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Perspectives — May 30 - June 1, 2017
Perspectives — May 30 - June 1, 2017
June 6, 2017
OPINION

Senate modernization, the government’s proposed infrastructure bank, and the role of nonprofits were some of last week’s highlights. 

Government

Tourist season is in full swing, and thousands of people from across the country and around the world are travelling to Ottawa to visit the Nation’s Capital in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation.

Throughout the month of June, the halls of Centre Block will be buzzing with the sound of students who are discovering the Parliament Buildings for the very first time. Setting their eyes on the iconic Peace Tower, absorbing the magnificence of the Library of Parliament and witnessing the beauty of the Senate Chamber will undoubtedly be among the memories that will stay with these young people for years to come.

Whether it’s here in Ottawa or back in my home province of Alberta, I always enjoy meeting with school groups to discuss the importance of the Senate and inform them about my role as a Parliamentarian. It’s a privilege to be able to interact with students and teachers, and answer their questions about Canada’s parliamentary system.

For those travelling to Ottawa over the coming weeks, I would encourage you to consider taking some time during your visit to Parliament to witness the Senate at work. Guests of all ages are welcome to sit in the gallery and watch senators debate a wide range of legislation.

You can review plenty of other worthwhile ideas and options by browsing https://visit.parl.ca. With so much to discover, this website offers a wide range of information to help you make the most of your time on Parliament Hill.


Opposition

Finance Minister Bill Morneau made a surprise appearance before Banking Committee this week; a rare occurrence as his omnibus budget bill has not yet arrived in the Senate. The creation of a new infrastructure bank is part of this bill which has led to much discussion. For example, stakeholders have questioned outright if this is an infringement on provincial jurisdiction. This week, the Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion asking the federal government to amend the bill to ensure areas of provincial jurisdiction are respected.

It was evident from his testimony Minister Morneau was hesitant in articulating certain measures in the bill including how the bank’s return on investment would work; what would happen if a project fails; why the government put this in an omnibus bill instead of putting it in a separate bill on its own. Our caucus remains concerned Bill C-44 will see private investors benefit at the expense of taxpayers who will incur all the risk.

Congratulations to Senator Linda Frum on the introduction Bill S-239 that will make it illegal for Canadian third parties to accept funding from any non-Canadian entity for election activities. Senator Frum has done excellent work investigating the loopholes that permit foreign entities to donate unlimited sums of money to third parties that wish to sway Canadian electoral outcomes.

Finally, Senator Nancy Greene Raine presented an initiative on National Health and Fitness Day to seek solutions to the growing obesity rates in Canada, especially among youth. For more information, you can visit www.NHFDcan.ca 


Senate Liberals

Last week, I had the pleasure of proposing to my Senate colleagues that we create a special committee to study charities and nonprofits and the volunteers who support them.

We held an Open Caucus meeting in February on the charitable sector and this initiative was one of the proposals discussed at that meeting. However, as a professional fundraiser for most of my life, the philanthropic sector has been very important to me for quite some time. I believe it is in need of a comprehensive review and the Senate is the right place to take on this challenge.

Volunteering is an integral part of Canadian culture; our society would not function to its best right now without the existence of the nonprofit and charitable sector. These organizations deliver services and programs where there is a lack of service by the government.

We have not had an in-depth review to see if the laws and policies regulating nonprofits and charities are adequate. In understanding how these organizations operate within the current framework, we would have a greater understanding of how we could update those policies that would help them deliver the services so desperately needed. 

I am hopeful all senators will support this motion so that we can get to work examining the many issues facing this sector.

People volunteer their time and money and nonprofit and charitable organizations provide services that are invaluable to our communities. 

Let’s see what we can do to help them. 


Independent Senators Group

This week, we catch a glimpse of the Senate through the eyes of Independent Senator Elaine McCoy (Alberta).

May was a good month for Senate modernization. A highly anticipated recommendation by the Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures, and the Rights of Parliament was unanimously adopted on May 11th. It includes new rules allowing for the formation of groups not organized along traditional party lines. 

The new procedural rules expand the ways in which senators can organize themselves to make their work more effective. Now groups based on common interests and goals, rather than political allegiance, will be recognized in the Senate Chamber and on committees. This move is expected to add to the ever lively dynamics of debate.

“I believe that this is an important step forward, not just for the ISG, but for Canadians as a whole,” said Senator Elaine McCoy, a long-time independent senator, and the Facilitator of the Independent Senators Group (ISG). 

Still to come are similar changes to the Senate’s administrative rules.  The ISG continues to work with colleagues in all caucuses and groups to modernize the Senate based on principles of fairness, equality, proportionality and collaboration.