The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Visitors in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Ying Chun Jiang, Yi Chen, Xin Ming Wang and You Zhou. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Woo.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Visitors in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Brendan Hagerty, Des Whalen and Rhonda Tulk Lane.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Business of the Senate
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have received a notice from the Leader of the Senate Liberals to request, pursuant to rule 4-3(1), that the time provided for consideration of Senators’ Statements be extended today for the purposes of paying tribute to the Honourable Senator Claudette Tardif, who will be resigning from the Senate on February 2, 2018.
I remind senators that, pursuant to the Rules of the Senate, each senator, with the exception of Senator Tardif, will be allowed only three minutes and may speak only once.
It is agreed that we continue our tributes to our colleague Senator Tardif under Senators’ Statements. We will, therefore, have up to 30 minutes of tributes, not including the time allotted for Senator Tardif’s response. Any time remaining after tributes will be used for other statements.
Visitors in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Denis Tardif and Sylvie Boulanger. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Tardif.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Honourable Claudette Tardif
Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, our dear colleague Senator Claudette Tardif will be leaving us tomorrow.
Her extraordinary career, both as an educator and as a senator, has been a story of commitment and achievement. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. She has an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa. France bestowed upon her their highest distinction, the Legion of Honour. She twice received Le Prix Maurice-Lavallée in recognition of exceptional contribution to francophone education in Alberta.
The list goes on: l’Ordre des Francophones d’Amérique, l’Ordre de la Pléiade, the Alberta Centennial Medal, the Prix en leadership politique Georges A. Arès, and more.
Claudette Tardif began her career as a high school teacher with Edmonton Catholic Schools. Almost a decade later, she moved to the University of Alberta, where she was a professor at the Faculté Saint-Jean, and by 1995 she was named Dean and served in that capacity for eight years. When she came to the Senate in 2005, she had been Acting Vice-President (External Relations) at the University of Alberta.
Her work in the Senate is just as worthy of praise. Today, she’s known as a staunch defender of the cultural and linguistic rights of francophone minorities in Canada, particularly in her home province of Alberta.
For us, her name is synonymous with la francophonie. She was the chair of the Canadian group of the Canada-France Inter-Parliamentary Association for seven years and is currently the vice-chair.
She also chaired the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages for many years and helped write a number of reports on various subjects, including CBC/Radio-Canada’s language obligations and the increase in bilingualism among young Canadians.
As was mentioned yesterday, Claudette also served as the deputy leader of our independent Liberal group here in the Senate, providing our caucus strong guidance and support.
In addition to her many accomplishments she is a genuinely decent person, always conducting herself with integrity, dignity and a deep respect for others. Staff around this place can recount her offering kind words to them and unstinting praise for the work that they do for all of us here in the Senate.
Good luck, Claudette, and thank you.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, it’s a sad week indeed when we bid goodbye to not one but two extraordinary colleagues.
When we are appointed to this place, we arrive ready to make our mark. When our day comes to leave the Senate, we can only hope that we can look back and claim to have accomplished half of what Senator Tardif has done while in this chamber.
We can also only hope that we would have made half as many friends and won half as many hearts as Senator Tardif has done.
I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to charisma, that special and all too elusive blend of charm, elegance and intelligence, Senator Tardif got more than her fair share and much more than the allotment provided to most.
What I mean by that, senators, is that Senator Tardif has that special talent of making a suggestion or proposing an idea in such a way that you are convinced not only to support it but also that it had been your idea in the first place.
Her passion for the French language and francophone culture is well known and widely admired. There is no greater champion of the French language and the right of every Canadian to live and thrive in French.
For this lifetime of work she has been rightly decorated and recognized, and Senator Day has spoken to that.
I have no doubt that the passion she brings to her work and her convictions will continue even in retirement. I appreciate and respect Senator Tardif’s decision to take her retirement early, to leave behind the airports and airplanes, and say goodbye to a world of BlackBerrys and briefing binders.
Senator Tardif has said that her family will be the priority in retirement, and that must include her seven grandchildren. Like her excess supply of charisma, I think it’s fair to say that having seven grandchildren is really rubbing it in.
Senator, we will miss you very much. I wish you a happy, healthy retirement with your family. Good luck!
Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable Senators, today we say goodbye to our colleague, Senator Claudette Tardif, after almost 13 years of public service in the Senate of Canada. Ever since she was appointed to this place in March 2005 on the recommendation of former Prime Minister Paul Martin, Senator Tardif has been a gracious and articulate member of this place, with a tremendous work ethic. She will be missed by all of us.
Senator Tardif has been one of the foremost champions of our country’s minority language communities — not just in the Senate, but in the entire Canadian Parliament. This commitment was present throughout her entire professional career as an educator in her home province of Alberta. In particular, Senator Tardif’s tenure at the Faculté Saint-Jean — the French-language campus of the University of Alberta — gave her invaluable insight into the area of minority language rights. That experience has informed all of her efforts as a senator, particularly during her work as a member and former chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Official Languages.
Honourable Senators, in addition to serving as a committee chair, our colleague took on several other important roles during her time in the Senate of Canada. For six years, Senator Tardif served as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, playing a key role in the daily management of the work which takes place here in this chamber. As well, through her work with the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, serving for many years both as the Chair and Vice-Chair of this group, she has helped strengthen the ties between the two countries.
While Senator Tardif has chosen to step down from the Senate of Canada several years early, I expect that retirement will find her just as active as ever, particularly on matters respecting our linguistic duality, to which she has dedicated her life’s work.
On behalf of all Conservative Senators and all members of the Senate, I extend our sincere best wishes to Senator Tardif and her family as she embarks on the next chapter of her life.
Have a great retirement. I know you will never stop. As Joseph Day and Peter Harder said, you have the charm and eloquence to convince everybody before they even hear you talk.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Claudette Tardif, who is leaving the Senate to take a well-deserved retirement. I had the pleasure of working alongside Senator Tardif on the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, and I was always impressed by her thoughtful questions and the attention she gave to the issues that mattered to her home province.
Coming from British Columbia, where French is not widely spoken, I want to salute Senator Tardif especially for her work as Chair of the Official Languages Committee. Her leadership during the committee’s study on French-language education in B.C. has been a huge boost for champions of French-language instruction in my province.
As a parent of four children who were all enrolled in French emersion programs, I can confirm that there is a growing demand for the program in B.C., but the demand is outpacing supply. The Official Languages report offered me an opportunity to raise the issue with provincial government officials when I was in Victoria several months ago.
As a Franco-Albertan, Senator Tardif has been an ardent defender of language rights. In her former career as an educator, first as a high school teacher and later as professor and eventually dean of the Faculté Saint-Jean at the University of Alberta, Senator Tardif gained well-deserved recognition as a teacher and education administrator who inspired and motivated students and colleagues alike.
Her diligence and hard work within her community and Canada as a whole for French-language education has garnered her a number of prestigious honours, including, as has been mentioned already, the Legion of Honour from the Government of France. Even so, it is difficult for any title or honour to fully underscore the importance of the contributions that Senator Tardif has made to her community, to the Senate and to Canadians.
On behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I wish Senator Tardif good health, happiness and continued success in her life beyond the Senate.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, today we must say goodbye to another of our colleagues retiring early from this place, the Honourable Senator Claudette Tardif.
A proud Albertan, educator and defender of minority language rights, Senator Tardif has been a member of this place since 2005. I was appointed two years earlier, so she and I have grown into the job over the years together, particularly with the Agriculture Committee.
We travelled together on many fact-finding missions, learning a lot about this great country of ours. Her dedication and devotion to the French language and culture are second to none. Among her many accolades, as you’ve already heard and I would like to point out, is the prestigious National Order of the Legion of Honour.
She also served as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I learned a lot from her over those years, something we both share with Senator Fraser, who is retiring early as well.
I wish you well, Claudette, and all the best for you and your family in the years to come. We may not have travelled to Paris, but we will always have Agriculture.
Hon. Jane Cordy: As with Senator Fraser yesterday, I am pleased and happy to speak in honour of Senator Tardif today, but I am saddened that she too is leaving the Senate.
Claudette has made an exceptional contribution to the Senate on behalf of all Canadians and, of course, on behalf of her province of Alberta. I would like to note particularly her advocacy for linguistic minorities, as others have done today. Coming from Nova Scotia with its large Acadian population, I know this advocacy has been most welcome.
Senator Tardif served as our deputy leader for a number of years, and as those who have served and who now serve in this position know, being deputy leader involves a lot of work.
Claudette was always well prepared and informed when our caucus discussed issues and legislation, as she was also here in this chamber.
In addition to her work ethic and her intelligence, Claudette is also one of the nicest, kindest people I have had the pleasure to know. Even if she disagrees with you, she does so with a smile.
On a personal note, those who were on Parliament Hill on October 22, 2014, will never forget the shooting in Centre Block. At the end of a very long day and a very long night, Senator Tardif offered me a drive home since we live close to one another. I’d left my coat in my office in the Victoria Building, and if you recall, we weren’t allowed to go back to our offices. As we got close to my condo, I realized that my condo keys were in my pocket. Claudette kindly let me stay in her spare bedroom that night. While I didn’t sleep very much after what had happened during the day, I have to say that it was nice knowing that someone was down the hall in the other room. I thank you, Claudette, for that.
Claudette, you will certainly be missed in our caucus and in this chamber. You have made an exceptional contribution to not only the Senate of Canada and Canadians but to other countries, as shown by the number of awards that have been presented to you. I will certainly miss you and your friendship, and I wish you, Denis and your family the very best. Thank you so much for what you have done.
Hon. Rose-May Poirier: Honourable senators, today I am paying tribute to our colleague, Senator Claudette Tardif. I have had the opportunity and the privilege of sitting on the Official Languages Committee with Senator Tardif since 2011 or 2012, but it was in the past few years in particular, since she and I became chair and deputy chair of the committee respectively, that I was lucky enough to get to know this extraordinary person better. I got to watch up close as a fire and passion took hold whenever she defended official language minority communities and protected their language rights. She always made sure that the various stakeholders from different sectors across the country, such as French teachers from British Columbia, cultural representatives from Ontario, and anglophones from Quebec, got their chance to be heard.
