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Perspectives — May 8-11, 2017
Perspectives — May 8-11, 2017
May 16, 2017

Senate modernization, Canada’s defence policy, and the retirement of Prince Philip were some of last week’s highlights.


One year ago, I agreed to join the Government Representative team because I wanted to be directly involved in modernizing the Senate. This position has given me an opportunity to work with all senators to effect change from within the Senate so that the institution can meet the expectations of Canadians.

My role on the Government Representative team is to encourage good legislative practices, independently of the current rules.

In fact, the rules and procedures in the Senate are different from those in the House of Commons. The Senate has very important powers, and the debate is not as structured as it is in the other place. Senators can even overturn a Speaker’s ruling, which is not the case in the other chamber.

The Senate was granted these far-reaching powers because of its role to provide sober second thought on legislation. However, these powers can also be misused for partisan purposes, which can delay the study and passage of government bills.

In my opinion, best practices must be adopted during this period of transformation for the reformed Senate to function effectively. One thing is clear: managing uncertainty is one of the challenges of my role, and sleepless nights sometimes make me feel like I am becoming nocturnal, like an owl…


Monday, May 8, 2017, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence tabled a report on reinvesting in the Canadian Armed Forces and effectively addressing strategic challenges which confront Canada in the 21st century. The report makes 30 recommendations for positioning the Canadian Armed Forces to protect national sovereignty in the decades ahead. Key among these is the recommendation to the government that it cancel its decision to buy 18 Super Hornets fighter jets and instead launch an immediate competitive procurement process to renew and expand our current fighter fleet. The chairman of the committee, Senator Daniel Lang, answered several questions about this report during Wednesday Senate QP. I would like to thank him and the rest of the Committee for their non-partisan report on this important issue.

Congratulations to Senator Linda Frum for the adoption of Bill S-232, the Jewish Heritage Month Act, at Human Rights Committee this week. Bill S-232 aims to formalize the month of May as a time to celebrate Canadian-Jewish culture and to honour the significant contributions that have been made of by Canadians of Jewish faith to Canada, beginning from the very earliest days of colonial settlement.

Congratulations to Senator Oh on his excellent amendments to Bill C-6 that would protect children irrespective of their age, gender and status by providing them with access to citizenship. Although passed in the Senate, it is our hope that MPs will put the best interests of minors ahead of their partisan considerations and take responsibility for Canada’s youth.

Senate Liberals

Last week, I rose in the Senate Chamber to mark the retirement from public duties of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

His 70 years of public service benefited hundreds of good causes, but there is one in particular that I highlighted to my colleagues.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award was founded by Prince Philip himself in 1956; today, more than 60 years later, “the Award” operates throughout the world in more than 140 countries, encouraging young people aged 14 to 24 to improve themselves and to make a difference in their communities, develop leadership potential, and discover personal talents by challenging themselves.

Over 500,000 young people here in Canada, and over 8 million around the world, have participated in the program since its inception. Truly, the inspiration and leadership of the Duke has borne remarkable results in many parts of the world.

In Canada, the Award operates as a federally registered charity.  I have had the honour to be part of the team since April 2011, when I joined the board of directors.

Our Canadian branch contributes to the education of talented and responsible citizens reaching new communities year by year, including empowering indigenous youth, and helping to equip our youth in at-risk communities for success in life.

I invite all Canadians to join me in thanking His Royal Highness The Prince Philip for his extraordinary lifetime of public service, and wishing him all the best for his well-deserved retirement.


Independent Senators Group

This week we catch a glimpse of the Senate through the eyes of Senator Pierrette Ringuette.

On Monday, May 8, I moved a motion recommending the creation of a standing senate committee on human resources.  This permanent committee would deal with issues relating to employment, skills development, and the public services – areas that affect millions of Canadians on a daily basis.

It would focus on researching and recommending policies to face the many current and future human resources challenges.  Among these challenges are the demographic shift created by baby boomers, youth unemployment and underemployment, pay equity, and First Nations, Inuit, and veteran employment.

Currently, these issues are largely dealt with in the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.  However, we have many senators with human resources expertise, and I believe the time has come to create a base of expertise to more effectively address needs of Canadians and to protect Canada’s greatest asset – human resources.

Establishing a human resources committee would meet the needs of a globalized economy that requires constant adaptationIn a modernizing Senate, we need to be able to create solutions for those working now and for those who will be entering the workforce in the coming decades.