The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that the following communication had been received:
October 8, 2009
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 8th day of October, 2009, at 11:51 a.m.
For the Secretary to the Governor General
The Speaker of the Senate
Bill assented to Thursday, October 8, 2009:
An Act to amend the Tobacco Act (Bill C-32, Chapter 27, 2009)
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, Saturday, October 10 is World Hospice Palliative Care Day, a day to hear the voices of people around the world who are living with life-limiting illnesses — voices often silent because their entire focus is on remaining alive.
Palliative and end-of-life care strives to provide comfort and dignity for anyone who is in the latter stages of terminal illness. This care implies that we attend not only to their medical needs but also to their spiritual and emotional needs. The focus of palliative and end-of-life care is on preserving the quality of the recipient's life so that their suffering is minimized but their experience with life is not. Palliative and end-of-life care is not about dying, it is about living well until the very end.
Too often we think that hospice palliative care is for those who have a cancer diagnosis or for those who are older. Hospice palliative care is not only for cancer patients or for the old. Children and young people with life-limiting chronic conditions have special palliative care needs that are different from those of adults and these needs, too, must be addressed.
Honourable senators, as we mark World Hospice and Palliative Care Day, let us listen to the voices of young and old around the world as they demand their fundamental human right to live well until the end with quality hospice palliative care.
Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, this week the Afghanistan Chief of the General Staff General Mohammadi and an Afghan delegation are in Ottawa. This afternoon, they will lay a wreath at our National War Memorial, in tribute to Canadian men and women who have given their lives to protect and assist the Afghan people. Tomorrow, they will participate in exercises at the Petawawa military base.
Mentoring, training, teaching, leading by example and building infrastructure, all over and above combat and counter-terrorism — this approach is what has set apart our troops, special forces and civilians. For eight years, our civilian volunteers — secured and supported by our military — have built dams and schools, and vaccinated thousands of children.
Our ambassador recently explained how Canada's efforts on governance, monitoring and security have allowed thousands of Afghans to vote. Perhaps their election does not meet our western democratic standard, but let us not let perfection become the enemy of progress. Two elections in eight years — after 30 years of Soviet invasion and a decade of Taliban terror in a country bombed back into the dark ages and ruled by fear and threat of execution — a vote, even with its taint of corruption or uncertainty, is better than the circumstances of the last 40 years.
This is not the time to take the coward's stand and call for a retreat or to conjure up comparisons to Vietnam — cheap shots designed to sideswipe our Canadian military, or worse, embolden our enemy. This war is a different war, where the people of Afghanistan have asked us for help. Why would we choose to turn our backs on the people who have asked us for our help? Why would we ignore the fact that this mission is a UN-sponsored, NATO-led mission? Finally, why would we want to leave ourselves vulnerable here at home?
While President Obama reconsiders a change in strategy, his own hand-picked political and military advisers have asked him — and I am paraphrasing — to put a little more Canada in their plan. U.S. General Stanley McChrystal has argued for more boots on the ground and equipment to arm and move them, but he said those measures alone are not the answer; that winning hearts and minds, along with sophisticated war fighting, is how one wins battles.
Canada is leading the way with new counter-insurgency strategies. Lt.-Col. Joe Paul from the Van Doos recently explained how our troops' intelligence strategy is influencing operations on the ground in a positive way. He said:
The intent of the operation was to have a Canadian company living in the town on a permanent basis. Not simply a patrol done once a week or once a month but to live there in permanence, and Bravo company is going to do it . . .
Instead of clearing an area and moving on, Canadian troops in complements of about 100 are now setting up in "platoon houses" and living in the villages.
The goal, Lt.-Col Paul said, is "to really interact with the local population." Those who are on the ground report that this change in tactics has boosted morale among the troops, who know — because they see it in the faces of the children — that they are offering security to help the Afghans to stand up and lead their own defence.
A safer, more secure Afghanistan means a safer, more secure Canada.
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, the Women of Distinction awards ceremony was held in Montreal on September 21. The 16th edition of the benefit gala organized by the Montreal YWCA is one of that organization's principal fundraisers.
This year, $300,000 was raised for the YWCA's housing, literacy, leadership, employability and entrepreneurship programs. This money is needed more than ever in the current economic context as many women look to these programs for help in overcoming their difficulties.
I would like to sincerely congratulate the YWCA. Since it was founded in 1875, it has helped Quebec women of all ages and social conditions become more independent economically, professionally, socially and personally.
The gala event is more than a fundraiser; it is also an opportunity to highlight the outstanding contributions of 11 Quebec women. The 11 women chosen this year enrich Quebec society by their daily actions and their personalities. Allow me to briefly describe each of the winners.
Lise Payette, former politician, writer and host, won the Pioneer award.
The Advancement of Women award went to professor and sociologist Louise Vandelac.
Christiane Bergevin, vice-president of the Desjardins Group, won the Business and Professions award.
The Arts and Culture award went to film-maker Marquise Lepage.
Journalist Michèle Boisvert received the Communications award.
Professor Arpi Hamalian won the Education award.
The Entrepreneurship award went to designer Johanne Boivin.
The Health and Science award was given to Rima Rozen of McGill University.
Iris Almeida-Côté of Canada World Youth won the Community Service award.
The Sports and Wellness award went to Thérèse Cadrin Petit.
This year's Young Woman of Distinction is Mae Jane Nam, a founding member of the Philippine Women Centre of Quebec.
Because of their commitment, courage and determination and their remarkable journeys, these Montreal women have advanced the cause of women and society as a whole. They are brilliant women who invite us all to be the best we can be and who serve as role models to the next generation.
Honourable senators, please join me in paying tribute to these 11 exceptional women.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty, a report released by the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry under the able chairmanship of the chair at the time, Senator Joyce Fairbairn, heard much testimony from rural Canadians as to the challenges they face in their attempt to deal with circumstances that are often made worse by isolation.
One comment in particular from a witness testifying before the committee struck us all:
. . . arguably, rural citizens stand to benefit the most from broadband's ability to reduce costs, distance and time as factors in delivering both public and private products and services through digital networks. As it is, however, the rural-urban digital gap often ends up exacerbating existing urban and rural disparities and hastens the decline of rural economies.
That is why the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry recommended making broadband available to rural Canada.
I am pleased to stand before honourable senators today to put on the record that progress based on that recommendation has been made. The Eastern Ontario Regional Broadband Network has received $110 million recently in federal-provincial funding, announced jointly by MP Daryl Kramp and provincial MPP Leona Dombrowsky, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for Ontario. The closing date for the request for proposals is November of this year. It is anticipated that the gaps in high-speed broadband access in Eastern Ontario will be closed by 2012.
What the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry heard, and came to understand two years ago, was why high-speed broadband services for Canadians, especially in rural Canada, was so important. I am pleased that our provincial and federal legislators are also hearing and understanding that broadband is a top regional priority for economic development, for economic communities in rural Canada and especially for the kids of rural Canada.