Senator Tardif, you have certainly left your mark on the Senate. Your voice, your passion and your knowledge will be sorely missed in the Senate and on the Official Languages Committee. In my eyes, your departure is a great loss not only to the Senate, but to every official language minority community across Canada. I have a feeling that you will keep working on certain files and that we have not heard the last of you. I certainly hope that will be the case, but I hope you will also get to spend lots of quality time with your family and friends, because you have definitely earned it. We’ll miss you.
Hon. Raymonde Gagné: Honourable senators, though it pains me to see her go, I rise today to pay tribute to Senator Claudette Tardif. Since her appointment, the Honourable Senator Tardif has been a key figure in setting the tone in this chamber, never deviating from the defining principles of the Senate, which are to protect the Charter, represent regional interests, and, of course, protect minorities. Behind her poise and thoughtful speeches is a strong, incisive message fired by a sacred flame. That sacred flame is the development of the French language in Canada and the protection of official language minority communities. That was how Senator Tardif came to be among those who slowly and meticulously laid the groundwork for a comprehensive modernization of the Official Languages Act.
As Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, she presided over the study of Bill S-205 introduced by retired Senator Maria Chaput in an especially difficult political context. This detailed study opened the door to a much-needed national discussion on law, linguistic identity, and the vitality of official language communities. It was in the Senate that that conversation was launched and the foundation for an overhaul was laid.
That same study motivated the 2016 decision by the President of the Treasury Board, the Honourable Scott Brison, to announce the first review of the supporting regulations in 25 years. Minister Brison had the fine idea of appointing Senator Tardif to an expert panel tasked with advising the minister in the context of this review. It is the Senate that has been driving and leading the national conversation on official languages for the past few years and we owe it all to Senator Tardif for having played such a patient, constructive, and unwavering leadership role.
Honourable senators, I know that Senator Tardif’s retirement is well earned, but selfishly I cannot help but feel that it is deeply unfair. I will feel a great absence in the Senate, the absence of an experienced and exceptionally knowledgeable senator who was a mentor, confidante, and friend to me since my swearing in. In the end, our time together in the Senate was brief, but Senator Tardif created a lasting bond for which I am and always will be truly grateful.
Today I salute a great senator, a great Franco-Albertan, and especially a great colleague and friend. Senator Tardif, thank you for everything. Your lasting legacy will live on long after your retirement. As a matter of fact, it will forever be impossible to imagine the Senate without a Franco-Albertan senator.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our dear colleague, the Honourable Claudette Tardif, who is retiring early. Senator Tardif was appointed to the Senate by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, on the advice of Prime Minister Paul Martin, on March 24, 2005, representing the Liberal Party of Canada and the province of Alberta. Before entering the Senate, she was a professor and dean at the University of Alberta’s French language faculty, Faculté Saint-Jean. Prior to joining the Senate, she was the acting vice-president, external relations, at the University of Alberta.
During her time in the Senate, Senator Tardif has served in many different roles. On January 18, 2007, she was named Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and would remain so for the next seven years. She also served as a long-standing Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages until recently and currently serves as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry. She is the current Vice-chair of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, an association she chaired from 2009 to 2016. No wonder she is retiring; she has had such a busy and full life here in the Senate.
Senator Tardif’s contribution to the Senate and both secondary and post-secondary education stems from her dedication and commitment to promote Canada’s two official languages, as well as respect for the linguistic duality in our country, a commitment which has resulted in her being recognized as one of Canada’s foremost advocates and defenders of linguistic rights, particularly for Alberta’s francophone minority.
Senator Tardif’s exemplary leadership and social justice efforts are worthy of praise. Over the years, Senator Tardif has been awarded a number of prestigious honours, including the 2006 Officer of the French Légion d’honneur, the highest award that France can bestow, the Prix en leadership politique Georges A. Arès, l’Ordre des Francophones d’Amérique, the Alberta Centennial Medal, l’Ordre du Conseil de la vie Française en Amérique, the Edmonton ITV Women of Vision Award, and the list goes on and on.
Of all of the prestigious honours she has garnered over the years, there are a certain few that really make her eyes sparkle when she talks about them. I am referring, of course, to her children and grandchildren. She has been known to swell with pride when speaking about them. Senator Tardif, I can assure you that today it is they and your loving husband, Denis, who are bursting with pride at everything you have done in your lifetime, before and during your Senate life.
I recall vividly the day you were appointed. I was part of the class of nine on March 24, 2005. It was an exciting day and we were introduced to Senate life. At the end of the day, you and I, Senator McCoy and former Senator Nancy Ruth found ourselves sitting together on the bench outside of the Reading Room. I treasure the photograph of the four of us taken on that day. We bonded that day.
I wish you, Denis and your family all the best. Lay down the burden of responsibility that rests on your shoulders and enjoy the next chapter of your well-earned retirement.
Dear friend, I will miss you. You have made tremendous contributions to the Senate and to Canada.
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I met Senator Tardif the day we both became senators. That day marked the start of a 13-year collaboration with one of the most remarkable colleagues I have worked with during my career.
Senator Tardif values the role, beauty, and importance of francophone culture both inside and outside Quebec. She recognizes the importance of this culture to Alberta’s rich tapestry.
In all her roles, Senator Tardif came to be known as a person to be reckoned with on cultural matters. Canada, Alberta and we senators appreciate her efforts. Senator Tardif has often been recognized for her work. It is important to note that she was elected and re-elected many times as chair of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association. She received the insignia of Officer of the French Legion of Honour. A school in Alberta was even named after her and her spouse, Denis. Claudette and Denis share an amazing partnership on many levels.
Language and cultural issues are not Senator Tardif’s sole focus. She is also interested in defending human rights, agriculture, education, issues specific to Alberta, and international diplomacy. What stands out for me is her time as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal caucus during some very intense years.
We will never forget her speech on Bill C-210, a grammatical tour de force unlike anything we had ever heard and in which her background as a beloved and effective educator revealed itself for all to see.
She accomplished great things thanks to her competence, intelligence, and ability to marry respect and charm with boundless determination. Through her example, Senator Tardif personifies the excellence of the Senate of Canada and honours our institution. Senator, it was a great honour to serve with you.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I have two specific reasons for feeling such sadness on the occasion of Senator Claudette Tardif’s departure.
The first is that she has earned our unconditional admiration for the authenticity and tenacity of her determination to put her heart and soul into perpetually defending the rights of Alberta’s francophone community and linguistic minorities across the country. Her determination, her commitment and her passion for maintaining the visibility of measures that must constantly be supported to ensure their existence and their future serve as a lesson for us all.
Many of us come to this chamber with a particular cause in mind, either because it was rooted in a previous profession or function, or because it relates to a deeply personal conviction. We might choose to champion women in the prison system, for example, or victims of crime, indigenous people who are trying to assert their dignity and rediscover their identity, people who are struggling with literacy issues, people who are poor or homeless, people with disabilities, or victims of racial discrimination and exclusion.
Many of us use the platform that we are given as senators to promote the values of equality and dignity that make Canadian society a model of civilisation. This is a credit to the Senate of Canada.
Throughout her years in this chamber, Senator Tardif showed us that every day is an opportunity to do something, to say something, to exemplify this commitment to humanity, to tolerance, for that is what really makes a difference. It is also what makes us proud to be Canadian. Her profound commitment is outdone only by her tremendous charm, to say nothing of her kindness, her gentleness and her irresistible smile.
The second reason is that, yes, there is joy in fighting for one’s ideals. I have witnessed this, having had the privilege to share this desk — this Siamese desk, I should say — with her. Sitting shoulder to shoulder with her, I had daily opportunities to share her cause, to admire her unceasingly and to remind her that there are still many senators in this House who, like Jean-Robert Gauthier, Gerald Comeau, Maria Chaput, and Senators Maltais, McIntyre, Jaffer, Mockler, Cormier, Gagné, and Poirier, will continue to speak loudly on behalf of minority communities, communities that can always count on our fellowship and the pride of our enthusiastic convictions.
To my dear colleague and friend, I say thank you for all you have done to keep the flame alive. Your example will ensure that it passes on to future generations.
Hon. Ghislain Maltais: Honourable senators, I take the floor today to bid an emotional farewell to our friend, Senator Tardif. I got to spend five years with her on the Official Languages Committee, as well as on the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. That is where I came to know this great lady and her towering personality.
Senator Tardif is known all over Europe, Canada and Quebec as the “grande dame” of the Francophonie. Senator Tardif, you were passionate and tireless about your work. I saw that firsthand on our travels all over Canada. We shared the same conviction: belief in our language and our culture.
You inspired francophone communities outside Quebec. You protected those who had nowhere to turn. In you, they always found a helping hand, an attentive ear, and a reason to hope. You had an extraordinary ability to draw people in with your undeniable presence, and of course with your smile, which everyone commented on.
I will always remember you as a great Canadian who proved that, in a vast country like Canada, two cultures, francophone and anglophone, can live alongside one another, grow, and create a better future for their children.
I know Denis will be happy to have his wife back and your children will be happy to have their mother back, although I’m sure that you will secretly continue to defend your cause.
Claudette, on behalf of all francophones in Canada, thank you and happy semi-retirement.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Dear colleagues, unfortunately the time for tributes has expired.
I call upon Senator Tardif.
Expression of Thanks
Hon. Claudette Tardif: Mr. Speaker and dear colleagues, I was very moved by your heartfelt tributes and it is with great emotion that I speak to you before I leave the Senate.
I will never forget the time I was privileged to spend in this noble institution. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to each one of you for your dedication and genuine commitment to the well-being of Canadians.
