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Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 14

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The Honourable Rose-Marie Losier-Cool Speaker pro tempore


 

THE SENATE

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker pro tempore in the chair.

Prayers.

SENATORS' STATEMENTS

Special Olympics

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, last month I had the privilege of being part of Canada's Special Olympics Team in Boise, Idaho, for the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Canada was proudly represented by 113 athletes, coaches and volunteers. Our athletes brought home a record 20 medals, 11 of those gold.

In the weeks ahead, when the business of this chamber and the rough-and-tumble of politics gets me down, I will remember the days I spent with enthusiastic and well-trained competitors, committed and devoted coaches, and family members so proud that they could burst. I will keep with me always the memories of these Special Olympians, who face so many challenges in their day-to-day lives, being winners and heroes on the world stage. Indeed, that is what makes these Special Olympics so wonderful. It creates opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to train and compete at an international level.

(1405)

In Boise, our athletes joined 2,500 others from 100 countries, who took part in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoeing, curling and speed skating.

[Translation]

The Special Olympics movement, which began in the 1960s, has done a lot to combat prejudices.

[English]

The Special Olympics movement has done so much to remove the stigma surrounding intellectual disabilities. It has done so much for inclusion and for changing the way we think and see others. I congratulate the government for including $1.5 million in Budget 2009 in support of Special Olympians. It is extremely appreciated.

[Translation]

The Special Olympics open doors for people who often find themselves facing closed ones. They also help many people see the potential in others.

[English]

Honourable senators must trust me when I say that the best cure for cynicism is to get involved in the Special Olympics. One can be a coach or a volunteer; or one can take an athlete to practice or contribute financially to the movement. By supporting the Special Olympics, one can help to break down the barriers that still exist for people with intellectual disabilities.

As honourable senators know, this is a personal cause of mine. By supporting the Special Olympics, we will make Canada more inclusive and the world a better place.

Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Lorraine Brett, a resident of New Westminster, the oldest city in British Columbia. The city is celebrating 150 years. She is the guest of the Honourable Senator Yonah Martin.

On behalf of all senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.

The Late Honourable Michael Baker, Q.C.

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, last evening my province of Nova Scotia lost a fine public servant when the Honourable Michael Baker died at age 52 following a courageous battle with cancer.

Mike Baker was a well-known and respected lawyer in Lunenburg County prior to entering provincial politics in 1998. Upon the election of the Progressive Conservative government in 1999, he was appointed Minister of Justice by then Premier John Hamm. When Premier Rodney MacDonald succeeded Premier Hamm in 2005, he appointed Mr. Baker Minister of Finance, a portfolio he held until his death yesterday.

In addition to the Justice and Finance portfolios, at various times Mr. Baker had responsibility for the Treasury and Policy Board, the Human Rights Act, Workers' Compensation, Aboriginal Affairs, Communications Nova Scotia and the Public Service Commission. He also held the position of Government House Leader during a critical time in the life of the minority government.

Senators on the National Finance Committee will remember his testimony before that committee during the furor over the Atlantic accord. I understand that Michael Baker also appeared before our Special Committee on Aging and our Agriculture Committee. He impressed us all with his clarity of thought and expression.

Despite his cancer diagnosis in 2006, Michael carried on his duties with courage and dedication almost to the day he died. Just a few weeks ago, he was honoured for his service to the legal community and to the province of Nova Scotia at the opening of the new Justice Centre in Bridgewater — a project which he championed for many years.

Public life in Nova Scotia has sustained a great loss, and I want to pay tribute today to the memory of Michael Baker and to extend my deepest sympathy to the members of his family.

Hon. Stephen Greene: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to the Honourable Michael Baker, who was our Minister of Finance for the Province of Nova Scotia. He was only 52 when he died last night after a long battle with cancer.

Michael was first elected to the legislative assembly in March 1997 and was re-elected in July 1999, August 2003 and again in June 2006. His cabinet duties included Minister of Finance, Minister of Transportation and Public Works, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Minister of Justice, Attorney General and Chair of Treasury and Policy Board.

His time as Minister of Finance is distinguished by the fact that he delivered three consecutive balanced budgets, two of which were passed unanimously by Nova Scotia's House of Assembly. It is likely that Michael was preparing for his fourth balanced budget which, in these troubled times, would make Nova Scotia a unique government in Canada.

While he loved Nova Scotia and political discourse of any kind, he was first of all a family man and loved his wife, Cindy, and their two boys, Matthew and Daniel. He worried about them constantly.

Michael Baker was a gentle giant of a man with a big heart and an even bigger brain. He was a true intellectual, a rare quality among politicians, as we all know, and could speak at length, and deeply, on virtually any topic. He had a wonderful sense of humour.

I had the privilege of spending about three hours alone with him a few months ago when we drove down Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore one afternoon. We solved all of the problems of the world on that trip.

What I will always remember, in particular, is that Michael did not let his illness slow him down. He pushed himself to the limit, and would often show up at events when he was not expected.

