — indeed, all our health care components — need to prepare for significant change.
With the will and support of the federal government and the ongoing productive partnerships among stakeholders, which very importantly includes the provinces, territories and local governments, we can find a way to make this integration work for the well-being of Canadians. We are indeed on the edge of a health care revolution, , one that Canada, with preparation and organization, can and should lead.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to, and report adopted.)
Fisheries and Oceans
Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Maritime Search and Rescue Activities
Hon. Marc Gold, pursuant to notice of October 31, 2017, moved:
That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Thursday, April 14, 2016, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in relation to its study on Maritime Search and Rescue activities, including current challenges and opportunities be extended from November 30, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
He said: I move the motion in Senator Manning’s name.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Special Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report
Hon. Stephen Greene, pursuant to notice of November 23, 2017, moved:
That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Monday, June 19, 2017, the date for the final report of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization in relation to its study of methods to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework be extended from December 15, 2017 to June 29, 2018.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Motion to Photograph and Videotape Tributes to the Late Honourable Tobias C. Enverga, Jr. Adopted
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition), pursuant to notice of November 23, 2017, moved:
That photographers and camera operators be authorized in the Senate Chamber to photograph and videotape the tributes to the late Honourable Senator Enverga, with the least possible disruption of the proceedings.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(At 5:28 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)