I congratulate honourable senators who worked on the committee under Senator Fairbairn's distinguished leadership, including the then-Deputy Chair Senator Gustafson of Saskatchewan, Senator Baker, Senator Callbeck, Senator Mahovlich, Senator Mercer, Senator Peterson, Senator Oliver and Senator St. Germain. I also congratulate those who served on the second committee, which had to give approval because of one or two prorogations that took place between the first committee and the second: Senator Mockler, Senator Grafstein, Senator Lovelace Nicholas, Senator Poulin and Senator Eaton.
I congratulate the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for acting so directly on a recommendation of a committee of this chamber.
Hon. Robert W. Peterson: Honourable senators, I had the great honour of participating in the Canadian Forces Parliamentary Program with a visit to 19 Wing Comox, B.C. from September 9 to 11 this year.
The mission of 19 Wing Comox varies. The airmen and airwomen patrol our borders for illegal activities, protect our natural resources, and routinely conduct challenging search-and-rescue missions and training.
I spent those days living, eating and working alongside the air force personnel of 19 Wing Comox and experienced life as a member of the Canadian Forces. Although the days were long, the experiences were rewarding.
Of the many different units comprising the 19 Wing Comox team, I was assigned to the 442 Search and Rescue Squadron and 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron. As a temporary member of the crew, I experienced morning briefings, presentations and familiarization flying. I also had an opportunity to fly the Aurora aircraft.
The 442 Squadron crew provided a close view of the capabilities and missions of its fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft, the CC-115 Buffalo, and how it is complemented by the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter.
I want to express my appreciation to Colonel Michel Lalumiére, 19 Wing Commander, to my escort, Captain Alexandre Cadieux, and to members of the 19 Wing Comox team for their in-depth information sessions. I especially want to thank the crew for demonstrating their handling of an aborted takeoff, for which I shall be forever grateful, but especially for providing me with a unique insight into the search-and-rescue capabilities and challenges of our air force crew members.
I hold our Canadian Forces members in the highest esteem, and working side by side for even a few days has reinforced the need to offer our public appreciation and continued support of these men and women who work on our behalf with great professionalism and pride.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, I rise today in recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Last evening I had the pleasure of attending the seventh annual Champions of Mental Health Awards. This year, eight distinguished leaders were honoured for their contribution to advancing the cause of mental health in their work and in their lives.
These remarkable men and women have shown strength and commitment in their efforts to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and to support programs for research, as well as diagnosis, treatment and care for the mentally ill.
I was pleased to see such a well-rounded and deserving group of recipients, seven in all, each with his or her own unique experience and inspiration.
The Honourable Peter MacKay was honoured for his personal comments concerning mental health and issues among Canadian Forces members, and his role in increasing the number of mental health professionals in the military and the creation of support centres.
General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, was honoured for his outstanding commitment to reducing the stigma associated with mental health in the military, and launching the Canadian Forces Mental Health Awareness Campaign, "Be the Difference."
Lieutenant-Colonel Stéphane Grenier was honoured for his department's highly successful initiative, the Operational Stress Injury Social Support Program, which was designed to reduce pervasive stigma and improve social support for Canadian Forces members, veterans and their families.
Dr. Maggie Hodgson, the Founder and Executive Director of the Nechi Institute on Alcohol and Drug Education, was recognized for her engagement in a range of Aboriginal health initiatives across the country.
Margaret Trudeau was recognized for her remarkable courage in publicly discussing her experience of living with bipolar disorder.
Dr. Donald Wasylenki was honoured for his leadership and involvement in mental health research and in the development of innovative programs and treatments.
Mary Ann Baynton, the Program Director at the Great West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, was recognized for her help in motivating employers to take action on mental health issues and in creating greater understanding of these issues in our workplace.
Finally, Laurie Hall was recognized for her work as Executive Director of A-Way Express, a non-profit courier service that provides employment to people living with mental health issues.
Honourable senators, these award winners are an inspiration to all of us. Through their leadership, they illustrate to all Canadians that we can each — in our own way and in our own lives — be leaders who take action to help increase understanding and reduce the stigma of mental illness.
Access to Information Act and Privacy Act—2008-09 Annual Reports Tabled
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2008-09 annual reports of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer pursuant to section 72 of the Access to Information Act and to the Privacy Act.
Second Report of Fisheries and Oceans Committee—Government Response Tabled
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to the second report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled Rising to the Arctic Challenge: Report on the Canadian Coast Guard.
Bill to Amend—Eleventh Report of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Presented
Hon. Joan Fraser, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and constitutional Affairs, presented the following report:
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (limiting credit for time spent in pre-sentencing custody), has, in obedience to the order of reference of Tuesday, June 16, 2009, examined the said Bill and now reports the same with the following amendments:
1. Page 1, clause 2: Replace lines 10 and 11 with the following:
"orders that the accused be detained in custody, on the basis of one or more grounds set out in subsection (10), primarily because of evidence of a previous conviction of".
2. Clause 3:
(a) Page 1:
(i) Replace line 21 with the following:
"to a maximum of one and one-half days for each day spent in", and
(ii) Replace lines 24 and 25 with the following:
"stances justify it, the maximum is two days for each day spent in custody unless"; and
(b) Page 2: Replace lines 14 and 15 with the following:
"(3.4) Failure to comply with subsection (3.3) does not affect the validity of the".
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
Senator Fraser: With leave of the Senate, later this day.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): As Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, I would have thought that I might have been given a heads-up that such leave would have been sought. Perhaps I could be allowed further time to reflect on this. We can always seek leave to deal with this item later today, but at the present time I do not feel comfortable in giving leave.
Senator Fraser: Your Honour, is it possible to revert and seek leave to do something if leave has been denied earlier in the session?
The Hon. the Speaker: If all honourable senators agree to revert, then that would be an order of the house.
Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, to the chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee: Is there any reason why there was no consultation?
Senator Fraser: The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs sat until one o'clock this afternoon in the East Block. There was not much time for anything to be done. A number of us have not even had lunch. As the honourable senator knows, it is in a sense a consultation of the Senate to say, "Will you give us leave?" Senator Comeau has said "not yet."
Senator Prud'homme: The honourable senator will understand that I did not want to be rude. She has now given an explanation, and I thank her for her explanation. We are not all aware of what goes on. The honourable senator has given a good explanation, but now I think there should be consultation.
Senator Comeau: I do not want anyone to rephrase comments that I make when I rise to my feet. What I said was that I was not consulted, and I think I should have been consulted. However, I am prepared to reconsider, possibly later this day; rather than "not yet," possibly later this day. Our Rules provide that if there is unanimous consent, we can revisit this item later this day, but as of this time I am not prepared to provide leave.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, if I could have some assistance and guidance. Would it be agreeable that when we get to Orders of the Day, and Government Business is called, that I could seek the advice of the house as to whether or not we are reverting, and, should that not be granted, to allow the alternative motion, that the report be taken into consideration the next day? Is that agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Budget—Study on National Security Policy—Sixth Report of Committee Presented
Hon. Colin Kenny, Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, presented the following report:
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence has the honour to present its
Your committee was authorized by the Senate on Thursday March 5, 2009, to examine and report on the national security policy of Canada.
