The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn: Honourable senators, for the past 10 years, I have been drawing the attention of this chamber to a special occasion that unfortunately passed us by because of other important issues prior to our last break.
April 23 was Canada Book Day, a day that celebrates four objectives across this country: first, the significant role of literature in Canada's past, present and future; second, the importance of reading among our young people, particularly in our schools; third, the international success of Canadian literature and our heroes; and fourth, the promotion of Canadian books and the people who write them. In doing so, it also underlines the fundamental importance of literacy and lifelong learning in this country, without which a Canada Book Day would be a sad day indeed.
The slogan of the day always is "give a book to a friend." My special friend is one who will leave us soon. For many years, Senator John Lynch-Staunton and I have worked together as senators and in opposition to each other as leaders, but we have managed to find common cause on this and many other issues. Today, I have three books to give this fine friend.
Although our colleague is from the Eastern Townships of Quebec, part of the Lynch-Staunton clan lives and ranches in a most beautiful part of Canada, the foothills of the Rockies near Pincher Creek in the southwest corner of Alberta where the wind blows and the cattle roam. One of our nation's literary icons is a true mountain man, a rancher, a storyteller, a writer — the great Andy Russell. One gift today is called Wild Country — The best of Andy Russell.
The next is The Red Coats of the Prairies, a remarkable factual account of the Northwest Mounted Police from 1886 to 1900, written by Bill Beahen and Stan Horrall, who consecutively held the title of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Historian over the last three and one half decades. This is the real stuff.
The final offer may not be my friend's favourite "read." It is a book edited by Nancy Southam and written by colleagues, associates and friends of a rather interesting political figure in modern Canadian history. It is simply called Pierre. Because Senator Lynch-Staunton has added to my collection with a rollicking account of the early presidency of George W. Bush, I wanted to add this former Prime Minister, my friend and employer for so many years, to his bookcase.
I will truly miss you, Senator Lynch-Staunton. This is one day of the year that you will always be remembered no matter where you are.
Hon. John Lynch-Staunton: Honourable senators, I am not ready for a farewell speech yet. I do not have Senator Fairbairn's background, but I do know of her extraordinary work on behalf of literacy in Canada, one of those concerns which not enough of us share. Fortunately, there are enough people like her to draw them to our attention and to fight the good fight.
It was hard enough for me to find something in return for Senator Fairbairn's thoughtfulness, but thanks to Senator Kinsella, I think I have something appropriate. It is not a recent publication. It was published in November 1987 by the then Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women. I think it was on the right track, as Senator Fairbairn is very active in the Senate; a former Leader of the Government in the Senate, the former chair of a number of committees and current chair of two committees, including the Agriculture Committee. This book is appropriate because it tells the story of farm women in Canada, unsung women who toiled on the farms. It is called Growing Strong: Women in Agriculture. I have no doubt that, in the second edition, Senator Fairbairn's name will be included.
Senator Fairbairn, please enjoy this book with all my affection and respect.
Twentieth Anniversary of Proclamation of Section 15
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, April of this year marked the twentieth anniversary of the coming into force of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the guarantee of equality rights. The implementation of section 15 occurred three years later than the passage of the Charter itself in 1982. This delay was to allow both the provincial and federal governments the time necessary to adapt the legislation to the substance of section 15. Now is an appropriate time to reflect on the impact that section 15 has had on the lives of Canadians.
There is no equivalent or analogous provision to the equality guarantees of section 15 in the various human rights acts in place across the country. It does not exist either with the same substance in European human rights acts or in the American Bill of Rights.
An important contribution to the development of section 15 by the special committee that studied the draft of the Charter in 1980, which I co-chaired with the late Senator Harry Hays, was the enlargement of the ambit of its protection. The committee introduced important amendments to the original draft. What emerged was a section 15 with a definition of equality rights that is unique to the Canadian Charter in three distinct ways: First, rights are extended to "every individual" — in other words, to any human person, as opposed to rights restricted to those who are citizens; second, not only is every individual equal before the law, but every individual is also entitled to the equal benefit of the law; and third, the prohibited grounds of discrimination enumerated in section 15 are largely illustrative. They are not intended to be exclusive in any way.
During the special committee hearings, members expressed a desire to add to the list of prohibited grounds. For example, David Crombie, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, added "mental or physical disability" to the list of enumerated grounds. Svend Robinson, a member of the NDP, proposed to add four other grounds, among them "sexual orientation," a position I also personally supported.
A debate followed among the committee members about their shared concern with ensuring that section 15 encompass as wide an area as possible to adequately protect all minorities. In the end, an argument prevailed that led to the best approach to resolve the challenge faced by the committee. We concluded that it would be presumptuous and too risky to try to list every protected ground in a comprehensive way. As society inevitably evolves, grounds of discrimination acceptable at one time often become unacceptable at a later date. This led to the idea that the enumeration of prohibited grounds should be used as a guiding list so that it could change and expand with time. The words "in particular" were added to allow for the dynamic and evolving interpretation of section 15.
This is exactly how the courts have understood and interpreted section 15. Since 1985, 46 cases have been appealed to the Supreme Court. Of those, 11 were accepted by the court for final determination. Among the more important decisions were cases dealing with the exclusion of non-citizens from the benefit of the law, discriminatory access to unemployment benefits on the basis of age, the use of marital status with respect to insurance, discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation, and the denial to off-reserve Aboriginals of the right to participate in band governance.
I will have to conclude at this point.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to the late Christina McCall.
If I had a favourite saint, it would be the Apostle St. Thomas, the eternal skeptic, who questioned and doubted the conventional wisdom of his peers and raised questions about the very nature of the human condition.
For me, it could not have been more appropriate that Christina McCall's funeral service be held at Saint Thomas's Anglican Church in the heart of old Toronto, for she was, as all great journalists are, a creative skeptic.
Great writers, like candles, illuminate the darkness enveloping the human condition. The writer's art is to pull together disparate threads and weave them into an authentic, vibrant story, making sense of what apparently is senseless. So it was with Christina McCall.
To those who treasure the written word, Christina was herself a treasure. Breathtakingly beautiful, she carried herself with effortless grace and looked the part of the elegant Rosedale matron that she was. Yet beneath this elegant veneer was a vulnerable, restless, energetic, insightfully brilliant writer. She had a deep, velvety, smokey voice and dark, melancholy eyes. Christina spoke purposefully, quietly and slowly. It was always difficult to concentrate on the subject at hand because of the charm she exuded. She was admired by women and men alike, and entranced and enchanted all who came to know her. My mother taught me that a lady wore a hat and gloves. Christina did, and she was. She wrote as beautifully as she looked. Because of her own complex personal experiences, she could parse the complex passions and contradictions at play and that were displayed within the body politic. For her, there was never a glass ceiling.
Christina became a leading political chronicler of her time, on par with Bruce Hutchison, Bill Wilson, Pierre Berton, Blair Fraser, Charles Lynch, Doug Fisher, Peter Worthington, Geoff Stevens, Tony Westell, Richard Gwyn, Jeffrey Simpson, Lawrence Martin, and her one-time husband, Peter Newman, and at times she outshone all of them with her luminous prose and exquisite insights.
As a writer and journalist, she was meticulous in her preparations. She always came prepared with research and notes that she took copiously. She would pause to reread her notes and relaunch her enquiries. Christina could penetrate to the essence with soft, rapier-like questions, always touching the inner core of any subject she was exploring under the prism of her own personal microscope.
She was the very model of journalist and writer, and we will not likely meet her equal again. While she wrote of the foibles and the failures of politics, she never ever tarnished its noble purpose.
To capture the metaphor she wrote of Pierre Trudeau, her beauty and brilliance "haunts us still." With her passing, the still unlimned political anatomy of our country is darker and dimmer because her bright light was so prematurely extinguished.
To her three beautiful, loving daughters and her husband Stephen, we can only share a portion of their pain upon her passage and the marvellous remembrance of glowing moments passed. Her own words, lustrous words, will forever carve a lasting memorial to her memory.
Your work well done!
Your battles won!
Now come to rest.
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, on Sunday, with Hikes for Hospice and Palliative Care at 100 sites across the country, National Palliative Care Week began. This is the third year for the hike. The first year I walked in Winnipeg and it rained. The second year I walked in Ottawa and it rained. Last Sunday I walked in Halifax and it poured. Perhaps it is me who brings the rain to the thousands of Canadians who put personal plans aside to walk for a cause that is so very important to them.
Quality end-of-life care for the dying is an issue that touches Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Many have tried in vain to get the services that they need, but the reality is that 80 per cent of Canadians who are dying still do not get the service they deserve and need. It is getting better, but much still needs to be done.
I would like to thank our Speaker for the breakfast he hosted on Monday, and Senators Mercer and Trenholme Counsell, who joined with us. Together, honourable senators, we can make a difference and make the lives of those dying and their families better.
Operation Athena—Ceremony Honouring Soldiers Who Served in Afghanistan
Hon. Lucie Pépin: Honourable senators, on April 15, I was privileged to take part in the medal award ceremony for Operation Athena held at the Centre des Congrès de Québec. More than 1,200 soldiers from CFB Valcartier, who had served in Afghanistan during 2004, were decorated at that time.
A ceremony on such a large scale is a moving experience. The efforts of the soldiers receiving medals were applauded by their families and the numerous invited guests. I had the honour of presenting the Athena Campaign Star to several members of the Royal 22nd Regiment. I could see in their eyes the satisfaction of a mission well done and the pride of having served our country so bravely abroad.
A number of civilians were decorated with the General Service Medal for service as Operation Athena support staff. The work of these men and women is often forgotten, so I was pleased to see it being recognized at full value.
The ceremony also provided military families with an opportunity to see their own personal heroes honoured. The joy felt by the wives after so many months apart, and of the children seeing their fathers again after so long, was equaled only by their pride in seeing them officially decorated by the Canadian Forces.
I was very pleased with the speech given by General Hillier, in which he acknowledged the essential contribution of military wives to Operation Athena. He reminded us that the soldiers could not have accomplished their mission abroad without the knowledge that the home front was in good hands.
During the ceremony, I noted that several young women had small babies in their arms, babies that had been born while their fathers were in Afghanistan. These new mothers demonstrated remarkable courage in a very tough situation. All of these women are unsung heroes, but heroes just as much as their decorated husbands.
Honourable senators, I once again encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity to show your appreciation of our Canadian military personnel and their families. There are often opportunities in everyday life, far less spectacular than the April 15 ceremony was, but effective nevertheless, to show how much we appreciate them.
Report of Committee
Hon. Joseph A. Day, Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, presented the following report:
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has the honour to present its
Your Committee, which was referred Bill C-33, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004, has in obedience to the Order of Reference of Wednesday, April 20, 2005, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment.
JOSEPH A. DAY
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?
On motion of Senator Day, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for third reading at the next sitting of the Senate.
Partnership Day and Meetings with U.S. Legislators, March 1-2, 2005—Report Tabled
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 23(6), I have the honour to table in the Senate, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Canada-U.S. Partnership Day and meetings with U.S. legislators in Washington, D.C., from March 1 to 2, 2005.
Meeting of Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of Arctic Region, February 28-March 2, 2005—Report Tabled
Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 23(6), I have the honour to table in the Senate, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the meeting of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region held in Washington, D.C., from February 28 to March 2, 2005.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sitting of the Senate
Hon. Peter A. Stollery: Honourable senators, I give notice that at the next sitting of the Senate I shall move:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs have power to sit at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, 2005, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau: Honourable senators, I give notice that, on Thursday, May 5, 2005:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the NDP budget announced in the media by the Prime Minister on April 26, 2005; the ruination and destruction of the Liberal budget; the compromised integrity of the Minister of Finance whose previous position was that such measures were fiscally irresponsible; and the irresponsibility of the Liberal government in attempting to shore up its fading support through reckless new spending announcements.
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, pursuant to rules 56 and 57(2), I hereby give notice that Thursday next, May 5, 2005:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the Province of Alberta and the role it plays in Canada.
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, last Friday, the Canadian embassy in Germany opened its doors at its new location in the City of Berlin at Leipziger Platz.
Was the Minister of Foreign Affairs present at the ceremonial opening of this new embassy? If not, why not?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I understand that Senator Kinsella was in attendance, so he may be able to tell us whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs was there.
I do not have the answer to the second part of Senator Kinsella's question.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, I was not there, but had I been the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and had there been this opening of the new Canadian embassy, which is the costliest embassy ever built by the Government of Canada —
Senator St. Germain: How much?
