Honourable senators, we have agreement to stand at the end of the business of the day. I know that this being the end of the session before Christmas, I have a request from the leaders of the various caucus groups who would like to have a couple of minutes.
Honourable senators, on behalf of the CSG, Merry Christmas and happy holidays. This year — 2020 — has been an incredible and unforgettable year. The challenges of the year have shown cracks in some areas that need to be repaired for our national life. But I think, more importantly, it’s confirmed the strength of character of Canadians.
Through it all, the Senate of Canada has done its work. We have much to be proud of. On behalf of our group, I want to add our admiration and thanks to all of the staff who worked together for the benefit of Canadians here in the Senate of Canada. We’re a family, working together. This has been made much clearer this year.
All the best to each of you for a joyous holiday season and for a healthy and happy 2021. Thank you.
Honourable senators, on behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, I’m pleased to join with my fellow leaders to mark the end of our proceedings for the holidays. We’ll soon find ourselves at the end of another year, one that has brought what seemed to be one heartbreaking event after another. The word “unprecedented” has been used so often that it seems to have lost all meaning for us, but at the same time there has been light through the darkness. We have a vaccine now. Canadians everywhere have stepped up to help one another and to support local business owners. Frontline health care workers continue to work diligently for those in their care.
The Senate, too, has undergone a temporary — we hope — transformation, allowing us to fulfill our constitutional duties while ensuring the health and safety of senators and staff.
To Speaker Furey, you’ve helped to shepherd this chamber through the transition, always mindful of the Senate’s role and responsibilities and the well-being of those who support us. On behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, Senator Furey, I would like to thank you and your staff for their efforts in managing these new hybrid proceedings.
I must also thank all those who make these hybrid sittings possible — the clerks, the pages, the Senate Administration staff, the Building Services staff, the Parliamentary Protective Service, our own office staff and the Information Services staff without whom none of us would be able to join virtually. I know the effort and long hours that have gone into making the Senate function, and I thank you for all your dedication and hard work. You are an incredible team and we’re lucky to have all of you.
Thank you also to my fellow leaders for your continued collegiality. While we’ve not always seen eye to eye — and that’s a good thing — we have managed to come together when it counted and we do the work that Canadians expect of us. That sentiment extends to all my Senate colleagues for your contributions to the successes in this place. I believe that we have done some excellent work over the past nine months to improve the lives of Canadians.
Finally, thank you to my Progressive Senate Group colleagues. Our little group has had a great year. I appreciate your support, your openness, and I value your warmth and your collegiality. I very much look forward to all that we can accomplish together in 2021 and beyond. We are small, but I think we’re mighty.
Honourable senators, the past few months have been trying for many. I hope that each one of us takes some much needed rest so that we can return renewed and refreshed to our work for Canadians in the new year.
On behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, I wish all senators and all staff a very happy holiday and our very best to each of you for the coming year. Thank you.
Honourable senators, as we approach the final minutes of our 2020 sittings, I am challenged to deliver a closing message in a year that feels like it never even got started. It occurred to me this morning that I will be offering greetings at the end of 2020 to some honourable colleagues to whom I never got to offer greetings at the start of 2020.
So at the end of a most unusual year, I offer, on behalf of the Independent Senators Group, an unorthodox finale which I dedicate to the hard-working staff of the Senate, from clerks to cleaners, pages to the Parliamentary Protective Service and, of course, to the staff in our respective offices.
I give you, honourable colleagues, with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, “The Week Before Christmas.”
’Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the House
Not an MP was sitting, not even a mouse.
The bills had been sent to the Senate with care,
In hopes that Speaker George Furey was there;
The senators were nestled all snug in their headphones,
With visions of amendments engraved on their capstones;
Clerks in ‘kerchiefs, and Black Rod in his hat,
Got us all ready for a nice long Zoom chat
When from the canal, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the chamber to see what’s the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a most vexing bill — C-7, my dear.
Its crackerjack sponsor so lively and with it,
Senator Petitclerc did not waste a minute.
More rapid than dinner break her emails they came,
And she whistled, and shouted, and called us by name.
“Now, Mute! Now, Unmute! Your video is off!
On Zoom! On Teams! You are speaking too soft!
To the top of the order paper! To the top of it all!