I would like to thank the security personnel and the administrative, legislative, and political staff, whose hard work keeps the Senate running smoothly. I appreciate the professionalism and dedication of these individuals, who have been invaluable to the work I have carried out as senator since 2005.
I also want to thank all of the staff who worked in my office for my nearly 13 years in the Senate. I want to mention Janick Cormier, who worked in my office and who is sitting in the gallery. I especially want to thank my administrative assistant, Sylvie Boulanger, who is also in the gallery, for her unwavering support. She has been with me for over 11 years and will be retiring at the same time. Sylvie, I thank you for your great loyalty, your dedication, your commitment and your professionalism. You were a precious ally in all of my undertakings as a senator. I wish you and André a happy retirement with a lot of time on the golf course.
I thank my husband, Denis, who has stood by me throughout my professional life and who has been a source of comfort and inspiration. Imagine, dear colleagues, making more than 800 return trips to the airport at all hours. Thank you, Denis, for always being there for me. I cannot forget to give a heartfelt thanks to my children and seven grandchildren, who always expressed their love and pride for the important work that I was doing. As I begin a new chapter in my life, I want to devote more time to my health, family, and loved ones. They had to make many sacrifices during my 50 years of professional work as a professor, academic and researcher, dean of the Faculté Saint-Jean of the University of Alberta, and then in my role and duties that I filled as a senator. As you all know, dear colleagues, the frequent absences from home and the demands of our Senate responsibilities can be challenging for families and take a toll on our health.
I had the privilege and the honour of occupying diverse roles and functions in my more than 12 years — almost 13 — in the Senate and to work with exceptional parliamentary colleagues.
The role of Deputy Leader of the Opposition, which I held for more than six years, presented many challenges but also allowed me to see and comprehend the importance of our parliamentary system within a democracy and, more particularly, the important constitutional role the Senate plays in the advancement of legislation and the examination of important issues facing Canada and the world.
Working with leaders of the Liberal Party and their team — the Honourable Stéphane Dion, the Honourable Michael Ignatieff and the Honourable Bob Rae — was an interesting and enriching experience for which I am very grateful. The ability to negotiate, to work in collaboration with different stakeholders and to use a diplomatic touch when necessary were all qualities I found to be essential in the administration of my functions.
I thank my colleagues from the Liberal leadership team in the Senate that I worked with, the Honourable Senators Céline Hervieux-Payette, James Cowan, and Jim Munson, for their support and trust in me. I also want to acknowledge the generous support I received from Senator Joan Fraser. This great, remarkable senator and inspiring woman was a mentor to me and many others through the depth of knowledge of Parliamentary rules and procedure and her wisdom. I wish her a very happy retirement.
I also want to mention the leaders of the current group of independent Liberals, the Honourable Joseph Day, Terry Mercer, and Percy Downe, and thank them, as well as all my past and present colleagues of the Liberal caucus, for their commitment and dedication. It was a great privilege to know each and every one of you and to appreciate all the expertise and experience you bring to your presentations in this chamber, as well as your commitment to the causes dear to you.
I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the significant work of my Conservative counterparts with whom I worked while Deputy Leader of the Official Opposition, the Honourable Gerald Comeau and the Honourable Claude Carignan, for whom I have always had a great deal of respect even though I did not always agree with their positions. I joked about spending more time with them in one week because of our daily meetings than with my partner, Denis.
Honourable senators, my contribution to the development of francophone culture in Alberta in Canada is among my proudest achievements, along with the role I played in the drafting of reports of the Official Languages, Agriculture and Forestry, and Senate Modernization Committees, all of which contained some highly relevant and realistic recommendations. As you know, I am passionate about the development of official language minority communities and respect for our country’s linguistic duality. It was a great privilege to represent the interests and meet the needs of Alberta’s francophone community and all Canadian francophones.
I thank the national and provincial associations and organizations that put their trust in me. I was pleased to give them a voice in the upper chamber.
Throughout my personal and professional journey, two driving forces, education and French language and culture, have inspired my choices, my commitments, my causes and my actions. I attribute my passion for the French language to the influence of my parents and maternal grandparents. They moved from Quebec to Alberta in the early 20th century. As pioneers and settlers, my grandparents always valued the importance of the French language and French education under what were often very difficult circumstances in a province that provided very little support to its francophone residents. I would also like to pay tribute to my father, a man of German and Russian origin, who learned French after marrying my mother and who always considered French to be very important.
Honourable senators, allow me to share some history about the Tardif family’s major contribution to the settlement of New France. Olivier Le Tardif de Honfleur came to New France with Samuel de Champlain in 1618 and became an interpreter after living with the Algonquin, Montagnais and Huron peoples. A respected and admired interpreter, he was frequently by Champlain’s side during negotiations with the Aboriginal peoples. Opening the lines of communication and fostering good relationships was his way of better understanding their culture and building a new society based on harmony and respect. I believe that approach is just as valid today. I sincerely hope that our honourable colleague Serge Joyal’s Bill S-212 to advance Aboriginal languages passes.
Honourable senators, I have been a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages since my appointment in 2005, and I also had the honour of chairing the committee. I am proud of its many major reports, which have had a significant impact on official language minority communities. I would like to thank all of my colleagues who were so dedicated and gave so generously to the committee over the years, especially our former colleague, the Honourable Maria Chaput, who chaired the committee for several years.
I would like to highlight the hard work of the members of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages who are here today and with whom I had the pleasure of working during my tenure as chair, namely, Senator Poirier, Senator McIntyre, Senator Maltais, Senator Mockler, Senator Seidman, Senator Fraser, Senator Jaffer, Senator Gagné, Senator Moncion, Senator Mégie, and Senator Bovey. Thank you so much for your work on the committee, which I do not believe is fully appreciated.
Honourable senators, I would like more senators to join this committee, and not just French-speaking senators. The official languages, respect for language rights, and the promotion of bilingualism in a diverse and multicultural society are everyone’s business. Linguistic duality as a fundamental value of the Canadian identity is not just a framework for providing services in both official languages. It must be an integral part of a comprehensive vision for the future of our Canadian society.
Honourable colleagues, our two official languages are part of our history, our present and our future. They characterize the Canadian identity and represent a fundamental value of our country. The young people that our committee had the opportunity to hear from during the course of our study on the modernization of the Official Languages Act indicated that they were proud bilingual Canadians, and they hoped to see a Canada where every Canadian would have an equal opportunity to gain access to education in both of Canada’s official languages.
I sincerely hope that the government will give serious consideration to the work currently being done by the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages to modernize the Official Languages Act, and that it will show leadership to ensure that Canadians have equal access to services and communications in the official language of their choice. I also hope that the government will be committed to ensuring full compliance with the act by all federal institutions that are subject to it.
I have no doubt that the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, under its Chair, the Honourable Senator Cormier, and Deputy Chair, the Honourable Rose-May Poirier, and with the expertise and commitment of all its members, will complete this important study whose recommendations are anxiously awaited by Canadian society and official language minority communities.
I would like to acknowledge the cooperation of Members of Parliament from all parties, who generously gave me advice on a few occasions in order to help certain files along.
Since I was first appointed to the Senate of Canada, it has been my goal to promote our linguistic duality and foster the evolution of francophone culture in Canada and around the world. As chair of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association for seven years, and later vice-chair, I had the extraordinary good fortune of working closely with some of my Canadian and French parliamentary colleagues on important issues that matter to both countries, while also having an opportunity to share the vitality of Canada’s francophone minority communities with our French cousins. This helped reinforce ties in the areas of immigration, the economy and French-language education across the country.
Honourable senators, dear colleagues, it is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye. I will miss working in such close quarters with you all. I will always be grateful for the special moments that have marked my time in the Senate of Canada. I want to take this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to the Right Honourable Paul Martin, who appointed me in 2005 to represent the province of Alberta. I firmly believe that the strength and power of our democracy have deep roots in this place, this chamber of sober second thought, thanks to the vital and immeasurable contribution of all senators, past, present and future.
Honourable senators, I hope your future debates and deliberations keep advancing our democracy according to our fundamental Canadian values. The new initiatives undertaken by the Senate to improve its operations and enhance its credibility are a step in the right direction. I have been truly honoured to serve our country with you all.
Honourable colleagues, it was a privilege and an honour to serve with you all! I wish you much continued success as I say au revoir et merci beaucoup.
Parliamentary Budget Officer
2018-19 Annual Work Plan Tabled
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s annual work plan for 2018-19, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 79.13.
Agriculture and Forestry
Budget—Study on the Potential Impact of the Effects of Climate Change on the Agriculture, Agri-food and Forestry Sectors—Ninth Report of Committee Presented
Hon. Diane F. Griffin, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 1, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has the honour to present its
Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Thursday, March 9, 2017, to examine and report upon the potential impact of the effects of climate change on the agriculture, agri-food and forestry sectors, respectfully requests supplementary funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018.
The original budget application submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee were printed in the Journals of the Senate on June 15, 2017. On June 19, 2017 , the Senate approved the release of $115,770 to the committee.
Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.
DIANE F. GRIFFIN
(For text of budget, see today’s Journals of the Senate, Appendix A, p. 2928.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Griffin, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Bill to Amend—Twenty-third Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee Presented
Hon. Art Eggleton, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 1, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Holidays Act (Remembrance Day), has, in obedience to the order of reference of November 28, 2017, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
(On motion of Senator Day, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Fisheries and Oceans
Budget—Study on Maritime Search and Rescue Activities—Eighth Report of Committee Presented
Hon. Fabian Manning, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented the following report:
Thursday, February 1, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has the honour to present its
Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Thursday, April 14, 2016, to study Maritime Search and Rescue activities, including current challenges and opportunities, respectfully requests supplementary funds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018.
The original budget application submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee were printed in the Journals of the Senate and adopted on April 13, 2017. The Senate approved the release of $125,000 to the committee.
Pursuant to Chapter 3:06, section 2(1)(c) of the Senate Administrative Rules, the supplementary budget submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee are appended to this report.
