The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, pursuant to written notice given earlier this day, I rise to give oral notice that I shall raise a question of privilege this day, Tuesday, October 18, 2005, with respect to two meetings held in room 705 of the Victoria Building, one beginning on the morning of October 17 and the other beginning on the morning of October 18 of this year involving some members of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence and witnesses invited by the committee to testify.
As the meetings that are the source of my concern were held yesterday and today, this is clearly the first opportunity at which this question might be raised. My concern is that these meetings were not just in contravention of the Rules of the Senate, but that the nature of the contraventions was such that they infringe upon the ability of all senators to carry out their functions.
Should you find that there is a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, on October 18, 2005, we mark several milestones of great importance to Canadians. Today is Persons Day, a significant day for all Canadians and particularly here in the Senate of Canada.
October is Women's History Month, and this year's theme — Women and War: Contributions and Consequences — was chosen in recognition of the irreplaceable role that women have filled in Canada during times of military conflict. As honourable senators know, this year has been designated the Year of the Veteran because it marks the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, a war of monumental significance for Canada and in 20th century history.
The large numbers of men serving overseas in the war effort forced government and industry to turn to women to fill the labour shortage. Toward the end of the Second World War, women filled over 800,000 jobs in the Canadian economy, of which more than a quarter of a million were in the munitions industries. Women worked in every sector of employment — in the service industry, operating heavy machinery on family farms, and overseas with the military or the Red Cross. Women assumed a more visible role in society that highlighted their abilities and potential to make a wider contribution to their country in peace time.
The Government of Canada hosted two events earlier this month at the Canadian War Museum to recognize the contribution of women during periods of war. On October 3, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale and Veterans Affairs Minister Albina Guarnieri presented a commemorative 1945 Victory Bond certificate to the museum to recognize the men and women who served in the Canadian military, as well as to recognize the importance of household finances to the nation's finances during wartime. The following day, Françoise Boivin, member of Parliament for Gatineau, on behalf of Liza Frulla, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women, unveiled a plaque at the museum that honours the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Services.
Remarkable acts of heroism and sacrifice can pass unnoticed during times of tribulation, and it has often been small, humanitarian acts by women that have been lacking in the official record of Canada's war history. Women sent packages overseas containing everyday necessities for soldiers and prisoners of war to alleviate difficult conditions.
Women left to cope with the loss of husbands, brothers and sons formed social networks that became the origins of many of today's social services. Their experiences galvanized some to work toward world peace, and some to work through religious and social organizations to build a more caring and tolerant society.
This Women's History Month, I encourage Canadians to reflect on the contributions to our nation by all women who lived during times of military conflict. Although these efforts were sometimes extraordinary, they were more often commonplace but nonetheless remarkable. We have been immeasurably fortunate to benefit from the courage, compassion and sacrifice of women on behalf of their fellow citizens.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, 76 years ago today, the Privy Council made its historic ruling in the Persons Case. That day was indeed a landmark victory for all Canadian women in the struggle for equal rights.
While we continue to pursue many facets of this struggle, today we recognize more than ever the many contributions and achievements of Canadian women, both past and present.
As we celebrate Women's History Month with the theme "Women and War: Contributions and Consequences," I am reminded of the words of the Famous Five pioneer, Louise McKinney, who said:
The purpose of a woman's life is just the same as the purpose of a man's life: that she may make the best possible contribution to her generation.
Honourable senators, many generations of women have served as powerful examples of living such a life. We need look no further than women's huge contributions in the time of war.
In 1941, for instance, the federal government enrolled more than 45,000 women in military services other than nursing. The Canadian Women's Army Corps, CWAC, was just one avenue that many followed. By the end of the Second World War, more than 21,000 women had worn the uniform of the CWAC.
Subsequent generations of women also became involved. During the Korean War in the early 1950s, more than 5,000 women were enrolled in Canada's war effort; and decades later, in the Gulf War in 1991, Canadian women engaged in combat for the first time.
Today, the number of women who are active in the Canadian Forces is simply unprecedented, a staggering number. More than 7,000 women are members of our armed forces. In our reserve forces, the numbers are even greater. Currently, more than 15,500 women serve as reservists, representing 18 per cent of Canada's total reserves.
Canadian women have bequeathed a truly remarkable legacy to today's young women and to generations to come. Like Senator Austin, I encourage all honourable senators to participate in Women's History Month, whether through attendance at special events or by simply listening to stories and celebrating the people who inspired them.
It is of paramount importance that all Canadians be aware of the countless achievements of women and their contributions to this great nation. After all, as Nellie McClung once said: "People must know the past to understand the present and to face the future." I would certainly agree with that.
Hon. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell: Honourable senators, I rise today to acknowledge Mental Illness Awareness Week, which was celebrated from October 3 to 10. Canada is looking forward to the report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on mental health with great interest and great hope.
Each of us individually can make a difference. We can offer our encouragement and support to someone living with mental illness and to their family. We can mobilize all the passion, humanity and experience in our communities to prevent isolation and the stigma associated with mental illness.
Above all, honourable senators, I ask you to consider the emotional development of children in your families and in your communities because mental illness and early childhood development are inextricably linked. I refer honourable senators to the book entitled, Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. Good emotional development — high emotional IQ — from birth can prevent many mental illnesses, many addictions, and much loneliness and despair, and can modify the course of genetically acquired mental illnesses. Low emotional IQ is linked to school dropout, crime and suicide.
Strong coping skills, strong empathy, strong self-esteem and so much more begin in the home and are strengthened for many children by quality child care and by the magic to be found in our libraries and playgrounds long before children enter the doors of our schools. Children develop their emotional IQ as they discover themselves, the world and life itself, with all its possibilities. Sadly, too many children never attain their potential.
Honourable senators, we will always be fighting an uphill battle against mental illness unless we accept our parental and community responsibilities to offer each child the emotional nurturing required for strong neural development and, ultimately, for strong human beings who can deal positively with the life challenges faced by every man, woman and child throughout life.
Yet, we know that these challenges are faced disproportionately by children and youth whose earliest years have been marked by abuse, bullying, family turmoil and a lack of resources in the home and in the community — a failure to make early childhood development a priority and a failure to intervene at the earliest possible signs of mental, social and emotional problems.
Yesterday, Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, said: "This is unbearable.... The scourge of youth suicide cannot be ignored.... As a mother, this is something I cannot accept."
Honourable senators, you and I have so many opportunities to touch the lives of others and to call forth the best in our communities. Let us use the privileged position we have been given to work hard and to reach out to our fellow Canadians, especially children and youth. Let "Each one reach one" be our commitment, our mantra.
Honourable senators, could we take up this challenge to a greater extent than before, so that Mental Illness Awareness Week remains alive? Let us not forget that prevention is our best hope.
Twenty-fifth Anniversary of Terry Fox Marathon of Hope
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley: Honourable senators, when Terry Fox reached Prince Edward Island in 1980 during his legendry Marathon of Hope run across Canada, he crossed the Northumberland Strait by ferry. On Sunday, September 18, to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of this heroic young man's achievements, more than 14,000 people walked, jogged and rode by wheelchair over the 13-kilometre Confederation Bridge. The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic for only the second time since its completion seven years ago in order to accommodate this unique event, the purpose of which was to raise money for cancer research.
It was a remarkable morning. The tail-end of Hurricane Ophelia made for some interesting weather conditions, but that did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Islanders and other Atlantic Canadians who made the crossing. Good food and entertainment helped keep spirits high. I walked the Confederation Bridge with my granddaughter, Carolyn Crossman, who crossed in a stroller during the inaugural 1997 walk held in conjunction with the official opening of the bridge.
Honourable senators, cancer affects everyone, even children. It was heartening to see schools from across the Island take part in this worthwhile event. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope was commemorated in every province in Canada, not just in my province. I am proud to say that Prince Edward Island was the only province with 100 per cent participation from its schools.
The Confederation Bridge walk was an exciting and meaningful adventure for my family, but I would like to acknowledge the work of the many volunteers who made it such a success. The view from the navigation span of the Confederation Bridge is dramatic and inspiring — much like the spirit of a forever-young Terry Fox.
Commissions Appointing Deputies Tabled
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the pleasure to table copies of the nine commissions, dated September 27, 2005, appointing the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada as deputies of the Governor General, to do in Her Excellency's name all acts on her part necessary to be done during Her Excellency's pleasure.
Government Response Tabled
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government response to the seventeenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on the issue of on-reserve matrimonial real property.
2003 Progress Report Tabled
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table two copies, in both official languages, of the National Child Benefit Progress Report, 2003.
Sixth Report of Committee Tabled
Hon. David P. Smith: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, which revises the October 2004 edition of the Rules of the Senate.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-11, to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Rompkey, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-25, governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Rompkey, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
Bill to Amend—First Reading
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-49, to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons).
Bill read first time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
On motion of Senator Rompkey, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.
Meetings of OECD Economic Affairs and Development Committee and of Third Part of 2005 Ordinary Session of Council of Europe, June 17-24, 2005—Reports 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 to the meeting of the Committee for Economic Affairs and Development at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, held in Paris, France, June 17, 2005, and its participation to the third part of the 2005 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held in Strasbourg, France, June 20 to 24, 2005.
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, I give notice that, on Tuesday, October 25, 2005:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the issue of public broadcasting in Canada, with a view to initiating discussion on its role as a public trust.
Presentation of Petition
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present a petition on behalf of Canadians calling on Parliament to amend the Canada Health Act and corresponding regulations to include Intensive Behavioural Intervention/Applied Behavioural Analysis, IBI/ABA, therapy for people with autism as a medically necessary treatment and to require that all provinces provide or fund this essential treatment for autism. Petitioners are also calling for the creation of chairs at universities in each of the provinces to do studies and research on the matter.
As was Senator LeBreton's petition, this petition was given to me by a remarkable 12-year-old named Joshua Bortolotti. Twenty-one months ago, Joshua's sister Sophia was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Joshua has talked to many of us on the Hill. One cannot help but be moved by seeing this young man working on behalf of his sister.
Since that time, Joshua's family has learned about the limited availability of services, how long the waiting lists are for this treatment, and the discriminatory cut-off age of approximately six for necessary publicly funded treatment.
Honourable senators, it is in Joshua's honour that I present this petition today.
Economic and Productivity Performance
Hon. W. David Angus: Honourable senators, a Conference Board of Canada report published today has found that of the top 12 OECD countries for which it annually measures economic and other important indicators of performance, Canada has ranked dead last in an overall economic indicator that combines GDP data per capita, inflation, employment growth, unemployment rate and other key measures.
Last year, Canada ranked sixth, and the year before that we were third. The report goes on to say that Canada is simply not living up to its brand as a wealthy, environmentally responsible, socially conscious, healthy society.
Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate please advise us what went wrong? Why has Canada fallen so far behind under this government's watch?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, it is nice to have a question from Senator Angus. To continue with the reference to the report that he identified, the report says, "Canada remains one of the best countries in the world in which to live," and "our economic, social and environmental performance stacks up well against the world's best."