Senator Kinsella: It cost $180 million, far exceeding the cost of the new Canadian embassy in Washington.
Some Hon. Senators: Shame!
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Kinsella: That which should have been cause for celebration is, unfortunately, cause for concern for Canadian taxpayers.
The new embassy was built in public-private partnership with Hannover Leasing Group. By the time it opened on Friday, the cost of this architectural masterpiece was some $180 million. Canadian taxpayers assumed the cost of $102 million, while the Hannover Leasing Group paid the remainder. Under the terms of the public-private partnership, half of the site will be allotted to commercial and retail interests, including exclusive apartments. The site will be administered by the Hannover Leasing Group for 35 years before property rights are returned to the Canadian government.
As honourable senators are aware, an embassy is a nation's home abroad, and security concerns must be paramount in the building and management of this kind of facility.
Can the minister assure this chamber that the Canadian government has not traded away control over embassy property for commercial considerations?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I would apologize to the Leader of the Opposition for suggesting that he was present at the opening ceremony. I was so advised. I will go back to my sources and discover why I was erroneously advised. I have always heeded the part of the Bible where it is stated that Jacob leaned upon his staff and died.
As to the remainder of the question, I think Canadians should take great pride in having a facility of this kind, which Senator Kinsella described as outstanding and magnificent. Germany is an important part of the European Community. It is one of the economic motors of that community. Canada seeks to develop its presence and its influence with the European Community. Canada must show a commitment to that community and to Germany, which moved its capital, as honourable senators know, from Bonn to Berlin, requiring a new embassy presence, not only by Canada but also by other countries.
With respect to the aspect of the question that relates to economic and commercial viability, I will make inquiries as to the nature of the cost-benefit appraisal, and endeavour to provide a more specific answer.
The idea of public-private partnerships has been espoused not only by the government of the day but also, I understand, by the opposition party. I may have misunderstood Senator Kinsella for a second time if I interpreted his remark to mean that he was objecting to public-private partnerships.
Senator Kinsella: Honourable senators, another example of this model of public-private partnership is the Canadian embassy built in Hong Kong.
That was conceptualized in the world that was pre-9/11. In the world that we live in today, the world of post-9/11, security concerns certainly have to be foremost in our minds. Canadian taxpayers have put $102 million into the Canadian embassy. The private sector, Hannover Leasing Group, has provided financing of some $80 million. Hannover Leasing has control over the site and who they will lease to.
When the minister makes his inquiries, I would ask that he secure for us information concerning the terms and conditions of that partnership that speak explicitly to the security concerns in the world today. One can imagine many scenarios. Will Hannover Leasing be allowed to lease to organizations or entities that might be of great concern in the eyes of Canadian intelligence agencies?
I do not know the answers to these questions, and I would ask the minister to attempt to obtain them for the chamber.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, with respect to the final point made by Senator Kinsella, I certainly will ask for information with regard to the security arrangements relating to the embassy, which I will give the chamber.
I should inform the Senate that the principal nature of the transaction reverts the full title of this property to Canada in 35 years. I suppose that one of the considerations for the economic transaction is the ownership of this very valuable property in Berlin 35 years from now. I do not have other details.
I do, however, want to correct Senator Kinsella in one respect. He referred to Hong Kong, but he meant Tokyo. The government of Prime Minister Mulroney entered into a public-private agreement with respect to the development of our embassy in Tokyo, That building, as well, is magnificent and has an outstanding presence. In that case, Canada had a substantial amount of land and made land not needed for the new embassy or the old residence available to a Japanese developer on commercial terms, with a return of that property in, I believe, 99 years, when it will be an extremely valuable property again.
I do not know that there is much to characterize as to a difference in nature in this particular transaction. However, I will seek additional information for Senator Kinsella.
Senator Kinsella: I hope my information is wrong and that the minister will be able to identify my error. My information is that there is a 150 per cent cost overrun for the Canada House project in Berlin. Perhaps the minister can report on that figure as well.
Senator Austin: I shall endeavour to do so.
Doha Round—State of Negotiations on Agriculture—European Union and United States Subsidies
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, last week, the Director General of the World Trade Organization warned that the Doha round of global trade talks is close to a crisis because not enough progress has been made on important issues, including agriculture. Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate please tell us if his government shares the view that the Doha round might be close to crisis?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I cannot give a specific response except to say in general that Canada believes the Doha round to be an extremely important part of advancing the world trade system. Canada has many significant issues that need to be dealt with in this Doha round.
I have not heard that we believe the situation to be in crisis.
Senator Gustafson: Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate have comments on developments and issues with respect to the Doha round? Is the matter of agriculture subsidies in the U.S. and the European Union a priority for Canada? For what it is worth, they are butting up against a brick wall if they think they will ever get the Americans and the Europeans off subsidies. For 25 years, we have been hearing that the World Trade Organization will get them off subsidies. I can tell honourable senators that farmers are anxious about these subsidies, and I would like to hear the minister's response.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I had the opportunity to attend the Cancun meeting of the Doha round in 2003. Not much has changed, I would say, in the public information as to the relative positions of the major trading groups.
As Senator Gustafson knows, there is a contest with respect to the United States and Europe. They continue to blame one another for the high subsidies that they offer their own agricultural producers.
At the same time, the group of 22, as they are called, led by developing countries, has set very aggressive targets for reducing those subsidies. Agriculture is what the Doha round has turned into. That is what it is all about.
In the meantime, Canada is in a special position with respect to its agricultural market suppliers, and we are anxious to ensure that supply management, as Canada practises it, stays in place in any new global arrangement.
Senator Gustafson: A large percentage of our production is sold into the international market, as the minister will know. This creates a great problem for Canadian farmers, especially with respect to grain, which is sold internationally.
I happened to be in Seattle when the trade talks were occurring there, and at that time the trade talks on subsidies broke down. Canadian farmers cannot withstand another one of these situations. Another move must be made to deal with the crisis so that there is a level playing field for our grain industry.
Senator Austin: Without accepting the suggestion that in the Doha round of negotiations a crisis exists presently, Senator Gustafson is well aware that the United States and Europe are quite, if I may use the word, "protectionist" of their agricultural sector. We have seen that protectionism followed with respect to trade actions against Canadian agriculture and against softwood lumber. It is said by some that the U.S. Congress is becoming increasingly protectionist, but at the same time it has a new group of trade negotiators.
Mr. Rob Portman is the leading trade negotiator for the United States. He is new in his assignment. We are waiting to see whether he will follow the trade negotiating lines of Mr. Robert Zoellick or whether new initiatives will be launched by the United States with respect to the Doha round.
Senator Gustafson: As late as a couple of weeks ago, the Americans increased subsidies on a crop of peas by 100 per cent. They doubled the subsidy. France did the same thing with wheat. The problem is escalating, it is not going away. Could it be that the Doha meetings are in crisis because they realize these countries are doing the opposite to what they have been asking them to do?
Senator Austin: I understand the concerns of the Honourable Senator Gustafson. I do not know whether this is an appropriate situation for the axiom, but President Eisenhower once said that if you cannot solve a problem at this level of its difficulty, let it get bigger.
Changes to Budget 2005—Consultation with Provinces and Territories
Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, a significant part of the Prime Minister's desperate budget-changing deal with the NDP appears to concern federal spending that is clearly within areas of provincial jurisdiction. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was reported by the April 28 Ottawa Citizen as saying:
It is of passing interest that I certainly wasn't consulted on this either as head of the Council of the Federation or as premier of Ontario. I don't believe that any one of my 12 counterparts across the country were consulted either.
Could the government leader confirm that not one single provincial premier or any territorial leader was consulted prior to the federal government agreeing, in a Toronto hotel room, to make major changes to its budget involving major new spending in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I know that Senator Angus is familiar with constitutional law and practice and knows that it is constitutional for the federal government to use the power of the purse to spend funds on programs that serve the public interest.
Ontario—Discussions on Federal Funding Gap
Hon. W. David Angus: I will not comment on the assertion of my knowledge of constitutional law, but the amount allocated to Quebec was of great interest to me and it seemed very large and fair, but the Ontario premier noted that this deal proves that there is cash to address what he says is a $23-billion funding gap. Mr. McGuinty is apparently still waiting for a meeting with the Prime Minister at which that funding gap can be discussed.
Why is the Prime Minister willing to meet with the NDP leader in a Toronto hotel room, without prior consultation — this is in the cooperative federalism sense — in an effort to prop up his government, but unwilling to meet with the premier of Canada's most populous province to discuss its grievances?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): The Prime Minister indicated he is willing to meet with Premier McGuinty and arrangements are going forward for such a meeting.
Since I cannot ask questions of senators opposite, I will wonder rhetorically why the Leader of the Opposition, Stephen Harper, has changed his position from support of the government's budget to a position where he does not support the budget. We on this side would be delighted to know more of the reasons for that change.
Senator Angus: Far be it from me to preach on behalf of the Premier of Ontario, but it is Canada's largest province. Given the flagrant change in a document which was tabled in this Parliament, called the budget, for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons has changed his position is quite mind-boggling.
However, last Thursday, Minister of National Revenue John McCallum said that Ontario's campaign for fairness is helping the separatists and said, "this is very dangerous for Canada." Was Mr. McCallum speaking for himself or does the government now believe that any province that raises concerns about its own fiscal relationship with Ottawa is a threat to national unity?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, it is a delight to see Senator Angus so concerned about a Liberal premier. I am sure this is almost unprecedented.
Senator Angus: It could be a sign of the end.
Senator Austin: I know very well that all Conservative senators opposite are anxious for an election, and Mr. Harper has said that you were unanimously of the opinion that an election should be brought on immediately.
An Hon. Senator: Not Belinda.
Senator Austin: An honourable senator has mentioned Belinda Stronach as perhaps a dissenter from that particular view, and perhaps there are others, but that would contradict Mr. Harper's statement, and I am not in a position to do that at the moment. Perhaps it is possible that one of our Conservative colleagues could speak to that particular issue.
Honourable senators, the issue of national unity is one that must concern us all.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Austin: Every one of us is here because we believe in the unity of Canada.
Senator St. Germain: Liberal actions eroded unity.
Senator Austin: Every one of us here, I am convinced, believes that the current federal system is the best system for governing Canada and we are prepared, every one of us here, I am sure, to defend it.
Honourable senators, the same is true for every minister of the government.
Changes to Budget 2005—Terms of Agreement with New Democratic Party
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I would like to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate what the terms are of the budget deal reached between NDP leader Jack Layton and Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I am not aware of any formal agreement or formal terms. I have seen stories in the media and I am sure that when, if and as that information is made public the Conservative side will be totally in support of the budget.
Senator Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I am rather appalled. I am asking a cabinet minister about a deal reached between the leader of the NDP and the Prime Minister of Canada. Are there notes to this deal? Will the government table those notes or any related documents in this chamber?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the advice I have is that there is no document that bears the signatures of either party, the Liberal side or the New Democratic side, nor is there likely to be such a signed document.
Commission of Inquiry into Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities—Allegations of Kickbacks to Liberal Party
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Honourable senators, the Prime Minister keeps saying that if the Liberal Party received any dirty money or kickbacks, they would pay it back to the government. He clearly stated this.
However, he never makes reference to anyone being charged within the Liberal Party. Is there something new that has taken place in the system, where if you give back ill-gotten gains, everything goes away? Perhaps the government leader in the Senate could explain exactly what the Prime Minister means when he says that. You cannot rob a bank, then give the money back and assume that everything is okay. I would like to know what the Prime Minister actually means when he makes such comments in regard to this laundered money, kickback money or whatever.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the position of the government is that, if the Gomery commission or the RCMP investigation shows funds were paid to the Liberal Party in a way that is improper or criminal, then the Liberal Party will ensure that those funds are repaid to the appropriate parties. The Liberal Party has no intention of keeping any funds that were paid contrary to any law of Canada.
Senator St. Germain: The Honourable Leader of the Government in the Senate is a lawyer. As such, can he tell us whether those who received the funds, if indeed monies were paid out, have a legal responsibility to which they must answer? In the case of the president of the party, the allegations were — and they are merely allegations — that major renovations were carried out to Liberal headquarters with some of these funds that were allegedly kicked back to the Liberal Party. The president of the party would have known that money was coming from somewhere. When I was president of the party and we were incurring major expenditures, I knew the source of the money. Senator Angus raised this issue in a general way, but it was raised legitimately and it has been legally reported through the system. Will those people be held responsible?