(For text of budget, see today’s Journals of the Senate, Appendix B, p. 2936.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Manning, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group
Annual Conference of the Southeastern United States–Canadian Provinces Alliance, June 4-6, 2017—Report Tabled
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 10th annual conference of the Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces Alliance, held in Toronto, Ontario, from June 4 to 6, 2017.
Summer Meeting of the Western Governors’ Association, June 26-28, 2017—Report Tabled
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the summer meeting of the Western Governors’ Association, held in Whitefish, Montana, United States of America, from June 26 to 28, 2017.
Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance Conference, October 1-3, 2017—Report Tabled
Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Canadian-American Border Trade Alliance Conference, held in Washington, D.C., United States of America, from October 1 to 3, 2017.
Canada-France Interparliamentary Association
Annual Meeting, April 10-14, 2017—Report Tabled
Hon. Claudette Tardif: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association (CFIA) respecting its participation at the 45th annual meeting of the CFIA, held in Marseille and Paris, France, from April 10 to 14, 2017.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Implications of the Potential Legalization of Cannabis on First Nations, Inuit and Metis Communities
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples be authorized to examine and report on the implications of the potential legalization of cannabis on First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, including, but not limited to:
(a)Adequacy of consultations with Indigenous communities and organizations;
(b)Authority to sell or prohibit the sale of cannabis in Indigenous communities;
(c)Justice, public safety, policing and enforcement capacity;
(d)Potential effects of cannabis use on Indigenous peoples, with a particular focus on youth, and child and family services;
(e)Access to and availability of services and supports for mental health and substance use; and
(f)Economic opportunities in the production of cannabis.
That the committee submit its final report no later than April 30, 2018 and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings for 180 days after the tabling of the final report.
Captain Augustine Dalton
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the extraordinary life of Captain Augustine Dalton.
The Honourable Claudette Tardif
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the career of the Honourable Senator Tardif.
Infrastructure and Communities
Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate concerning infrastructure funding.
In the 2015 election campaign, the Liberal Party promised Canadians modest, short-term deficits of $10 billion for the next two fiscal years, in part to fund what it called “historic investments in infrastructure.”
As was predicted, this promise by the Liberals of modest deficits was quickly and spectacularly broken. Recently we have seen evidence that the government’s infrastructure program is not going according to plan. It was reported last month, and as recently as today in the media, that instead of operating as a two-year stimulus plan, the majority of water and transit projects worth over $5 billion would require an extension of not just a third year but a fourth and possibly a fifth year to 2021.
The government has a deadline to sign Phase 2 infrastructure agreements with the provinces by the end of March. How do we know that the same delays that have impacted Phase 1 won’t be repeated in the future?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question, and he will know, as all honourable senators do, that we’ve had the opportunity to question Minister Sohi directly on these matters. As he reported to the Senate, and I am happy to report today, the government’s infrastructure program is a multi-year investment, the planning for which is well advanced. This is a multi-jurisdictional effort, as the honourable senator will know, and while funds are committed, they are not disbursed until the appropriate contractual requirements are met.
That is the process that is under way, and it is the government’s firm belief that this program is and will continue to be absolutely necessary to ensure that Canada’s infrastructure is better than we found it.
Senator Smith: I guess my only question is that it would be nice to know exactly where we are with not only the projects signed but also the actual performance.
At the end of March, the government will also formally dissolve PPP Canada as it moves forward with its own Canada Infrastructure Bank. However, we still do not know much about the bank’s practices or strategic objectives, and the government has still not measured the actual investment needs. As recently as today in the news, one of the officials was asked what the needs are, and, apparently, to this point, the needs have not even been put on paper.
It appears there will be time available for the government to do this assessment. In an interview with The Globe and Mail last month, the chair of the Infrastructure Bank, Janice Fukakusa, said: “We’re hopeful that by the end of 2018, we’ll have looked at some projects.”
Between that quote and what we saw in the news today, there seem to be questions.
Could the government leader please make inquiries, if you could check, and let us know whether the government intends to undertake this work to find out exactly where the investment needs are? Or is it content to commit the taxpayers’ money without conducting this type of study? In other words, could we have a list of prioritized projects, because it goes back to the success of projects, who pays for these projects, and how much do the big groups, like the Caisse de dépôt, who want to invest — and they clearly said to us in our Finance Committee that they expect to have big returns, at least 10 per cent.
Could you make this inquiry for us?
Senator Harder: I would be happy to make such an inquiry and to inform the house more broadly, not just on the infrastructure bank, but on the infrastructure program as a whole.
I will remind honourable senators, as the minister said here, that the infrastructure bank is designed to be part of a suite of program activities to partner with and bring more money to the table so that the taxpayer is not the only contributor to the infrastructure needs of Canada.
It is the government’s objective that the infrastructure bank be up and running by the end of 2017. I’m delighted to report that the board is in place and has begun its work. The board is now putting in place its work plan for 2018, and part of that plan is, as the honourable senator’s question suggests, ensuring there is an inventory of projects to which the private sector can become committed and the infrastructure bank can examine and hopefully approve those projects.
I should also indicate that with respect to the broad level of programming from the infrastructure program, as the minister again articulated here, the department’s website has a transparent process of updating Canadians on those projects, but I would be happy to make inquiries and to respond to the honourable senator’s question and ongoing interest.
Trans Mountain Pipeline
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): My question is also for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It concerns the Trans Mountain pipeline in my home province of British Columbia.
As the government leader is aware, the NDP government in British Columbia has brought forward new limits on the shipment of bitumen through the province, which could effectively put an end to the Trans Mountain project and all the much-needed jobs and pipeline capacity that go along with it.
We have heard little from the federal government in defence of this project since the B.C. government made its announcement two days ago. Jobs and investment in B.C. are directly threatened by this development, as they are in Alberta, a province the Prime Minister is visiting today.
In an interview this morning, the Prime Minister said that the pipeline would be built, but he also said, “I’m not going to opine on disagreements between the provinces in this case.”
In the face of the roadblocks put forward by the Government of British Columbia, how will the Prime Minister put his words into action and ensure that this project goes forward?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question, which is further to the question of the honourable leader of yesterday, when I was, on behalf of government, reporting to the Senate that the government continues to be supportive of this project. The government is confident that its decision was in the best interests of Canada, and the Prime Minister, as the honourable senator referenced, today, in a public comment, reiterated the government’s support for this project. The minister responsible is working with his colleagues that are the appropriate colleagues as well as different levels of government.
Clearly, as the honourable senators are aware, there is a different view in another jurisdiction, and it is very important for the Government of Canada to remain steadfast in its commitment to this project, as the Prime Minister indicated this morning.
Hon. Victor Oh: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and it concerns trade between Canada and India.
The Prime Minister has announced that he will travel to India later this month in an effort to promote further trade and investments between our two countries.
Under the previous Conservative government, Canada and India launched negotiations toward a comprehensive economic partnership agreement in 2010.
In October 2016, I asked Senator Harder about the status of these talks, but I have not yet received a delayed answer.
My question for the government leader is this: When may I expect to receive an answer to the question I asked 15 months ago? What is the current status of the negotiations towards a Canada-India comprehensive economic partnership agreement?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question.
As his question implies, the Prime Minister intends to make a visit to India to pursue stronger economic, cultural, diplomatic and bilateral relations with India. It’s an important partner, and I would expect that within that context his discussions with his counterparts in India will reiterate the expectations of both governments with respect to what kind of agreements they might be prepared to consider.
Export of Pulse Crops to India
Hon. Victor Oh: We have heard very little from the Government of Canada about recent regulatory and tariff decisions imposed by India which have negatively impacted our trade in pulses to that country. This trade dispute has continued for some time now, but the situation deteriorated late last year.
For the first time since 2004, India did not grant Canada an exemption on its fumigation requirements. In November, India also introduced a 50 per cent tariff on dried pea imports. Just before Christmas it announced a 30 per cent import duty on chickpeas and lentils.
Could the government leader please tell us whether the Prime Minister will raise our pulse industry directly in his meetings with the government and industry leaders during his upcoming visit to India?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the senator for his question with respect to the decision by the Government of India in regard to the import of pulses and other specific products from Canada such as peas, lentils, chickpeas and canola oil.
I can say on behalf of the government that the government is deeply concerned and disappointed with the decision of the Government of India. The government is continuing to raise these concerns with Government of India, and the government is considering all options to address this issue to support the Canadian stakeholders.
The specific market impact of this decision by the Government of India has yet to be fully determined, but I want to assure all senators that the government is working closely with stakeholders to ensure the competitiveness of the Canadian sector in this marketplace and other marketplaces.
The government is also calling on India to choose alternatives that will address its important concerns without the need for mandatory fumigation. I, of course, cannot predict what issues the Prime Minister will personally raise, but this is an issue of high importance to the Government of Canada. I would expect that the discussions that are held alongside those of the Prime Minister’s visit will respect the latest bilateral engagement on this important issue.
Port of Montreal
Hon. Claude Carignan: My question is for the Leader of the Government. Earlier today, the Montreal Port Authority unveiled its marine terminal plan, a $650-million investment that will create 1,000 new jobs and secure its future for the next 30 years.
Can the Leader of the Government confirm that the government will support this project?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I would be happy to make inquiries and determine whether and to what extent the Government of Canada is implicated in this decision.
Senator Carignan: It also seems as though environmental impact studies have been done. I would like to know the status of those dealing specifically with the impact of the project on the striped chorus frog and the copper redhorse.