The numbers that the honourable senator mentioned are numbers in the Conference Board of Canada study; namely, that Canada, in their ranking, is twelfth, down from sixth last year. This change in ranking is attributed to weaker productivity and investment spending.
There is no question that improving our productivity is absolutely essential to our economic future. The government has been addressing this issue. I am sure that senators are aware of the concerns expressed by the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, with respect to productivity. Productivity is achieved by an overall effort of the community. It is not the responsibility of government alone. I am sure Senator Angus recognizes that it is the responsibility of private investors, the business community and individual Canadians.
The government has made key investments in education and training because critical to productivity is the need for a world-class workforce. Honourable senators will be familiar with the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which has now invested more than $9 billion in research and development to create, at the highest levels in our society, the most innovative economy that can be created. We have pursued significant issues in trade and are achieving the opening of markets in which we have not hitherto traditionally been important traders.
Most important, honourable senators, is that this government has followed the soundest macroeconomic policies of any country in the developed world.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Austin: Surely I need not recite here our performance, which includes eight surpluses in our government budgeting process, which have created the opportunity to supply to the provinces $41 billion for health care.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Austin: Is that not an accomplishment? Of course it is.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Austin: To assist in productivity, we have one of the lowest rates of inflation of any of the developed economies. That rate continues, and I hope it will continue well into the next mandate of the Liberal government.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Tkachuk: Can we have a time out?
Senator Austin: No, the question is too important to give a summary answer. It is a critical question as Senator Angus often, but not universally, asks.
Honourable senators, we should bear in mind that while we have to address the questions of productivity, which the Minister of Finance has raised and which are raised in other places, including the Conference Board of Canada, we are, to return to the Conference Board report, "one of the best countries in the world."
Senator Angus: Honourable senators, I am sure we are all grateful to the Leader of the Government in the Senate for that lecture on the meaning of productivity.
Honourable senators, this government has been talking about productivity and innovation since the very day it was elected, with nothing to show for it beyond press releases, media opportunities and study piled upon study.
Eleven years ago, in October 1994, in a document entitled, pretentiously I might suggest, "A New Framework for Economic Policy," the Right Honourable Prime Minister Paul Martin stated that the key to stronger growth is increased productivity through more innovative and efficient combinations of people, ideas, capital and resources. The Prime Minister has spent more than nine of these intervening 11 years since as Minister of Finance and Prime Minister.
Why has the Prime Minister failed so miserably to implement a productivity agenda that will deliver real results and not have us lagging behind our partners in the industrialized world?
Senator Austin: With respect to the issue of productivity, there are systemic issues with which we have to deal. Honourable senators are aware of federal-provincial relations.
Honourable senators have seen our measures to deal with the cities and an attack on the infrastructure problems that have emerged there.
Honourable senators have seen us deal with the issue of productivity when it comes to daycare for families in this country.
There are any number of measures being taken. However, I assure Senator Angus that he will be delighted to see the forthcoming budget of the Minister of Finance in February 2006.
Senator Angus: The honourable senator is a harbinger of good news. I am sure all honourable senators have seen the report of the Banking Committee which was filed in this chamber in June of this year. The report is a special study on productivity and is entitled Falling Behind: Answering the Wake-up Call.
The Banking Committee heard experts from around the world. Committee members rendered the verdict collectively, as reported in this report, that we are indeed lagging behind. It outlined a recipe of measures to fix the problem, none of which were mentioned either in detail or en passant by the answer just given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Has the government taken notice of this report? Is it implementing the suggestions, so clearly detailed in this report, to improve our performance?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce did exceptional public policy work in dealing with the issue of productivity in this country. Exceptional work is the committee's standard.
The issue of productivity is one that concerns all Canadians. Government has to be a spark plug in dealing with the issue of productivity. The government is that spark plug and will continue to be that spark plug.
Honourable senators, I did deal, en passant, with the question. I referred to the forthcoming budget in February 2006. Being an objective and fair-minded observer of these issues, I am sure Senator Angus will be pleased to see the additional measures that the government will be taking at that time.
Senator Tkachuk: Perhaps the honourable leader could tell us what is coming.
Senator Forrestall: How long after that will the election come?
Senator Angus: Sneak preview.
Replacement of Aircraft—Omnibus Purchase
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, I welcome back the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It is terribly good to see that the honourable senator is back to giving his charming speeches.
Can the leader tell us the timetable for the proposed omnibus purchase of fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, tactical transport aircraft, a replacement for the Hercules and the new army medium-lift helicopters, a package of some $7 billion or $8 billion?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, at this moment, I cannot provide a timetable.
First, I will have to get used to Senator Forrestall rising in his new seat. I was looking to his old seat when I heard his voice. I congratulate him on now being in the front row. Now that I know where he is, I will try to address him directly.
Senator Forrestall: Honourable senators, after 40 years I am entitled to some respect.
There have been news reports that the government is intending a process of sole sourcing of the contracts that I have just been talking about. The Boeing Chinook leaps to mind quite readily. It is a piece of equipment which, after refurbishing it, we got rid of in 1994 by selling it to the Netherlands. Can the Leader of the Government give us some indication that the government is prepared to commit to a fair and open competition to replace these assets in the reported omnibus purchase?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I am most interested in Senator Forrestall's representation because in past questions he has urged a more rapid procurement process, given the needs of the military to be in more updated equipment at the earliest time. I now hear him saying that what is most important in public policy is that there be open and, obviously, fair and transparent procurement processes. As Senator Forrestall knows, that does delay the availability of equipment. It serves other public policy purposes, but it sometimes delays the ability to put updated military equipment into the hands of the military.
I will take the honourable senator's representations into account.
Senator Forrestall: Honourable senators, the minister will appreciate that 4,073 days ago I asked if the government would replace the Sea King. I am still waiting for an answer.
Could the Leader of the Government give us an undertaking to bring to this chamber, in some fashion, the timetable for these critical and crucial purchases so that Canadians, in particular members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have to use this equipment, will have some idea of what is happening?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, among us all, Senator Forrestall is one who most understands the military procurement process. He understands as well that the military is not of one mind with respect to the criteria required for any particular application.
Having the military settle on the agreed criteria, we then have experienced, over time, new requests and changes in procurement as new information becomes available to those who are the clients of the process, in particular the military.
There are difficulties in producing a timetable, as I have just explained. However, I will make inquiries and endeavour to provide a delayed answer to Senator Forrestall when it is provided to me.
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, my question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate concerns the consequences to Canada, and to thousands of border communities along the U.S. border, of an American policy known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. As honourable senators will know, by December 31 of next year, all people entering the United States will have to carry a passport, if they travel by aircraft. A year thereafter, all people entering the United States by land will have to carry a passport. That will result in some 7.7 million fewer visitors to our country, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
In view of the imminent visit of the American Secretary of State, and despite the government's dallying with all kinds of interesting threats with respect to energy, and cozying up to China as opposed to dealing with our primary trading relationship, perhaps I could ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to indicate whether representations have been made to work directly with the Department of Homeland Security on this issue and, if not, why not?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I appreciate the substantive part of Senator Segal's question and I will endeavour to address it.
The government has been making representations to the United States' administration with respect to the border issues that have been raised by Senator Segal. There are ongoing discussions with respect to the American policy that he has outlined. Senator Segal and other colleagues will have noted some American political leaders, even Senator Hillary Clinton, asking for a review by the administration of these policies.
The question of border crossings affects both countries. Senator Segal and others know that there are a number of border communities in the United States that would be significantly impacted if Canadians travelled in substantially fewer numbers to the United States. It is an ongoing and significant topic, and it is being pursued in bilateral discussions between Canada and the United States.
With respect to the gratuitous political comment, I see that Senator Segal wants to join one of the senior Quebec Conservative politicians in departing from the policies of the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. Mr. Cannon had very interesting new ideas for Mr. Harper on Kyoto and the environment and, as Senator Segal — who is a close observer of public policy — may have noted, Mr. Harper was very keen about trading with China, and enhancing and diverting trade to China. At this early time, Senator Segal seems to be prepared to ask Mr. Harper to adjust his thinking.
Senator Segal: Honourable senators, I appreciate the Leader of the Government's attentiveness to what various members of our party are saying. I think that is prudent on his part because our party is actually preparing to form a government that will be responsive to Canada-U.S. relations, and that will take the U.S. relationship seriously. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate knows, the Leader of the Opposition in the other place called for the appointment of a special envoy on softwood lumber.
My question to the Leader of the Government is as follows: He will know that the President of the United States and as well, as he indicated, Senator Clinton, have indicated that they think the notion of necessarily requiring a passport all the time does not make economic sense. Sadly, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Secretary of State are still pursuing that policy. That gives the government a rare opportunity to make a representation while Secretary Rice is here in Canada. I would like the Leader of the Government to give us an assurance in this chamber that that representation will be made in the strongest possible way by the Prime Minister.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, with respect to the last point made by Senator Segal, I believe I have already answered it, although it is not harmful for him to repeat his question.
We are making strenuous representations because of the economic and social impacts that those measures adopted by Congress with respect to border security would have on both countries. There is an examination going on at a very high level between the two countries to determine how both policy objectives can be achieved; that is, easy access and egress across the border for citizens of both countries and the security issues that are important to both countries.
With respect to, again, the political rhetoric, I am delighted that the honourable senator's party is endeavouring to prepare itself to be a government one day in the future, and that future will always be there, Senator Segal, ahead of you. Of course, there is no one here who would deny the importance, in the Westminster system, of governments alternating, but of course the alternation requires a party to prove to the Canadian people that it is ready. That is the litmus test. Welcome to the game.
Union Lockout—Involvement of Board of Directors
Hon. Lowell Murray: Honourable senators, now that the labour dispute at the CBC and Radio-Canada has been settled, there are some matters pertaining to the governance of that corporation in such circumstances on which Parliament should have some information. My particular interest is in the role of the board of directors and of the government in representing the shareholder.
First, did the board of directors sign off on the management strategy to lock out the union members? If they did not, or if they were not consulted, why not?
Second. did the board of directors, or a committee thereof, monitor the dispute as it evolved and offer advice or instructions to the management?
Third, did the government, as representing the shareholder, give any advice or instructions to the board of directors, as they would be entitled to do in a matter such as this?
Finally, when the minister is bringing in the answers to those questions, would he also table a list — and I know it is public knowledge already — of the names of the directors of CBC and Radio-Canada, the dates of their appointment and the mandates and terms of office under which they are serving?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, with respect to the last point, I have no problem in tabling the list in question, although, as Senator Murray says, it is easily accessible on the Internet and in so many other places.
With respect to the balance of his question, with regard to the role of the board of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, I will have to take notice of that question. Senator Murray is asking for specific information and it may or may not be available to the government.
The federal Crown is a shareholder, but by its legislation the CBC operates independently of any direction by the Government of Canada in the ordinary course of its affairs. As I say, I will take notice of the question and provide whatever answer I can provide.