Please, dear opposition, please, do not stall.”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the chamber top, the speeches they flew,
With a screen full of faces, and a china cabinet too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney came . . . a court extension most sound.
So we spoke not a word more, and ceased our work,
We packed our things and turned with a jerk,
iPads and laptops we finally did close,
With a nod by the Speaker, from the chamber we rose;
We sprang to the doors, to our teams gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But we heard HIM exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:
I MOVE THE ADJOURNMENT OF THE SENATE! TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
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Honourable senators, I really think that should have been the last line and we should have all been running.
Thank you, Senator Woo, for those comments.
Your Honour, we had to forego Question Period, but I cannot forego my question. I know I am asking this question, really, on behalf of all groups. So I think, Your Honour, with everybody’s indulgence, that we’ll just think of this as Question Period, and before I wish people good wishes, I’m going to ask Senator Gold this last question of the year.
Leader, I — we — have a very special question for you today. As it’s our last sitting of the year and Christmas is just around the corner, I would like for you to please pass on my Christmas list to the Prime Minister.
In the words of Amy Grant and her song, here is “My Grown-Up Christmas List” — not for yourself or for myself but for a world in need, but mostly for Canada.
Leader, I would like to see vaccines for everyone. We would like to keep our elders, health care workers and all COVID front-line staff safe. I hope we never run out of PPE again.
I ask for peace, joy and love for everyone. I would like for us all to feel the holiday spirit even though we were apart so much of this year.
Also, to the Canadian Armed Forces, I would like for them to know of our gratitude and, indeed, including all veterans, for your service to us.
For all Canadians to feel safe at home and abroad, for safe drinking water for all, for help for our farmers and small businesses — leader, I’ve asked you many times and I continue.
Please add heaters for our security personnel who are outside in the frigid cold.
This may be more isolated to one group but maybe others would want to second this — for a few independent, conservative-minded Senate appointments, so if you could ask the Prime Minister for that.
Respect for democracy and government accountability. Answers to written and oral questions and a better flow to Access to Information answers. Also, I would like to ask for help with our virtual hybrid sittings. We really could use it.
And I’d love to know where I can find a PlayStation 5 — not for me but for my grandchildren — as they seem not to be an “essential item” on the store shelves.
Last but not least, leader, a balanced budget — no, wait. Let’s not make it too difficult. Just a budget!
Senator Gold, this is my grown-up Christmas list for 2020. Could you please commit to passing this along to Santa — I mean the Prime Minister? You know that we have all been good all year round — mostly.
I know you cannot answer today, leader, as many times you cannot, so we will wait for Delayed Answers as we do with so many of our questions.
With that, colleagues, I also want to add my voice to expressions of appreciation. I will repeat some of them that have already been made. I want to take a moment to thank you. This year has been a very unusual year, as we’ve all had to adapt to the COVID pandemic that hit our country and the world. There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes in order to allow us senators to be efficient in our day-to-day duties and responsibilities.
I want to thank the maintenance staff. You have gone above and beyond this year. We don’t say this often enough, but this year, you have kept us all safe — we hope. I wish to truly thank you for everything you do.
I also want to send thanks to the following: to other members of the property and services personnel; to all our pages and the excellent work they have done, and for doing what they do in very difficult times; to the broadcasting team — you have adopted to our virtual sittings; to translation and interpretation services; to IT, your patience with us as we adopted to virtual sittings has been remarkable; to Corporate Security and the PPS; to the Clerk of the Senate — Richard, we wish you a special Christmas this year — and your staff, including our table officers, the Black Rod, Communications, the Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, and Committees personnel; the Law Clerk and his staff; Human Resources; to the Chief Corporate Services Officer and her staff; Information Services personnel; Governance and Strategic Planning; and Finance and Procurement.
To all of my colleagues in our Conservative family and caucus, and especially to members of my leadership team, I appreciate your support.
To Senator Furey, I hope you’re watching us, Your Honour. We want to thank you for your work, and we want to thank your team.
Colleagues, I want to thank each of the leaders. I’m going to start and name them. It’s been a pleasure — it really has been a pleasure — to work with Senator Gold. I know that you have had difficult times as the Leader of the Government, and I want to assure you, as I did this morning, that we are going to spend the next year trying to find a way of relieving you of your duty to this chamber as the Leader of the Government, and maybe we can trade seats.