The original budget application submitted to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the report thereon of that committee were printed in the Journals of the Senate on May 7, 2009. On May 27, 2009, the Senate approved a partial release of $349,175 to the committee.
The report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration recommending the release of additional funds is appended to this report.
(For text of budget, see today's Journals of the Senate, Appendix, p. 1339.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
(On motion of Senator Kenny, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Sixth Report of Committee Tabled
Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, regarding committee member substitutions.
(On motion of Senator Oliver, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)
Visit of Economics and Security Committee Sub-committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations, May 6-8, 2009—Report Tabled
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association to the Visit of the Economics and Security Committee Sub-committee on Transatlantic Economic Relations, held in Ottawa, Canada, from May 6 to 8, 2009.
Joint Meeting of Defence and Security, Economics and Security and Political Committees, February 15 to 17, 2009, and Annual Economics and Security Committee Consultation with Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, February 18-19, 2009—Report Tabled
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table in the Senate, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the NATO Parliamentary Association regarding its participation in the joint meeting of the Defence and Security Committee, the Economics and Security Committee and the Political Committee, held in Brussels, Belgium, from February 15 to 17, 2009, and the annual consultation of the Economics and Security Committee with the OECD, in Paris, France, from February 18 to 19, 2009.
Research Working Group on Retirement Income Adequacy
Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, we provided the leader's office with this question in advance to give her an opportunity to gather any information she needed.
Honourable senators, there are growing concerns that many Canadians have not saved nearly enough for 20 years of non-working life. It is estimated that roughly five million Canadians, one third of the workforce, are not building enough of a private nest egg to avoid a significant drop in living standards when they retire. Almost one in three Canadians has no retirement savings at all.
If many seniors' living standards fall drastically and some slide toward poverty, the impact for Canadians and the country as a whole would be staggering. It would lead to more cash-strapped elderly and a rising bill for society because of the declining markets for goods and services purchased by seniors, declining tax revenues and increasing public welfare costs.
In May, the federal and provincial finance ministers formed a working group on pensions with a mandate to table not a policy paper but a research paper. Can the leader in the Senate provide an update on the progress of the working group and what the government's plan is on turning the research into policy?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank the senator for the question. I also thank him for providing me with notice that he was going to ask this question. I was rather hopeful that today we could get Question Period back onto a proper course where senators ask relevant questions of importance to Canadians. I very much appreciate the courtesy of the honourable senator in indicating to me that he would be asking this question.
Obviously, we recognize the need to work with the provinces to examine pension concerns which the honourable senator has very properly laid out. It is a great concern. Most pension plans, as the honourable senator is in a position to know, are provincially regulated, and only 10 per cent are federally regulated.
At their May 25 meeting at Meech Lake, the federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers agreed to create a Research Working Group on Retirement Income Adequacy to expand our knowledge about the adequacy of retirement income in Canada. The working group met in Calgary on June 22, 2009, and at that meeting, the group agreed on a process, approach and timelines for their research which is being led by Jack Mintz of the University of Calgary.
As I mentioned in Question Period last week, the report will be presented to finance ministers and ministers responsible for pensions at a federal-provincial-territorial meeting in December, which will be held in Whitehorse, Yukon.
In the spring, we completed an in-person and online consultation about the federal pension framework. The Minister of Finance's Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Ted Menzies led this consultation. Based on the feedback from the consultations, comprehensive regulatory changes to improve the federal pension framework are being drafted. The culmination of the research group will be when they meet in Whitehorse in December.
Senator Eggleton: I thank the minister for that information.
According to reports, only five provinces, namely, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia, have joined the working group. With the limitation of only five provinces at the table, how can the government expect to devise a strategy that will help all Canadians?
Senator LeBreton: With respect to the working group, the provincial representatives were chosen by the provinces. They were the five ministers that were selected to participate in the study, but all of the provinces have been monitoring the work of these five finance ministers. Therefore, even though they were not part of the working group, they have been involved and have been kept fully informed of the consultative process.
Reduced Services in Nova Scotia
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, I can assure you that my question is of concern to Canadians, particularly, the almost 900 Canadians who live in Canso, Nova Scotia.
Earlier this month, residents of the town of Canso learned about a proposal for the federal fisheries department to close its local fisheries office. That would mean the loss of three jobs for an already economically depressed part of Nova Scotia. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans proposes to move the office to a more central location elsewhere in Guysborough County, which would mean, among other things, lower transportation costs.
However, what of the loss of economic spinoffs for Canso? This small town has suffered more bad news than most other towns in this country. How can the government, which continues to talk about stimulating the economy, justify moving jobs from this small town to another to save money, when it will create a greater need for stimulus than it will solve? If they left the jobs there, the spinoffs would have a major effect in this very small town in Nova Scotia.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Mercer for the question. I, of course, was not aware of this decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
I am neither familiar with nor aware of the rationale or reasons behind this decision, or what the consequences are, so I will be happy to take that question as notice.
Senator Mercer: I thank the leader for that.
Last month, the federal government also decided to move a labour affairs officer from Cape Breton to Prince Edward Island, leaving only two labour affairs officers to cover the entire province of Nova Scotia. That means only two people are now responsible for more than 1,700 federal sites in Nova Scotia. The move is believed to have happened because a similar position was available for the province of Prince Edward Island. What is worse is that the labour officer's position is actually responsible for Cape Breton and Northern Nova Scotia.
Why does the department not hire a Prince Edward Islander to do the job in Prince Edward Island, and keep the job for Cape Breton and Northern Nova Scotia in Cape Breton? It makes sense to me. Again, I ask why this government, which keeps telling us it is so interested in stimulating the economy, is damaging very fragile economies in places such as Cape Breton and Canso, Nova Scotia.
Senator LeBreton: I thank the honourable senator for the question. It is quite proper for Senator Mercer to express concerns with regard to individuals and companies in his own jurisdiction. That is one of the good roles of the Senate, to look after the regions. Senator Callbeck obviously does the same for Prince Edward Island.
As I said in answer to the first question, on matters like this, I will have to seek an answer from the department. However, in general, senators know that the federal government has worked hard to ensure federal jobs are properly distributed. Many changes were made to offer positions in the federal government to people in the regions and to advertise jobs in the regions. As senators will remember, many jobs in the national capital often were advertised only in the national capital region and therefore eliminated much potential opportunity for people in other parts of the country. We have remedied that in large part.
With regard to the specific question of Senator Mercer, I would be happy to seek information.
Senator Mercer: While the minister is in the mood to look at the regional aspects, and while she is talking about decentralization of government, I would hope we could count on her support. We know the very positive effect that decentralization can have. One only need go to Charlottetown, Summerside, or other places across the country to see its positive effect. I know the honourable senator is from the Ottawa Valley, but I would hope, as discussions come up around the cabinet table, that she would be supportive of ensuring that jobs move to the regions.
I do not know how many times the Fisheries Committee from the other place has recommended moving the offices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to both coasts and, God forbid, that anyone in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans might actually bump into a fisherman. I would hope that we could count on her support if those discussions come before cabinet.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, even though I was born and raised in the Ottawa Valley, I have always been a big proponent of regional development and moving public service jobs to where they can best serve the clientele. I remember a former Conservative government with which I was involved did exactly that with the National Energy Board. We moved it to Calgary, where, obviously, most of the energy decisions are made.