Senator Harder: I will add that to my inquiry. Thank you.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Bill
Bill to Amend—Message from Commons—Amendments
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons returning Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, and acquainting the Senate that they had passed this bill with the following amendments, to which they desire the concurrence of the Senate:
1.Clause 9, pages 5 and 6 :
a)on page 5, replace lines 11 to 26 with the following:
“10.51 A company that is subject to an order made under section 10.5 may correct a defect or non-compliance by doing one of the following:
(a) repairing the vehicle or equipment, including by adding to, removing anything from or modifying the vehicle or equipment, as the circumstances require;
(b) replacing the vehicle or equipment with a reasonable equivalent;
(i) the reasonable cost of repairs to the vehicle or equipment that have already been undertaken before a notice of defect or non-compliance has been given, or
(ii) the sale price of the vehicle or equipment, less reasonable depreciation in the case where the vehicle or equipment has been sold to the first retail purchaser, on return of the vehicle or equipment.”;
b)on pages 5 and 6, replace line 27 on page 5 to line 17 on page 6 with the following:
“10.52 For greater certainty, any person, including an automobile dealer, may benefit from any measure referred to in section 10.51 and any payment of costs under subsection 10.6(1).
10.53 For greater certainty, nothing prevents a company that is subject to an order under subsection 10.1(7) or 10.4(4), section 10.5 or subsection 10.6(1) from entering into an agreement with any person, including an automobile dealer, in respect of any matter related to the order — including, in the case of a vehicle or equipment that has not been sold to the first retail purchaser, in respect of the reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred — in addition to complying with any terms and conditions specified in the order.
10.54 For greater certainty, a correction to a vehicle or equipment in accordance with section 10.51 does not affect the right of any person, including an automobile dealer, to exercise any other right or remedy available at law, including a right or remedy to recover reasonable costs incurred as a result of an order under section 10.5.”.
The Clerk of the House of Commons
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, we will suspend until the sound system is addressed.
(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)
(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall the message on Bill S-2 be taken into consideration?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I move that the message be placed on the Orders of the Day for study at the next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Harder, message placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Dean, seconded by the Honourable Senator Forest, for the second reading of Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts.
Hon. Marc Gold: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-45, otherwise known as the cannabis act.
Honourable senators, Canadians are consuming cannabis in large numbers. They are smoking it and they are vaping it. They are making candies out of it, and they are baking with it. And although millions of Canadians use it responsibly, no less so than those amongst us who enjoy our glass of wine at the end of the day, others, both young and old, are using it excessively, often recklessly, with serious consequences to both themselves and to society.
That cannabis use in Canada is a complex social problem, and one that needs to be addressed, is clear. I believe Bill C-45 is the right response to this problem. Allow me to explain why.
Let me begin by stating the obvious. Our current approach is a failure. It has failed spectacularly to reduce the consumption of cannabis in Canada, both by youth and by adults, and has resulted in a large, unregulated and illegal market dominated by criminal elements. This is well documented and needs no elaboration. Indeed, the 2002 Senate report was clear on this point, and as Senators Dean and Pratte have pointed out in their speeches in this chamber, the situation has not improved since then.
Second, the criminalization of cannabis possession compromises our ability to educate Canadians, especially our youth, about the real health risks of cannabis use.
Honourable senators, in expressing my support for Bill C-45 I am not ignoring the health issues surrounding the use of cannabis, including the impact of cannabis use on the developing adolescent brain. I have read several scientific studies in an effort to educate myself on the subject, and although clearly no expert, I am neither ignorant of the science nor indifferent to it.
Nor am I unaware that the cannabis being consumed today is far more potent in THC than that which was available in earlier generations and to earlier generations of users.
But it is precisely because cannabis use can cause harm, especially to those who use it regularly, that I support this bill.
Let’s not forget that the cannabis being consumed by millions of Canadians is produced in an unregulated, diffuse, illegal market. Its purity and strength are neither known nor monitored. This was confirmed in an article published by La Presse on January 22, 2018, which reported that samples of black market cannabis were found to be contaminated with banned pesticides and fungi. By regulating the production, distribution and sale of cannabis, Bill C-45 will allow Canadians to access a substance that has undergone rigorous quality control and is free from pesticides and other harmful contaminants. Furthermore, Canadians will know what they are consuming. They will know the THC and CBD concentrations of the product they are buying, where it was produced, and who produced it.
In addition, by abandoning our failed policy of criminalizing cannabis possession and consumption, we will be able to acquire the knowledge we need to tackle cannabis-related health problems. Criminalization has hindered our ability to conduct appropriate research on cannabis consumption and its impact on the health and behaviour of individuals. This research is crucial if we want to teach Canadians about responsible cannabis consumption.
But most importantly, the continued criminalization of cannabis use undermines our ability to credibly educate young Canadians about what we already do know about the risks associated with cannabis use.
By criminalizing cannabis use, we implicitly treat it as the equivalent of drugs that are far more dangerous. By lumping cannabis in with such drugs — by drawing false equivalencies between cannabis and, say, fentanyl, as was done by a parliamentarian in the other place — we encourage young people, already sceptical, to disbelieve everything they hear about drugs in general. Not only does this serve to obscure the real health issues surrounding cannabis, it threatens to undermine our credibility when we warn them of the dangers of speed or crack cocaine.
And this leads me to my third point.
Honourable senators, I believe that the ongoing criminalization of cannabis undermines Canadians’ respect for the criminal law and the legal system in general.
Our current approach exposes tens of thousands of Canadians to the criminal justice system for possession of a substance that, although not without health risks, is less harmful when used responsibly than many other legal substances that Canadians consume freely.
As a matter of principle, this seems to me to be inconsistent with the way the law should be designed in a free and democratic society. And even if you dispute the principle, you should be worried about the fact that so many Canadians are choosing to consume cannabis despite the fact that it is illegal. Respect for the law is undermined when vast numbers of Canadians break the law because they simply do not believe that cannabis possession should be a criminal offence. That’s not a good thing, but it’s a real consequence of continuing our failed policy of trying to use criminal prohibitions to discourage cannabis use.
Fourth, I support Bill C-45 because the negative social costs of criminalizing cannabis possession, especially on our youth, are enormous and unacceptable.
The overall rates for cannabis-related offences may be falling, but each and every year tens of thousands of Canadians are caught up in the criminal justice system simply because they possess cannabis. In 2016 alone, Statistics Canada reported over 44,000 incidents of cannabis possession, resulting in 17,000 people being charged with possession. In my home province of Quebec alone, there were 5,550 charges laid.
The impact of all of this on youth is especially troubling. Of the total number of incidents involving cannabis possession in 2016, nearly 20 per cent involved youth between the age of 12 and 17.
Although it’s true that not every charge produces a conviction and not every conviction leads to incarceration, the plain fact is that between 2008 and 2012, which is the last period for which we have the figures, there were almost 4,000 people who ended up in custody for possession alone, of whom over 500 were youth.
Let’s be clear. Our cannabis laws are not enforced evenly in every sector of Canadian society. A middle class child living in the suburbs might get off with a warning from local police. However, countless others might not get off so easily. We cannot and must not remain indifferent to the disproportionate repercussions of our laws on young aboriginal Canadians, members of other racial minorities, and the least fortunate in our society.
Add to that the thriving illegal cannabis market. It is not only making organized crime bosses richer, most of whom carry on with impunity, but it also attracts a significant number of ordinary Canadians whose economic situation or even their own drug addiction might lead them to become involved with illegal growth, distribution, and sale networks of this drug. They are the ones who generally get charged and convicted, but we, as a society, are the ones who are paying the price to maintain this very vast and lucrative illegal market.
Honourable senators, the fact remains that Canadians are going to consume cannabis whether or not Bill C-45 is enacted into law. The central question for us is whether we are prepared to perpetuate the real social costs of criminalizing such behaviour or whether we are ready to adopt a different and more promising approach to the issue.
I support Bill C-45 because it respects the legitimate role, interests, and constitutional jurisdictions of the provinces and municipalities by giving them the latitude to adopt the provisions of the legislation in countless ways, including reducing to zero the amount of cannabis that youth can have in their possession without being charged, increasing the minimum age for legal consumption and limiting and eliminating the ability of individuals to grow their own plants for personal use, and by determining how and by whom the distribution and sale of cannabis will occur in the province.
In this regard, Bill C-45 is an opportunity for provinces to experiment with various rules and regimes, be it to solve their health issues or to create an attractive alternative to buying cannabis illegally like it is the case now. As time passes, the different approaches may come to harmonize, to the benefit of Canadian social policy. That is federalism at its best, acting as a kind of social laboratory.
Honourable senators, is Bill C-45 perfect? Of course not. Are there questions which, in my view, need to be seriously examined? Am I concerned by some aspects of the bill? Yes, I am. Let me share some of my concerns with you.
First, I am afraid that an exceedingly restrictive approach to cannabis retail sales might lead to the continued success of the black market. Of course, it is up to provinces to decide, but I hope there will be a sufficient supply and variety of products for Canadians to get what they want with the same ease and at the same cheap price as street resellers provide. If Bill C-45 does not guarantee access to such products at competitive prices, at least by mail, I am afraid that one of these important objectives will be compromised.
Furthermore, I am not convinced that it is useful or necessary to allow people to grow four cannabis plants for their own recreational use. On the supply side, we should make sure that we do not create useless obstacles to integrating small craft growers who could contribute to the amount and diversity of legal cannabis products available to consumers.
Honourable senators, allow me to conclude by addressing the issue of how we in the Senate ought to proceed with the study of this bill.
I am on record as not feeling bound by the deadline announced by the Prime Minister. Bill C-45 is an important, indeed historic bill, and we must do our constitutional duty to review it carefully and thoroughly. But I am also on record as supporting Senator Dean’s proposal to organize our deliberations and debate in an effective and efficient way. Frankly, I am disappointed that not all groups in this chamber have yet to come on board.
Honourable senators, you know that, if we wanted to, we could agree to structure our study of this bill in time to finish before the summer. We have the time, and we could make the time. It is simply a matter of political will.
No one in this chamber denies that there are serious health issues associated with cannabis use, especially regarding youth and young adults. Can we not agree to discuss this, then, for a fixed period of time, and in real time to boot, and then focus on the real question, which is finding the best way to deal with the challenges posed by the health risks of cannabis use to young Canadians?
