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Perspectives — June 10-14, 2019
June 18, 2019
OPINION

Last week in the Senate: welcoming Canadians into the Senate’s temporary home, voting on the Impact Assessment Act and promoting blood donation in Canada.


Government

Come discover how Parliament works with a tour of the Senate’s new home. What was once the concourse of Ottawa’s historic downtown train station has been transformed into a temporary Red Chamber as the Parliament Hill building, which has been the setting for nearly a century of debates, undergoes a much-needed renovation.

Guided parliamentary tours of the space will take you through a great hall and past a historic mahogany bench from the former train station, which returned to the retrofitted building thanks to the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Maple leaves feature prominently in the temporary Chamber where senators debate legislation in the service of Canadians. You can find 10 species native to Canada etched into wood, cast in glass and featured in patterns on the carpet.

In addition to maple leaves, Canadian landscapes are also featured in the building, including panoramas of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park and Cape Race on the coast of Newfoundland.

Originally built as a train station in 1912, the building was decommissioned in the 1960s and later remodeled as a conference centre. More recently, major rehabilitation work was completed to suit the Senate’s needs, including restoring the stone masonry and reinforcing the structural integrity.

As the renovation project to preserve Centre Block for future generations is underway, come explore the new home of sober second thought.


Opposition

Months of cross-country travel, consultations, careful study and debate by senators were erased in a matter of a few hours this past week.

Despite a promise to work constructively with provinces, the majority of the more than 180 amendments made to Bill C-69 were dismissed by the Trudeau government.

Amendments put forward by Conservative senators were rejected at an even higher rate. More than 90% of Conservative amendments were abandoned.

These changes were put forward by provincial governments of all political stripes, and by people who make their living in the oil and gas industry. Sadly, the federal environment minister dismissed these changes as all coming from “oil company lobbyists.”

Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “irresponsible” for premiers to pass along the concerns they have heard about the bill.

With nine out of 10 provinces requesting changes to the bill, how can the prime minister claim that it’s everyone else who is mistaken on the impact this legislation will have on national unity? The House of Commons report that guts the amendments will likely land in the Senate for a vote early this week.

With this vote on Bill C-69, Canadians will witness once again how the prime minister’s talking points about a non-partisan Senate are completely false. Just last week, the Trudeau-appointed senators joined with Conservatives to improve the bill. Will they reverse their position and vote with the Liberal government again?

Sadly, I believe we all know the answer to that question.


Senate Liberals

Last week in the Senate, I was pleased to mark National Blood Donor Week, which ran June 10 to 16. Blood donors are a vital link in Canada’s lifeline because Canadians rely entirely on the generosity and commitment of donors to keep the lifeline going.

According to Canadian Blood Services, more than 100,000 new donors are needed every year to help meet patient needs in Canada. There are many reasons to join in this endeavour. Every 60 seconds, someone in Canada needs blood, and donors are needed every single day of the year.

It can take up to five donors to help a father through heart surgery, eight donors a week to help treat a child with leukemia and 50 donors to save a loved one from a car crash.

More than 10 years ago, I was proud to bring forward the bill that would create National Blood Donor Week, but there is still more work to do. Currently, less than 4% of eligible donors sustain the Canadian blood system. More regular donors are needed to maintain the national inventory of blood and blood products.

Donating blood is one of the most direct ways you can help someone. Without the commitment of donors, Canada would not be able to meet patients’ needs. I thank those who donate so selflessly and encourage others to do the same. You never know when you or a loved one will be in need of lifesaving blood.