I can assure honourable senators that I would be very supportive of such an initiative.
Long-Tenured and Seasonal Workers
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. With respect to Employment Insurance, two weeks ago the government announced plans to reform the program to provide extended benefits for long-tenured workers. Can the leader please tell us how the government will include those who have not had the benefit of long-term employment in future EI reform?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for the question. It is similar to one asked yesterday by Senator Callbeck regarding EI.
Specifically with regard to Bill C-50, now in committee in the other place, it will provide support of five to twenty extra weeks of EI benefits for long-tenured workers in order to help them while they search for new employment. As I explained yesterday, the bill is specific and is meant to help people who have been in positions for a long time, who have paid into the Employment Insurance fund for a long time, and who through no fault of their own find themselves unemployed. We expect that once Bill C-50 is passed by both houses of Parliament — and, as we know, it is being pre-studied in this place — it will benefit 190,000 Canadians.
With regard to the specific question of future changes that could be made with regard to Employment Insurance, with this bill, by previously extending the Employment Insurance to five weeks, by having work-sharing agreements, and by participating in job retraining, the government has shown a considerable amount of flexibility and a willingness to hear new ideas in order to help our unemployed. Rather than speculating as to what we might do next, I would simply say that the government is always willing to dialogue and consult with people who have good suggestions for meaningful reform to our EI system so that unemployed people and those who may face unemployment get all the help they can from the government.
Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, as we all know, first-time workers who lose jobs are suffering tremendously. Will the government consider any special program to reduce the minimum of 910 hours that first-time workers need in order to qualify for EI benefits?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I think we have had this debate before about the number of qualifying hours. I will not make such a commitment.
The changes the government has made to the EI system that were brought in by the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development as part of our Economic Action Plan, now added to by Bill C-50 for long-tenured workers, have brought us a long way toward addressing the needs of unemployed Canadians. Obviously, this worldwide economic slowdown has affected employment. Even as the economy shows signs of recovery, we know that the employment picture will be the last to show signs of recovery.
As I just mentioned, the government moved in the right direction with job sharing. Job sharing has been tremendously successful. There are all kinds of third-party testaments from individuals who benefited and companies that have been able to maintain their workforce without laying people off, and that is across Canada.
It is not for me to say that we will change the number of hours required to work. There is a system that was brought into place by the previous government on a regional basis. At the moment, the moves we have already taken, plus this bill currently before Parliament, go a long way to address the concerns of the unemployed.
Canada's Response to Global Recession
Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Next Wednesday marks one year since Canadians elected the Conservative government to power under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In the 2008 federal election, Canadian voters chose the Conservative Party, not in spite of the economic challenges the world faced, but rather because of a sound road map and sound leadership.
My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Could she please inform all honourable senators of how Canada is being recognized internationally for our response to the global recession?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Mockler for the question. The number one priority of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Minister of Finance and all of our government continues to be the economy; creating and protecting jobs, and helping those Canadians hardest hit by the global recession. One thing we know for sure, as has been proven in public opinion polls, is that Canadians did not want a wasteful election.
This past Tuesday at the G7 Finance Ministers' meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, Minister Flaherty, on behalf of the government, received the Finance Minister of the Year Award for 2009 from Euromoney magazine.
This award is just the latest international acknowledgment of the soundness of our policy and of Canada's status as a model for other countries.
For example, Canadian banks are once again considered the world's soundest by the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum also recently ranked Canada's economic fiscal and financial strength ninth, ahead of Britain, South Korea and Hong Kong. The IMF recently forecast that, in the G7, Canada will experience the second lowest economic contraction in 2009 and will enjoy the greatest growth in 2010.
This highlights what we have said all along: Canada is better positioned than most countries to weather the global recession.
As we have said many times, the signs of recovery are good, but it is still fragile, and that is why we must continue to stay the course and carry on with our economic action plan.
Regulation of Video Lottery Terminals
Hon. Jean Lapointe: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, for whom I have a great deal of admiration. I will not deny it. I never miss an opportunity to mention what a wonderful wordsmith and incredible skater she is. She answers questions and skates her way around in such a remarkable way she could join a team and play centre with Alexei Kovalev. She is also an accomplished tap dancer. But I will come back to my question.
Can the Leader of the Government tell us whether her government is aware of the misery, the crimes of all kinds, the divorces and many suicides caused by video lottery terminals found in bars and restaurants in our most disadvantaged neighbourhoods? Why are these infernal machines not found in wealthier neighbourhoods?
I have gone all around Montreal many times and I have asked the question. All these machines are in the poorest neighbourhoods. I did not find a single machine in Westmount.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Nor in Outremont.
Senator Lapointe: I did not go to Outremont, but there are not any in Westmount. I am sure of it.
Is her government aware of the plight of the least fortunate in our society?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I thank Senator Lapointe for the question. There is much sympathy for what the honourable senator is trying to do, and obviously there are many people, often low-income families, who are suffering. I am very aware of the horrific problem of addiction to gambling. I know exactly of what the honourable senator speaks, but I also know that the responsibility for these video lottery terminals does not fall within the purview of the federal government. In fact they fall within provincial jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have sets of rules and laws with regard to them and some have not. However, that does not in any way take away from the seriousness of the issue that the honourable senator raises.
We can all easily find examples within our own circles of the distress, sadness and illness that result from people who get hooked on playing these video lottery terminals, as well as other forms of gambling. While many of us are sympathetic to the intent of the issue that Senator Lapointe brings so forcefully to the Senate, it is an area where the federal government has no jurisdiction.
Senator Lapointe: Could the leader explain why her party voted against referring to committee Bill S-226, which aims to help low-income Canadians by removing lottery terminals from bars and restaurants and moving them to special gaming establishments? Is she also unaware that her party is wasting public money by engaging in all sorts of procedural manoeuvring and is undermining the image of our institution, because there are already two committee reports and the Senate has passed this bill and sent it to the House of Commons three times? I could name many senators who voted in favour of the bill in previous votes.
What happened to change people's minds, and why was Senator Demers prevented from coming here to give his honest opinion? He is in favour of my bill, but he abstained so as not to make any enemies in the party, just as Senator Nolin, who had voted in favour of my bill, also abstained.
This is petty politics, and trust me, honourable senators, you know me very well; when the next election is held, I will make a point of telling Canadians that we won the vote at second reading in the House of Commons, 159 to 109 Conservatives: 108 Conservatives and André Arthur.
Senator LeBreton: Senators Demers and Nolin, as has been well reported, voted as they wished. There are no repercussions. They were free to do so. I do not see Senator Demers hiding under his desk.
The fact is that the answer to the honourable senator's second question was in my first response. As much as people are sympathetic to the issue, and they certainly should be, this is an area that does not fall within the purview of the federal government. These lotteries and all the various gambling institutions, from casinos right down to video lottery terminals, are all under the jurisdiction of the various provinces. Basically, for those of us who voted, our vote was not about the spirit but the legality. Obviously, we were not successful in that vote.