To our other leaders, Senator Woo and Senator Saint-Germain, working as a team, as has been said, we don’t always see eye to eye, but I think, as I said in a tribute a week or two ago, we are all passionate about our work. As long as we’re passionate about our work and doing what we believe is the right thing for Canadians, we want to respect each other. I do have that and an appreciation.
To Senator Tannas in Alberta and Senator Cordy. It’s been a pleasure working with you. To Senator Cordy, in January we would sometimes be seen on the golf course together in Florida. That won’t happen this year, so we’ll have to wait until next year.
I also want to thank my incredible staff. Without our staff and without their help — they make us look good. I get so many compliments — and criticisms occasionally — on the speeches I make, but there are not many that I have written. So I appreciate all the work they do. They make us what we are.
Colleagues, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year. And please, all of you, stay safe. Thank you.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
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Honourable senators, let me begin by adding my voice to the deepest gratitude to the entire Senate family, staff and administration. Senator Plett, you released me of the obligation of listing them all, but do know that your work is so appreciated by all of us. I wanted to express my appreciation to you, first and foremost.
I want to thank the leaders with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. It’s been an honour to do this, and each and every one of you has made my life actually richer. You’ve challenged me and you have supported me.
In that regard, as a representative of the government, I want to express to you and to all senators the thanks of the Government of Canada, because we have worked together through these extraordinarily difficult times. We have put aside deep convictions, partisan convictions and ideological convictions to pull together to help Canadians. There is something special about the Senate, and you’ve made it possible. It’s as simple as that. We’ve been able to reach agreement so many times and to keep our word for the well-being of all Canadians.
Don, Pau, Raymonde, Scott, Jane — you’ve made it possible for me to do the best that I can. I really appreciate it.
To my team, I’m telling you things you know. Senators Gagné and LaBoucane-Benson are remarkable colleagues. This is a team effort, and behind the scenes, our incredible staff in the Government Representative office is not a big group, but we do big things and we do them well. I’m so proud and privileged to work with you all.
Colleagues, we’ve worked so hard under very difficult circumstances. How I wish we could have been together all the time to go through this together. To those of you online, we miss you and look forward to the time we can return to be physically together to do our work.
While we are apart and during this holiday time, just cherish and love the people you love and who love you. Be close to your families. Whatever holidays you celebrate, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or however you celebrate this time, cherish it with your families and loved ones, stay safe, get some rest and may 2021 be the start of a new beginning for us all. Thank you.
Honourable senators, the Speaker has asked me to extend his best wishes to you and your loved ones as we approach the holiday season, and I join with him in doing so. Both he and I also extend our warmest thanks and best wishes to all those who support our work: our own office staff, the clerks, PPS officers, maintenance staff, Finance, HR, interpreters, stenographers, ISD, technical support, and on and on. So many in this institution help us do our work.
The Speaker and I also want to thank particularly a gentleman who is going to be with us in the Senate for his last day. He has served this institution under very strenuous and difficult circumstances. Of course, we’re talking about our ever-so-dependable interim clerk, although since he has been such a long time here, he’s been pretty much our permanent clerk. He has stickhandled us through what is probably the most existential crisis this country and this institution have faced. Richard Denis, as you go into a well-deserved retirement, we thank you for your support and service.
I hope everyone will be able to enjoy the season, even if you may have to be remote from your loved ones. I hope you will be close to them in spirit. Of course, you can use technology to connect with people.
This has been a hard year for many Canadians and people around the world. The Speaker knows this, and we all support these people in our thoughts and prayers. Let us look forward to 2021 with hope and confidence that we will get through the difficult situation in this pandemic. Please, the Speaker says, and I agree with him, take care of yourselves, your loved ones, your families, your friends and your communities. It’s all very important.
I also want to emphasize how difficult this year has been for our country and our fellow citizens. I’d like to extend my very best wishes to all for the new year, 2021. Above all, I wish all Canadians good health, good health and good health.
Thank you, my dear colleagues.
Hon. Raymonde Gagné (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate)
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With best wishes for a happy holiday, I move that we do now adjourn.