Senator Murray: Honourable senators, I do not want to prolong this discussion, but I would draw the attention of the minister to the document put out by the President of the Treasury Board some weeks ago on the governance of Crown corporations, in which he establishes very clearly the responsibility of the board of directors at the heart of those Crown corporations and of their accountability through a minister to Parliament. Therefore, I offer the view that nothing I have asked for ought to be unavailable to Parliament.
Severance Package of Ex-president
Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, statements have been made by Minister John McCallum and other government members that the government is obligated to provide a severance package to David Dingwall. Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise whether there were any conversations between Mr. Dingwall and the government, either directly or through a representative, prior to his resignation in which the terms of his resignation were discussed?
Hon. Jack Austin (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have no information on this subject other than the statements made by Minister McCallum in the other place, which are available to all senators.
Senator Tkachuk: If there were no such conversations — or perhaps there were; I do not know and obviously the minister here does not know either — could the Leader of the Government advise the Senate as to precisely how it was determined that Mr. Dingwall may be owed severance?
Senator Austin: Minister McCallum has answered that question several times in the other place. I will speak with him personally to see if I can add anything to the answer.
Senator Tkachuk: Honourable senators, Minister McCallum is a member of the cabinet. He may have given that answer to the House of Commons, but he is not a member of the Senate, the last I heard. Perhaps it is the obligation of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to advise senators here. He is a member of the cabinet. He must have approved. How was it determined that Mr. Dingwall may be owed severance?
Senator Austin: I understand the honourable senator's interest in the answer to the question. I will make inquiries to see if I can add anything to the answers that Minister McCallum has given in the other place.
Senator Tkachuk: Honourable senators, does the government have, in fact, a written legal opinion that the severance is payable? If so, could the government leader report back to the Senate, first, with the name of the person or law firm that provided the opinion, and second, could he table the precise facts on which the opinion was based?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, Minister McCallum has said in the other place that he has no written opinion. He has received verbal advice from law officers of the Crown. It is not the practice to identify law officers of the Crown specifically.
Senator Tkachuk: Honourable senators, is it the position of the government that any head of a Crown corporation who resigns voluntarily before his term is over is entitled to severance? For example, John McCallum appointed his former Royal Bank colleague Gordon Feeney as Chairman of Canada Post. Is it not a matter of government policy that severance is paid if Mr. Feeney or any of the other defeated Liberal candidates who are working for the Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, Crown corporations or as ambassadors voluntarily resign before their term is up?
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the minister responsible, the Honourable John McCallum, has advised that he will follow the employment law as it is advised to him by the officers of the Crown. The circumstances of any particular situation may vary and there is no specific and sole rule of thumb with respect to these circumstances. They each have to be taken on precise facts.
Senator Tkachuk: I will take as much licence with time as the Leader of the Government has and quote Howard Levitt, the editor of Dismissal and Employment Law Digest, who wrote in the National Post on October 6:
If the monies are truly being paid based upon legal advice, as alleged, there are only three possibilities, none of which are palatable to the government:
- Dingwall did not actually resign but was fired. It is not uncommon for dismissed employees to be offered the option of "resigning" on the basis that it looks better on their resumes. But the government is denying that this is what occurred;
- Dingwall had signed an initial employment contract permitting him to resign, at any time, and collect severance as if he had been fired. If the government is encouraging employees to resign in that fashion, that would be a scandalous abuse of public funds...
That is our point. A cheque is being written to Mr. Dingwall. We have the minister of the government in this place saying he does not have to tell us or he does not know. Public money is being given to a former Liberal cabinet minister for seemingly no reason whatsoever that we are able to ascertain. This is a serious matter of public policy, and the minister should address it.
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, the terms of employment of any person by the Government of Canada are affected by the prevailing laws of employment in Canada, and Minister McCallum has advised the other place that he will apply those laws. I cannot add anything further to the words of the minister responsible for this particular file.
Senator Comeau: No accountability as usual.
Social Development—National Seniors Secretariat
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 13 on the Order Paper, raised on June 1, 2005—by Senator Downe.
Heritage—National Capital Commission
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 21 on the Order Paper, raised on July 6, 2005—by Senator Spivak.
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the next four items are delayed answers to oral questions raised in the Senate, and they are as follows: The first delayed answer is in response to a question raised on June 28, 2005, by Senator Tkachuk, concerning lobbyist contingency fees. The next delayed answer is in response to a question raised on July 19, 2005, by Senator Cochrane, concerning comments by the Minister of Social Development regarding early learning and child care. The next is in response to a question raised on July 18, 2005, by Senator Forrestall regarding the denial of benefits to a former JTF2 soldier. The last is a response to a question on September 28, 2005, by Senator Meighen regarding the potential liquefied natural gas terms analysis on Passamaquoddy Bay.
Lobbyist Contingency Fees
(Response to question raised by Hon. David Tkachuk on June 28, 2005)
The Lobbyists Registration Act requires lobbyists to disclose whether they charge contingency fees. The Act only requires lobbyists to disclose whether or not they charge contingency fees for a particular undertaking. When a lobbyist registers, this information is added to the Public Registry of Lobbyists.
The Act does not regulate the charging of contingency fees by lobbyists.
Policies on contingency fees relating to federal contracts, grants and contributions are set out in Treasury Board's policies.
The Registrar of Lobbyists administers the Lobbyists Registration Act in an independent manner.
Early Learning and Child Care Program—Availability
(Response to question raised by Hon. Ethel Cochrane on July 19, 2005)
Under the new national early learning and child care initiative, participating governments have agreed to work towards an early learning and child care system that is universally inclusive and affordable to Canadian families.
However, building an inclusive and affordable system will take time, and services may not be available to every family that want them within the next five years.
The intent is that over time, parents who want to access these services could do so, at an affordable cost. Services would be open and responsive, without discrimination to young children, including those with particular needs.
Provinces and territories will have the flexibility to determine how to enhance their early learning and child care systems, based on the particular needs of their communities. Federal funds will support a mix of services that could include child care in regulated family day homes, nursery schools, child care centres, and preschools. Funds will also support measures to improve quality and make early learning and child care more affordable.
Governments recognize there are some groups with particular challenges in accessing regulated early learning and child care, including rural families and families with non-traditional work hours. With the significant increase in funding available under this initiative (an average 45 per cent increase across the country), provinces and territories will have a greater capacity to develop innovative programs for families with more challenging needs.
Experts working in the area of rural child care have confirmed that it is possible to deliver innovative, regulated early learning and child care programs in rural communities. They note that such programs will require more flexibility, and may be more costly, but that they can be delivered without sacrificing the provision of quality care.
This new initiative is a major step forward and will go a long way in helping to build an early learning and child care system that is accessible and affordable to Canadian parents.
The new initiative will not provide a regulated early learning and child care space for every child under age six in Canada. Rather, it will begin removing the systematic barriers that have prevented some families from participating in these programs and services, including families living in rural areas.
Denial of Benefits to Former JTF2 Soldier
(Response to question raised by Hon. J. Michael Forrestall on July 18, 2005)
VAC awards disability pensions to all eligible veterans and Canadian Forces members for service-related disability or death.
As part of the application process, VAC requests all necessary medical and service information from DND to support a member's disability pension claim.
VAC and DND have been working closely through the DND-VAC Centre to obtain necessary information for the VAC disability pension program while respecting the need to protect information related to national security.
Any member of the Canadian Forces who suffers a service related disability is eligible for a disability pension. The Minister of Veterans Affairs is prepared to have her officials immediately review any case brought to her attention where there is any doubt about the member's ability to obtain the necessary information.
Any members injured while deployed to a Special Duty Area, such as Afghanistan, including members of Joint Task Force 2, are eligible for and are receiving VAC disability pension and related health care benefits. DND is also providing pensions and service coordination to the surviving spouses and children of Veterans who are killed in the line of duty. As of September 14, 2005, 21 veterans and their families are receiving VAC benefits as a result of service in this Special Duty Area.
Maine—Proposed Liquefied Natural Gas Terminals
(Response to question raised by Hon. Michael A. Meighen on September 28, 2005)
The Government of Canada is aware of the proposals to construct Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) receiving terminals on Passamaquoddy Bay and the St. Croix River estuary and the concerns that the local inhabitants have expressed regarding these proposals.
The decision to restrict the use of Head Harbour Passage in 1976 by oil tankers carrying more than 5,000 cubic meters of oil was made only after studies conducted by the federal government indicated that there were considerable environmental risks to Canada. The government is initiating a study to examine the full range of impacts that the potential construction of LNG terminals in Passamaquoddy Bay would have on the Canadian side of the border. This study will include environmental, transportation and socio-economic considerations. When the results of this analysis are completed the Government will make a decision in the light of the findings and other relevant factors.
Introduction of Pages
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, before calling Orders of the Day, I would like to introduce our new pages. First, we have Joseph-Daniel Law. Joseph is from Tecumseh, Ontario. He is currently in his third year at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.
Next is Breagh Dabbs. Breagh was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon. She is currently in her second year at Carleton University, majoring in political science and international relations.
Finally, we have Rachel Dares. Rachel was born and raised in Toronto. She is currently in her third year of journalism studies at Carleton University.
Welcome, all of you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Message from Commons
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons returning Bill S-31, to authorize the construction and maintenance of a bridge over the St. Lawrence River and a bridge over the Beauharnois Canal for the purpose of completing Highway 30, and acquaint the Senate that they had passed this bill, without amendment.