However, my answer is that this is not an area that the federal government has any jurisdiction or ability to legislate.
Senator Lapointe: Honourable senators, the leader knows full well that gaming comes under federal jurisdiction. There are agreements with the provinces, but video lotteries did not exist when those agreements were signed.
The results of three independent studies show that for every $1 billion that a province earns from video lottery terminals, it pays three to five times as much in social costs. I think that when it comes time to talk to the provinces, I will be ready with my arguments.
That said, I really appreciated the candid and courteous response of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, whom I greatly admire, I must say.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as this issue will go to committee, Senator Lapointe will have the opportunity to make those persuasive arguments at committee.
I realize how the video lotteries came into effect later, so I look forward to the honourable senator's vigorous continuation of this debate in committee.
Electricity Production Targets
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I think I am about to say something I will regret.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Mitchell: While I may regret it, to its credit, the government has set an important target of obtaining 90 per cent of Canada's electricity from non-emitting sources by 2020.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Mitchell: Good for them. The problem is, on the other hand, we are at 73 per cent now, and there does not seem to be any leadership from the government to achieve this important target. Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us when she thinks the government will come up with a detailed plan, an architecture for leadership, on achieving that important target of 90 per cent of electricity from non-emitting, largely renewable sources of energy.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I thank Senator Mitchell for the compliment. I can hardly stand it.
As honourable senators know, Jim Prentice, a committed Minister of the Environment, participated in the UN meetings a few weeks ago, and has been in Washington several times. Minister Prentice has discussed and dialogued with his counterparts around the world in preparation for Copenhagen in December.
I cannot be presumptuous because I do not know what Minister Prentice will put on the table in terms of a timeline. However, I will be happy to pass on Senator Mitchell's compliment, the one that was before, "on the other hand."
An excellent article by Minister Prentice appeared in the newspapers this week laying out some of the work he is engaged in and where he plans to go from here.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we are at Reports of Committees under Government Business. Are we able to obtain advice as to the agreement of the leader, Senator Comeau?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): With the indulgence of the house, I wonder if I might postpone this item to a later time today.
The Hon. the Speaker: Agreed?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, I may seek leave later today, or I may not. I am still in the process of pondering and reflecting. Generally speaking, when reports of committees like this report come before this chamber and unanimous consent is sought, especially if the report includes amendments, generally the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate is given some kind of a heads-up. At this point, I have not had a chance to reflect fully on the amendments that may be in this report, so I would like an opportunity reflect on them. I may seek leave later on this day. If it is denied, so be it; if it is granted, so be it. It will be later this day.
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette moved second reading of Bill S-241, An Act to amend the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act (credit and debit cards).
She said: Honourable senators, first, I will pay special tribute to the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, Senator Meighen. Last spring, when we reviewed the issues of credit and debit cards we had vigorous, and sometimes loud, discussions. However, with Senator Meighen's able guidance, he managed to obtain unanimous support for the recommendations tabled at the end of June, which were then unanimously supported by honourable senators last week when the committee report was adopted.
I believe this support is one way of showing the country how the Senate can work together, when need be, for the cause of Canadian citizens.
Honourable senators, Bill S-241 arose from a study that the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce carried out this spring regarding credit and debit cards in Canada.
My colleagues and I heard from representatives of the banking and commerce industry, and, of course, from consumers. After the study, and over the whole summer, I heard from Canadians across this country, and back home in northern New Brunswick, whether they stopped me in coffee shops and sent me emails.
I heard heartbreaking stories from seniors on fixed incomes who pay for their medications with credit cards. I met with Canadians who have been hit hard by the economic crisis and are using their credit cards to buy groceries and other essentials.
None of the people who wrote to me or spoke with me were looking for handouts. No one was asking for a free ride. All they asked for was fairness.
During the committee study last spring, my colleagues and I had difficult questions for Visa, MasterCard and the Canadian banking industry. Unfortunately, one difficulty that we faced as a public committee was a general unwillingness, on the part of the banking community, to provide us with the bottom line. Understandably, no bank wanted their own proprietary information regarding profit margins and costs associated with debit and credit cards to be put on the public record.
Following our study, senators from both sides of this chamber came together to produce a unanimous report that called for increased transparency in Canada's credit and debit card system. In fact, just to be clear, I would like to read Recommendation 1 from the report:
The federal government appoint an "oversight board", within an existing federal organization, that would consult with participants from Canada's credit card and debit card payment systems as well as relevant federal stakeholders.
The proposed oversight board's mandate should be to:
- make recommendations, by 31 December 2009, on any regulatory or legislative measures that it considers to be required to ensure fairness for participants in the credit card and debit card payment systems;
- monitor and publish annually information on trends in interchange, switch, merchant and other associated payment systems fees; and
- establish a code of conduct for payment systems participants and practices for setting fees and rates, in respect of which it should ensure compliance.
Honourable senators, Bill S-241, which we are debating here today, exists to put that recommendation into practice. Fortunately there already exists a federal institution — the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions — that has access to and has built a working trust with Canada's banking community. My bill proposes to expand the mandate of the superintendent to allow his office to monitor and, more importantly, to make recommendations regarding the fees and charges related to the use of debit and credit cards in Canada.
It should be noted that the Minister of Finance has already begun to take steps toward addressing some of the pressing issues regarding the use of credit cards in Canada and, to be clear, I wholeheartedly support his initiatives. However, the unfortunate reality is that he has not gone nearly far enough. It is also most unfortunate that, although the minister has received thousands of letters from the business community requesting government intervention on these increasing fees for credit and debit card use, Minister Flaherty remains silent to their requests. Until we, as parliamentarians, take action to ensure that there is some sort of oversight in this vital industry, Canadians will continue to feel as though they are the ones getting the short end of the stick.
To be clear, I would like to assure my honourable colleagues that this legislation is not the final chapter, nor is it a crusade against the banks. This bill makes absolutely no prejudging of the facts at hand, does not cap interest rates or fees and does nothing to hamstring the banks or the credit card companies. All this legislation seeks is to provide fairness for the Canadian consumers and merchants.
This bill calls on the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to provide an annual report to the Minister of Finance on the rates and fees being charged for the use of credit and debit cards in Canada. It calls on the superintendent to also make recommendations, again through the Minister of Finance, for any legislation or regulatory changes that he might deem necessary to improve fairness in the marketplace. In the end, the final decision remains with the government of the day regarding whether or not to proceed with any proposed recommendations. The Minister of Finance and, of course, Parliament has the final say in the matter.
I would also like to emphasize that this bill calls for no additional burden on the government's bottom line. Canadians do not want to see an expanded bureaucracy at a time when they are tightening their own belts. They want value for their tax dollars and, by expanding the mandate of an existing federal institution, that value will be achieved.
I understand there will be some opposition to this measure. I know that the banking community, as well as Visa and MasterCard, are hesitant about additional oversight in their own affairs. While I can understand their reluctance, I simply cannot support it and, from what I have been hearing, neither can Canadians.
Canadians do not understand why, when all other interest rates are at record lows, credit card interest rates remain high and are getting even higher. They do not understand why they can get an unsecured line of credit at 6 per cent while the interest rate on their credit card balances is 24 per cent.