Where does the Chief Electoral Officer stand on this issue in the 2000 election? The allegations are that in the 2000 election Liberal organizers were being paid with money that was kicked back or laundered through these advertising companies. What position does he take respecting these allegations? I repeat that these are allegations. Is he conducting an inquiry? If what is said in these allegations is true, the 2000 election was won fraudulently. Do we have any explanation? Does the government leader in the Senate know whether the Chief Electoral Officer has instigated an investigation into these allegations?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the government does not report to Parliament for the Chief Electoral Officer, so I have no information on that, nor am I likely to have any. If the honourable senator wants to bring that information forward, he will have to go to the Chief Electoral Officer directly and ask him the questions he wishes to ask.
With respect to the remainder of Senator St. Germain's question, let me sort out some of the issues. The first issue relates to funds improperly paid. I have answered that question. Those who participated in such activities could have done so innocently, could have done so without information, or could have done so with knowledge of the law and contrary to the law. We have processes to determine that. That is why the Gomery inquiry was launched, and that is why Prime Minister Chrétien asked the RCMP to investigate.
At the moment, statements in the public domain are allegations, as the honourable senator says, and they remain allegations until a determination of the facts by the appropriate court of jurisdiction.
Senator St. Germain: Based on these allegations, can the honourable minister advise Canadians whether the RCMP has instituted any criminal investigations into money being kicked back to the Liberal Party?
Senator Austin: I have no information, and the RCMP usually denies, as Senator St. Germain may know better than most here, that it has any investigations under way. As senators know, three persons have been charged under the Criminal Code as a result of RCMP investigations.
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour of presenting five delayed answers to oral questions raised in the Senate. The first two are in response to oral questions raised by Senator Keon, the first on April 14 regarding the review of procedures surrounding importations of virus samples and the second on April 21 regarding test kits containing mislabelled strains of influenza, their movement and the handling of deadly viruses.
The next two answers are in response to oral questions raised in the Senate by Senator Gustafson; one on April 20, 2005, regarding Kyoto and the transfer of land from grain farming into grassland, — and the other on April 21, 2005, regarding bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the closure of the border and intervenor status in the Montana District Court case.
The last delayed answer is a response to an oral question raised in the Senate on April 20 by the Honourable Senator Cochrane regarding the report of the federal Marine Atlantic Advisory Committee respecting the ferry service.
Test Kits Containing Mislabelled Strain of Influenza—Responsibility for Testing Workers in Affected Labs—Review of Procedure Surrounding Importation of Virus Samples
(Response to question raised by Hon. Wilbert J. Keon on April 14, 2005)
The responsibility for testing workers in the affected labs and any family members who have exhibited flu-like symptoms in the last few weeks falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with provincial and territorial authorities, have agreed on criteria for testing laboratory workers for H2N2 influenza. Initially, only individuals who display influenza-like symptoms will be tested in most jurisdictions. Certain laboratories have, however, opted to test all laboratory workers who were exposed to the samples. Specimens will be obtained by provincial authorities and forwarded to the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory for testing. (Each test will take several days to complete)
The Public Health Agency of Canada provides national coordination on data collection protocols, data collection forms and analysis. However, it is up to each provincial/ territorial authority to determine how they want to address the issue within their own jurisdiction.
Regarding the World Health Organization's request for laboratories to review safety procedures in handling influenza viruses, the Public Health Agency of Canada regularly publishes Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines which are recognized as the National Guidelines for Biosafety in Canada. In response to this incident, the Agency issued a Biosafety Advisory for Influenza A (H2N2) with specific precautions for safe handling, storage, use and transport of Influenza A (H2N2).
The Agency requires all Canadian laboratories, who have imported or are importing Influenza A (H2N2), to comply with the physical and operational requirements for Influenza A (H2N2) as outlined in the Biosafety Advisory/ Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines, 3rd edition, 2004.
The Agency will be re-affirming, with the Canadian laboratory community, the current physical and operational requirements for Influenza A (H2N2), and will also continue to inform the Canadian laboratory community of the ongoing reclassification of specific Influenza strains to a higher risk classification.
The Agency is also undertaking a comprehensive review of the procedures and legislative basis surrounding the importation of human pathogens into Canada, as well as the use of human pathogens which have been acquired domestically.
Test Kits Containing Mislabelled Strains of Influenza—Movement and Handling of Deadly Viruses
(Response to question raised by Hon. Wilbert J. Keon on April 21, 2005)
The transportation of dangerous goods in Canada is regulated under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. The Act was designed with the sole purpose of maintaining public safety in the transportation of dangerous goods and focuses on preventing accidental releases. There are approximately 30,000,000 dangerous goods shipments each year in Canada, 99.998 per cent occurring without serious incident.
In March 2004, as part of its commitment to Parliament to review the Act, Transport Canada began its consultation. Sessions open to the public were held in cities across Canada including: St. John's, Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Scarborough, Mississauga, Sudbury, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria. The consultations were not intended to review the entire Act but instead focus on enhancing the safety components of the Act and to look at emerging security issues. The department is completing its review of the public comments.
As for the test kits containing influenza and the Federal Express incident in Winnipeg, before any dangerous good can be shipped within or into Canada it must meet the requirements prescribed under the Act, its supporting regulations and standards. This includes the requirement for a shipper to use an approved means of containment enabling the dangerous goods to make it safely to its destination.
In the Winnipeg incident, the means of containment performed as it was designed to do — withstand the pressures of this type of accident and prevent the release of any dangerous goods.
As for the test kits, it was an error at the U.S. lab that led to the shipments being sent to the wrong accredited labs around the world. The shipments of test kits destined for Canadian labs met the appropriate transportation rules and regulations, including the proper means of containment to be transported safely into and within Canada.
When a shipper in Canada, or an importer in Canada, wishes to transport a substance that is considered highly dangerous under the Act, that person must submit an emergency response assistance plan to Transport Canada. The emergency response assistance plan — approved by Transport Canada before the shipment is allowed — outlines the actions that person is required to take in the event of an accident. The intent of the emergency response assistance plan is to provide on-site assistance to local authorities in the event of an accident involving such dangerous goods.
Transport Canada operates the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (CANUTEC) to assist emergency response personnel in handling dangerous goods emergencies. CANUTEC is staffed by professional scientists specialized in emergency response who are experienced in interpreting technical information and providing advice. CANUTEC receives over 30,000 calls annually.
Transport Canada inspectors inspect industries involved in the transportation of dangerous goods and take appropriate enforcement action as required to protect the public.
The safe transportation of dangerous goods remains a shared responsibility among industry, provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada. Transport Canada is committed to continuing its lead role in protecting the public — be it through inspections, enforcement actions, the development of new regulations or the updating of the Act.
Kyoto Protocol—Plan of Compliance
(Response to question raised by Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson on April 20, 2005)
There are two programs — one existing and one proposed — that can provide an incentive for the transfer of land from grain farming into grassland where this change in land use results in a net benefit for Canadians as well as for the farmer.
The "Greencover Canada Program", operated by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, provides farmers with an incentive to take marginal crop production land that is deemed environmentally sensitive out of production and to put the land into permanent cover. Permanent cover can still be used for hay production or grazing. This is a five-year, $110-million-dollar initiative to help producers improve grassland-management practices, protect water quality, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and enhance biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Farmers have until next year to sign up lands for this program.
The second initiative is the Climate Fund, which would be established pursuant to the Budget Bill that is currently before Parliament. The Climate Fund is a major component of the Climate Change Plan that was released on April 13; it is a market-based initiative that would provide incentives for emission reductions and carbon storage in all sectors of the economy. Projects that involve switching land in grain production (under any tillage practice) to permanent cover could be eligible to earn greenhouse gas credits; credits would be issued for the verified increase in the amount of carbon stored in the soil resulting from the change in land use. These credits could then be sold to the Climate Fund.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy—Closure of Border to Canadian Cattle—Intervenor Status in Montana Court Case
(Response to question raised by Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson on April 21, 2005)
Under U.S. law the Government of Canada is not a party to any of the litigation in the U.S. Courts concerning the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) minimal risk rule. Regarding the Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) v. USDA case, the Government of Canada sought advice from its legal counsel and expert U.S. litigators as to the best method to protect Canada's interest and to ensure that accurate and complete information could be put before the courts about the science on BSE and Canada's activities related to the management of BSE risks to human health, food safety and animal health. Both the science and Canada's actions support the minimal risk rule and opening of the border to live ruminants of all classes, as well as a broader range of ruminant products.
After carefully reviewing all possible options, it was determined that the most effective way to attain Canada's objectives was to seek permission to file an amicus brief. Seeking permission to become an amicus curiae (friend of the court) is in keeping with Canada's status as a foreign sovereign government appearing before American courts. From time-to-time, Canada does seek amicus status in foreign courts where there are compelling reasons to do so. It would be highly unusual for Canada to seek intervenor status in a foreign court. Our U.S. counsel believed there were compelling reasons for the District Court to allow Canada to file an amicus brief because it would shed light on a number of factual issues raised in the litigation by R-CALF in regard to Canada's activities related to BSE. Canada's petition to file an amicus brief, with Canada's amicus brief attached, was submitted for the Court's consideration on February 22, 2005.
On February 23, 2005, the District Court (Montana) denied Canada's request to file an amicus brief, stating that:
The views of the Government of Canada are irrelevant to a determination of whether the USDA's action is lawful, since the relevant statutes focus on protection of US industry and US human and animal health.
Additionally, the Court summarized Canada's petition as "interference with the proceedings". Analysis by our U.S. legal counsel determined that asking this same District Court to reconsider its decision would be futile.
On March 2, 2005, the District Court (Montana) chose to impose a preliminary injunction preventing implementation of the minimal risk rule until the merits of the R-CALF case could be heard. The USDA appealed the District Court's decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on 17 March, 2005. In light of the appeal of the preliminary injunction, there was no compelling reason to appeal the decision to deny Canada amicus status in the District Court. However, the Government of Canada has sought permission to file an amicus brief in the appeal proceedings because they offer the best opportunity to overturn the preliminary injunction in the short term.
Canada submitted its petition, with its amicus brief attached, to the appellate court on April 14, 2005. We believe that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will be interested in what the Government of Canada has to say in light of the allegations made by R-CALF in the litigation. Our brief presents the facts about all the measures that Canada has taken to appropriately address risks to human health, food safety and animal health. It also fully supports the USDA's position that Canada is a minimal-risk country and that the border should be reopened. We are awaiting the Court's decision on the acceptance of this submission.
The Government of Canada has worked collaboratively with the USDA since the detection of BSE in May 2003. The position of the USDA as a party in this litigation is in conformity with that of the Government of Canada, namely that trade decisions be based on science and that the science supports the minimal risk rule.
Report of Federal Advisory Committee on Marine Atlantic Ferry Service
(Response to question raised by Hon. Ethel Cochrane on April 20, 2005)
In November 2004, the Minister of Transport appointed a three-person Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations on the future of Marine Atlantic Inc. and the ferry service.
The Committee delivered its report to the Minister on the deadline of March 31, 2005.
The Minister and Transport Canada officials are currently reviewing the report in advance of releasing it to the public. The Minister anticipates releasing the report in the very near future.
The Hon. the Speaker: Before proceeding to Orders of the Day, I should like to deal with a request for a ruling. You will recall that on Tuesday, April 19, at the conclusion of Question Period during Delayed Answers, Senator Austin, the Leader of the Government, took the opportunity to provide an oral response to a question that had been put to him some days previously by Senator Comeau. Immediately after, Senator St. Germain rose on a point of order to question the propriety of this proceeding, since it seemed to him to be an unwarranted extension of Question Period.
After several brief exchanges, I agreed to look into the practices related to Delayed Answers. In the interim, I have looked into this matter and am prepared to give my ruling on the point of order.
Delayed Answers has been a designated feature of the Rules of the Senate since 1991 and reference to that can be found in rule 23(8). This procedure supplemented the practice of taking questions "as notice" which was formalized in our rules in June of 1977. Evidence in the Debates, however, shows that both of these practices antedate their respective rule changes.
The Rules of the Senate provide for two circumstances that might lead to a delayed answer. The first relates to Written Questions that senators place on the Notice Paper, as outlined in rule 25.
The second occurs when an oral question cannot be answered during Question Period. Rule 24(3) allows a senator to whom such a question is addressed to take the question "as notice."