We know that there are concerns about whether all provinces, municipalities and police forces will be fully ready to enforce the bill when it comes into force. So let’s organize ourselves to hear from them soon, to debate what we heard and to monitor the situation effectively as we proceed with our study of the bill.
Honourable senators, there is no point in multiplying examples. This is a bill that requires full and proper study. But let us at least be honest with ourselves and with Canadians.
This is not a case where delay serves the legitimate purpose of bringing an issue to the public’s attention about which they were unaware. The legalization of cannabis possession was an election campaign promise made in 2015, and the issue has been in the news for a long time now, especially since the bill was introduced into the other place in April of this year.
Yes, let us take our time, but we have and can make the time to review this bill thoroughly over the next number of months. Whatever else one may think about the desire of the government to see this bill enacted into law by the summer, we would be failing in our constitutional obligations were we to drag this out for political or partisan gain. Canadians deserve better than that.
Honourable senators, I conclude where I began. Cannabis use in Canada is a complex social problem that needs to be addressed. Our previous approaches have clearly failed. We owe it to ourselves, and our children and grandchildren, to confront this in a serious and balanced way.
Bill C-45 is a step towards a more responsible approach to dealing with the issue of cannabis use. The bill is not perfect, and we should take time to improve it where appropriate, but it is the right response to a real problem. I support it in principle with no hesitation whatsoever.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Gold, would you take a question?
Senator Gold: Yes, of course.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are you requesting five more minutes so that you have time to answer Senator Patterson’s question?
Senator Gold: Yes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Thank you for explaining your position, Senator Gold.
I would like to refer to the serious health issues, if I’m quoting you correctly, that you identified as an area of concern on your part respecting young people. You talked about the impact on the developing adolescent brain, and this is a health issue. There is also a question extant about the impact on vulnerable mental health issues and the developing brain.
Given these serious issues around youth, as you’ve described them, does it make sense for this bill to allow younger persons between the ages of 12 to 18 to possess significant quantities of marijuana? Do you have an opinion on that?
Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. The bill makes it illegal for persons under 18 to possess. It does go on, however, to deal with very small amounts of possession, and I underline small amounts amongst youth, in a way to avoid their implication in the criminal justice system. That’s my understanding of the rationale for saying that if a young person between 12 and 17 possesses a few grams of cannabis they’re not going to be implicated in the criminal justice system.
As you know, many of the provinces have gone further, as the law does contemplate, and made it clear that there will be no tolerance for any possession amongst young people.
But I return to the overall philosophy that underlies my support for this bill, and that is the status quo right now: 12, 13 and 14 year-olds are not only possessing cannabis in whatever amounts, they’re also possessing cannabis that’s infected and contaminated with goodness knows what. They have no idea what the potency is, and therefore they’re putting themselves at risk. And we are in some sense putting them at risk by not providing any framework within which they can know what they’re consuming. We’re also putting them at risk when we fail to properly educate them in a way that’s credible.
I hope I’ve answered your question.
Senator Patterson: Thank you for those comments.
The medical consensus, I believe, is that the young person’s brain is not fully developed until age 25. I believe that’s generally accepted.
It may be that young adolescents in Montreal are consuming marijuana in significant quantities. I’m not sure if that’s true in other parts of the country, including the remote communities that I represent in this chamber.
But I’m interested in your assertion that the bill will allow for the possession of small quantities. I understand that the bill proposes allowing possession of 10 grams by youth as young as 12 years old, and I’m not sure that’s a small quantity. Some people would say that’s not a small quantity. That’s not de minimis under the law. I’m told that’s 10 joints or more.
Is that something you at least think we should consider carefully, namely, what is a small quantity and what are the dangers to the developing adolescent brain?
Senator Gold: Thank you again for the question.
I stand to be corrected, but I think the amount in the bill is 5 grams, not 10. However, I take your point. Of course we should be concerned about possession and use of cannabis by young people. The question is, what are the right policy instruments for discouraging the use? What are the alternatives to criminalization or exposing youth to the criminal justice system if and when they’re found in such possession? And what is the link between our overall policies and the credibility of our educational efforts, which are critically important, to educate youth and adults about the various risks to health posed by cannabis use and excessive cannabis use?
Of course we should be concerned about that, and I fully expect that in committee we’ll hear a lot of evidence and have occasion to debate that.
I do think, though, that on balance this is still the right policy response to the endemic problem of cannabis use among young people.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I’m sorry, but your time is up.
Senator, are you on debate or are you asking a question?
Hon. Nancy Greene Raine: I would have liked to ask a question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I’m sorry, time is up.
Hon. Raymonde Gagné: Honourable colleagues, let me start by thanking our colleague Senator Dean who, as the sponsor of Bill C-45, first sought to promote and encourage an informed review of the bill by all senators.
The basis for the introduction of this bill is the recognition that cannabis products are very widely used across the country and that it is a matter of public interest that such use be regulated for health and public safety reasons. That position is very rational and, for all the reasons given by Senator Pratt and Senator Gold in their speeches, I support Bill C-45. I would like to take this opportunity, at second reading stage, to draw the attention of the Senate and the government to the issues of prevention and public education, particularly with respect to the fiscal measures being proposed.
One of the key issues the government wants to address with the bill is the control by criminal groups of the sale of cannabis products. In its proposed excise duty framework for cannabis products, published last November, the Minister of Finance gives the following explanation, and I quote:
The proposed level of taxation is intended to keep prices low to eliminate the black market, as discussed at the Finance Ministers Meeting last June.
In that same document, the federal government made the following statement, and I quote:
. . . the combined rate of tax for cannabis flowering material contained in a final packaged product should not exceed $1.00 per gram, or 10 per cent of the producer’s sale price of that product, whichever is higher . . . .
In Colorado, the tax is about 30 per cent, and in Washington State, it is 37 per cent.
Keeping tax rates on these products low is a double-edged sword, however. It is a good way to suppress black market involvement, but on the flip side, it eliminates the deterrent effect of high excise taxes on harmful products. Alcohol and tobacco taxation regimes offer some useful and thought-provoking lessons in this regard.
In his report on the state of public health in Canada in 2015, the chief public health officer found, and I quote:
Pricing and taxation are tools that can discourage people from buying alcohol. As a consequence, this can reduce alcohol-related health and social impacts, including for impaired driving and alcohol-related crime. Increasing the minimum price of alcohol is one of the more effective approaches that successfully decreases consumption, alcohol-related death and hospital admissions.
The same principle applies to tobacco use. According to a recent report produced for Health Canada by Professor David Levy of Georgetown University, taxes are the most effective tool in reducing tobacco use. Studies and surveys conducted in Canada have also shown that cigarette use is lower in provinces where cigarette prices and taxes are higher.
In his report, Professor Levy recommended raising taxes on tobacco products because tobacco use is no longer declining as rapidly as we would like. In March 2017, the federal government committed to reducing tobacco use to less than 5 per cent by 2035, whereas the current rate is over 14 per cent. Yet the tax on tobacco products is currently around 68 per cent of the retail price, and Mr. Levy’s report recommended raising it to 80 per cent. That is a far cry from the 10 per cent proposed by the federal government for cannabis products.
We know that consuming cannabis products has significant effects on youth aged 14 to 25. To quote the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction:
Adolescents are particularly at risk for marijuana-related harms since their brains are undergoing rapid, extensive development.
Chronic cannabis use is associated with impairments in attention, memory and reasoning, especially among those who started in early adolescence. For public health purposes, we can therefore consider cannabis products to be harmful products as well, especially for youth.
It is not legalization per se that is the problem. I believe that by cracking down on the black market, the government will be striking a hard blow against the drug trafficking going on right now our high schools and even in our elementary schools. It will take lower-quality products containing dangerous or unknown substances off the market. However, the government must be prepared to also set targets for reducing cannabis consumption, especially among youth, and to make major investments in education and awareness raising, without ever using the low excise tax revenue as an excuse to justify the lack of such investments.
On that note, the proposed tax system raises several questions that are worth considering, because the projected revenues do not seem sufficient to respond to the various issues we can expect to face, particularly with regard to prevention and awareness raising.
At the committee stage, it will be important to address the following questions: since the government decided not to use the most effective tool known to discourage marijuana use, how does it plan to make up for that? If awareness and education are still the only tools the government plans to use to discourage cannabis use among young Canadians, how is the government going to pay for those campaigns, especially considering the minimal revenue it will be able to collect from excise taxes on cannabis products? Will it invest more funding on top of what it collects in excise taxes in awareness campaigns in the long term? Will it invest in studies to evaluate the effectiveness of these public health campaigns and their impact on the knowledge, attitudes, practices, and beliefs of teenagers, parents, young adults, including both users and non-users? Will the government set targets for reducing the recreational use of marijuana products, as it does for tobacco, and how does it plan to achieve that?
These are just some of the questions the senate committee responsible for examining this bill could explore during its deliberations on the implementation of Bill C-45, a very important bill with laudable goals with respect to health and public safety. Thank you.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Raine: Will the senator take a question?
Senator Gagné: Of course.
Senator Raine: I found interesting your comments at the end about questioning how the government will educate people, especially young people, about the dangers and harms involved in smoking marijuana. Do you think that once a product becomes legal for sale, there will be an obligation on the government — or pressure, certainly — to allow producers and sellers of marijuana to market their product the way normal legal products can be marketed? And if they can, and I presume they will try, do you think that once young people are exposed to the marketing of government-approved products — therefore, they must be okay — that marketing will be up against taxpayer-funded education programs to tell kids it’s not okay?
There is a mixed message here. How do you think that should be handled?
Senator Gagné: That really puts the emphasis on the following question: when we are considering the future sale and marketing of cannabis, and considering how tobacco and alcohol are marketed and sold, do people think it is okay to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol?
I believe that the psychology of consumers changes with the times. Indeed, we should be able to prevent non-users from starting to use. With respect to youth, it is a matter of social marketing and of understanding not only the psychology of children, adolescents and young adults, but also that of parents, who often do not have all the necessary information to support their children’s decisions.