Our small and medium businesses are having a hard time getting through the recession, especially with Visa, MasterCard and their technical partners imposing unjustifiable rate increases.
We are in a position to help Canadians. If we pass Bill S-241, we will set in motion a trend toward greater transparency, accountability and fairness — yes, fairness in the credit and debit card system.
I am looking forward to debating this issue, but I would like to remind honourable senators that as more and more Canadians lose their jobs, they cannot afford to wait a long time for us to help them. They need action now, and that is why I hope that you will all work with me to pass Bill S-241.
(On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.)
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette moved second reading of Bill S-242, An Act to amend the Canadian Payments Act (debit card payment systems).
She said: Honourable senators, it will certainly come as no sure surprise that my second bill today also relates to the debit card system in Canada. Bill S-242 is a very short bill, but a bill that is extremely urgent for us to consider.
Numerous studies have proven that Canadians, per capita, are among the most active users of debit card payment in the world. However, the debit card industry is about to undergo a very serious transformation, one that could negatively impact all consumers as well as small- and medium-sized businesses across our country. Interac, the not-for-profit debit system that most Canadians are familiar with, will soon be facing competition in the Canadian marketplace from both Visa and MasterCard. Unfortunately, this competition might not be on a level playing field.
During the recent study completed by the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, witnesses from merchant associations and industry stakeholders painted a dismal picture of the after-effects of Visa's and MasterCard's entry into the debit market in the United States. While many of us take it as gospel that, under normal circumstances, increased competition leads to better value for consumers, the debit card market may be the exception that proves that rule.
In the U.S. experience, Visa and MasterCard use their deep pockets and their already-considerable network of credit card contacts to push smaller debit players out of the way and take dominant market positions.
While prices were lower at first, Visa and MasterCard increased their market share quickly and, soon enough, their rates and fees were higher than merchants had been paying in the past. The real concern is that debit fees, which began as a flat fee per transaction, quickly became a combination of flat fee plus an additional percentage of the purchase cost in question.
It is beyond me why debit transactions should be subject to a percentage fee when they involve a direct transfer of funds from one account to another, with zero risk involved. None of us wish to see a repeat of the U.S. situation here in Canada, especially not at the expense of Interac, a genuine Canadian success story.
Bill S-242 is a small step that amends the Canadian Payments Act to specifically name Interac, MasterCard and Visa Debit system as designated payment systems.
By adopting this legislation, we will simply be ensuring that all debit card systems in Canada, whether Interac, Visa or MasterCard, operate under the exact same legal framework. This is simple common sense. It is a measure that has been called for by small- and medium-sized businesses across the country.
It requires no financial cost to the Canadian taxpayer and does nothing to impede competition in the debit card marketplace. It simply ensures that any competition happens on a level playing field for all participants.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: I have a question for the honourable senator. In the research that has been done, has there been any reason to consider asking the Competition Bureau to look into how some of these corporations operate?
Senator Ringuette: Thank you for your question, Senator St. Germain.
Yes, we actually asked the Competition Bureau to appear before our committee in one of our first meetings. At that time, we learned two very important things: One is that Interac had requested an amendment to its contractual agreement under the Competition Act to become a for-profit organization, operating more efficiently under a smaller board than their 52 members right now.
The second very important thing we were informed of at that time by the Competition Bureau — and I do not think it was public at that time — was that the Competition Bureau was investigating Visa and MasterCard in regard to their credit card products in Canada, as well as their dominance in the Canadian marketplace.
Therefore, yes, the Competition Bureau has been involved. However, I would also like to state that, as far as I know, the Competition Bureau has not ruled on either one of those two issues as of yet.
The Hon. the Speaker: Do honourable senators wish to continue debate?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Goldstein, seconded by the Honourable Senator Lovelace Nicholas, for the second reading of Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Investment Canada Act (human rights violations).
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, because of today's events, I was unable to complete my notes on the subject of this bill. I would therefore like to adjourn debate on this bill for the remainder of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Carstairs, P.C., for the second reading of Bill S-238, An Act to establish gender parity on the board of directors of certain corporations, financial institutions and parent Crown corporations.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I encountered the same problem with this bill, so I would also like to adjourn debate on this bill for the remainder of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)
Bill to Amend—Eleventh Report of Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
Leave having been given to revert to Presentation of Reports from Standing or Special Committees:
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): I wish to advise the other side that we would be ready to deal with third reading of Bill C-25 today, without amendment. My understanding is that the other side would want to go this way. However, our side would be prepared to go this route, provided we deal with third reading of Bill C-25 this afternoon.
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Yes. Our proposal, honourable senators, was that we would deal with the report today.
This is an important bill. The government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice have all made it clear that this is an important bill.
The Minister of Justice has been all over the press saying that Liberal senators are delaying this bill. We have not done that. The extra hearing for this matter was held because the minister wanted additional witnesses heard, and they were heard.
Our committee has done its work and, in our view, it is up to the senators in this chamber to do the work and to consider the report.
We want to consider that report today. Then we will see what happens when that is done. We will move one step at a time.
Senator Comeau: I heard the honourable senator say that the committee has done its work. I indicated earlier today that there have been a number of amendments, as proposed by the committee, which essentially gut the bill.
Senator Milne: They enhance the bill.
Senator Comeau: They seriously change the bill.
The Canadian Police Association has advised us that they want this bill passed as soon as possible. Victims' groups have advised us that they want this bill passed as soon as possible. What do we receive from the majority side on the committee? We have all kinds of amendments which — I will come back to the word — gut the bill.
My suggestion stands. If we are prepared to deal with the report this afternoon, and to deal with the bill unamended, then we are prepared to deal with it this afternoon.
Senator Campbell: You cannot do one without the other.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, so we understand where we are, leave was requested to revert to Presentation of Reports from Standing or Special Committees. We were at that stage when, I believe, the Honourable Senator Fraser was about to present the motion. When the Speaker asked, "When shall this report be considered," I believe she was about to suggest that it be considered now.
At this point, I call upon the Honourable Senator Fraser, who is at the stage of presenting reports, to put before the house whatever motion she wishes to put before the house.
Senator Comeau: With consent.
Hon. Joan Fraser: I take it that I have leave to present the report?
Senator Comeau: No, no.
Senator Fraser: His Honour says I do; the Deputy Leader of the Government says I do not.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, we are in presentation of reports. I have now put the following question: When shall this report be taken into consideration? The honourable Senator Fraser will now answer that question.
Senator Fraser: With leave, now.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is leave granted?
Senator Comeau: No.
Some Hon. Senators: No.
The Hon. the Speaker: The answer is no. Therefore, the motion is?
Senator Fraser: I move that this report be taken into consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
An Hon. Senator: On division.
(Motion agreed to, on division, and report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate).
Fifth Report of Fisheries and Oceans Committee and Request for Government Response—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Munson, that the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled Crisis in the Lobster Fishery, tabled in the Senate on June 9, 2009, be adopted and that, pursuant to rule 131(2), the Senate request a complete and detailed response from the government, with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development being identified as ministers responsible for responding to the report.
