Appropriation Bill No. 5, 2020-21

Motion in Amendment--Speaker's Statement

December 9, 2020


[15:49]

Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefor:

“Bill C-17, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, be not now read a second time because the Senate is of the view that it does not include sufficient expenditure to reduce the effects of poverty in Canada, which is currently experienced by more than three and a half million people whose lives have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including high infection rates and ensuing serious illness and death.”.

Thank you. Meegwetch.

The Hon. the Speaker
[15:50]

Honourable senators will know that this is a rarely used procedure, which is referred to at page 133 of Senate Procedure in Practice and is known as a reasoned amendment. The motion allows a senator to outline the reasons for opposing second or third reading of a bill. It puts on the record a statement or explanation as to why a bill should not be proceeded with. The motion can be debated, amended and adjourned.

Honourable senators will also know that if a reasoned amendment is adopted, the bill is defeated.

That said, it was moved by the Honourable Senator Pate, seconded by the Honourable Senator McPhedran, that the motion be amended — may I dispense?

Go ahead, Senator Woo.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo
[15:51]

Honourable senators, those of us in the chamber have the benefit of having the document in front of us. I understand that Senate Administration has emailed the same document to colleagues who are on video. For those who have not been checking their email, could Your Honour please read the motion in amendment in full?

The Hon. the Speaker
[15:52]

For all honourable senators who have joined us virtually, the motion has been emailed. I am proceeding to read the motion, but the only effect that will have is to open it for debate. I saw a number of honourable senators rising, so I am sure you will have an opportunity to read it. If not, please raise your hand to let me know, and we will provide the time.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[15:52]

Honourable senators, Shakespeare had one of his characters, when looking upon the ghost of his father, speak of a “countenance more in sorrow than in anger.” My countenance registers a bit of shock.

I will speak against this amendment. I applaud Senator Pate for her ongoing activism and advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable. Regardless of the issue, Senator Pate remains committed, c’est tout à ton honneur.

That said, with respect, I cannot support this motion, and I urge you all to reject it. This is, in fact, a dilatory motion that would delay the implementation of this legislation for a prolonged period of time. Given the time of year we’re at and the crisis we are in, as the Speaker properly pointed out, if it is passed, it would kill this legislation.

I have no doubt of the sincerity with which the motion is presented — for the benefit of those vulnerable who, it cannot be denied, have not fully enjoyed the benefits of our economy and perhaps have not shared, as the senator would have them share, in the programs that the government has put in place to help Canadians through this crisis.

But to defeat this legislation or to pass this amendment would have serious financial and operational consequences. Although I do not deny or doubt the good faith behind it, you will permit me, perhaps in my shock, to say that the effects would be cruel. The defeat of this bill would make it impossible for the government to continue to provide the services and programs it needs to provide for the benefit of Canadians.

It would get in the way — indeed, it would slow down if not stop, in some cases — important programs and measures to continue to fight the pandemic. It would get in the way, colleagues, if not stop outright — and time is not our friend when we are fighting a pandemic as relentless as COVID-19 — the development of Canadian manufacturing capacity, to secure our capacity to deal with this and future pandemics, the development of Canadian-made vaccines or to assist essential workers who are putting themselves and their families at risk every day for the benefit of the most vulnerable in this society. It will simply make it impossible for this government, democratically elected, to do its work in all respects — not only in this — on behalf of Canadians.

It is an understatement, dear colleagues, to say that the adage of “let not the best be the enemy of the good” applies here so dramatically, with such clear consequences.

But I’m going to calm down and just remind us of our responsibilities as senators, in addition to our responsibilities as citizens. The bill deals with monetary measures. This is a clear confidence measure, but we are not a confidence chamber, as the senator pointed out indirectly. This was a clear confidence vote in the other place, and it was not simply a vote that the government, of its own, put forward. It was supported by not only the Liberal Party but the NDP, the Bloc and the Greens; parties that represent a significant majority of those who voted in the last election.

If my mathematics fell short, the principles I am standing upon are rock solid. This was a confidence vote in the elected house to provide funding for the government to continue to do its work — work it is entitled to do, as it is entitled to govern. Indeed, as the opposition in the House and in this chamber are at pains to remind us — properly so, and it is to their honour — it is one thing to raise, question, demand and hold to account a government. It is another thing to refuse to allow the government to govern. The effect of this bill would be to do precisely that.

I have enormous respect for the Senate and what we can contribute by way of debate and critical review, but to do this is to overstep our role and to do so in a way that hurts Canadians. I cannot for the life of me support this, and I urge you not to.

The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance did its work, as it always does. It did its due diligence. We heard its report. We heard the concerns that we know are shared by Senator Pate and those who, like me, are concerned about those who are left behind in our economy. But this is not the way in which the Senate should be doing its job.

With all respect, this is an irresponsible amendment that cannot be supported by the government and I hope not by any or all senators. Thank you for your attention.

The Hon. the Speaker
[15:59]

Senator Dupuis, do you want to ask a question or make a comment?

Hon. Renée Dupuis
[15:59]

I wish to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

The Hon. the Speaker
[15:59]

Go ahead.

Senator Dupuis
[15:59]

I want to be sure that I understand the rules of the Senate. When an amendment is proposed does it have to be presented in both official languages?

The Hon. the Speaker
[15:59]

Yes, absolutely.

Senator Dupuis
[15:59]

May I ask why would we should consider this amendment at this time when we have not received the French version?

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:00]

My understanding, Senator Dupuis, is that the amendment was sent to all senators who joined us virtually through their emails in both official languages. I know it was received in the chamber in both official languages. I’m looking at the email now, Senator Dupuis.

In any event, it will be a matter for tomorrow. I’m sorry, Senator Dupuis. If you check and find you have not received it, would you please let my office know and we will figure out what happened.

Senator Dupuis
[16:00]

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I received the amendment in English only. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker
[16:00]

That will be addressed. My apologies. It ought to have gone out in both official languages.