The practice that has developed over the years is that, when Delayed Answers is called, the Deputy Leader of the Government will table written responses, a copy of which is also provided to the senator who asked the question. It is clear, therefore, that Delayed Answers is not an extension of Question Period.
Research by the Journals office has found one recent instance when a senator requested that a written delayed answer be read aloud. This occurred in 2001. On March 22 of that year, Senator Corbin asked a question of Senator Carstairs, then the Leader of the Government, about a foreign affairs issue. The question was taken as notice. On April 25, when the Deputy Leader of the Government, Senator Robichaud, was prepared to table a written response, Senator Corbin requested that the answer be provided verbally. Senator Robichaud then read the text into the record.
What occurred on April 19, 2005 does not fall squarely within this pattern. Senator Austin provided an oral answer to a question that had been asked originally on April 13 by Senator Comeau. In giving his answer, of which there was no written version, Senator Austin also suggested that he was prepared to answer additional questions. On both counts this is a departure from the usual practice.
As Speaker, I am bound to apply the rules that maintain recognized practices. With respect to Delayed Answers, this means that, at a minimum, a written version of the response, either to a previously unanswered oral question or to a written question standing on the Notice Paper, must be tabled, with a copy being provided to the senator who asked the question. In addition, upon request, it is possible for the written response to be read into the record. On no account, however, without the express leave of the Senate to suspend the rules, can the time provided for Delayed Answers become an occasion to extend Question Period.
Before concluding, I would like to draw the attention of senators to a related practice that occurs with some frequency. On occasion, the Leader of the Government in the Senate has responded orally during Question Period to questions taken as notice from previous sittings. Both Senator Carstairs and Senator Austin have done this. Some recent examples that were found occurred on October 26 and December 15, 2004. As well, because this is done during Question Period, it would allow senators to ask supplementary questions. It may be that Senator Austin was confusing the two practices when he acted the way he did, resulting in Senator St. Germain's point of order. In any event, what happened on April 19 was not in order. When responding to Delayed Answers, it is necessary to table a written response, even if a request is made to repeat it orally.
The rules do not allow me, as Speaker, to change the record or to reverse what happened on that day. However, I would hope that the clarification I have made today will be kept in mind for the future.
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Moore, seconded by the Honourable Senator Phalen, for the second reading of Bill S-28, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (student loan).—(Honourable Senator Robichaud, P.C.)
Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill S-28 at second reading. I have not had the chance to advise Senator Moore how much I appreciated his initiative in introducing the bill, although I have had an opportunity to study it.
I wish to remind honourable senators that Senator Moore's bill seeks to assist post-secondary graduates who find themselves in dire financial situations. In 1997, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act was amended to require a post-graduation wait period before a court could release an individual from repaying the Canada student loan. Initially, government student loan debt would survive a graduate's bankruptcy filing for a period of two years, during which those loans could not be discharged. However, implementation legislation for the 1998 federal budget increased the length of time from two years to 10 years. This law remains in place seven years later.
Honourable senators, student groups such as the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Canadian Federation of Students have argued against a 10-year period as being unreasonably long and discriminatory. They contend that it prolongs a graduate's financial problems in a way that is not asked of other consumers who seek bankruptcy protection. For example, credit card debt and student loans obtained from banks may be discharged in a matter of months, and yet we ask graduates to wait one decade to resolve their government student loan debt.
There is an argument to be made for having some form of wait period in place to deter unwarranted bankruptcies. Between 1990-91 and 1995-96, the Canada Student Loans Programs' annual losses from bankruptcy more than doubled. Between 1990 and 1997, about 53,000 Canadian student loan borrowers declared bankruptcy — 53,000 young Canadians were forced to declare bankruptcy or became involved in related events that cost taxpayers about $445 million in defaulted loans. The federal government says that the 10-year wait period preserves the overall sustainability of the Canada Student Loans Program and helps to prevent the system from being abused. Even student groups agree with the principle of maintaining the integrity of the program, but they are asking that the wait time in the legislation coincide with the exhaustion of the federal government's debt reduction and interest-relief measures available for a period of five years.
As Senator Moore pointed out in his remarks, Bill S-28 is consistent with recommendations arising from a review of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act conducted by the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. Honourable senators might recall that in November 2003, a report of the Banking Committee advocated that the legislation be amended to reduce the length of time from 10 years to five years. The report stated that the 1997 and 1998 changes to the legislation "moved the insolvency system away from the goal of reducing the extent to which any particular class of creditor receives special treatment under the Act." Since the Banking Committee released this report, the federal government has shown no interest in changing the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to reflect this recommendation.
Honourable senators, I am supportive of Bill S-28 and its attempt to assist post-secondary students and graduates. It is unfortunate that the government has consistently failed to exhibit similar initiative. Only brief references to education were found in the most recent Speech from the Throne. The learning bond was announced for the second time and a passing mention was made of the educational gap between Aboriginal students and other students in Canada.
Finance Minister Goodale's version of this year's federal budget also proved disappointing beyond its promises to increase investment in research. The recent budget deal reached between the Liberal government and the New Democratic Party reportedly includes a $1.5-billion increase in transfers to the provinces to reduce tuition fees and to provide training programs for unemployed workers. Depending on which side one listens to, this money will begin to flow within two years. This deal has been promoted by those involved as a step forward, but I cannot view this latest incarnation of the budget in a similar light.
By way of a footnote, one wonders which budget is before Parliament. Is it the budget that the finance minister originally tabled or is it this new budget that was announced by the Prime Minister based on his deal with the New Democratic Party? Indeed, one wonders procedurally whether the budget bill adopted in principle in the other place is consistent with this new deal budget. Perhaps our friends in the other place might want to attend to this issue.
Not to veer from the issue that is before us, it would be interesting to know whether in crafting this deal any thought was given to provincial consultation, as raised during Question Period today. A perfect example is the area of education. As all honourable senators are aware, education clearly falls under provincial jurisdiction. The provinces may be angered that the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP have attached strings to this money without the input of the premiers whose jurisdiction is education.
There is great confusion as to what was promised. The NDP claim that the written agreement explicitly provides the extra funding only to the provinces that will use it for tuition reduction, but the Prime Minister denies this claim. I would also like to point out that neither side has stated what it thinks would happen to tuition fees when this deal supposedly ends in two years.
Honourable senators, I do not suggest that the provinces will flatly reject this extra funding, because they were not party to these discussions. However, I do question the government's wisdom in proceeding in such an ad hoc manner. I also seriously question the continuation of this government's long-standing practice of throwing large sums of money at a given area, absent an evaluation of the current situation and absent the attachment of a clear and workable plan.
Honourable senators, it is true with respect to our health care system, and it is true in this instance with respect to education that money alone will not solve the ills of our post-secondary education system. A bold new approach with a new paradigm is needed to correct its many deficiencies, not the least of which is the growing burden of student indebtedness.
This bill before us will provide certain graduates with some assistance. However, it does not address the overall problem of student debt, which has steadily worsened under the past two successive Liberal governments. According to Statistics Canada, in the year 2000, approximately half of all university or college graduates owed money related to their education. The average amount owed was 30 per cent higher than it had been just five years before.
These are not my numbers. They are Statistics Canada's numbers. They also report that university graduates holding bachelor degrees owed an average of $19,500 in government student loans. There has been anecdotal evidence that the prospect of graduating with a heavy debt load has caused some students to reconsider their university or college plans or drop them altogether. These young people are not necessarily from low-income families. Today's costs of tuition, plus housing, books, lab fees and living expenses are prohibitive to middle-income families as well. Imagine middle-income families with two or three college-aged youngsters.
A lack of financial resources should never be a barrier in a country as rich as Canada to pursuing higher education, but increasingly, unfortunately, it is. Students have been saying for years that the rise in debt upon graduation is, in part, a result of rising tuition costs at universities and colleges.
Honourable senators, unless we deal with the substantial increase in tuition costs, we will not be tackling the underlying problem of student debt. Since 1990-91, under this government, university fees have nearly tripled. Is it mere coincidence that the number of graduates declaring bankruptcy climbed during much of this interval as well?
Despite our position as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — an observation that we have made on several other occasions referencing, in particular, the obligation under article 13 of that international human rights treaty — Canada is clearly failing to meet its commitment to progressively freer education at the post-secondary level being accessible to all. Sadly, each year we move further away from realizing that commitment made almost three decades ago. As a result, we are allowing our students to sink deeper and deeper into debt. This debt can be crushing for young men and women who have spent years studying their field of choice and who are now trying to make their way into the workforce. Instead of investing in a car or first home, as their parents did when embarking on professional careers, today's young adults are working to pay down debts worth tens of thousands of dollars incurred to obtain their education. In other words, they have a mortgage but no house to show for it.
Many graduates are working just to pay the interest on their debt and only dream of the time when they can begin to pay down the principal. The financial restraint these individuals will have to practice for years to come does not bode well for Canada's economic future. Those who choose to seek bankruptcy protection do so knowing that their personal future will be negatively affected, with the ability to secure credit hampered for many years after their debt is discharged.
As I stated earlier, the provinces have jurisdiction in the area of education. This must be respected. I also believe that there must be a way for the federal government to work with the provinces on any number of challenges that face post-secondary education in our country, especially with respect to standards and tuition costs. This will require imaginative thinking. The federal government should not view that as a deterrent. Unfortunately, it seems that this government is content to continue on the same path, with no apparent desire to investigate new ideas, while sacrificing provincial involvement for political expediency.
I share the belief, developed by the Conservative Party of Canada, that one way to address the myriad of problems facing post-secondary education in our country is to change the method by which the federal government provides the provinces with funds. By removing post-secondary education from the Canada Social Transfer, an independent transfer could be created that would be specifically targeted to education instead of being grouped with funding for social programs. This method would also establish standards of accountability and transparency by ensuring that these funds are spent on education and not redirected elsewhere.
I should like to remind all honourable senators that, during the last federal election campaign, the Prime Minister publicly committed to creating a dedicated transfer payment for post-secondary education to eventually reach $7 billion or $8 billion; but he made no move to do so once elected. Another promise broken. Perhaps we will soon learn if that broken promise will be dusted off for another year.
Honourable senators, we would support many other measures that would improve the current state of post-secondary education in Canada. For example, my colleagues and I are of the opinion that all scholarships and bursaries should be tax exempt. A student who receives a financial award based on academic excellence should not be penalized for his or her success. Furthermore, it is preposterous that the government claws back much needed funds from students on scholarships — scholarships that they receive based on their financial need.
I am happy and proud to belong to a political party that also believes that the Canada Student Loan Program must be revamped through a variety of means, such as the elimination of the inclusion of parental assets and income in the assessment of student loan applications. Our party supports income contingent student loans that are repaid depending upon the level of income following graduation. We have also called upon the federal government to charge students prime plus 1 per cent on their loans, as opposed to the excessive prime plus 5 per cent it currently charges on fixed rate loans.
Honourable senators, in conclusion, I am of the opinion that Bill S-28 should proceed to committee examination. It is a small measure that, admittedly, will not help the majority of Canadian students or graduates, but it does offer more genuine understanding of their struggles, more than anything the federal government has offered students in recent years.
For these and other reasons I support this bill.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): I am interested in the comments of Senator Kinsella, particularly those on the subject of the Canada Social Transfer. I support the initiative of Senator Moore in introducing this subject. My question relates to the transfer, even if it is divided.
Does Senator Kinsella think that there should be an unconditional transfer? At one time the transfer was conditional. There was an onus on the provinces to spend the money on the areas for which it was designated, and some evidence indicates that that is not the case and that funds designated for education are spent on highways and so forth.
If the transfer is to be made and designated for one area or another, does the honourable senator think that some contingencies should be set out?
Senator Kinsella: I thank the honourable senator for his question. It is my view that there should be a designated transfer from the federal government to the provinces for education which is separate from the other social transfer. In other words, it should be a designated, discrete envelope.
Senator Rompkey: Should it be unconditional?
Senator Kinsella: Unconditional in what sense?
Senator Rompkey: Should there be a requirement that the province spend the money on education?
Senator Kinsella: The point is that if there is a designated transfer for education, it is designated for education. Clearly, for any of this to work effectively, there needs to be consultation with the province.
In the debate we had only a few weeks ago touching post-secondary education, we argued that the Prime Minister should convene a first ministers' meeting on post-secondary education. That would provide a tremendous opportunity to examine that kind of question and the more fundamental question of whether the model we have been using for 35 or 40 years is the appropriate one for funding post-secondary education in the Canada of the year 2005.