Hon. Fernand Robichaud: Honourable senators, I want to continue my remarks about the difficult situation in which lobster fishing communities find themselves because of a disastrous fishing season due to the prices paid to the fishers.
All sectors of the economy have been seriously affected since the current recession began. Some sectors have received more help than others. We must not lose sight of the fact that all workers, including fishers, are affected. Lobster fishers are especially vulnerable, because their catch is considered a luxury item and it is sold on major world markets such as Boston, New York and Paris. The extent of the current recession is obviously having an impact on the lobster market.
Honourable senators, how has the recession affected the latest lobster fishing season? The answer is simple: lobster landings are not finding takers at the usual rate. Demand is down, and prices are falling dramatically. Fishers in my area of the Northumberland Strait got only $2.75 a pound for canner lobsters and $3.25 a pound for the biggest lobsters sold on the market. This is especially disturbing when you consider that in 2004, according to the president of the MFU, a Fisheries and Oceans study said that $4 a pound was the minimum price at which a lobster fishing enterprise could survive.
Honourable senators, since the industry representatives appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in May, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has announced $10 million to improve marketing, $50 million in long-term assistance for the industry and $15 million to help low-income fishers. Although reaction from representatives of the fishers was rather lukewarm, in general they viewed it as a first step in the right direction.
Three weeks ago, on September 22, the minister announced the eligibility criteria for the $15 million program for low-income fishers. Every fisher will receive $5,000 on condition that they earned $50,000 or less and that their income has decreased by 25 per cent from the previous year.
Some Atlantic fishers say that they will not be eligible because their gross income is more than $50,000 but, due to very high operating expenses, their net income is quite low. It should be remembered that the cost of fuel and bait have driven up operating expenses considerably in recent years.
As for the $50 million for industry sustainability, fishers believe it should be five times as much. What needs to be done and what our committee recommended is to introduce a licence buyback program, in co-operation with the industry and representatives of the fishers, in order to rationalize lobster fishing.
Our committee report also recommends immediate changes such as "allowing fish harvesters to qualify. . .based on 2008 earnings" and "extending EI fishing benefits by five weeks".
Finally, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommends that the minister responsible enter into formal discussions with Atlantic fish harvesters' organizations and the provincial governments to develop a short-term assistance plan for the lobster fishery.
Honourable senators, the assistance provided to date is but a first step towards solving the problems faced by fishers. The government must provide further assistance to fishers who find themselves overwhelmed by this unprecedented economic crisis.
Therefore, I invite you, honourable senators, to support Senator Rompkey's motion to adopt the report so that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans may be apprised of the recommendations and provide us and the lobster fishery with her response.
I would remind honourable senators that the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was unanimous in this report.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
(On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.)
Second Report of Human Rights Committee Adopted
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the second report (interim) of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, entitled: Canada's Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council, tabled in the Senate on May 28, 2009.
Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk moved the adoption of the report.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
Motion to Recognize "Famous Five" as Honorary Senators Adopted
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cochrane, seconded by the Honourable Senator Di Nino:
That the Senate of Canada,
in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the October 18, 1929 decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that recognized women as "persons" in law eligible for appointment to the Senate of Canada, and
in acknowledgement of the important contributions women have made in the Senate of Canada,
posthumously recognize Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, popularly known as the "Famous Five", as Honorary Senators.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, I rise today to support the motion of Senator Cochrane to recognize posthumously the "Famous Five" women — Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards — as honorary senators.
It is with great enthusiasm that I continue the lively discussion in this chamber on the long-time memory of the Famous Five Alberta women, who fought through the 1920s to have a fair chance to be chosen to enter the Senate of Canada, which, in those days, was open only to men.
In many ways, the Canadian women were left aside against a series of stubborn laws that shut the door to many who were having enormous difficulties to even vote in elections or run as candidates, let alone be offered a place in the Senate.
In 1929, with great vigour, the Famous Five managed to push aside the curtains in Ottawa and force the ear of the Prime Minister of the day. Their stubborn capacity led to an opportunity in London, England, to force a change in the Senate of Canada to welcome women from every corner of this country who have been chosen as a member of the upper chamber.
None of the Famous Five had the benefit of that opportunity, but their first female senator, Cairine Wilson, started a pathway for the rest of us and we can nod to her figure as we step into the Senate Chamber every day.
I want to thank Senator Cochrane for asking us to help push that door even further, and respond to a request from the Famous Five Foundation in Calgary, Alberta, asking the Senate to make those Famous Five women honorary senators in Canadian history.
This is an extraordinary suggestion, as the history it represents is already on a little hill underneath the glorious trees just beyond the Senate building on Parliament Hill. In larger-than-life-sized bronze statues, the Famous Five women are there every day forever, sitting on chairs, or standing to speak, or reading a book and drinking some tea. There is hardly a moment when a child or an adult is not sitting on those chairs or on one of the bronze laps trying to read the story written in bronze or taking pictures of these outstanding women.
When I grew up in Lethbridge, Alberta, the story of these women was there for me to read. Even a child had to know how outstanding they were. When I came to Parliament Hill in the 1960s, as a young "female newsman," as I was called, I met a very interesting and highly entertaining fellow named Mark McClung. He was a former journalist who had worked in naval intelligence during the Second World War, and continued to work in the public service in the shadows of the Cold War. He was a great talker. All that was fascinating, but just as interesting for me was that his mother's name was Nellie — Nellie McClung.
It struck me at once that without the historic leadership of Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Irene Parlby back in those early learning years, I could not be sitting in the Senate of Canada along with so many bright and interesting colleagues and friends.
Today I remember and I remain connected with the group of women in Calgary and around the country who keep alive the legacy of the Famous Five. A remarkable person named Francis Wright is deeply committed to the Calgary foundation. The current Leader of the Government and I worked day and night to make sure that the Senate would support the creation of our extraordinary lifelong "persons" bronzes, on the Hill, not any place else. It was a very difficult day or two, and the Leader of the Government and I were on the phone non-stop holding hands and just almost in prayer that something was not going to go awry. At any rate, it worked. Frances Wright remained in our gallery all of that time hoping for the best. I will be seeing those friends in Calgary very soon. I hope that we will have a positive response for the future as was given to us here in the Senate by our friend, and we thank you for it.
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I stand here today because of the determination and action over 80 years ago of five Canadian women from my own province of Alberta. In fact, I am inspired every day when I look out my office window to see the monument of the Famous Five. I am very proud that the monument standing just outside the Senate entrance is a copy of the Famous Five Monument in Calgary, created by an Albertan sculptor, Ms. Barbara Paterson. I also wish to recognize the important work of the Famous Five Foundation, who are the originators of the idea behind the motion before us today.
Emily Murphy fought for 10 years for the right to be appointed a senator in this chamber. More than 10,000 citizens signed petitions and wrote letters in support of her battle. Five governments indicated their support, but said their hands were tied because only "qualified persons" could be appointed to this place, and that definition did not include women.
Two prime ministers promised to change the law, but did not, so Emily Murphy turned to the courts. Under the law at the time, any five citizens could come together and appeal through the federal cabinet to the Supreme Court for clarification of a point of constitutional law. Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung came together and asked the Supreme Court the following question: "Does the word 'persons' in section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?"