Membership of Joint Committees—Message from Commons
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that the following message had been received from the House of Commons:
IT WAS ORDERED,—That the first members and associate members for the Standing Joint Committees of the House be as follows:
LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT
Members: André, Byrne, Eyking, Gallant, Goldring, Kadis, Malhi, Poirier-Rivard, Siksay, Stinson, Temelkovski, Vellacott—(12)
Associate Members: Abbott, Ablonczy, Allison, Ambrose, Anders, Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands), Augustine, Batters, Benoit, Bezan, Breitkreuz, Brown, Brunelle, Carrie, Casey, Casson, Chatters, Chong, Commins, Day, Devolin, Doyle, Duncan, Epp, Finley, Fitzpatrick, Fletcher, Forseth, Goodyear, Gook, Grewal (Newton—North Delta), Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells), Guergis, Hanger, Harper, Harris, Harrison, Hearn, Hiebert, Hill, Hinton, Jaffer, Jean, Johnston, Kamp, Keddy, Kenney, Komarnicki, Kramp, Lauzon, Lukiwski, Lunn, Lunney, MacAulay, MacKay (Central Nova), MacKenzie, Mark, Menzies, Merrifield, Miller, Mills, Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam), Moore (Fundy—Royal), Nicholson, Obhrai, O'Connor, Oda, Pallister, Penson, Plamondon, Poilievre, Prentice, Preston, Rajotte, Reid, Reynolds, Richardson, Ritz, Scheer, Schellenberger, Schmidt, Skelton, Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul), Solberg, Sorenson, Strahl, Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest), Thompson (Wild Rose), Tilson, Toews, Trost, Tweed, Van Loan, Warawa, Watson, White, Williams,Yelich
SCRUTINY OF REGULATIONS
Members: Anders, Goodyear, Guay, Kamp, Lee, Lemay, Macklin, Myers, St. Amand, Tweed, Wappel, Wasylycia-Leis—(12)
Associate Members: Abbott, Ablonczy, Allison, Ambrose, Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands), Batters, Benoit, Bezan, Breitkreuz, Brown, Carrie, Casey, Casson, Chatters, Chong, Cummins, Day, Devolin, Doyle, Duncan, Epp, Finley, Fitzpatrick, Fletcher, Forseth, Gallant, Goldring, Gouk, Grewal (Newton—North Delta), Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells), Guergis, Hanger, Harper, Harris, Harrison, Hearn, Hiebert, Hill, Hinton, Jaffer, Jean, Johnston, Keddy, Kenney, Komarnicki, Kramp, Laframboise, Lauzon, Lukiwski, Lunn, Lunney, MacKay (Central Nova), MacKenzie, Marceau, Mark, Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin), Menzies, Merrifield, Miller, Mills, Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam), Moore (Fundy—Royal), Nicholson, Obhrai, O'Connor, Oda, Pallister, Poilievre, Prentice, Preston, Rajotte, Reid, Reynolds, Richardson, Ritz, Scheer, Schellenberger, Schmidt, Skelton, Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul), Solberg, Sorenson, Stinson, Strahl, Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest), Thompson (Wild Rose), Tilson, Toews, Trost, Van Loan, Vellacott, Warawa, Watson, White, Williams, Yelich
That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours of the names of the Members to serve on behalf of this House on the Standing Joint Committees.
The Clerk of the House of Commons
Third Reading—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cochrane, seconded by the Honourable Senator Andreychuk, for the third reading of Bill S-12, An Act concerning personal watercraft in navigable waters.—(Honourable Senator Plamondon)
Hon. Madeleine Plamondon: Honourable senators, the aim of Bill S-12 is to make it possible to ban or restrict the use of personal watercraft on navigable waters. Therefore, pursuant to this bill and after public consultation, a local authority may adopt a resolution proposing to the minister that the use of personal watercraft on navigable waterways be forbidden or restricted.
The bill raises questions that, to my knowledge, have not been addressed. Is the federal government's jurisdiction over navigation truly obvious to everyone? Is navigation the only criterion needed to declare that the federal government has jurisdiction? If we navigate on non-navigable waterways or ones declared non-navigable by the courts, does the federal government still have jurisdiction? Does a waterway that is not navigable in its natural state, but which becomes navigable as a result of human intervention fall under federal jurisdiction, such as the Rideau Canal?
Another aspect that was not raised is the minister's regulatory power. The justification being given for the minister's involvement is the federal government's jurisdiction over navigation. A local authority might consult the community and, for health, safety or environmental reasons, adopt a resolution forcing the minister to make regulations forbidding or restricting the use of personal watercraft, provided that navigation would not be impeded.
I am no expert in this field, but it seems to me that some clarification is needed. In truth, I am puzzled by the bill's approach. First, can federal legislation grant jurisdiction to a local authority in order to adopt a resolution on health, safety and the environment, which traditionally fall under provincial jurisdiction or are at least shared with the provinces?
Also, can a resolution by a local authority force the federal minister to act in his exclusive jurisdiction over shipping? In other words, could the federal legislator confer jurisdiction on a local authority, which, in exercising this jurisdiction, would be forcing the federal government to exercise its jurisdiction over shipping?
Finally, could excluding the provincial authorities cause problems down the road?
In addition, I am wondering why the bill deals only with personal watercraft, when there are many other types of craft. I am also wondering about the consultation process involving local communities and residents referred to in the bill. We all know that, in resort areas, the population is higher during the summer months. This means that a majority made up of summer residents could impose its views on permanent residents. Is that really democratic? Is that the best way to make things happen? What will happen in the case of waterways or lakes bordering on more than one municipality? Have recent technological advances been taken into consideration? It may be that the reasons for many of the complaints about personal watercraft have been worked out to a large extent.
The regulatory context has changed as well. As our colleague Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette issue mentioned on December 13, 2004, relevant regulations already exist and Bill S-12 is a duplication. Regulations restricting the use of vessels have been made under the Canada Shipping Act and also apply to personal watercraft.
These regulations provide an age limit for using and operating vessels, designate how far a vessel can go from shore, set speed restrictions, and provide the possibility of restricting and banning the use of vessels and personal watercraft on Canadian waters.
Regarding the application of the regulations, a designated authority or the designated provincial authority can ask the federal minister to submit their sector to the restrictions. The number of orders issued under this regulatory control shows that the regulations restricting the use of watercraft are commonly used. Nonetheless, some improvements could be made on a practical level and on how quickly an order can be obtained.
It is also surprising to see that it was not until June 21, 2005, as far as I know, that a Transport Canada representative informed the committee that the issue was resolved and under control. According to this representative's account, there are more than 2,000 restriction orders in Canada. These orders are issued at the request of local communities and in consultation with provincial authorities. These orders cover both vessels and personal watercraft. The regulatory control is working, but it can be improved.
In closing, this bill does not take into account the technological advances of recent years, it addresses personal watercraft only, and it duplicates existing regulatory controls and risks causing jurisdictional problems.
On motion of Senator Lapointe, debate adjourned.
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein moved second reading of Bill S-43, to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings).—(Honourable Senator Grafstein)
He said: Honourable senators, Bill S-43 is a simple amendment to clarify a gap in the Criminal Code. It is proposed that section 83.01 of the Criminal Code be amended by adding the following after subsection (1.1):
(1.2) For greater certainty, a suicide bombing comes within paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition "terrorist activity" in subsection (1).
This amendment would clearly establish "suicide bombing," per se, as a criminal offence. Over the last four years, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the world's largest international governmental and parliamentary organization dedicated to human rights, has consistently passed numerous unanimous resolutions condemning suicide bombing as "a crime against humanity."
From Vladivostok to Vancouver, 55 states, including Canada, are active members of the OSCE. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly emerged in 1990 from the Helsinki Process that started in 1974. Honourable senators will recall that this was the beginning of the thaw in the Cold War. In order to inform senators about the appropriate international context, I have placed on the Order Paper of the Senate as the subject of an inquiry the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's most recent resolution on suicide bombing. This resolution recites a more than four-year history of the OSCE resolution, and was adopted once again unanimously at the fourth annual OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Washington on July 5, 2005.
Canada, as an active state of the OSCE, has repeatedly supported resolutions declaring suicide bombing as a "crime against humanity." The obvious purpose of this amendment is to conform Canada's international principles and practices to our domestic criminal law. This amendment, of course, fully accords with Jewish, Christian and Muslim teachings against the intentional taking of innocent lives by the tragic action of a person or persons committing suicide.
Last July 18, this summer, in response to London suicide bombings on July 7, more than 500 British Muslim religious leaders and scholars, after expressing condolences to the families of the victims, issued a fatwa that explicitly condemns "The use of violence and the destruction of innocent lives." "Suicide bombings," the fatwa states, "are vehemently prohibited." This fatwa was proclaimed by the British Muslim Forum, or the BMF, outside the British Houses of Parliament. There, the BMF Secretary-General, Gul Muhammad, quoted the Koran, saying: "Whoever kills a human being ... then it is as though he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a human life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." That is a quote from the Koran, Surah al-Maidah (5), paragraph 5, verse 32.
Mr. Muhammad went on to say that, "Islam's position is clear and unequivocal: Murder of one soul is the murder of the whole of humanity; he who shows no respect for human life is an enemy of humanity." Approximately 50 Muslim leaders and scholars from around the U.K. stood together outside the Houses of Parliament in London, in support, as Mr. Muhammad publicly read out this fatwa.
In a separate public statement the British Muslim Forum, with nearly 300 mosques in the U.K. affiliated to it, noted that "This fatwa will be read out in mosques across Britain on July 22," and it was. This public statement also stated: "We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism in the world." Then, 40 Islamic leaders and scholars, at a meeting at London's Islamic Cultural Centre organized by the Muslim Council of Britain, a different organization, issued yet another declaration denouncing suicide bombings.
Even before the time of Moses, the taking of human life intentionally was prohibited. Witness the story of Cain and Abel. This was encapsulated in the sixth of the Ten Commandments. At Sinai, in the covenant that Moses unveiled, the idea of freedom was limited or circumscribed by the Ten Commandments. One tablet dealt with honour, respect; the other dealt with human beings. That Decalogue is found in the Old Testament, in Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17. The original Aramaic text of the Old Testament uses different words for intentional versus unintentional killing. The King James Version, in modern translations, now uses this translation: "You shall not murder." This translation more linguistically nuances and more closely represents the original meaning of the ancient Hebrew text. The original Hebrew word is "tirtzach" and that ordinarily refers to the intentional killing without cause. The root word of that word in the Ten Commandments is "ratzach" which ordinarily means the intentional killing without cause.
The Talmud explained, in reference to suicides, "For the world was created for only one individual to indicate that he who destroys one human life is considered as though he destroyed the whole world." Hebrew law considered accidental killing as not punishable. The Old Testament distinguished carefully between intentional murder without cause and accidental killing. Thus, in the Old Testament, "Cities of Refuge" were designated so that an unintentional killer could flee to escape revenge or retribution. Under the Old Testament, breaking other sacred laws such as honouring the Sabbath is permissible if breaking that law will help save a human life. To protect one's own life against intentional murder by another, the law of self-defense is likewise permissible.
Christian theology, including Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Rites denominations, make it equally clear, prohibiting intentional murder of innocent people. In Matthew 19:18, Jesus is quoted to have said: "Thou shalt do no murder." Killing in self-defence is also not deemed murder in the New Testament. As for suicides, Corinthians 6:19-20 prohibits the taking of one's own life. Those more familiar in this chamber with the Christian coda might be more expansive on Christian theology on the question of the intentional taking of innocent lives with mens rea.
The rationale for our Criminal Code is to be precise, to ensure that crimes are proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Strict onus of proof remains with the state, so clarity is essential when the Criminal Code and the power of the state are arraigned against any person. Is there any reason whatsoever not to clarify the Criminal Code and make suicide bombings an express criminal offence? On a careful reading of our Criminal Code and the Anti-terrorism Act, there is no specific criminal offence of suicide bombing. A specific prohibition against suicide bombing would directly assist in prosecuting both those unsuccessful suicide bombers and those who individually conspire to assist in suicide bombings. Peace, order and good government lies at the base of our system of the rule of law. Suicide bombing is, therefore, in my view contrary to our national principles of constitutional governance.