The fundamental facts are before us. One does not like to use overly charged terms, but I do not think it is too strong to say that the current situation of indebtedness that our students are incurring is immoral. A country as rich and as generous as Canada should not be putting a yoke around the necks of our young students.
Other countries around the world that are not as blessed as we are with both natural richness and the richness that flows from the productivity of Canadian workers are able to ensure high-quality post-secondary education opportunities for their students at not nearly the cost our students are being forced to incur. Something is not working in Canada, and that needs to be fixed. The bill that Senator Moore has brought forward is a surgical intervention on one aspect. Lacking a larger intervention, we can do nothing but support these step-by-step interventions.
On motion of Senator Rompkey, for Senator Robichaud, debate adjourned.
Second Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Forrestall, seconded by the Honourable Senator LeBreton, for the second reading of Bill S-26, to provide for a national cancer strategy.—(Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C.)
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill S-26, to provide for a national cancer strategy.
Senator Forrestall indicated that the premier of his province, Dr. John Hamm, was his inspiration. He also acknowledged support for Bill S-26 from the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. He mentioned that others have called for a national cancer strategy, including the Cancer Advocacy Coalition, the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Lung Association; yet, I am bound to ask whether these groups are satisfied with Bill S-26 as it is written. I suspect not.
On April 12, 2005, Senator Forrestall spoke to Bill S-26 and said that it will focus research into the control and treatment of and finding a cure for cancer, and that it provides for the Minister of Health to consult with provincial Ministers of Health in each province and with charities involved in cancer research and to establish an advisory committee. He said that the bill will compel the Minister of Health to show leadership on a national research-driven strategy to control cancer and to finance research into the causes of cancer and its most effective treatments.
I have read Bill S-26 carefully. At best, this bill is an uncertain step, albeit a well-meaning one, to advance Canada's response to cancer. Much that is imperative is absent. Prevention and education are not mentioned. Reference is made to charities involved in cancer research, but no reference is made to the wealth of non-profit organizations and associations across this land that educate, counsel, support and care for patients and their families. Professional development is not mentioned. Palliative care is not mentioned. The list is long, and I find that Bill S-26 is short.
In Canada, we have laid a foundation for a cancer control strategy much like other OECD countries. The Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control took shape at the beginning of the 21st century. It is a modern, visionary, comprehensive, collaborative model based on consensus positions on priority cancer control issues with broad goals, sound accountability, solid leadership and governing principles. The Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control was jointly developed by the federal government in collaboration with the provinces, territories and non-governmental cancer organizations.
On January 27, 2005, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer said:
...the developmental stage of the strategy is coming to a close and all parties are now examining funding and implementation options.
While the government considers the best approaches to proceed with the strategy, the battle to prevent and treat cancer continues.
Cancer is clearly a priority for government — evidenced by the commitment at the recent First Ministers' meeting to reduce cancer waiting times, and the commitment and planning support given to building the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control....
Cancer will be one of the major chronic diseases addressed in the Pan-Canadian Public Health Strategy...
Prevention is key.
One of the most astonishing facts about premature death is that close to 70 per cent can be prevented. We all have some responsibility....
...the control and prevention of cancer must remain a priority for all levels of government, as well as dedicated organizations and individuals.
Honourable senators, you listened to the commitment of Canada's Chief Public Health Officer on January 27, 2005. Does this strike you as a solid action plan? Does this tell you that the Government of Canada is taking cancer seriously and providing leadership in the battle against it? If so, why would the Honourable Senator Forrestall have said in the Debates of the Senate for April 12, 2005:
...I had the bill drafted after the September 2004 health care meetings of the first ministers. I watched my premier, Dr. John Hamm, a thoughtful Nova Scotian, tell his colleagues and the Prime Minister that Canada needed a cancer control strategy. The Prime Minister agreed but then, sadly, has done nothing about it.
Perhaps the good premier from Nova Scotia and the good senator were not fully aware of Canada's current position on a cancer strategy. Perhaps they did not know that the partners in the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control noted the close alignment of Mr. Romanow's recommendations with the priorities of the strategy.
Dr. Simon Sutcliffe, Chair of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control, said in response to the Romanow report that the report's recommendations are "the spark that will galvanize efforts to fight cancer in Canada." He said:
The Strategy is this generation's best shot at turning the tide in the fight against cancer. If we fail collectively to commit to the Strategy we will be passing a greater and more difficult challenge to our successors.
The response stated:
The Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control has produced an action plan to tackle the disease that Canadians fear most — cancer. One in three Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime.... The Strategy is something Canadians want — nine in ten Canadians think that the formation of a Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control is a positive development.
The Romanow report supports the five priority areas identified by the strategy: standards and guidelines; primary prevention; a focus on enhanced supportive psychosocial and palliative care; and human resources and research.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2004, the Minister of Health and the Minister of State for Public Health highlighted our broad collaborative effort to control cancer — the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. The ministers concluded that the Public Health Agency of Canada, launched this year, will serve as a focal point for coordination, research and expertise for public health issues like breast cancer and will have strong linkages to provincial and territorial governments, public health stakeholders and partners.
Minister Dosanjh and Minister Bennett concluded on October 5, 2004, that together we can defeat cancer.
A new Public Health Agency, a young Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control, a mature Canadian Institutes of Health Research, working with the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance, bringing together all the major organizations and agencies that fund cancer research in Canada to coordinate a united research response for cancer control — this, honourable senators, is Canada's response in 2005 to a national strategy.
How does Canada rate on the international scene? On January 27, 2005, on the occasion of Canada signing the Framework for Cooperation on Chronic Diseases Agreement at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Lee Jong-wook, said:
WHO is pleased and encouraged that Canada has identified chronic disease prevention and control as a global effort, and is taking a leading role ... an opportunity for the rest of the world to learn and benefit from Canada's knowledge and experience in the field, such as the Canadian Healthy Living Strategy and cancer control.
Honourable senators, I am proud of the Government of Canada, of Health Canada and of our new Public Health Agency of Canada. I am proud of our vision and of our cooperation with Canada's provinces and territories. I am confident in our ability to support the thousands of non-governmental initiatives across this great land. I am delighted when Canada is praised internationally as a leader.
It makes me sad to hear a member of Canada's Senate say:
...sadly, nothing has been done.... It almost seems, because of its inaction, that the government would prefer that cancer continue to afflict and kill Canadians at the current rate.
Fortunately, my colleague in this chamber then added:
I do not honestly believe that but it seems that way at times.
Bill S-26 calls for a national cancer strategy. It occurs to me that we may be debating terminology and nomenclature. One must ask, do all the programs I have listed and described constitute a strategy? If so, Bill S-26 is redundant; if not, it is worthy of further consideration.
Allow me to cite the names given to cancer control plans in several countries. Australia, in 1997, established the National Cancer Control Initiative. France has the French Cancer League — La Ligue Française de lutte contre le cancer. England and Wales have A Policy Framework for Commissioning Cancer Services and a National Health Service Cancer Plan. Israel has a Commission on Cancer Control. Within the European Union, there is the Organization of European Cancer Institutes.
In my own province of New Brunswick, there has been a call for a New Brunswick Cancer Network. In the written requests, the review group acknowledged the priorities already established by the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control and added:
...through a cooperative approach amongst major partners ... Canada has developed a cancer strategy.... other countries, which have lagged behind are developing strategies and organized systems to deploy them.
Let me conclude by saying that the intent of Bill S-26 is honourable, despite my thinking that some of the supporting speech was not. However, I cannot support Bill S-26 until I know the view of the Minister of Health on the relationship of a National Cancer Strategy with what exists now, the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. Are we already fulfilling the spirit of this bill? Would Bill S-26 lead to a mere name change of the cancer strategy that exists now in Canada and which has won provincial as well as international recognition? How could Bill S-26 strengthen Canada's fight to conquer cancer when it includes the words "provinces that agree to participate in the strategy" and when the sponsor of the bill states "Bill S-26 was written with asymmetric federalism in mind"?
On April 12, 2005, Dr. Barbara Whylie, CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, said:
The Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control has an action plan for prevention that, if implemented, would bring about important reductions in cancer incidence.... there is the potential to prevent more than 1.2 million Canadians from developing cancer, and it could save the lives of more than 420,000 Canadians.
The goals of the strategy are to reduce the risk of developing cancer, reduce the risk of dying from cancer, and to improve the quality of life for those diagnosed with cancer.
Dr. Whylie is correct; implementation is key.
Honourable senators, it appears to me that Canadians are united behind the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control. We are united in the memory of Terry Fox, united in the memory of all Canadians from all walks of life who have known the pain of cancer, and united — as I am, honouring my late husband — in the certainty that by whatever title we attach to our endeavours to win the greatest health battle of all time, the battle against cancer, we must do this together, with nobility of spirit, knowing that each of us may one day walk the road taken by Terry Fox, by our loved ones and by millions of our fellow citizens.
On motion of Senator Rompkey, debate adjourned.
Budget and Authorization to Travel—Report of Committee on Study of Operation of Official Languages Act and Relevant Regulations, Directives and Reports Adopted
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages (budget—study on the application of the Official Languages Act—authorization to travel), presented in the Senate on April 21, 2005.—(Honourable Senator Corbin)
Hon. Eymard G. Corbin moved the adoption of the report.
Motion agreed to and report adopted.
Budget—Report of Committee on Study of Involvement of Aboriginal Communities and Businesses in Economic Development Activities Adopted
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples (budget—study on aboriginal communities and businesses in economic development activities) presented in the Senate on April 14, 2005.—(Honourable Senator St. Germain, P.C.)
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston moved the adoption of the report.
Motion agreed to and report adopted.
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): I think, honourable senators, that we skipped over No. 3 and went on to No. 4. It seems to me we should deal with No. 3. I understand Senator Gustafson wanted to have the floor on that particular matter.
Report of Agriculture and Forestry Committee—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the consideration of the second report of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, entitled: Value-added Agriculture in Canada, tabled in the Senate on December 14, 2004.—(Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C.)
Hon. Leonard J. Gustafson: Honourable senators, Canada's agricultural industry faces some unprecedented challenges. The current situation relating to the negative farm income is a general symptom of what farming and farmers face. All of us who care about agriculture want to see government policies and circumstances combine to ensure that that sector of our economy is profitable and sustainable. Hard-working farmers, farm families and communities which benefit from farming deserve nothing less. Unfortunately, many structural, international and climate-related conditions and dynamics represent significant obstacles to achieving this objective.
This is such an important situation. Sir Leonard Tilley once said, "Destroy the farmer and grass will grow in the streets of every city in the nation." We are in a crisis situation in agriculture. I personally attended four farm sales this spring, two of which were either bankruptcy sales or simply for the purpose of getting rid of assets and paying debts.
To many people living in our cities, it is hard to be sensitized to exactly what many of the farmers in the country are going through. Regular television newscasts of farm protests and government farm aid announcements provide a remote glimpse of some of the very acute problems. Low commodity prices, the BSE crisis — which we have heard about — and the problems of the grain and oilseed sector have all taken a toll on this industry, which represents 8 per cent of Canada's gross domestic product.
I had a phone call days ago from a corn producer in Ontario telling me that he had No. 1 corn for which he was getting $1.20 a bushel. It probably cost him $3 a bushel to produce it.
The same thing is true in the wheat industry and the grain and oilseed industry. A few months ago, canola was selling for over $9 a bushel. Today, it is $5.50 a bushel. Commodity prices have simply collapsed. It is a very serious situation that our Canadian farmers face.
Both the federal and the provincial governments, as well as farm groups, the Senate and parliamentary committees, generally do a good job at advancing the causes and issues of the farm sector. The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry is probably one of the best committees of this house. It does a good job in making recommendations, but recommendations in and of themselves are not enough.
As well, while legislators and the bureaucracy can often be slow in acting on behalf of the farmer, the reality is that the trade-dependent and market-driven nature of agriculture tends to constrain our capacity to help this industry. Eighty per cent of our farmers rely on world markets for determining the prices they receive for their commodities and for their opportunities to market these commodities. No region or commodity is exempt from this basic fact of farm life.
The BSE crisis and the resulting border closures are especially telling of the trade-dependent nature of agriculture. During good times, Canada's cattle, beef and ruminant industry is one of the bright spots of our relationship with the United States and other trading partners, but border closures have been brutal, causing a $7-billion drain on the economy. That is a lot of money and that is exactly what farmers are short.