Public awareness and education must come from different sources: the federal government, the provincial government, and parent groups. Furthermore, we must use community centres to keep young people occupied. This is a problem not just for the federal government, but also for society. We have a moral obligation to prevent consumption and to protect youth, because they are the most vulnerable.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Will the senator take another question? Thank you.
I think some of the concerns you raised, as well as Senator Gold, about marijuana consumption and public health, especially for youth, are concerns that we all share. One of my greatest fears in legalizing marijuana has been what has happened with the cigarette industry and the contraband market, which is very robust and in fact creating all sorts of health risks, especially for youth and those who cannot afford to purchase legal cigarettes.
Based on what has happened with cigarettes, I’m anticipating that such risks are also going to be before us — especially with youth, when they can get something cheaper — and on a product that wouldn’t be regulated, and the kind of health risk that would introduce.
I’m wondering if you have looked at these concerns. In legalizing a product, how would we be able to deal with this added issue? How do we ensure greater safety for youth?
Senator Gagné: With respect to the issue of tobacco, I would not want to go back to promoting tobacco as we did a long time ago. Today, tobacco use is declining; 14 per cent of Canadians use tobacco. Consumption is declining and the government would like this trend to continue.
We are changing the packaging for cigarettes and vaping products. We have to rely on the data we have on awareness campaigns for tobacco and alcohol, but we all know that public awareness campaigns take some time before their effectiveness can be measured. What concerns me the most is that we are not investing enough money in studying the effectiveness of these campaigns on consumers.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Gagné, your time has expired. Are you asking for a few more minutes?
Senator Gagné: I believe I answered all the questions.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Hon. Diane Bellemare (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of January 31, 2018, moved:
That, when the Senate next adjourns after the adoption of this motion, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Parliament of Canada Act
Bill to Amend—Twenty-second Report of Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee—Debate Adjourned
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the twenty-second report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (Bill S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate), with amendments), presented in the Senate on December 14, 2017.
Hon. Art Eggleton moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Thank you very much. This is Bill C-234, originally proposed by former Senator Willie Moore and then subsequently picked up and sponsored by Senator Patricia Bovey.
Bill S-234 would create the position of a parliamentary visual artist laureate by amending the Poet Laureate act. The appointment would be made through a competitive process, and selection would be made by the Speakers of both houses from a list of three names provided by a committee chaired by the Parliamentary Librarian.
Secondly, the visual artist laureate would be a two-year creative posting honouring a visual artist of national distinction, and the position would not be a full-time posting. Only an honorarium and a materials budget would be paid.
Now, the visual artist laureate would produce artistic creations or cause them to be produced and would generally promote the visual arts in Canada through Parliament by fostering knowledge, enjoyment, awareness and development of the visual arts. These are very similar purposes to the kind of role that the Poet Laureate also plays in that particular function.
The bill defines art as referring to drawings, paintings, sculptures, print making design, crafts, photography, videography and filmmaking.
Our committee did adopt some minor or technical amendments. The first was to insert the word “visual” in front of “artist,” because it was originally proposed as the parliamentary artist laureate, but the intention of the original and current sponsor was make it visual arts as opposed to, say, musicians. Maybe that’s another position to be considered at a later time. So wherever the word “artist” appears, the word “visual” will now be in front of it, according to the amendment.
The other amendment is with respect to the selection process, and as I said, it would come under the jurisdiction of the Speakers of both houses and the function of the Parliamentary Librarian. They would be consulting with organizations that include the Director of the National Gallery of Canada, the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada, the Chair of the Canada Council for the Arts and the President of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. The meeting of this committee would be chaired by the Parliamentary Librarian.
We added in another minor amendment and put in the words “or their designates.” It may be that the heads of these organizations are not always available, and perhaps they will send a representative in their place.
With these amendments, the bill has based passed unanimously, all sections of this chamber in the committee supporting it, and that just leaves me to thank the former Senator Willie Moore and the current Senator Patricia Bovey for their sponsorship of this fine bill. May the visual arts become a very clear function of the Parliament and of the laureate that will be appointed to that position.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Study on the Effects of Transitioning to a Low Carbon Economy
Tenth Report of Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the tenth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, entitled Decarbonizing Transportation in Canada, tabled in the Senate on June 22, 2017.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I move the adjournment of the debate in the name of Senator Neufeld.
(On motion of Senator Martin, for Senator Neufeld, debate adjourned.)
Study on the Financial Implications and Regional Considerations of the Aging Population
Nineteenth Report of National Finance Committee and Request for Government Response—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the nineteenth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, entitled Getting Ready: For a new generation of active seniors, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on June 27, 2017.
Hon. Percy Mockler moved:
That the nineteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance entitled Getting Ready: For a new generation of active seniors, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on June 27, 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 Families, Children and Social Development being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report, in consultation with the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour, and the Minister of Health.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to talk about the nineteenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. Deposited on June 27 of last year, this is the committee’s first interim report on its study of the financial implications and regional considerations of Canada’s aging population. On April 16, 2016, the Senate authorized the committee to study and report on the consequences of this phenomenon on Canada’s economy and its regions. The committee presented its final report on December 31, 2017.
Before I go further, honourable senators, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the honourable senators who took part in this study and the contributions of the committee’s support team and all of their employees.
I would also like to recognize my predecessor chair of the committee, the Honourable Larry Smith, whose leadership enabled us to hold fruitful meetings on this important topic for Canadians.
Aging is an important issue because, as you probably know, Canada now has more people 65 and over than 14 and under.
To better understand how this demographic trend is affecting our country, we heard from former provincial and federal politicians, economists, demographers, think tanks, and community stakeholders from across the country up until May 30, 2017.
Our deliberations reveal that Canada needs to prepare better for the consequences of its aging population. For example, because of the cumulative impact of the aging population on health care spending that spending will grow as the proportion of seniors in the population rises. However, honourable senators, the witnesses we heard explained that this does not necessarily mean we must spend more on health care. Rather, we must spend more intelligently.
Taking into account the new demographic reality, that is why we recommend that the Government of Canada develop, in collaboration with the provincial, territorial and indigenous partners, a national seniors’ strategy in order to control spending growth while ensuring appropriate and accessible care.
In order to better address the needs of an aging population, the health care system will have to undergo some changes. Witnesses suggested several interesting ideas. If we want seniors to grow old in the right setting while improving the efficiency of the system, we believe the focus should be on home care and the role of caregivers. That is why we recommended that the government continue working with its provincial, territorial and Aboriginal partners in order to put certain measures in place that would allow seniors to live at home while having access to support, such as that provided by caregivers.
Honourable senators, the aging of Canada’s population could also have a negative impact on the overall labour force participation rate in our economy, especially in have-not provinces. For now, this rate remains relatively high for the working-age population, but the situation could change in the years ahead. That is why we also recommend that the Government of Canada, in co-operation with its provincial, territorial and First Nation partners, put measures in place to increase the labour force participation of under-represented groups and to address better labour demands with labour supply.
We believe that will help to mitigate the potentially negative impact of the aging population on the economy and the labour market in Canada.
Despite an expected increase in spending in some sectors, federal public finances should remain sustainable. If the federal government experiences increased pressure over the next years due to the aging population, it will mostly be in the Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement programs, which come out of general revenue. In spite of the aging population, the federal government spending for seniors should not increase as a percentage of the gross domestic product, according to the testimonies heard. It is mostly the provinces and the territories who will feel the financial pressures of an aging population.
Finally, we should note that populations do not age at the same rate in all regions of the country. Some age faster than others. Therefore, public policy will need to be tailored to fit each particular situation.
That is why we recommended that the Government of Canada consider the possibility of including demographic considerations when calculating federal transfers to the provinces and territories to ensure that all regions of the country have the resources to fulfill their responsibilities with respect to their aging populations.
Canada’s aging population is certainly a significant challenge, but the federal government can overcome it, in partnership with the provinces and territories, by taking appropriate measures as soon as possible to maintain the quality of life of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Thank you, honourable senators.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Ringuette, do you have a question?
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Yes, if Senator Mockler is willing to take one.
I appreciate the committee’s work on a file that deserves national attention. In your comments, you indicated two important things, namely the health of the aging population and the cost to the system. You also mentioned their retirement from the labour market and the impact of that retirement on the regions. Have you looked at things that might mitigate that impact?
As we all know, active people, whether at work or elsewhere, are much less inclined to use health programs. Why not have an incentive program for people who want to stay in the workforce part time even after retirement? I believe that type of initiative could in fact minimize the impact. I am thinking about the province of New Brunswick in particular, where the percentage of seniors is quite high, more so than other regions of Canada. Have you looked at that sort of thing in your study?
Senator Mockler: You are touching a nerve that is felt across Canada. You mentioned New Brunswick and the eastern provinces where the population is much older than it is west of the Ottawa River. From the Ottawa River to Vancouver, including on aboriginal territories, we realize that the population is younger.
We have to face the reality that seniors still have a lot to offer to the job market. The federal government and the provinces that have an older population need to work together in order to help us maximize our economic performance and implement a program to attract new Canadians to those provinces.
(On motion of Senator Bellemare, debate adjourned.)
Study on the Design and Delivery of the Federal Government’s Multi-Billion Dollar Infrastructure Funding Program
Twentieth Report of National Finance Committee and Request for Government Response—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the twentieth report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, entitled Smarter Planning, Smarter Spending: Ensuring Transparency, Accountability and Predictability in Federal Infrastructure Programs, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on July 6, 2017.
Hon. Percy Mockler moved:
That the twentieth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance entitled Smarter Planning, Smarter Spending: Ensuring Transparency, Accountability and Predictability in Federal Infrastructure Programs, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on July 6, 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 Infrastructure and Communities being identified as minister responsible for responding to the report.
He said: Honourable senators, today I would like to speak about the twentieth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, which is the second interim report produced as part of its study authorized by the Senate on February 27, 2016, on the design and delivery of the federal government’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure funding program.