The Supreme Court of Canada replied no. The Famous Five were not deterred. With Prime Minister Mackenzie King's moral and financial support, the petition was referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of England. The Privy Council unanimously replied that, yes, women are persons, and eligible to become members of the Senate of Canada.
Honourable senators, allow me to read to you briefly from the judgment of Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of the Privy Council. He said:
The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word "persons" should include females, the obvious answer is why should it not?
Four months after this ruling, Prime Minister Mackenzie King appointed Cairine Reay McKay Wilson of Ontario to be the first woman senator.
Honourable senators, this is not a partisan motion. I hope you understand how proud I am of the fact that it was a Liberal prime minister who, in the aftermath of this ruling, was the first to recommend the appointment of a woman to the Senate. What is more, Senator Wilson sat in this chamber as a Liberal.
Like my colleague Senator Cochrane, I never forget what I owe to these extraordinary five Canadian women — what all Canadian women owe to them, and indeed, women all around the world.
Honourable senators, the Persons Case was "the Canadian women's triumph," as British newspapers hailed it at the time, but it was also a watershed for women throughout the British Empire, as it became the landmark interpretation of women as persons in the English common law. British women and women across the Empire became "persons" because of the 1929 ruling.
Senator Cochrane listed a number of important milestones for women in Canadian political life. To that excellent list I add one more: our colleague, Senator Fairbairn, who served as the first woman Leader of the Government in the Senate.
She also was instrumental, as was Senator Marjory LeBreton, in making a reality, the monument to the Famous Five that stands outside the Senate entrance to the Centre Block. The monument is a reminder to us all of what can be accomplished by a few determined Canadian women.
Emily Murphy never succeeded in becoming a senator in her lifetime. I think Canada missed a great opportunity.
Honourable senators, while my heart embraced Senator Cochrane's motion to recognize posthumously each of the Famous Five as honorary senators, I wrestled with its potential implications.
The prerogative to name individuals to this chamber does not rest with us. It is for the Governor General, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, to summon people here. Are we setting a precedent with this motion? In this case, we are considering posthumous recognition. What if the people to be honoured were still living? What would be the criteria?
Honourable senators, I took careful note of Senator Cochrane's statement on September 30, when she said this acknowledgment to honour these five women is "special and unique." In my opinion, these women made a truly extraordinary contribution to this chamber in particular. Their connection to the Senate is indeed special and unique. It is a connection unlike any other. Accordingly, I am proud to support Senator Cochrane's motion. However, I must caution that this motion should not be seen as a precedent. It is the opinion of many on this side of the chamber that this motion be considered a one-time-only acknowledgment because of the special connection that these women have with the upper chamber.
In the unlikely event that the issue were to arise again in the future, I believe that such a proposal would need to be referred for consideration to our Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. The committee could consider such crucial issues as the criteria to be used to bestow such an honour.
I also wonder whether, today, this is the way these five women would most wish to be honoured. Nellie McClung's granddaughter, Marcia McClung, spoke in 2007 about her grandmother's legacy. She said:
My grandmother, Nellie McClung, a suffragist and a writer, had great resolve to improve the conditions for women in Canada, but she also foresaw that women would have to continue to challenge discriminatory practices for generations to come.
I appreciate that my colleague opposite has brought forward this motion, but I believe the Famous Five would have preferred to see the government reinstate funding for women's groups to continue to engage in advocacy work, the kind of work that they themselves engaged in, and that we seek to honour here today.
I was deeply impressed by the fact that Emily Murphy tried in various ways, but only succeeded by turning to the courts when she asked for clarification of the interpretation of a constitutional provision.
I was also surprised to learn that Prime Minister Mackenzie King provided financial support for their appeal to the Privy Council. The government covered the legal fees of $23,368.47, of which $21,000 was for the appeal to the Privy Council.
We could almost say that his contribution was a precursor to the Court Challenges Program that, for many years, provided essential support to women determined to protect and promote their rights.
I believe that we would best honour the Famous Five by reinstating funding for women's groups to engage in advocacy work, and by reinstating the Court Challenges Program that was eliminated by the current government.
I wish they could be here with us today in this chamber as colleagues and equal partners in the Senate of Canada. They watch us from outside, with their bronze eyes, and observe what we are doing in this chamber.
I am proud to support this motion to recognize these exceptional women as honorary senators. Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, this is your rightful place.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Cochrane, do you wish to speak?
Senator Cochrane: No.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Thank you, Your Honour. A short time ago, the deputy leader and I exchanged proposals as to how we might deal with that bill, and I wonder whether the house would consider suspending at the call of the chair for half an hour for us to have an opportunity to have some discussions to see if we might reach a mutually-acceptable solution to the issue which is before the house? Could we suspend for, perhaps, half an hour?
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Yes, I would agree to that on behalf of the members on this side. I do see one of the independents, and I am sure the others would be happy.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are honourable senators agreed that we suspend until four o'clock?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: There will be a fifteen-minute bell.
(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)
(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)
Senator Cowan: Honourable senators, I thank you for agreeing to give us a short time to see if we could come to a conclusion.
The position which I put forward on behalf of the opposition was that we would deal today with report stage, the amendments that are reported back from the committee, and that we would agree to have third reading, including a vote at third reading, when we return for the next sitting of the house.
I felt that was a reasonable proposal. To do otherwise, as the Deputy Leader of the Government has suggested, or to have his approval of the agreement to deal with the report stage today conditional upon what the house would do at third reading, did seem to me to be beyond my authority. I cannot be in a position where I can bind individual senators on any side of the house as to what they may do at a future stage of the proceedings. I felt that as far as I could go was to say that, on behalf of my caucus, we would agree to have complete third reading at the next sitting of the house.
That is at the government's call. The government sets the date for the next sitting, and it would be our position that was a reasonable way to dispose of this bill.
I regret to advise the house that proposal is not acceptable to the government, and I am sure my honourable friend will speak to this.
Senator Comeau: Honourable senators, I did indicate earlier today that we would be prepared to deal with all stages of this bill this afternoon. The honourable Leader of the Opposition indicated that it was not within his authority to go to the next level, which would be to deal with the bill itself. My suggestion would be that if he does have the authority to deal with the report stage, which needs the unanimous consent of the house, including the non-aligned, why would he not have authority to deal with the bill? My understanding was that the bill was supported massively by his colleagues in the House of Commons. I understand that it got all-party support in the House of Commons without amendments.
Therefore, I would suggest that the authority that he has to have his side to deal with report stage this afternoon would also extend to the authority to deal with the bill itself. I cannot see that part of his argument.
It is an extremely important bill. We have had victims' groups ask us to deal with this. We are suggesting that the offer still stands. Let us deal with all stages of this bill this afternoon, and we can all go home for the weekend and know that our streets are safer and that judges will do a better job.
Leave having been given to revert to Government Notices of Motions:
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 58(1)(h), I move:
That when the Senate adjourns today, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, October 20, 2009, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
(The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, October 20, 2009, at 2 p.m.)