Our criminal law as it stands does not directly prohibit those who intentionally choose to lose their lives as a means of taking other or as many innocent lives as possible. If suicide bombing is tantamount to homicide, then the Criminal Code should eliminate any doubts whatsoever about this conduct as a criminal offence. This surgical amendment will help bring attempted suicide bombers, and those collaborating with suicide bombers, to justice. While a modest amendment, it represents an important clarification of principles deeply embedded in our Criminal Code. The Criminal Code has evolved to give greater emphasis to victims, including their families. The amendment would help to remediate appropriate victims' concerns.
The nature of criminal law, honourable senators — and many of you who have practised criminal law would know this — is to mediate between morality and reason. The purpose of criminal law is to draw precise lines between what is acceptable and what is aberrant behaviour. In the process, criminal law forewarns, censures, ostracizes, isolates and seeks to undermine — and hopefully reduce, if not expunge — aberrant behaviour from society. The criminal law requires precision rather than vagueness as the state arraigns all of its mighty powers against the aberrant behaviour of an individual.
I believe, honourable senators, I have made the case to remediate the criminal law to prohibit, expressly, suicide bombings under the Criminal Code. I remain indebted to my parliamentary colleagues at the OSCE and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the work of the organization Canadians Against Suicide Bombings, who urged the UN and Parliament to take action to remedy this unnecessary uncertainty in our criminal laws. I reviewed legal views, including those of Professor John Castel. This amendment is long overdue. I urge a speedy adoption of this amendment and your support for approving second reading of this bill so that it can be quickly referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for detailed consideration.
On motion of Senator Segal, debate adjourned.
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Pierrette Ringuette moved second reading of Bill S-44, to amend the Public Service Employment Act.
She said: Honourable senators, I have the honour today to open the debate at second reading stage of Bill S-44, to amend the Public Service Employment Act, which I introduced on September 28.
This bill has a dual objective. First, it would do away with the practice of using geographic criteria to determine an area of selection for purposes of eligibility in appointment processes.
Second, it would ensure that both internal and external public service appointments would be free of bureaucratic favouritism.
At the present time, the Public Service Commission can set geographic criteria for eligibility to compete in both internal and external competitions for positions in the federal public service. This geographic restriction on obtaining federal government jobs is set by regulation at a radius of 50 kilometres around the official location of a competition, thereby keeping some competent Canadians from obtaining employment. The current selection process seriously limits the access of all Canadians to jobs in the public service. The situation applies to federal government jobs within a region, or even an entire province, because applicants are automatically rejected if they live outside that 50-kilometre radius.
For instance, in the greater Ottawa region, the capital region, which includes portions of Ontario and Quebec, the population is almost 1 million. Those 1 million residents have almost exclusive access to 60 per cent of all federal public service jobs, and that excludes Crown corporations and agencies, and the 5,000 employees of Parliament Hill. With a small percentage of these jobs located in Montreal and Toronto, we therefore have 0.3 per cent of the Canadian population having sole access to roughly 60 per cent of federal government jobs, and 60 per cent of the federal public service amounts to roughly 200,000 jobs. If you average the salary at a low of $55,000 per year per job, this represents an annual payroll of $11 billion, with about $7.5 billion in Ontario alone. Along the same lines of argument, and in the spirit of equality and justice, 3 per cent of the population within the capital region do not have access to the other 40 per cent of federal government jobs.
Therefore, 99.7 per cent of Canadians have access to only 40 per cent of federal government jobs available, as they live within 50 kilometres of the jobs located across this land of ours. For instance, people living in Kingston cannot apply for a job in Ottawa. People living in Hamilton cannot apply for a job in Toronto. People living in Edmundston, New Brunswick, cannot apply for a job in Fredericton or Bathurst, New Brunswick.
The Hon. the Speaker: Just a moment, please, Senator Ringuette: The sound is not working for some reason.
Senator Ringuette: Is it okay now? Did somebody miss something?
Senator Cools: Start over!
Senator Rompkey: Say it again.
Senator Ringuette: The official website for job openings for the Government of Canada is jobs.gc.ca. For the purpose of this exercise, let us visit this site on a particular date — a week ago, October 11. There were four options listed. The first was jobs with no geographic restriction. There were 43 jobs listed in various locations across Canada. The second was jobs in your region. For example, the National Capital Region and eastern Ontario had 30 jobs listed, 18 exclusive for this region and 12 for various regions, which is of the 43 mentioned in number one, therefore 60 per cent exclusive. In New Brunswick, for instance, 11 jobs were listed but two were for New Brunswick only. The other nine were from the various locations of the first one, the 43 jobs, therefore, 18 per cent exclusive. In Quebec, 24 jobs were listed, 14 restricted to 50 kilometres, therefore, 58 per cent exclusive. The third is all jobs listed by category. The fourth was jobs for executive levels, and one job was listed.
I will now highlight for you some facts as stated in the Public Service Commission 2004-2005 Annual Report, Chapter 1, that was tabled two weeks ago. Last year, nearly 35,000 people were hired into the public service. Hiring is still predominantly for a contingent workforce of specified-term period, casual or student employment. The number of new indeterminate, permanent hires fell to 9,426 in an organization of 153,043 indeterminate, permanent employees. Of these indeterminate hires, only 3,400 were recruited from outside the public service, the remainder being hired from the term pool. Only 26 per cent of those 35,000 hired as term or casual came from outside the public service. Workers hired from the contingent workforce clearly had an advantage in competitions for permanent jobs, having enjoyed privileged access to the workforce and the opportunity to learn about the job and the public service prior to competing for the position.
According to Chapter 1, managers have met the minimum policy requirement to recruit nationally for all senior level jobs. Otherwise, they have opted for provisions to limit competitions by geographic area. This option is used to manage large numbers of candidates. As a result, 19 per cent of all externally advertised jobs and 28 per cent in the National Capital Region use a national area of selection. Under the new Public Service Employment Act, PSEA, Bill C-25 that we adopted two years ago, managers will have even greater discretion over the appointment process. Managers will determine whether to advertise positions and how many candidates to consider for a position.
These statistics do not take into consideration other covert tactics used by managers to undermine the equality and impartiality of the hiring process by hiring casual or temporary employees, without competition, by using employment agencies or headhunters.
I urge honourable senators to consult the very long list of employment agencies in the Ottawa region Yellow Pages. Managers regularly use most of these agencies in order to covertly hire employees.
Honourable senators, this information provided by the Public Service Commission and the promises made two years ago so that we would not amend Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act, prove that it is crucial for us to pass Bill S-44 as soon as possible.
Two years ago, Treasury Board received $40 million to implement Bill C-25; this amount included funding to update electronic recruiting technology, so as to eliminate geographic restrictions on eligibility.
This has not yet been done. As most of us predicted, the increased flexibility that the Public Service Modernization Act gives managers means that they can constantly impose geographic restrictions. Only 19 per cent of the jobs in all the regions and 28 per cent of the jobs in the National Capital Region are filled in accordance with the Public Service Commission's national hiring policy.
Honourable senators, I do understand that opening the hiring process for federal jobs to all Canadians will increase the administrative work for managers, but my scales tip for equity and fairness. The administrative burden should not be a factor in respecting Canadians' mobility rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Minister Alcock announced two weeks ago that there would be a gradual increase in the percentage of national selection for jobs in the capital region — to 37 per cent in December 2005, to 62 per cent in April 2007, and 93 per cent in December 2007. I welcome this effort. However, two wrongs do not make a right. Let me explain.
This is akin to reverse discrimination. It is not just that, for the last three decades of discrimination based on geographic barriers for the 60 per cent of federal jobs in Ottawa, as parliamentarians and Canadians we should accept this concept. The reality is that, still, 40 per cent of federal jobs across the country will have geographic barriers for all Canadians, including those living in the capital region. Opening up the 60 per cent of federal jobs in Ottawa is not opening the access to 100 per cent of federal jobs to all Canadians, which is the priority objective of this bill.
We need this bill. We need it to legislate equity and fairness for all Canadians in order that a national area of selection would be mandatory.
I also want to alert honourable senators that, out of the 5,000 or so employees on Parliament Hill, many are permanent employees who are not hired by MPs or senators. They are employees of the House of Commons or of the Senate and the necessary units to make this place work smoothly. Here, also, we witness discrimination in regard to most of the competitions on the basis of geography. Let me give you an example.
This September, the Library of Parliament opened a competition number 05-F-13, closing on September 28, for an indeterminate position as a senior officer, Accounting Operations with Finance and Material Management, carrying a nice salary of between $62,000 and $72,000. I wish to table a copy of this competition. May I table a copy of this competition?
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Is leave granted for the document to be tabled, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Ringuette: Is it not ironic that, even on Parliament Hill, with parliamentarians representing the voice of all Canadians, even here we allow geographic barriers to employment on the Hill, the centre of our country's democracy? Bill S-44 does not remove the geographic barriers for employment on Parliament Hill. We should not be required to legislate this to include all Canadians. It should be a given that here, on Parliament Hill of all places, employment is for all Canadians.
I therefore request that senators who are members of any committee dealing with the administration of Parliament officially ban geographic barriers from any competition for employment with and for the administration on Parliament Hill. I will certainly have both my eyes and ears on what will be going on.
It is funny that, for decades, successive Canadian governments, their diplomatic corps and all Canadians have taken great pride in promoting equity and fairness around the world. It is time that we indeed bring equity and fairness to bear right here at home, for all Canadians living from coast to coast to coast. It is most unfortunate that we must legislate equity and fairness in this way for our own people so that their access to federal government jobs is not curtailed, and so that their mobility rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not undermined by the federal government administration.
In regard to mobility rights, article 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:
(2) Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right...
b) to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.
Honourable senators, why, in an era of cutting-edge technology and instant communication, does the government select candidates to fill public service positions from among the people whose place of residence is near the position to be filled?
Most people would acknowledge that a skilled person who finds suitable employment based on education and experience is willing to relocate, whether they are in the private sector or the public sector. For years, the hiring of federal employees has been subject to geographical restrictions; as a result, 80 per cent of them come from Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto, and 60 per cent of them live in the National Capital Region.
We can imagine the influence this 80 per cent has on the development of policies and programs. They analyze problems, make recommendations and apply programs based on their local community, their heritage and the knowledge acquired in their region of the country. Parliamentarians and the public then wonder why. Why do programs not satisfy regional needs? Why are policies and programs developed based on urban communities? Why are there so many administrative formalities? Why does everyone have to leave a voice-mail message rather than talk to a person? Why do federal employees not understand the workings of our natural resources processing industries in fisheries, forestry and agriculture? Why do they not understand the needs of seasonal workers in these industries?
Many federal employees do not know anything about the realities of the sectors I have just mentioned, except for the data they analyze and use to formulate their hypotheses. Residents of rural communities and distant regions cannot get federal jobs. They feel left out and lose confidence in their central government. The current process prevents them from benefiting from opportunities that should be offered to them as Canadian taxpayers.
Tax professionals are not concerned about the taxpayer's place of residence. Why should applications from skilled job seekers be rejected because of their place of residence? We are all taxpayers.