Again, honourable senators, before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge the hard work and tenacity of the honourable senators who took part in this study and the contributions of the committee’s support team, our employees and staff of all the ministers.
I would also like to recognize my predecessor chair of the committee, the Honourable Larry Smith, whose leadership began the committee’s work on this important topic.
As many of you may know, the Government of Canada has committed to spending $186.7 billion over the next 12 years on public infrastructure. It is vital that this spending be strategic and effective. It must fund the right infrastructure in the right places and be built in the right way.
Between February 14 and May 16, 2017, the committee continued its study and received testimony from 15 witnesses, including officials from the Privy Council Office, Infrastructure Canada, the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, as well as experts from universities and think tanks from across Canada.
In its first interim report, the committee noted that it is difficult to monitor the use of infrastructure funds, because the government has an array of programs managed by over 30 departments and organizations across the country, each with its own priorities, performance indicators and timelines. The committee would again like to stress that access to information is a problem.
In order to improve transparency, the committee recommends that the Government of Canada release all data on infrastructure projects, except where national defence and security are at stake, and that it also report all provincial, territorial and municipal data on infrastructure projects, as well all infrastructure related data as it pertains to indigenous populations.
Moreover, the committee is concerned about the economic and social value of some infrastructure projects and reiterates its recommendation from the first interim report that the Government of Canada develop a long-term national infrastructure strategy with clear priorities, concrete objectives and specific performance measures, taking into consideration municipal, provincial, territorial and indigenous priorities.
In this phase of the study, our committee took an interest in the infrastructure needs of rural northern indigenous communities to note that basic and strategic infrastructure such as broadband Internet connectivity should be a priority in order to enable these communities to fully share in the community’s economic growth from coast to coast to coast.
It is important, honourable senators, that our First Nation delivers, in addition to our infrastructure projects regarding First Nations and indigenous communities, housing and drinking water with those projects.
The Government of Canada has also begun work to establish the Canada Infrastructure Bank. However, the committee heard a number of concerns about its structure and recommends that the government clearly define the governance of the bank, its business model, its practices and its short-, medium- and long-term strategic objectives.
Additionally, the government needs to ensure the independence of the chairperson and the board of directors of the Canada Infrastructure Bank by drawing on Canadian and international best practices in governance in other democratic countries.
Honourable senators, we believe the government must show more prudence in the development and application of its multi-billion dollar infrastructure program, not only to optimize the use of public funds, but also to ensure that the investments lead to real long-term economic benefits and maintain Canadians’ quality of life.
Honourable senators, the Canadian government must engage and must also demonstrate smarter planning, smarter spending, ensuring transparency, accountability and predictability in federal infrastructure programs for all Canadians from coast to coast to coast and also with our First Nations.
(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)
Motion to Resolve into Committee of the Whole to Consider Subject Matter of Bill C-45—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson, pursuant to notice of January 31, 2018, moved:
That, without affecting the progress of any proceedings relating to Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts, at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the subject matter of the bill;
That the committee receive the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs;
That the witness be accompanied by officials;
That the Committee of the Whole report to the Senate no later than two hours after it begins;
That television cameras and photographers be authorized in the Senate Chamber to broadcast and photograph the proceedings with the least possible disruption of the proceedings;
That the provisions of the order of February 4, 2016, respecting the time of adjournment, be suspended on Wednesday, February 7, 2018, until the Committee of the Whole has reported; and
That the provisions of rule 3-3(1) be suspended on Wednesday, February 7, 2018.
He said: Honourable senators, I’m proposing to invite Minister Bennett to join the debate on this very important social issue that is of concern in my region of Nunavut, particularly by indigenous persons who make up 85 per cent of the population. This is because of Article 32 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which defines that the Inuit of Nunavut have a right to participate in the development of social and cultural policies and the design of social and cultural programs and services, including their delivery within the Nunavut settlement area.
This is a solemn government obligation in the constitutionally protected Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
At their recent annual general meeting, Nunavut Tungavik, which is the organization that represents Inuit in the implementation of their land claim, expressed very strong concerns that they had not been consulted whatsoever in the development of the legislation to legalize cannabis, which has been described as transformative social change.
I did raise this issue with the Government Representative in the Senate in Question Period, and he informed me that the Government of Canada had consulted with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Ottawa-based national Inuit organization. I had occasion, this past Tuesday, to ask the president of ITK, Natan Obed, who was in our committee, about this very issue. He specifically acknowledged the obligation of Canada to consult the Inuit of Nunavut through NTI and its social development council. He specifically said, in answer to my question about that issue:
. . . it is misinformed to say that a conversation or two with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is a substitute for broad consultation on such a huge issue.
Minister Bennett is the Minister Responsible for Crown-Indigenous Relations. She is actively engaged in consultations with indigenous organizations on the new relationship. She is responsible for the Northern program. She is also responsible for the implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
This is why I’m proposing that Minister Bennett participate in a Committee of the Whole. I know that the primary issue may be health and criminal law concerns. But there is an issue of consultation I do want to address, and I think she’s the minister who should be addressed.
As you know, the Aboriginal Peoples Committee has also identified specific issues relating to Aboriginal Peoples that they want to be studied, and there may be some other issues that might be raised of the Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs.
That’s why I’d like to ask your support to have Minister Bennett present to address what I think are these unique issues relating to Aboriginal people.
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I’d like to speak to the motion that is before us.
The Hon. the Speaker: Before you speak, Senator Harder, I saw another senator rising.
Senator Moncion, did you wish to ask a question or speak?
Hon. Lucie Moncion: I would like to ask Senator Patterson a question.
The Hon. the Speaker: So may we interrupt you, Senator Harder?
Senator Moncion: My question is about the date and the time. Usually, on Wednesdays, we have committees that start at 4:15. You’re asking that this committee be held on the February 7, which is the day after we have the plenary committee meeting, on February 6. This is a Wednesday, and you’re asking that it be at 3:30.
I understand the importance of meeting Minister Bennett, and I understand the issues that are pertaining to the Aboriginal people. I would like to have that plenary session, but why Wednesday, and why the February 7?
Senator Patterson: I thought that was the day that the other ministers were present, Your Honour. I may be misinformed on that.
The Hon. the Speaker: It is the day before, Senator Patterson, February 6.
Senator Patterson: Okay. So you’ve caught me unprepared to answer that question. Perhaps another time might be found in light of that problem. I guess that would leave us half an hour to debate with the minister.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Harder, do you still wish to speak?
Senator Harder: Yes, I do. I would like to speak to the motion before us.
Honourable senators, I’m aware that there is considerable interest from all sides of this chamber with respect to the government’s engagement with indigenous partners on this matter of cannabis legislation, and the concerns obviously include economic development opportunities, harm reduction measures and policing. In that context, I very much welcome the motion by Senator Dyck earlier today with regard to the possible study by the Aboriginal Affairs Committee.
The government certainly welcomes senators’ interest on this matter. As I indicated in the debate on the motion before Christmas, with respect to Tuesday’s scheduled meeting of the Committee of the Whole, I’m open to exploring how the Senate can best conduct its study of Bill C-45 and associated issues. However, I would like to clarify that this government has taken a whole-of-government approach to engagement with our indigenous partners. It is not the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs who would necessarily deal with all matters pertaining to indigenous communities. Such consultations often go through the minister and department responsible for a particular subject matter.
For example, in the case of consultation within indigenous partners on fisheries, those consultations would occur under the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. In the case of consultations on development projects affecting indigenous communities, such engagement would generally involve the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
In the case of the legalization of cannabis, I can clarify that the Minister of Health is responsible for engagement with indigenous partners. And as you know, senators, on Tuesday, February 6, we will be hearing from Minister Petitpas Taylor along with the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Parliamentary Secretary to both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health on this subject matter, including on the government’s indigenous engagement on cannabis legislation.
I therefore think it would be premature to propose to receive Minister Bennett at this stage, not having actually heard from the minister responsible for the subject matter of interest, that being the Minister of Health.
I would therefore propose that we keep the conversation going on the best approach to the Senate conducting its due diligence on this matter, but that we first hear from the Minister of Health and other ministers responsible for Bill C-45 and see what they have to say on this important matter.
I would also note the importance of going through usual channels on matters such as this, usual channels meaning discussions amongst leaders which is the basis on which the Committee of the Whole to which we agreed took place, so that we can be assured that ministers are available and the appropriate time and mutually respectful engagement with those we call before us can be assured.
So with these considerations in mind and reiterating that I would hope that we can keep this conversation going through usual channels, I would therefore ask to adjourn debate for the remainder of my time until the Senate has conducted its currently scheduled Committee of the Whole and heard from the minister responsible for the subject matter of interest. Thank you.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Would the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Harder: Certainly.
Senator Joyal: Thank you, Senator Harder.
As a matter of fact, this morning, as you might know, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee met with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety in relation to Bill C-46, which is another aspect of the same objective of the government in relation to cannabis. I asked the Minister of Public Safety specifically what kind of consultations have taken place with the representative of the Aboriginal people. So you might want to review the report of the committee from this morning.
You will also remember, Senator Harder, that I raised this issue when you first made the proposal, and I think you made a commitment that there was an openness on behalf of the government to have the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs in relation to the overall consultation. There are many aspects to the cannabis legislation that need to be reviewed and whereby Aboriginal people have an interest. Members of the committee raised some of the issues this morning and yesterday.
May I suggest that those discussions take place within the context of the commitment that you had made that we as a house would have an opportunity as a whole to review the overall situation with Aboriginal people in relation to the proposed cannabis legislation?
Senator Harder: Thank you, Senator Joyal. I make the commitment, as I have before, and I stated this afternoon that I’m happy to discuss how the issues of concern can be dealt with as we move forward. I just think they should go through, first, a sequencing that is appropriate and through the usual channels to ensure the coherence of our efforts.
(On motion of Senator Harder, debate adjourned.)
(At 4:26 p.m., the Senate was continued until Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 2 p.m.)