We have heard stories of people selling culled cows and getting cheques for $10 or $12 a cow. I heard the other day that a farmer had to pay the freight out of his pocket. He did not get anything for the animal. It is a very serious situation.
Many farmers have suffered heavy losses as a result of the BSE border closures, including cow-calf operators, dairy producers, feedlot operators and producers of other ruminant livestock. The trucking industry has also taken a brutal hit on the jaw.
The Liberal government's mishandling of this issue and the agricultural sector as a whole is evidenced by the token reference to agriculture in the budget and the last Speech from the Throne, as well as the absence of any serious action by our government in the court case unfolding in Billings, Montana. The U.S. court granted a temporary injunction preventing the Canada-U.S. border from being reopened to Canadian cattle, with a full hearing scheduled for July 27, 2005. With the Liberal government apparently having simply given up on its duty to defend Canadian interests in the BSE border blockage, concerned Conservative members of Parliament have indicated that they are prepared to apply for intervener status and participate directly in the court case.
This aside, I am optimistic that the recent American court injunction prolonging the border closure will be settled in due course. In the meantime, we must ensure that producers are provided with the necessary transitional funding and supports to alleviate the economic erosion and increasing debt loads that this crisis has caused.
The federal government has made much of its effort to increase domestic slaughter capacity. While this is no panacea for the resumption of normal trade of cattle and beef with our trading partners, we have to be very strategic in how we approach this objective. Once the border reopens between Canada and the United States, a different set of market pressures will emerge with respect to Canadian and American slaughterhouses and processing plants and cattle supplies. The government has to anticipate this scenario and ensure that we do not overbuild.
I do not know how many groups our committee has heard from suggesting that they want help in building a new processing plant. The one that was built in Prince Edward Island had very positive results because there is a captive market there freight-wise. The one that has been rebuilt in British Columbia's lower mainland has a captive market of about 4 million people who need to be serviced with beef. That was a very good move.
On the other hand, I believe it would be in our best interests to look at some of these other areas and ask ourselves if we are overdoing it. Let us face the facts. The Americans did a very good job of selling our beef internationally, and the last thing we want to do is get into a price war with them in the cattle industry.
I am not saying that we should not look after the processing industry. I recommend that we build one major plant somewhere in Canada that just looks after culled cattle and the lower end. That, of course, is my own personal view formed by listening to the witnesses we heard in the committee.
International overproduction of grains and oilseeds, and domestic support programs of other countries, have driven commodity prices to a point where many farmers either have to give up their farms or find off-farm work. Many of our farmers today are engaged in off-farm work. Farmers of small farms are having to drive school buses or do other jobs in the community. Many of our younger people are working on the oil rigs.
The Prairies, especially, should be very thankful for the booming oil industry. We have two economies in the Prairies: a farm economy and an oil economy, and one is very different from the other. It has been a benefit to everyone in the Prairies that the oil industry has been as buoyant as it has.
In my view, the continued low commodity prices could be more damaging over the long run than even the BSE crisis. At least with the BSE situation, the border will eventually reopen, so there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The beef industry is priced on a North American market so, certainly, the cattle industry will benefit when that border reopens.
The same is not true of the grain industry because much of the grain sold internationally goes to countries of the Third World, most of which cannot afford to pay for it. It is important that the World Trade Organization, or other groups, look at the global situation and come to a conclusion on what is to be done in Canada. How should the situation be handled? This is a pressing need for all Canadians.
Conservatives view agriculture as a key, strategic sector for Canada. We recognize that various regions of Canada and sectors of the industry hold competitive advantage in agriculture production. Our approach to agriculture policy is grounded in the belief that one size does not fit all. Conservatives believe that the agriculture policy must be developed in close consultation with the producers. In this sense, it must be remembered that our farmers are business operators. To dictate policy that might have an adverse effect on this portion of Canada's business community would have negative consequences and would go against Conservative Party principles. Balancing financial responsibility with support programs that work is a major priority.
I want to speak to the issue of government support. It would be wrong of me to say that government has not supported the industry, because it has. However, much more attention must be paid to how the support is provided and administered. It is important that government sit down with the producers to develop positive solutions that would not waste bureaucratic efforts and government monies. A great deal of attention must be given to this area.
On the issue of agricultural exports and diversification, a Conservative government would encourage self-sufficiency in national food production, including increasing diversification in the kinds of food and agricultural products produced. We would seek to enhance export opportunities for all agricultural products, with special emphasis on markets and processing.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I am sorry to interrupt, but I must advise Senator Gustafson that his time has expired. Is the honourable senator asking for leave to continue?
Senator Gustafson: Honourable senators, I will try to be brief.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Senator Stratton: Five minutes.
Senator Gustafson: According to farmers, if you take a bushel of corn worth $1.20 and make it into Corn Flakes, you multiply the value of that bushel of corn 100 times. That is the importance of processing. Throughout the history of Canada, some of our wealthiest families have been in the food processing business. However, very little of that money finds its way back to the farmers and producers. We have been unable to find a way to pay a proper price for the commodity that is produced.
Government must look at this situation and determine how it can be changed. It would not take much. Whether that bushel of corn costs $1.20 or $4 will make little difference when the multiplication factor for processed food is so great.
Honourable senators, continued low commodity prices could be more damaging than anything we have seen in Canada's agricultural industry. Sir Leonard Tilley got it right when, in talking about the farmer being so important to agriculture he said, "Destroy the farmer and grass will grow in the streets of every city in the nation."
On motion of Senator Rompkey, debate adjourned.
Motion to Allow Reintroduction of Bills from One Parliamentary Session to the Next—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Hervieux-Payette, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Smith, P.C.:
That the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament study and make the necessary recommendations on the advisability of amending Senate practice so that bills tabled during a parliamentary session can be reintroduced at the same procedural stage in the following parliamentary session, with a view to including in the Rules of the Senate, a procedure that already exists in the House of Commons and would increase the efficiency of our parliamentary process.—(Honourable Senator Oliver)
Hon. Mira Spivak: Honourable senators, I am most supportive of this motion. I wrote to the Rules Committee many months ago to make the request that the committee examine the pressing need for new rules for this chamber that would permit the reintroduction of Senate public bills at the same procedural stage of the previous parliamentary session. The practice would reduce the duplication of effort in this chamber and in committees that we have seen in recent years. It would also improve public opinion of the Senate which has been, frankly, bruised by the current procedure.
Justifiably, supporters of any given Senate bill are disturbed when they see it move through first and second reading, committee stage, third reading and on to the Commons only to have it rolled back to the Senate for first reading again. In recent years, it has happened too often, and sometimes that has been the fate of a bill not just once but twice.
Those who actively support legislation with petitions, letters and appearances as witnesses are mystified and annoyed by the process in this place. It means not only a great deal of duplication of effort by senators, but also a great deal of repetitive effort for others.
Honourable senators, a good example of this process is Bill S-12, in respect of personal watercraft, which is still before the house at second reading. It was twice passed by this chamber at third reading. It was first introduced as Bill S-26 in May 2001, almost four years ago. It was unanimously reported without amendment by committees and it was passed by the Senate as Bill S-10 and as Bill S-8. It was twice introduced in the House of Commons, where it died on the Order Paper. Well before the Personal Watercraft Bill received first reading as Bill S-12, it had been debated for three hours in this chamber and had been studied by committees during 12 hours of deliberation — 15 hours of senators' time and Senate resources to pass a small bill to implement what the government itself proposed to do in 1994. That is stunning.
It is also worth noting that the 12 hours of committee deliberation exceeds the committee time spent on bills dealing with more weighty matters — for example, bills to manage nuclear waste or bulk water exports. In fact, the total time spent on what is essentially a housekeeping bill almost matched the time spent in committee on the government's premiere piece of environmental legislation in the last Parliament, the Species at Risk Act.
When supporters of Bill S-10 — and there are tens of thousands of them across the country — learned that we were back to first reading of Bill S-12, some of them wrote as follows:
How absurd! How disappointing and disturbing! All that waste of time, of money, of goodwill.... So much for our wish to treat others with civility, respect, concern. So much for taking care of each other in Canada.
And so much for the Senate as an institution.
That comment came from the Atlantic provinces.
Another individual, who was very involved in persuading his fellow Quebecers to support the bill, said this:
Let's face it, and correct me if I'm wrong: we have to pass through three readings at the Senate and after that three readings in the Commons in the same parliamentary session. It's virtually impossible to accomplish it; especially if there are hearings again ... Bill S-12 will die another time.
I am not happy to conclude that he is right but, given that the twice-passed bill now appears stalled at second reading, it is hard to think otherwise.
We do ourselves a disservice and we let down those who turn to us for help by making it virtually impossible to see passage of a Senate public bill that is opposed by anyone. Our current system, moreover, tilts in favour of positions advocated by corporate lobbyists who are paid to work the Hill and appear before committees time and again. People who volunteer their time to advance the public interest must take time off work or book holidays to share their knowledge with us. The paid lobbyist or industry association executive should not get repeated kicks at the can at their expense.
You may think Bill S-12 was my idea, but it was not. I was asked to introduce such a bill by many cottage associations and individuals who felt that this was a problem that needed resolution. I am not promoting my personal interest but, rather, the interest of people across the country.
It is time to amend our rules as the House of Commons has done. The Commons has this rule in place. In fact, the time is overdue. I sincerely hope that the Rules Committee will make this matter a priority and begin its work so that we may have a new, saner procedure soon.
On motion of Senator Stratton, for Senator Oliver, debate adjourned.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Downe calling the attention of the Senate to the benefits of the decentralization of federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations from the National Capital to the regions of Canada.—(Honourable Senator Ringuette)
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette: Honourable senators, I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to the issue of decentralizing the bureaucracy pursuant to the inquiry proposed by Senator Downe. This is not to be confused with the bureaucratic decentralization that consists of moving the offices outside Ottawa and the new Service Canada client services initiative.
As a former legislator from New Brunswick, I strongly support the Service New Brunswick approach, which facilitates access to government services for the people of my province. It is a wonderful challenge for public servants who work there, as they have to apply many skills and they are not limited to just one program, which often can be boring. It gives them greater job satisfaction and expands their professional horizons.
We must also recognize that the MPs' 308 riding offices are, in fact, one-stop services. In other words, they are Service Canada offices for people requiring a federal government service.
I can tell you with certainty that is the case for members representing the regions and small communities. Members and their staff answer questions from the public and direct people to the correct offices, the right staff, and information on program criteria. In short, we already have more than 350 one-stop offices across the country, although they are often viewed as being too political.
The experience of New Brunswick proved very successful, and the federal government could benefit from it in implementing Service Canada. However, I believe it is imperative that the federal operations of Service Canada be distinct from provincial operations. In this respect, you will agree with me that, to provide better customer service, the first thing to do is to get rid of the totally exasperating telephone answering system and to replace it with real flesh and bone operators answering the calls. Some might argue that this is a top of the line system, the preferred choice of the private sector. My answer to that is that, in dealing with the private sector, consumers have options, but the same competitive environment does not exist for public services, and consumers do not have a choice.
Every ten years since the 1970s, successive governments have endeavoured to move, or decentralize, certain departments outside of Ottawa. Despite the opposition faced, the displaced departments did manage to reduce their property and human resources costs and have become engines of economic development for their new region.
That is what I call leadership. Millions of dollars can be spent on programs to stimulate economic development in and attract investors to a given region, but unless it is prepared to move its operations to that region, the federal government is only distorting the economic record of the region with nothing more than wishful thinking. The federal government knows that the regions need economic development tools; there is no question about it. That is why I call on our government to show the way to the private sector and move its operations to regions that need an economic boost.
It is certainly pleasant living in Ottawa and raising a family There, but the capital does not have the corner on quality of life in Canada. While it is well situated geographically, it does not necessarily reflect our identity as a people, as the Constitution will testify.
Indeed, after more than 23 years, our National Capital has yet to be designated bilingual by the Government of Ontario. It is simply scandalous!
In addition, this same Government of Ontario has been complaining in recent months of the fiscal imbalance. So we ask: to what extent does the location of our National Capital contribute to the income of the Province of Ontario?
Excluding Crown corporations and government agencies, over 40 per cent of federal public service jobs are located in Ontario, and 20 per cent are in Quebec. Most of this 60 per cent of jobs are located in the Outaouais region; the rest are in Toronto and Montreal, in limited numbers. This figure represents over 200,000 federal government jobs, and I am not including Crown corporations and agencies.