The geographical restriction based on a 50-kilometre radius is not acceptable.
By virtue of the responsibilities and mandate of this institution, honourable senators have a duty to stand for equality of treatment among the population of the diverse regions that compose this great country. By presenting this accessibility bill today, I am doing precisely that. By the assent in 2003 of the new Public Service Modernization Act, managers have greater responsibility and flexibility to consider a number of factors when recruiting and selecting a person for a position. This cause for concern is greater for me in respect of limiting national candidates' access and the potential for bureaucratic patronage. I have been hearing about this serious issue for the last 12 years. As well, the problem has been highlighted by a lack of planning surrounding human resource management. In many departments this lack amounts to inefficient staffing practices.
The 2004-05 report of the Public Service Commission states in chapter 2 at page 44 that only 36 per cent of organizations within the public service have a human resource plan or planning process in place. Honourable senators, no service organization in the private sector would survive or be able to compete without a minimum of human resource planning. Currently, it seems that managers hire on a whim. No wonder they use the back door to recruit. The remaining 64 per cent of federal departments have no human resource plan so how could they have any idea of the current and future needs of their departments?
The second objective of Bill S-44 is to prohibit bureaucratic patronage or, as the Public Service Commission calls it, "personal favouritism." For many years parliamentarians have suspected that managers were engaged in patronage appointments. In 2003, Auditor General Sheila Fraser audited the hiring process for student summer jobs. She found that 25 per cent of students employed for summer jobs within the public service were hired through bureaucratic patronage. During the hearings of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance in 2003-04, the issue was raised with Maria Barrados, President of the Public Service Commission of Canada. Thankfully, as a follow-up, the PSC studied the issue and submitted its findings this October in a report entitled, Study of Personal Favouritism and Recruitment within the Federal Public Service. The report contains some interesting data. Page 11 of the report states:
Sixteen percent of our survey respondents believe that personal favouritism occurs often or always in their work unit....28 per cent believe it occurs often or always, 45 per cent believe it occurs some of the time.
Therefore, 73 per cent of public service employees interviewed during the audit acknowledge the occurrence of bureaucratic patronage.
Page 14 of the report states:
We note that not all manipulation of qualifications is evident. In our recent audits, we have found examples of tailoring qualifications to favour a particular candidate or group of candidates in both competitions open to the public and those open only to public servants.
In both examples cited, manipulation is evident. This includes "changing education, language and security requirements to match a specific candidate's profile."
Another report tabled this October by the Public Service Commission is entitled, Audit of Staffing File Documentation. Page 2 of the report states:
We found inadequate or missing documentation mostly in the assessment stage.
We found that competitive processes were better documented than without competition processes.
The rationale for the use of an appointment without competition was inadequate or missing in 15 per cent of the files; the assessment was inadequate in 38 per cent of the files; and 66 per cent of the files were without competition.
In its 2004-05 annual report, the Public Service Commission reports no political patronage. However, it does link bureaucratic patronage when analyzing and defining the issue of non-partisanship. Page 34 of the report defines bureaucratic patronage or personal favouritism. It states:
Within the federal public service's staffing and recruitment process, personal favouritism involves an inappropriate action or behaviour by a public servant who, by using knowledge, authority or influence, provides an unfair advantage or preferential treatment to: 1) a current employee or 2) a candidate for employment in the public service, for personal gain (benefit) and contrary to the good of the organization.
Most recognize that bureaucratic patronage can have a detrimental effect on the general public and, in particular, on public service employees. It has been demonstrated that the mere perception of bureaucratic patronage in the workplace impacts on employee motivation and effectiveness. Imagine the impact when 73 per cent of our public servants surveyed acknowledge that it was happening in their work units.
This situation is not exclusive to Canada. Other jurisdictions have tried to deal with this problem. For example, in the United Kingdom favouritism or bureaucratic patronage is referred to in the recruitment code, which establishes the fundamental recruitment principle where appointments must be on merit. In New Zealand, this problem is addressed through policy convention. It appears that the Australian model to deal with this issue works in a more efficient manner. Provisions against bureaucratic patronage are made on two levels in Australia. A direct provision was made when they modernized their Public Service Act in 1999. Section 17, entitled "Prohibition on patronage and favouritism," provides that a person exercising powers under the new act or regulation in respect of the engagement of the Australian public service employees, or in relation to the Australian public service employees, must do so without patronage or favouritism. Provisions against bureaucratic patronage are included in the Public Service Commissioner's direction in respect of three of the legislated values. Not only has Australia acted against bureaucratic patronage via principles, conventions and official practices of the department, but also it has given an official legal status that includes a grievance procedure.
Honourable senators, in conclusion, I believe that every competent Canadian should be able to apply for government jobs regardless of their home address and where the job is located in Canada.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Ringuette: It is a question of equity; it is a question of fairness; it is a question of rights under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The current selection process seriously limits job accessibility within the Public Service of Canada to all Canadians and thus deprives all Canadians of better equipped public employees.
It is the objective of this bill to amend the Public Service Employment Act and the act that will replace it to enhance access by Canadians to public service jobs in all parts of Canada by removing geographic limits to the selection process and adding grievance options against bureaucratic patronage. I hope that, like all other Canadians, honourable senators will support this bill and not accept any delay tactics that may be proposed.
On motion of Senator LeBreton, debate adjourned.
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Order Withdrawn
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harb, seconded by the Honourable Senator Mercer, for the second reading of Bill S-22, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (mandatory voting).—(Honourable Senator Stratton)
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I believe that this item has been debated. It now stands at day 15, and perhaps it might be dropped from the Order Paper.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is that agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
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 Rompkey, P.C.)
Hon. Bill Rompkey (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, this order now stands at day 15. However, I know that Senator Lapointe wishes to speak on the matter, and I notice that he is not here at the moment. Would senators agree to restart the clock to give him an opportunity to speak on this issue?
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
On motion of Senator Rompkey, for Senator Lapointe, debate adjourned.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, it is now time to consider a question of privilege, pursuant to notice given earlier today by Senator LeBreton.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton: Honourable senators, I rise on a question of privilege, of which I have previously given both written and oral notice. My concern arises from meetings with witnesses and some members of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence that took place yesterday and today in room 705, Victoria Building.
First, no public notice was given of these meetings, in contravention of rule 92(1), which reads:
Except as provided in sections (2) and (3) below, all meetings of Senate standing and special committees shall be held in public and only after public notice.
I note that the proceedings of these meetings were neither recorded nor broadcast, and the absence of public notice effectively made them secret meetings.
Second, to the best of my knowledge, no senator who was not a member of the committee received a notice, which effectively makes it impossible for senators to attend and participate in the deliberations, thereby breaching the fundamental privileges of all senators and essentially rendering inoperative rule 91, which reads:
...a senator though not a member of a committee may attend and participate in its deliberations but shall not vote.
How are senators to attend a meeting of which they have no knowledge?
In this context I would draw to your attention a point of order raised by the Honourable Senator Colin Kenny in which he objected to subcommittees meeting without giving public notice. He based his argument on the breach of rule 91.
In his ruling of June 7, 1999, Mr. Speaker Molgat said:
By giving public notice, committees ensure that all senators, as well as members of the general public, are informed of upcoming meetings. Historically, notice has been provided by a variety of means, ranging from posting paper copies of the notices in various locations on Parliament Hill to the current practice of putting them on the Internet and faxing them directly to interested parties. This rule certainly applies to meetings of standing committees such as the Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration whenever it meets in public session.
Honourable senators, the purpose of giving notice is to enable both senators and members of the public an opportunity to prepare for the hearings. If no notice is given, people will not only be unprepared, they are likely to be altogether absent. This surely defeats the very purpose of holding hearings in the first place. What is the point of hearings if no one is there to hear them? How useful are hearings if no one is prepared?
Third, I understand there was no simultaneous interpretation available during the course of the meetings, which is in contravention of section 4(2) of the Official Languages Act, which reads as follows:
(2) Facilities shall be made available for the simultaneous interpretation of the debates and other proceedings of Parliament from one official language into the other.
There may be exigent circumstances that might compel Parliament or its committees to operate without simultaneous interpretation. However, I do not believe that any such difficulties were present this morning or yesterday which might justify the absence of simultaneous interpretation.
Finally, these meetings were not held during the time slot allocated to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. While it has been stated repeatedly that committees are the master of their own procedures, scheduling extra meetings with little or, in this case, no notice makes it difficult or impossible for senators to attend.
While those are the basic points I wish to make, I would add that I managed to obtain a copy of a document marked in bold upper case words: "Confidential: Not for Public Distribution" which bore the heading: "Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, Consultations, Ottawa, October 17 and 18" and then listed the agenda. Both listed the meetings that began on the two mornings that are the subject of this question of privilege, with their times and locations noting that: "Participants will meet with committee members for informal discussions on a series of themes."
In closing, I cite Beauchesne's 6th edition page 11, paragraph 24:
...The distinctive mark of a privilege is its ancillary character. The privileges of Parliament are rights which are "absolutely necessary for the due execution of its powers." They are enjoyed by individual Members, because the House cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its Members; and by each House for the protection of its members and the vindication of its own authority and dignity.
If a senator is effectively denied the right and the ability to attend meetings of select committees due to the absence of the notice required by the Rules of the Senate, that senator cannot perform his or her functions; that senator cannot fulfill his or her duties. The rights of that senator have been infringed, the privileges of that senator have been violated, and the rights and privileges of Parliament are accordingly under attack. This attack on our privileges as parliamentarians cannot go unremarked and unchecked.
As I noted when I gave oral notice earlier this day, this is the first opportunity at which I could raise this matter. It directly affects my privileges as a senator, and the privilege of all senators, and I believe that this is a grave and serious breach of our privileges. Accordingly, if you find that there is a prima facie case, I stand prepared to move the appropriate motion.
Hon. Colin Kenny: I thank honourable senators for the opportunity to reply.
I agree with the argument that has been put forward by Senator LeBreton. It is essentially correct in terms of the rules, if there had been a meeting of the committee. There was, however, no meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence at that time. There was a meeting that commenced at 4:30 pm on Monday, October 17, and the usual notice was distributed and sent out by the clerk. That meeting was posted, and notice circulated in the normal way.
What Senator LeBreton is referring to is a meeting that I, personally, was having with a group of individuals, and as a courtesy, I advised the other members of the committee that I was going ahead with this meeting. This was a meeting between a senator and a group of individuals who were assisting me and some members of the Library of Parliament in preparing research to produce documents for subsequent work.
There was never any intention for the committee to meet. To be more precise, there was no meeting of an official nature. The clerk of the committee phoned every member of the committee on Friday, advising them that there was no official committee meeting but that senators should be aware that I was having this meeting. They were free to come. If the people who were attending were of interest to any senator, then I was happy to have those senators present. However, it was not a committee meeting.
