Last week in the Senate: protecting French-language rights, the government’s fall economic update and honouring crews from the navy and coast guard.
For the first time this year, I had the opportunity to co-chair, alongside Senator Judith G. Seidman, McGill Women in House, a networking event with McGill University students. Created in 2001 by female students, this two-day forum gives participants the opportunity to attend talks, panel discussions and mentoring events with female MPs and senators.
McGill University is a source of great pride and a treasure for Montreal and Quebec. This internationally renowned institution welcomes students from all over the world. At the reception, I met passionate, engaged and diverse young women. Women from Ontario, British Columbia and even France who decided to settle in Montreal to study.
As a doctoral student at McGill University, I noticed a great openness to the world. As a young French-speaking Montrealer, I was able to submit a doctoral thesis that was more than 800 pages long, all in French. McGill allowed me to develop a critical mind and encouraged me to always think outside the traditional framework. For that, I will always be grateful. When I met with the young students, I found this is still true. It is both very inspiring and promising for the future.
Our country is cosmopolitan, multicultural and welcoming. I hope that Toronto, Canada’s largest city, can be inspired by Montreal, which welcomes students from all over the world to its English and French universities, and that it may one day have the great privilege of offering students the opportunity to study in the official language of their choice.
Last week, the Minister of Finance tabled the Liberals’ economic update. It should come as no surprise the government is breaking its last election promise to return to a balanced budget in 2019. In fact, the budget deficit next year will be higher than what was projected just a few months ago in Budget 2018.
According to the update presented on Thursday, this government will never bring forward a balanced budget, and has set out no plan or pathway to return to balance. Instead, this government’s spending remains out of control and it is leaving nothing to spare in the event of an economic downturn.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer reported last month that in just five years, by 2023-24, it will cost $37 billion to service our debt. To put this in perspective, the fall economic statement sends us further into debt so much so that within five years we will spend approximately the same amount on interest payments as we spend on the entire Canada Health Transfer for healthcare.
The government’s fall economic update is adding $17.1 billion in new measures, but it’s still not addressing Canada’s declining competitiveness, a fact outlined by noted economist Dr. Jack Mintz. The government is mortgaging the future of our children because of its inability to effectively manage the finances of our country.
November 20 marked the annual Navy and Coast Guard Day on the Hill. This special day provides the opportunity for parliamentarians to celebrate Canada as a maritime nation, and to honour the efforts of our brave men and women who keep our country safe at sea and beyond.
The Navy League of Canada, and parliamentarians from all sides, organized last week’s events as an expression of thanks for the significant sacrifices made by our sailors. That morning in the Senate Chamber we honoured eight sailors for their bravery and dedication to keeping Canada safe.
The Royal Canadian Navy has a long history of deploying around the world in peacetime and during conflicts to help keep regions secure and to defend allies and partners where needed. Our Canadian Coast Guard provides icebreaking assistance, protects our northern borders and provides highly valuable search and rescue efforts in our waters.
Since 1985, The Navy League of Canada has supported a strong and ready navy and coast guard to watch over our maritime interest, and supports the Navy League and Royal Canadian Sea Cadet programs.
As a proud Haligonian, it is always a pleasure for me to support their efforts, not only when they visit Parliament Hill, but every day of the year. We should all show our support for the brave men and women of Canada’s navy and coast guard, and thank them for their unwavering service to our country.
Last week, I introduced Motion 410 in the Senate in response to the government of Ontario’s budget cuts, which sparked a wave of concern among Franco-Ontarians.
As a senator from Quebec, I saw it as my duty to introduce this motion in solidarity with my fellow francophones from elsewhere in Canada. The wording of this motion was a collective effort of several francophone senators representing both minority communities and Quebec.
Our goal was for the Senate to put partisanship aside and show a united front on the issue of language rights and to call on the government of Canada to take all steps necessary to defend Ontario’s 500,000 francophones.
The debate on the motion began last Thursday. The eight senators who spoke were a mix of Independents, Conservatives and Liberals, francophones and anglophones, and they all expressed their support for the motion, emphasizing how essential both official languages are to our country.
Franco-Ontarian Senator Forest-Niesing said she had been a part of the struggle for francophones from northern Ontario to have their rights recognized. Franco-Manitoban Senator Gagné explained the history and importance of the Université de l’Ontario français project, which was abandoned by the government of Ontario. Senator Harder, a senator from Ontario, said, “Today is the time for this Senate, for this Chamber, to become the leader it should be and support this motion.”
Senator Maltais called on the Senate to unanimously support this motion, reminding us that francophones have been part of Canada’s history since 1534, and Manitoban Senator Bovey closed with these words: “How would those of us who are anglophone react if our English-language universities, cultural organizations and services were suddenly taken from us?”