Assuming an annual average salary of $55,000 per job, the total payroll amounts to some $11 billion a year. Of this $11 billion, some $7.5 billion returns to Ontario alone. It could be said as well that this represents $2.5 billion over and above the $5 billion in fiscal imbalance the Government of Ontario is complaining about.
Honourable senators, you will certainly agree with me that an $11-billion payroll will be welcome in any of our provinces.
Senator Trenholme Counsell: Hear, hear!
Senator Ringuette: It would remove them, too, from the equalization program and into the said financial contributor to the federation, like Ontario. They would certainly not complain about any fiscal imbalance, nor would they reject for 23 years the continuous request of Canadians to have a bilingual national capital.
As we say in our region, one should not complain with a full belly, or, as is said elsewhere in the country, you cannot have your cake and eat it, too.
Honourable senators, I take this opportunity to highlight the positive impact of relocating one or more federal government operations in communities in my area, be it Grand Falls, Edmundston or Campbellton, New Brunswick. All these communities are able to provide bilingual services to all, and without additional training costs to the federal government.
In addition to luring private investment, the economic impact of relocating 1,000 federal jobs, or 0.3 per cent of federal public jobs, with an average of a $55-million payroll for those 1,000 jobs per year, forever, would increase the value of our human resources and enrolment in school and local post-secondary programs; increase local job opportunities, thus retaining our youth; increase real estate value and retail store revenues, hotel and restaurant revenues and tourism potential; increase air and train traffic with its critical mass and, therefore, assure the viability of these services for our population and business community; increase property revenues to local government, in addition to increased income tax and provincial sales tax to the Government of New Brunswick, and reduce our reliance on equalization payments; increase the community volunteer base; increase the viability and revenue base for recreational facilities; reduce our economic dependency on the exploration of our natural resources; reduce seasonality of our regional economy; reduce our unemployment rate and the required benefits from the Employment Insurance Program; reduce operational costs for the federal government and burden on taxpayers; and reduce the increasing need for economic development funds for our region.
To add some perspective to the financial revenue of this scenario, one can look at the 2005-06 federal budget and identify that ACOA's budget for this fiscal year for economic development — and this for the entire Atlantic provinces — is $45 million. This is $10 million less than relocating 1,000 federal jobs or 0.3 per cent — not 1 per cent, 0.3 per cent — of these jobs. Just imagine what relocating 10,000 government jobs, or 3 per cent of the federal public service, would do to the economy of the Atlantic region.
Honourable senators, in no way am I proposing to replace ACOA with the relocation of federal public jobs, but I am insisting that we should have more of both, as does Ontario with its Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, FedNor.
There is no doubt in my mind that the above scenario is a win-win situation for all stakeholders. This scenario is also valid for many other communities across New Brunswick outside the golden triangle of Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John that have a stronger economic base and infrastructure on which to build.
With the infinite communication outlet we have through high-speed Internet, the logic to have the bureaucracy close to the legislative and executive arms of government no longer holds ground. I truly believe that the relocation of federal departments, Crown corporations and agencies should be a government priority.
This chamber should refer Senator Downe's inquiry to the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance for immediate study. The immediate study of this inquiry should bring concrete recommendations so as to press the government to accelerate the process of relocating the federal bureaucracy in communities where they would receive an immediate appreciation of their presence, including the direct and indirect repercussions on the fiscal and social economy of those small communities.
On motion of Senator Chaput, debate adjourned.
Motion to Amend Rule 32—Speaking in the Senate—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Corbin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cook:
That the Rules of the Senate be amended by replacing Rule 32 with the following:
"32. (1) A Senator desiring to speak in the Senate shall rise in the place where that Senator normally sits and address the rest of the Senators.
(2) Any Senator who speaks in the Senate shall do so in one of the official languages.
(3) Notwithstanding subsection (2), a Senator desiring to address the Senate in Inuktitut shall so inform the Clerk of the Senate at least four hours before the start of that sitting of the Senate.
(4) The Clerk of the Senate shall make the necessary arrangements to provide interpretation of remarks made in Inuktitut into the two official languages.
(5) Remarks made in Inuktitut shall be published in the Debates of the Senate in the two official languages, with a note in the Journals of the Senate explaining that they were delivered in Inuktitut."—(Honourable Senator Robichaud, P.C.)
Leave having been given to revert to Motion No. 82.
Hon. Charlie Watt: Honourable senators, I would first like to express my appreciation, as well as that of Senator Adams, to Senator Corbin, who took the initiative to move this motion on April 13, 2005.
Honourable senators, I know that this matter was adjourned by Senator Robichaud, and I imagine that he will be speaking on this item. I rise to give notice that I strongly support this matter and to say that it is timely. As all honourable senators are aware, being able to express yourself in your mother tongue is the best way to express yourself. I am not a complete stranger to wanting to be able to address certain important matters from time to time, when need be, in my mother tongue. I believe that is also true of Senator Adams.
Whatever we decide to do from an administrative point of view, the system must be consistent and stable.
Paragraph (3) of the motion states:
Notwithstanding subsection (2), a Senator desiring to address the Senate in Inuktitut shall so inform the Clerk of the Senate at least four hours before the start of that sitting of the Senate.
I believe that our focus should be on that paragraph. I will not dwell on this at this point because I feel that the matter should be addressed in committee. I will not even highlight what I consider to be the problem areas. We need to come up with the best solution to maintain stability, consistency and reliability. It is important that I address this issue before Senator Robichaud rises to speak to this matter which, I believe, he will be doing tomorrow.
Hon. Joan Fraser: Would Senator Watt accept a question?
Senator Watt: I would.
Senator Fraser: I preface this by saying that all my instincts say that this would be a positive change. My tendency is to say, "Let us do it right away." My concern, however, relates to the implications for other Aboriginal languages, of which there are quite a few. Currently we do not have a senator whose mother tongue is, for example, Mohawk or Cree.
Senator Watt: We have Senator Gill.
Senator Fraser: He may have views on this as well.
Has the honourable senator thought about how we could devise a regime that would be fair, moving forward in time, to all Aboriginal people, and that would still be workable in practice? Has the honourable senator given any thought to that?
Senator Watt: Yes and no. I understand what the honourable senator is getting at. It is a problem that, from time to time, the chamber may have to resolve, depending on who is appointed to the Senate. I am fluent in Inuktitut. My mother tongue is Inuktitut. Senator Adams is also fluent in Inuktitut. With two Inuk here, we can only speak for ourselves. I am sure Senator Gill can address this subject in his own way, if he so desires. I am not sure whether he speaks his native language. I cannot speak for anyone other than Senator Adams and myself on this issue.
This is a good start. It will not resolve every issue, but we will be able to respond immediately to certain matters. Of course, we will not be able to participate in the same way as those who speak English or French, particularly when we want to cross-examine a witness and so on. That may come somewhere down the line, but this is a good start.
I hope I have answered the honourable senator's question.
Hon. John G. Bryden: May I also ask Senator Watt a question?
Senator Watt: Yes, you may.
Senator Bryden: Over the last few years, we have been able to develop a system that allowed our good friend Senator Gauthier to participate fully in the functioning of the Senate. I do not know exactly how the system works, but it was refined to the point that he could simultaneously read on a screen what was being said in the chamber and in committees. Technology now allows for real-time transcription of what is being said. We can go from voice to script, or from script in one language to script in another language, and, of course, we are familiar with using earphones for simultaneous interpretation. At the outset, would a system similar to that which made it possible for Senator Gauthier to function fully, given the disability that he had, be acceptable to the honourable senator?
Does Senator Watt think that, if a senator is appointed whose mother tongue is another of our Aboriginal languages, the language of that senator should be incorporated into this proposed rule?
Senator Watt: Those are issues on which we should focus in an effort to come up with some answers. I will not deal specifically with those matters at this point. However, the fact that technology has advanced so rapidly is something to consider. I believe that simultaneous translation would be most useful and that it could be provided. I would imagine that would be a subject of debate in committee.
Senator Adams mentioned the fact that Senator Gauthier used to have certain equipment and people around him to ensure that everything that was being said in the Senate could be followed. We may wish to discuss that in committee.
Hon. Aurélien Gill: First, I want to thank Senator Corbin for this excellent initiative. It is indicative of our respect for Aboriginal languages in this country.
The principle has yet to be fully defined; however, it has been established. Now it is a matter of deciding how to implement it. I do not think that it will be necessary to provide the Senate or senators with forms when they want to exercise their prerogative. This initiative must not be viewed as a way of helping the handicapped. This is not a handicap.
Still the issue is extremely complex and it should be examined in terms of the objective. Naturally, implementing this initiative will mean taking a number of precautions. However, we must consider, above all, the needs of those who will be using this service.
I want to ask the Honourable Senator Watt to tell us what the ideal formula is. At present, we do not have a specific system in mind. We can appreciate the objective of this initiative but we still have to decide on the system. I do not know if Nunavut currently uses a specific system for translation or interpretation. Perhaps the Government of Nunavut has some models that might inspire and guide us in terms of the use of languages other than French or English.
Senator Watt: Thank you for your question, Senator Gill. I believe that at times in the legislatures of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories they deal with seven languages; so there is a system in place that is used every day. They have full interpreters in both legislatures who go from one language to another language and to another at any given time. We would like to achieve that ability as well. Let us see what we can do to advance this cause.
Hon. Madeleine Plamondon: Honourable senators, I have another question. Senator Viola Léger, Senator Sibbeston and I have just come back from the Northwest Territories. We noticed that they use far more than the two official languages there. There were more than 10 languages being used, if I recall correctly. We had interpretation. With the help of a computer, you can receive the text in your language, but when you speak, you have to use one of the two official languages. Do you not think it is simultaneous interpretation, in fact, that makes it possible to respond quickly?
I believe that the only solution is simultaneous interpretation.
Senator Watt: Yes, I indicated that we would like to have permanent interpreters here, which could be beneficial not only to Senator Adams and me but also to all senators who then could follow easily in any language. Simultaneous interpretation is the way to achieve this goal. However, I am unsure at this time whether it is the Internal Economy Committee that would deal with this motion in respect of funding for such a system. I would think that an order would be required from the Senate.
Senator Plamondon: It is time to implement this proposal because there is money.
Senator Stratton: It was just spent — $4.6 billion.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Watt's time has expired, but Senator Joyal has a question.
Is the honourable senator asking for leave to continue for five minutes? Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, the motion of Senator Corbin raises an important question in respect of constitutional implications, and I know that Senator Watt and Senator Adams are open to such questions. I would like to remind them that the use of both languages in Parliament is well defined in section 133 of the Constitution of Canada. I will read the first section of it:
Either the English or the French Language may be used by any Person in the Debates of the Houses of the Parliament of Canada and of the Houses of the Legislature of Quebec; and both those Languages shall be used in the respective Records and Journals of those Houses;
Section 16(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms establishes a similar principle:
English and French are the official languages of Canada and have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and government of Canada.
This is the constitutional principle.
Senator Corbin raised an important point, which is the evolution that Canada has known over the years with the presence and participation of Aboriginal senators. Today, the language issue is Inuktitut, but Senator Gill raised an important question: What would happen in the coming months or years should senators be appointed who speak other Aboriginal languages? It is important to establish a principle and a solution to deal with this issue to address the current urgent problem of Inuktitut and to address a possible future need for other Aboriginal languages.
Senator Gill is right when he states that the current system provides a solution for someone who does not speak one of the two official languages as stated in the Constitution and in the Charter. However, we want to address how this house should deal with and manage a system whereby an Aboriginal language could be spoken by a senator and other senators could understand; in that way, there could be a true debate because debate includes not only speeches but also questions and answers.
Would it not be appropriate to refer the matter to the Official Languages Committee or to the Rules Committee for study rather than vote yea or nay on the motion now? The issue requires a solution for any and every Aboriginal language.
I am sympathetic to the motion of Senator Corbin and the concerns of Senator Watt and Senator Adams. Referral of the motion to committee for suggestions that would be practical according to the principles that we have to recognize and maintain in our institutions would be the best way to proceed.
Senator Watt: The senator rightly raises the constitutionality of this issue, although I was reluctant to speak to it. That is one of the reasons that section 35 is separate from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many areas need to be dealt with that do not normally fall under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because there are a number of conflicts between the Charter and section 35, as senators are aware.