I have been advised by the clerk — and I might say that this happened when I was not in Ottawa — that the office of every senator involved was advised that this was not a committee meeting. There was no notice sent out for it. Therefore, I am somewhat at a loss, inasmuch as I think I am entitled to meet with anybody I want to meet with. In this case, I was meeting with individuals who were interested in the subject matter that I was interested in, and the purpose of that meeting was to better prepare myself — and the people from the library — on a subject matter that is of interest to the committee.
We had a talk. There was no translation. There was no record of the meeting. It took place in room 705 of the Victoria Building simply because there is not enough space in my office for people to sit down and to have the discussion. The only way one could characterize that meeting was as a private meeting. Committee members had been aware for some time that I had intended to meet with these people. It was simply to say to them, "Do not feel excluded, and if you want to, come and sit in." In fact, only one person chose to come and sit in, and they did that today, and they did so for a brief period of time.
For the meeting that was official, which did take place last night, all of the proper rules were followed. The appropriate notice went out. There was translation and there was recording. Proper notice was given and the meeting took place in the proper time slot. That is available for anyone to see.
As for the document that was referred to by Senator LeBreton, I must say I saw that for the first time today. As she stated, it is a document that describes — and I would be happy to table it — my meeting, and then goes on to discuss the other official meetings that were taking place that day. However, they were two totally separate things.
All I can say is that the other members of the committee were advised in an effort to be transparent and not the other way around. They were advised that it was taking place simply because, previously when I had had preparatory meetings, some members of the committee had said, "Well, I would not mind sitting in. If you are going to have a discussion with these people, I would be interested in hearing what they have to say." Honourable senators, that is the explanation of what took place.
Every member of the committee, I believe, will say that they received a phone call in their office from the clerk making sure they understood that it was not an official meeting of the committee. That is why no notice was sent out. We do not send out notices for private meetings. We do not have translation for private meetings. The private meeting was a preparatory exercise so that I, in particular — but the staff as well, who do a great deal of work on these matters — would be better prepared for the work that the committee is doing. That is the explanation.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Senator, please have some respect. We are members of the Senate, of the Parliament of Canada; we are not the village idiots. This is the October 17 and 18 agenda of the consultations of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. There was to be an 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. thematic discussion with a panel of experts. I will table it for all senators to read. The agenda states that a light working lunch will be provided and that participants will meet with committee members for informal discussions on a series of themes. It then goes through the themes and the location. It then says that at five o'clock a panel of experts will give testimony, which the honourable senator calls his real meeting. This is not really a meeting. The agenda then goes through to the evening. The next morning the meeting is reconvened with a panel of experts.
Who is the honourable senator trying to kid here? This is a serious matter. There was no translation between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. so that he could get around the rules. He sought the concurrence of our leadership and his leadership. I am not sure how his leadership responded, but our leadership said no. We did not say no to be disrespectful. We do not say no on this side because we do not respect the good work the committee. We said no because the Rules of the Senate are set up to protect us, the minority. We are the minority in this place. I am hopeful of the day that the honourable senator will be part of the minority and he will understand what all of this means. Our rules are meant to prevent abuses of power and the abuses of the majority. That is exactly what we have here.
It seems that the honourable senator does not care what the rules are. The rules are established so that we can function and provide an opposition to the government in this place. If one committee unilaterally decides to ignore normal procedures and simply go its merry way, others may follow. What is to stop any chairman of the majority party from calling a meeting at any time outside of what has been established in the rules and sending out notices in one official language only to those privileged few who are members of that committee?
Honourable senators, I am a proponent of bilingualism because I do not speak French. If a chairman were to send me this agenda in French only, I would be very upset, as would all honourable senators, whether they speak one language or two or three or four. This agenda was not only the outline of what Senator Kenny calls his non-meeting but also of the meeting itself, which he says was a meeting at five o'clock and is also in here in one official language.
It is my view, Your Honour, that this is a clear question of privilege, one which affects us all and needs to be resolved in short order. A finding of a prima facie case of privilege will enable the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament to consider this matter and ensure that it does not occur again.
Senator Kenny: If I may, there have been errors of fact here.
First, Senator Tkachuk, I did not seek any permission to hold this meeting. I did not go to the leadership of either party and request permission to hold the meeting because it was not a committee meeting. There was no need or cause for me to go to either side to request the meeting. I did have a discussion with my deputy leader and advised him that it was not an official committee meeting.
Second, it went out in one language because that is the language that I communicate in. If the honourable senators look at the official committee communications that have taken place since the committee was founded, all of them have been bilingual.
Having said that, for something that is a personal notice from me to my colleagues saying, "Look, I am going ahead with this," I am entitled to communicate in whatever language I choose. It was by way of informing them that I welcomed them to drop in if they wanted to do so. I had really no expectation of people coming to the meeting.
On the other hand, the last time I had a meeting of this sort I had a senator say, "Had I known you were meeting, I would have been interested and I would have come." That is why I asked that a note be sent around to people. To say that I sought approval from your leadership or my leadership, I did not.
Senator Tkachuk: On a point —
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, reference has been made to a document. I believe that the honourable senators who referred to it were prepared to table it. Do we have consent for the document to be tabled?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Tkachuk: Your Honour, there seems to be another issue. I want to ensure that I have this right. I believe Senator Kenny said that the clerk was involved in this private meeting. Perhaps the honourable senator will be able to clarify this point and perhaps the Rules Committee could look at this issue, namely, for whom does the clerk work? Does the clerk work for the committee? Is he or she an employee of the chairman of the committee? It seems that these waters have been muddied, and perhaps the Rules Committee could clarify the issue.
Hon. Tommy Banks: I do not want to interrupt Senator Kenny's train of thought, but I want to declare a mea culpa because I may be affected by the question of privilege.
I held a meeting last night with the clerk of the committee of which I have the honour to be the chair, with two researchers from the Library of Parliament and with a panel of experts who will be appearing before our committee this afternoon. I only invited one other member of my committee to be there. That meeting was in preparation for this evening's meeting. I must say that I do that quite often. I can, if requested, provide the agenda that was prepared for that meeting. It took place last night. The circumstances seem to be virtually identical, and I am wondering whether I have done something wrong and should not in future have meetings in order to be better prepared for subsequent committee meetings with the witnesses who are to appear at those meetings. I ask the question rhetorically, I guess, of Senator Tkachuk.
Senator Tkachuk: Is my honourable friend asking me a question?
Senator Banks: Yes. Was I wrong?
Senator Tkachuk: Perhaps the members of the Rules Committee can look into that as well, if they wish.
Senator Kenny: In this case, the clerk phoned around simply because there was a regular meeting of the committee that night. To ensure that there was no confusion between the two, I asked the clerk, upon hearing of this notice, to give me a description of what happened. I am happy to read it into the record:
Barbara did a courtesy call to all committee members on Friday, October 14, 2005, as Senator Kenny requested, informing senators of two days of meetings with experts and emphasizing that this was not a formal committee activity. The committee members were told that they were welcome to participate in discussions with researchers and experts and could feel free to come and go as they pleased, but it was by no means a command performance and an official committee activity. Otherwise, an official meeting notice would have been issued.
Barbara provided an overview of both days to all committee members for their interest. The itinerary that was drawn up for the purposes of the experts was e-mailed for their information to Senators Forrestall, Meighen, Banks, Cordy, Day and Munson. Senator Forrestall was the only senator who indicated any interest in attending, and his office was the only office that asked for an overview of which experts would be in attendance.
Barbara received a call from Senator Kinsella's office late Friday afternoon with respect to the meeting with the experts. Barbara emphasized that the experts were witnesses for the evening panel, from 5 to 5:45 on Monday, October 17, 2005, as listed on the meeting notice. The fact that they were meeting with researchers earlier in the day had nothing to do with the Committees directorate; rather, the meetings were initiated by the researchers to maximize the information that could be learned from these qualified specialists.
A representation was also made late Friday afternoon by Senator Kinsella's office to the Deputy Principal Clerk, Cathy Piccinin, raising concerns that the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence was allegedly meeting at a time outside of its allotted 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday night meeting slot. A concern was also raised that a document (itinerary) with the header "Senate Committee on National Security and Defence: Consultations" had been given to certain committee members but concealed from ex officio members. The fact that the document had a header stating the committee name led to the conclusion that the meetings must be official meetings.
It should be emphasized that all arrangements for the day meetings with the experts were made by Senator Kenny's office, and the meetings were carried out with researchers assigned to the committee by the Library of Parliament.
Honourable senators, there was no effort at all to have something that was surreptitious or to have an official meeting of these people. It was simply a courtesy call to let other people know that I was going ahead and having this meeting and, if it was of interest to somebody, they could feel free to come or not, as they chose.
Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Briefly, honourable senators, as a member of this committee, I am well aware of the workload assumed by members of this committee and by the chair in particular. Without for a second questioning the intent of the chair or, indeed, of anybody else, I think the problem lies in the communication of what exactly was proposed to be held. That is often the case, as we all know. Language is such an imperfect tool of communication, whether it is written or spoken.
As I told the chair when the message came to my office, not being resident in Ottawa, and even more so for somebody like Senator Banks, who is resident much farther away than I or Senator Day, the message that came through was that while the proposed gathering was not an official meeting, it was something that would be of great assistance to members of the committee in carrying out their work. Therefore, I, for one, felt rather guilty that I had made previous commitments and was not able to be there.
As I also explained to Senator Kenny, it was not clear in the message that I received that this was essentially a meeting between staff and experts. I know the dilemma that the chair found himself in because, as he mentioned himself, on another occasion he had been criticized for having such a meeting between staff and experts at which he attended and had not informed other members of the committee.
We must be careful, given the Rules of the Senate and the necessity of protecting the rights of the minority, about holding too many informal meetings and proceeding in a way that, in many ways, leads people to believe that one is doing indirectly what one cannot do directly. That is the danger.
Certainly, we have a hard-working and talented staff on this committee. They have innumerable meetings with possible witnesses and others. The chair himself, as with any other senator, is entitled to meet with whomever he wishes. The danger is a proliferation of semi-official or unofficial gatherings at which a large number of people are present minus some members of the committee. If these types of meetings continue, we could be in the position of having a very well-informed staff, a very well-informed nucleus of committee members, and substantially less well-informed other members of the committee who were unable to attend these informal meetings as frequently as those who are resident in or near Ottawa.
As far as I am concerned, I would be satisfied with an undertaking or a conclusion that we have to be careful in the holding of informal meetings among a considerable number of people, particularly those related to a committee, because it leads to the type of difficulty that we find ourselves in today. Perhaps the lesson has been learned, and perhaps, going forward, we can be more careful in these situations. I, for one, hope that we can reconsider our practices and in the future endeavour to limit these types of non-official, unofficial gatherings.
Senator Tkachuk: As a point of clarification, would the "Barbara" that the senator was referring to be Ms. Reynolds, who is the clerk of the committee?
Senator Kenny: Yes.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, the answer is in the affirmative. Ms. Reynolds is the clerk of the committee.
