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Perspectives — December 5-8, 2017
Perspectives — December 5-8, 2017
December 12, 2017
OPINION

Last week at the Senate: a bill on drug and alcohol impaired driving, the federal government’s plan for new fighter jets, a remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the Halifax explosion and a senator’s reflections on a year in the Red Chamber.

Government 

Across Canada, the holiday season is about celebration. But these celebrations can lead to tragedy when people who have been drinking or using drugs get behind the wheel.

In 2013, 1,451 Canadians were killed by alcohol-or drug-involved driving. This holiday season, Senators can advance Bill C-46 to reduce those deaths through changes to the Criminal Code.

Bill C-46 will allow mandatory roadside screening to help identify drivers over the legal limit who are not currently detected at roadside check stops. At present, roadside stops fail to detect up to 50% of drivers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit.

Mandatory alcohol screening will detect more impaired drivers and will encourage people who are drinking to stay off the road.

With mandatory alcohol screening, Canada will join more than 40 other jurisdictions around the world where a significant number of lives have been saved. Ireland reports that such screening has reduced road deaths by 25%.

The bill also adds provisions to prevent drug-impaired driving—a crime that, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, is present in fatal crashes nearly twice as often as alcohol.

While all legislation affects Canadians in one way or another, Bill C-46 can immediately address the leading cause of criminal death in Canada: impaired driving.

With the holiday season upon us, Senators have the responsibility to advance C-46 to help stop a completely preventable loss of life and make Canada’s roads safer.


Opposition

On May 29, 2017, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement in the House of Commons regarding the procurement of fighter jets: “Yes, there were options for buying old ones. No, we do not want to buy used equipment; we want to invest in new planes.” 

This week, media reported that the Trudeau government will announce that instead of purchasing new F-18 fighter jets, Canada will be acquiring old, used Australian F-18s as they are phased out of service and being replaced by the F-35 – “an aircraft that doesn’t work and is far from working”, as the PM has said.

According to a recent Senate report, “The interim fighter jet replacement plan is a political decision that does not serve the interest of the Royal Canadian Air Force or Canadian taxpayers. This decision may cost from $5-7 billion and will limit our air force’s ability to be fully interoperable within NORAD and NATO. The committee is very concerned that 13 former Royal Canadian Air Force generals have come forward and publicly questioned the government’s decision. The committee views these concerns as very credible.”

The Trudeau government have completely mismanaged this file from the beginning. As a matter of transparency, the Senate Conservative Caucus raised concerns regarding total cost and timeline to replace the current CF-18s, including when the purchase will begin and how long it will last.

We are concerned that the Trudeau government is trying to avoid their obligations. Our men and women in uniform deserve better.


Senate Liberals

On December 6th we marked the 100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. This tragic event killed 2000, injured 9000 and left thousands more homeless. We remember those who lost their lives and acknowledge the hard work of those involved in the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

While the Explosion is remembered as a loss for all Canadians, it was the aftermath that spoke volumes. Nova Scotians, Canadians, and particularly Bostonians, joined forces and worked tirelessly to provide relief supplies and medical assistance and restore hope to Halifax. 

Every year, to thank the people of Boston, Halifax gifts a Christmas tree which is installed on the Boston Common. This year, the 53 foot white spruce tree was donated by Bob and Marlon Campbell of Blues Mills, Cape Breton.

The Halifax Explosion is a reminder of the strength we have as Canadians. The victims touched by the blast were left with almost nothing, but they never gave up. It is because of their fighting spirit and willingness to persevere that the province of Nova Scotia would come back stronger than ever.  

Hundreds of people attended the 100th Anniversary Halifax Explosion Memorial Service at Fort Needham Memorial Park, and similar commemorative events all over the province, to pay their respects and honour the memory of those impacted. 100 years later, Nova Scotians still carry on the legacy of those lost in the Explosion. It is important that we remember what was lost and continue to say thank you to those who helped us rebuild.


Independent Senators Group

This week we catch a glimpse of the Senate through the eyes of Independent Senator Tony Dean (Ontario)

This November marked my first year in the Senate and so a time for reflection.

It’s such a privilege to be in this place in so many ways.  Having cut my policy teeth in Ontario I now have the opportunity to examine rich policy and legislative initiatives through a more complex national lens.

I work with a smart and experienced group of Senators, committed professional staff.  And what I might call an ‘interesting’ mix of policy and politics.

In view of my public policy background I have an interest in evidence-informed policy making, starting with a good understanding of the problems we are trying to fix or the opportunities we are seeking to exploit.

I’ve generally found that good data drives good policy. 

This has been the case in the two bills I have sponsored over the past 12-months:  the first dealing with reform of the Canada Pension Plan and now Bill C-45 on cannabis reform. 

Both have as their goal a healthier future for young Canadians and both started with an open-eyed assessment of current challenges.  

This is how I’m heading into year two and it couldn’t feel better, except... if we can just tweak our processes a little to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our debates I would feel that I’ve really arrived.