Honourable senators, I agree with Senator Joyal's comments and his suggestion for greater study of the issue. I appreciate that the motion has been brought forward for debate because it is a good one. I, too, believe that it should be referred to committee as soon as possible for study.
On motion of Senator Robichaud, debate adjourned.
Hon. Lorna Milne rose pursuant to notice of April 20, 2005:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to her recent visit to Indonesia and to Canada's efforts to help rebuild Southeast Asia after the tragic tsunami of December 26, 2004.
She said: Honourable senators, I was fortunate enough to visit Indonesia with the Speaker and two other senators from March 14 to 17. We were there to get a first-hand look at the work being done by Canada in response to the tragic tsunami of December 26, 2004.
I know that Indonesia is a country with which many of us are not familiar, so I would like to begin by giving you a sense of the geopolitical status of the country.
Indonesia is an archipelago of 18,000 islands that stretch in a vast curve from the Indian Ocean off Burma in the northwest, past Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong to the Coral Sea between the Philippines and Queensland in northeastern Australia. The chain of islands straddles the equator and stretches almost as far as the full width of Canada. It is anchored by four main islands: Sumatra in the far northwest; Java, where Jakarta, the capital city, is located; Borneo; and Papua New Guinea. There are many different peoples within the country, speaking over 583 languages — and we think we have problems.
Indonesia is a republic, formed from the former territories of the Dutch East Indies. At the end of World War II, after the Japanese occupation of the region, Indonesian nationalists claimed their independence while the Dutch attempted to reassert control over the area. After a four-year war, Indonesia secured its independence in 1949.
Dr. Sukarno was the first President of Indonesia. His rule was unstable and marked by his unwillingness to follow the democratic constitution. He asserted dictatorial control.
In 1965, the Indonesian Communist Party attempted a coup d'état that failed. Major-General Suharto crushed the coup and became the acting President in March 1967. His regime was still highly centralized but had some local democratic elements and followed a liberal pro-Western economic policy with heavy emphasis on foreign trade and investment.
This regime lasted until 1999, when an economic crisis and government corruption generated the fall of Suharto. Opposition parties were able to muster significant support in that election and 48 opposition parties were on the ballot. Since that time, Indonesia has had a democratic government.
Until the fall of 2004, Indonesia had a unicameral system of government, but under the new constitution the country now has two houses of Parliament, one of which is directly elected by popular vote in a non-partisan first-past-the-post system. These two houses combined to form a third house. The directly elected house, the Regional Representative Assembly, DPD, has only persuasive power. The other houses of Parliament are the People's Representative Assembly, DPR, where the parties are elected by proportional representation and then the representatives are chosen from party lists; and the People's Consultative Assembly, MPR, the most powerful house, whose chairman has the power to amend the constitution and also to veto any attempt to impeach the president of the country.
Indonesia is a beautiful and fertile country. The people seem happy in spite of the great poverty of much of the population. The great majority of people are Muslim — 88 per cent — but many emphasized to us that they are moderate Muslims, and the tradition in the country is that their Muslim faith arrived early on from the East — from China, not from the Arabic states.
For over 50 years, Canada has been a friend to Indonesia and has worked hard to assist Indonesians on their long path to a vibrant democracy. Canadian development assistance in Indonesia began in 1954. Indonesia became a CIDA core country in 1970. The total value of the bilateral program is now $23 million a year. Additional tsunami relief funds will benefit the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. CIDA's existing program of assistance will continue in other parts of Indonesia, with particular attention to the island of Sulawesi. A new Country Development Programming Framework has been completed. In September 2004, CIDA began working from this new planning framework in the region.
The new framework has three thrusts: first, improving governance and improving the quality of decentralized social services; second, growing the private sector by assisting in the creation of economic opportunities; and third, sustaining the use of natural resources for the benefit of local people in order to generate income and improve livelihoods for the local poor.
I think this is a sound framework and that CIDA has done well to organize itself in this manner.
In spite of its fertile soils and very warm climate, Indonesia has many huge problems. Two of them have a real impact on the way that tsunami relief can be delivered. Indonesia has been rated by the United Nations as the most corrupt country in the world. It is also the country of the world most prone to natural disasters.
The new government is struggling to reduce corruption. The chairman of the MPR, Dr. Wahid, represents the Prosperous Justice Party, which is an Islamic party with a strong stance on corruption. The MPR has been pushing the government, led by President Yudhoyono and his multi-party cabinet, to enact reform. Let us hope he succeeds.
The country is also struggling with a small but violent separatist movement, GAP, which is trying to form a fundamentalist Muslim state in Aceh, the province most severely damaged by the tsunami. Aceh is fairly isolated at the northwestern tip of Sumatra. The area takes some pride in being the first part of Indonesia to accept Islam, as long ago as the 1400s, and some claim even earlier. As such, they believe that they do not belong with the rest of Indonesia and want to be left alone. They have been very violent in pursuing this goal.
Foreigners and foreign NGO groups were not allowed into Aceh until the tsunami due to the unstable situation there. Even now, most of the aid groups are there only on a temporary basis. The government has set a deadline for foreign military persons to leave. That was recently extended from the end of March to the end of May. Many of the NGOs now operating in the region are afraid they will also have to leave and are operating in a vacuum with little long-term planning. Tourists and even visitors are pretty well unknown in Aceh, which is why there were no videos taken there of the overwhelming events of the tsunami as there were in Phuket, Thailand, a favourite tourist destination.
With that background, I want to turn to the painful story that led our group to Indonesia and Aceh. I will start by telling you about the devastation caused along this fairly flat coastline by the two devastating waves that hit it on December 26, 2004.
On that morning, an earthquake measuring about 9 on the Richter scale hit Indonesia, severely damaging many buildings and weakening others. Fifteen minutes later, the first wave hit the shore in Aceh. It was 25 metres high. The second wave was a wall of water and debris 30 metres high. That is as high as a 12-storey building.
On our arrival in Aceh, the first sign we saw of the tremendous power of the waves was a 13,000-tonne floating generating station — really a ship — that had been anchored offshore. This huge ship was picked up by the waves and deposited, still upright, two and a half kilometres inland in the middle of a crowded area of severely damaged small houses, right on top of many of them.
Down by the shore of what had been the old port of Banda Aceh, almost nothing was left but a severely damaged mosque and in the distance an obelisk, celebrating some event in the country's history, and one lone mammoth old tree. Everything else — docks, ships, warehouses, roads, shops and houses — had either been swept away or smashed into fist-sized chunks of gravel, leaving only a few broken and tilted foundation slabs and great windrows of rebar, rolled up like bales of hay, sitting in the water where the shoreline had once been.
Two thirds of the island that held the old port is gone. The new port, built a few kilometres away, is also completely gone. The devastation looked just like pictures of Hiroshima in 1945.
Imagine standing on Parliament Hill and as far as you can see in every direction everything except the Peace Tower is gone, wiped out completely, smashed to bits. Imagine that total devastation in a two-to six-kilometre-wide band stretching all the way from Ottawa to Toronto. That is what happened along the northwest coastline of Aceh.
Standing on that devastated shore was an indescribable experience. In my limited experience, there are some places that have an aura about them. Stonehenge is one. A wee church that I visited in a small village in the Midlands of England is another. The old port of Banda Aceh is just such a place. There seemed to be almost a hush in the air as we stood, each of us seeming to be all alone, looking at destruction as far as the eye could see in every direction. It was awe-inspiring, devastating and I still do not have the words to describe it.
The destruction of human life was appalling. There were over 200,000 known dead in Aceh province alone and an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 people are still missing and probably dead. In addition, there are about 450,000 internally-displaced persons who have lost their homes, their businesses and often their families. Approximately 4,500 schools have been destroyed. Hospitals are gone. Even the garbage trucks and their drivers are gone. There is no way to pick up the trash that is already piling up around the government-built barracks they are beginning to move the newly homeless people into.
I spoke to a member of the Indonesian government who told me that not only were most of his family and friends dead, but his entire constituency was gone. Villages lay entirely in rubble. Most of the land was completely washed away.
Cleanup is going on everywhere, mostly by hand. Some heavy equipment has survived and is still being put to use in a few places, but many of the isolated communities along the shore still cannot be reached by road or sea because all the roads, docks and wharves are gone. They are still finding about 100 bodies a day in the wreckage and they are being buried in two mass graves in Banda Aceh.
One good thing has happened amongst the negative: The widely expected second tsunami of epidemic disease did not happen. In other words, the immediate medical emergency response that poured into Aceh after the tsunami was extremely effective. I spoke to a nurse heading home to Southern Alberta within a few days and she was extremely proud of what they had accomplished, indeed, prevented.
By the time we reached Aceh, two and a half months after the event, the temporary hospitals were dealing with longstanding prior tsunami medical situations, such as cancer, prostate problems, many facial deformities, cleft palates and the like, but not with the outbreaks of disease and no longer with the injuries resulting from the wave.
Barracks are being constructed throughout the area for temporary housing. They consist of rows of single rooms, six or more to each side of a back-to-back unit. Each room is about four metres square, with one rough door and one unglazed window, and each holds an entire, often extended, family. They are not much, but they are far better than the rough camps of tents and tarpaulins where the people originally sheltered. Garbage was already piling up around most of them, although there were signs of some fresh digging, possibly for latrines or for drainage. Remember, the garbage trucks and their drivers are gone.
The group of barracks that we visited, one of 13 child-friendly spaces supported by Canadian donations, had no garbage around. It had a supply of clean water. Sanitary facilities and corrugated tin cooking shelters had been erected, but still there was no cooking equipment, not even a primitive stove that I could see. The food all seemed to be provided communally.
One of the women there, who was well educated and spoke English well, proudly invited me in to see her "home." She shared it with her daughter, her husband and his mother. The 16-square-metre area had one corner curtained off with a tarpaulin for privacy, but her bed was a thin pad on the floor under the single window. One piece of good furniture had been saved.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform the honourable senator that her time has expired.
Are you seeking leave to continue?
Senator Milne: Honourable senators, I have to admit that I have six pages left to read. If I could be granted five minutes, I will read quickly.
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Milne: Thank you, honourable senators.
She had a cooking pot, a wok, and half of a salvaged spool for electrical cable serving as a low table. They had no chairs. They did have a television set. The question that she asked was: "What will become of us?" I felt guilty because I could not answer her.
Frankly, both the Indonesian government and the local government have been completely overwhelmed and are still trying to come up with a plan to deal with the devastation. Thus far their solutions seemed to be fairly unilateral, without proper consultation or consideration of the wishes of the people involved, the victims.
They have identified three phrases of the recovery plan. The first phase, the short-term emergency response, is over. Canada was one of the first countries to establish a presence on the ground in Aceh. We provided emergency assistance of $500,000 through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. We also approved a $650,000 project for the Indonesian Red Cross to rebuild and improve the only blood collection facility in Banda Aceh. More than 30 tons of emergency supplies and generators were flown in. World Vision Canada brought in two planeloads of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and water purification equipment.
The second phase of recovery has started — rehabilitation. Housing of a sort is being built and cleanup is under way. However, these barracks are poorly sited, with inadequate sanitation and no sources of water nearby. The roads are gradually being cleaned out to the more remote coastal communities, but many villages and the original roads are now under water and cannot be reached, improved or mended.
The third phase will be the more difficult one and that is sustainable recovery. Canada, through CIDA, committed itself to assist in rebuilding the system of local governance and the sustainability in agriculture, fishing and forestry as part of its goal in this long-term phase. That will take years.
The aim of the Indonesian government is more immediate: to restore the lives of people with water, shelter, income infrastructure, to restore the economy, and to re-establish the province as politically stable and economically vibrant. This will be difficult given the 29-year history of the violent separatist movement in the area.
Our part will involve building on existing programs such as McGill's long-time cooperative program with the Islamic University in Banda Aceh.
Cleaning up the corruption will be difficult because the present governor of the province is in jail on charges of corruption. His place has been filled by the deputy governor, a nice man but who apparently does not have the local support or the political clout to carry on a great deal. They are trying, though.
I will leave it to others of our delegation to tell you about our visit to a food centre and more about child-friendly spaces.
I do want to tell honourable senators about the little women that I met at the Islamic University. Is my time up?
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Yes, it is.
Senator Milne: These were tiny little women. They looked as though they were nine or ten years of age, but they were actually 19 to 24. Not one of them weighed over 100 pounds. They all asked me: "What will become of us?" Honourable senators, what will become of them?
On motion of Senator Plamondon, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, May 4, 2005, at 1:30 p.m.