Hon. Madeleine Plamondon: I should like to make a comment. As a senator and as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, I did not know that there was some kind of preparation like this with the library staff. Do the people who see the committee and the witnesses on CPAC know that preparations have been made with the witnesses before the questioning? Are the dice loaded because they know in advance the approach, if not the questions?
I will be suspicious from now on, if there are such meetings, about the questions prepared by the committee. I will prepare my own questions.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, I think we might be ready to hear from two senators based on the information at hand. Unless there is new information, Senator Kenny will now have the floor, followed by Senators Forrestall and Cools.
Senator Kenny: I rise only because new information has come up to which I need to respond. It is simply to point out that before every meeting of the committee, a very substantial briefing book is prepared.
In the case of our committee, prior to preparing reports, notes are done up on each of the issues that senators are likely to want to consider during the course of the preparation of the report. The issue notes try and go through the pros and cons of each subject of the issue.
Staff prepare for these things by talking to experts in the field and finding out what the pros and cons are of a particular issue. The individuals concerned do not arrive on the staff with the knowledge of every issue that may come forward. As a consequence, they are regularly going out to talk to people about what they know or what their views are, or to get a better explanation so that they can reduce that information so that the committee can understand what the issues are and have a better opportunity to ask questions.
The briefing books are a very onerous task and are a result, in virtually every case, of the library officials doing research on their own or actually talking to people, saying "What do you know about this, and what can you tell us about this given subject?" That information is then reduced to a size that the committee members can manage and read in a reasonable amount of time. Essentially, it is collated in a way that the senators can take best advantage of during the course of a hearing itself.
It is not an exercise in rigging questions or planting information; it is a matter of collecting information to save senators time, and organizing it in such a way that senators, when they are having a hearing, can ask questions on subjects that are often quite new to them, in a reasonably comprehensive way.
That is the purpose of having these meetings. They are not unusual. I have been in the Senate for 21 years. These sorts of things have been the practice in the Senate, where staff go out and ask experts to help clarify an issue. Please do not read a conspiracy into it; read into it an effort by the committee staff to be diligent in making preparations for senators on the committee.
Hon. J. Michael Forrestall: Honourable senators, I want to briefly intervene and make two or three points.
First, I have no question in my mind as to whether or not the committee contravened in any specific way the rules of the chamber with respect to the sittings of committees, their hearings and how they conduct themselves. What the chairman of the committee has indicated to Senate colleagues is essentially correct. It was very simple.
Whether it was an error in communication, a mistake made by a clerk who had been with us and who had left us and who had come back and acted in a normal, understandable way to a direction, I do not know. I do not know the answer to that. I do know that there is no doubt in my mind that the meeting yesterday morning was not a meeting of the committee, in any formal sense whatsoever.
We had an occasion and an opportunity to recall not just witnesses who had already appeared before us — although most of them had — but others as well who had taken the time to read the first report. We wanted to understand what some of the finest military and academic minds in Canada thought about that report. It was important that we go back to the people who had advised us, to see and to determine and to satisfy ourselves that we had probably got it right. There was nothing whatsoever wrong with that, as I understand it. The difficulty will need to lie with your office and your assistants with respect to that; and I assume you will be duly summoned to the appropriate chamber to give consideration to this matter.
My second point is that, while I understand the concern of my deputy leader, who asked me yesterday morning not to attend the meeting because it was improper, I had no idea of the basis of that opinion, nor was anyone able to advise me. However, to facilitate my leadership, I avoided attending the meeting when I knew, because of the notices that I had received, that the meeting was highly probably to deal with Bill C-26. There was no difficulty with that.
Where the problem that I have arises is that if we deny ourselves because we are over-anxious, or we are trying to do too much in too short a period of time, or whatever, we deny ourselves a very useful function of not just the committees of the Senate of Canada but of the other place as well. I find that access to information, no matter how much you think you know about given subjects, is always enhanced and enriched when you review it with those who are known to be expert, and who have demonstrated such by their public service and otherwise — through teaching, perhaps, which is a form of public service. Hence the reports could only be better — better received, better understood and more credible and believable.
I would not want us to take something that happened here in the last couple of days and turn it into some charade that somebody was perpetrating upon the members of the Senate. That is not what it was about at all. It was about advising those who must finally assist us in putting together reports, to assist them as well as us in understanding the complex issues faced by Canada's national Armed Forces today; and they are complex and very deep.
I would conclude with this observation: Perhaps what is required is a referral to the appropriate committee. I do not think it is a question of privilege. I do not think anyone's privilege has been affected, really. However, what probably needs to be looked at is the way in which we perceive. Let us look at the process to determine whether there is a way to avoid a misunderstanding because this is clearly a misunderstanding. Ms. Reynolds, probably one of the finest clerks ever to serve a committee of the Parliament of Canada, might have made a slip, and I am not saying that she did make one, given her busy schedule. There was confusion as to what was proper and approved. The members of the committee work hard and put in longer hours than anyone else. Do not jump on a system because it is too productive.
Senator Comeau: Oh, oh.
Senator Forrestall: Who said that you did not work, Senator Comeau? I know the work that you do and you know that I know, so do not get touchy about things that will not affect you in any way, other than beneficially.
Senator Comeau has led this chamber in innovative ways to reach people through video conferencing. Has Senator Comeau ever done that outside his structured committee? I do not know the answer and it is not important. However, it is important that you use it as a tool to obtain correct, up-to-date information to assist the committee in its deliberations. That is what we are after. If there is a better way, then perhaps the committee could tell us about it. I do not think there is basis for a question of privilege here. However, if there is, I will be somewhat surprised and I would ask that honourable senators not let it slow the process or deter committees from seeking any avenue to obtain good, correct information for reports that are necessary to the enhancement of Canada through the Senate.
Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I would like to join this debate that has raised some important issues. Perhaps, honourable senators, I could begin by giving His Honour some assistance by delineating the Speaker's true purpose in this matter.
It is my understanding of rules 43 and 44 of the Rules of the Senate that the Speaker's function and purpose in this debate is not to make a decision on the substantive issue of whether there is a breach of privilege, but rather to make a prima facie decision that has the effect of allowing the real debate on the substantive issue to move forward. The Speaker of the Senate has the authority to find the question urgent and important enough that such a motion can be moved and be followed by debate on that motion. Larger issues are being raised as this debate proceeds and it is improper to throw those issues onto the shoulders of the Senate Speaker. I ask that honourable senators understand and support that. Rule 43(1) of the Rules of the Senate clearly states, in part:
The preservation of the privileges of the Senate is the duty of every Senator. A violation of the privileges of any one Senator affects those of all Senators and the ability of the Senate to carry out its functions outlined in the Constitution Act, 1867. Action to ensure such protection takes priority over every other matter before the Senate.
The rule continues and lays out the conditions to be met by such a question so that the Speaker may deem the matter urgent and a priority. A first blush finding, which is the meaning of prima facie, allows a motion to be moved so that the real debate can take place on the substantive issues. Senators must understand that the process to determine privilege must remain the decision of the senators and the Senate as a whole. That is extremely important. In a way it is a great tragedy that we did away with the committee of privileges as a Committee of the Whole many years ago.
The senator who raised the question of privilege may move a motion and then the true debate is on that particular motion. I ask honourable senators to bear that in mind because many senators are unaware that it is through debate on that motion that the substantive issues are to be tackled. I will speak to that later. It is apparent that there is no malicious intent on the part of the committee or its staff to deprive senators of anything. That should be borne in mind as we move ahead.
The two honourable senators who have initiated this debate on the issue in respect of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence know that I, and other senators, have great respect for the work of that committee. I hope that this discussion in no way hurts, offends or damages any of the informed, enlightened and erudite persons who appeared before the committee over the last two days, particularly on Monday. Those individuals who might read the Debates of the Senate should understand that there is no intention whatsoever to question their knowledge or integrity. Honourable senators, we frequently forget that others are watching and listening to the proceedings of the Senate. Since we are dealing with this phenomenon, we have a duty to protect those individuals who have come forward voluntarily to appear before committees and to assist senators in their studies.
Honourable senators, I listened with interest to the comments of Senator Kenny and Senator Banks, for whom I have great respect. Senator Banks has intimated and indicated that as a committee chair he has done the same thing, and more than once, I understand. Thus, we should not isolate Senator Kenny and the members of the National Security and Defence Committee in any way. Perhaps we should broaden our minds and consider that these practices might have grown randomly. Before we judge certain senators harshly or cruelly, we should ascertain the degree to which some of these practices might have evolved. In that way, those who are involved in these practices could have an opportunity to curb them. I am convinced that this house, the Senate, would be satisfied should such practices be corrected without impugning any senator or employee of the Senate.
I say this, honourable senators, because I was trained as a child to believe, and I do believe, that the beauty of our system is always the process, and that wherever there is a problem, if we are prepared to do the study and the work, there is a solution.
Having said that, it seems to me that there is a need for us to have some clarification of what the powers of a chairman are and what the duties of a committee are. We know that a committee is a creature of the house. I will quote from The Chairman's Handbook by Sir Reginald Palgrave:
Duties and Powers of a Committee
A committee being a body endowed with delegated powers cannot act independently of its originating authority, or exceed the commission entrusted to it, or entrust its duties to others. The assistance of those who appoint the committee is its legitimate function.
In other words, a committee is appointed to assist the chamber. Therefore, Senator Kenny sitting in that situation on Monday was unquestionably attempting to assist the Senate.
Since, as we understand, the committee is the agent, the creature, of the house, we also understand that the chairman is the creature of the committee and therefore the servant of the committee. Likewise, the staff are the servants of the entire committee.
To the extent that Senator Kenny and the committee were attempting to assist the Senate in its study on the issues, I would say that there is not a breach of privilege per se. I think that the issue is more a matter of order.
In any event, if we cannot define exactly how we should proceed, perhaps the originator of the question of privilege could withdraw the question of privilege and the matter could be moved forward in a different manner where we can canvass all the issues pertaining to the proper functioning of a committee.
That is just one idea, and it may not be a workable idea. It would have been better to have put a motion before the chamber discussing the functioning of committees and committee chairmen rather than whether privilege was breached in this situation by a particular chairman. It seems to me that it would be much better if the issues were canvassed through a motion, absent the finding of a question of privilege.
In any event, honourable senators, it is clear to me that there is much to be desired with regard to how committees are functioning these days. I attend many committee meetings, and I am not happy with how many committee chairmen handle those committees, and I am quite often not happy with the way in which many of those committees function. However, I believe the debate should be on those grounds and those issues.
I have it on good information that it is not only Senator Banks and Senator Kenny who are doing this but that other committee chairmen are doing likewise. That is why I have proposed that we go down a slightly different avenue, but I will accept the decisions that are made. I am looking forward to taking part in the debate on the motion.
The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Honourable senators, I want to thank all the senators who took part in this debate. I will be wise and reserve my ruling so that I may consider what honourable senators have just said. The ruling will be reported to you at a subsequent sitting.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, October 19, 2005, at 1:30 p.m.