I also had the privilege of watching him in cabinet in the last two years of his life. While his physical appearance was obviously deteriorating, the power of his mind and spirit shone through. Daily, his good cheer provided inspiration to me and to everyone around him.

I am honoured to have called him my friend. Michael, you are with the angels now.

(1410)

President Barack Obama

Hon. Donald H. Oliver: Honourable senators, Prime Minister Harper made all Canadians proud of the way he presided over the recent visit to Ottawa from President Obama. Prime Minister Harper's words, particularly at the press conference aired throughout North America, reinforced the way Canada and the United States are economies that have countless similarities and are highly integrated.

For me, as the first Black man appointed to the Senate in Canadian history and the only male Afro-Canadian in the Conservative national caucus, I was particularly proud when Air Force One landed at the Ottawa International Airport little over one week ago. The first Black President of the United States of America was greeted by our own first Black head of state, Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean. The picture of two Black heads of state from two of the world's most influential countries sends out a powerful message to Canadians and to the rest of the world.

President Obama was then welcomed by a crowd of more than 2,500 people who stood outside for hours in typical, cold, Ottawa winter weather hoping to have a glimpse of the president.

John Geddes of Maclean's magazine wrote:

They love him because as a Black man in the White House, he represents triumph of progress. They admire him because he carries himself with a poise that invests mass politics with a seriousness that it too often lacks.

As Marlene Jennings, the only Afro-Canadian in the House of Commons said:

President Obama's visit to Canada is a powerful symbol that has energized members of the Black community and other minorities. Black children now see their full potential and realize that no dream is too big. President Obama has made history — he is a role model for young and old and for people of all colours.

However, we also need to be reminded of the accomplishments of Black people before him who, though they may not have become President of the United States, have contributed to our society.

Honourable senators, Black History Month ended over the weekend, but I call your attention to a new book written by University of Manitoba professor Keith Sandiford, entitled A Black Studies Primer: Heroes and Heroines of the African Diaspora.

In a review of this 500-page book, John Harewood of The Globe and Mail notes that the author tells the true, historical stories of more than 1,000 Black personalities considered as "the greatest innovators and the most influential among them." This book sheds some light on the lives of men and women whose stories have been forgotten, some never told. It ". . . debunks myths and emphasizes the authenticity and significance of historical data . . . it should be welcomed by readers of every age as a rich and enlightening resource."

While President Obama's visit to Ottawa reminded us of what one individual can do in his life, the stories told in this book remind us that we can all make a difference in this world regardless of skin colour. That is why Black History Month is so important and why we must teach Black history in our schools.

Honourable senators, one Toronto author said that President Obama's visit was about more than trade. It reached to the core of issues that we are grappling with as Canadians. It was about diversity and equality. It was about recognizing the potential in every human being. As Professor Galabuzi from Ryerson University says, it is also about possibilities, a possibility of a fuller citizenship.

Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Congratulations on Twenty-fifth Anniversary

Hon. Bill Rompkey: Honourable senators, on February 18, I had the honour as a founder to attend the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business gala event. It brought together over 500 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal business and community leaders to celebrate the mutual benefits of working together.

The CCAB is a national Aboriginal non-profit organization that offers knowledge, resources and programs to mainstream and Aboriginal-owned member communities. It fosters economic opportunities for Aboriginal people and businesses across the country.

The CCAB was founded by Murray Koffler, Order of Canada — founder of Shoppers Drug Mart and co-founder of the Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts — and a small group of visionary business and community leaders. In 1984, Mr. Koffler assembled individuals from government, Aboriginal leaders and a "who's who" of the Canadian business world, which included at that time, Paul Martin, Maurice Strong and Edgar Bronfman. He asked the group one question: "Is there a role for Canadian business to play in the economic development of Canada's native people?" The answer then, as it is today, is a resounding yes.

Murray Koffler believed business could share its resources and expertise to enhance opportunity for Aboriginal people. His vision has generated impressive results in Aboriginal employment, business development and positive community relations.

Today, productive business relationships with Aboriginal peoples and communities make good business sense. More and more, Canadian businesses are interested in and open to the opportunities of working with Aboriginal people. The exponential growth of Aboriginal entrepreneurialism reveals a sophisticated and ambitious businessperson who is looking to partner, collaborate and succeed. Couple these qualities with the worldwide focus on corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and the future looks bright for Aboriginal peoples.

(1415)

The mandate of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business has never been more relevant, and the stage is now set for another quarter of a century of progressive change. The president and chief executive officer of the council is Clint Davis from Labrador. I congratulate him and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business on 25 years of excellence.

Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Honourable senators, the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group sent an all-party delegation last week to Washington to advocate actively issues affecting Canada's interests. We met with 38 governors, 15 senators, 25 congressmen, their staff and academics and specialists on Canada-U.S. matters.

We attended the annual meeting of the National Governors Association, participated in the meeting of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, PNWER, hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center's Canada Institute and, finally, went to Capitol Hill. Additionally, we attended meetings hosted by the Canadian Embassy in Washington, including the Great Lakes water association.

I led one team in our lobbying efforts and Senator Johnson capably led the other. We focused on five issues: the ongoing "thickening" and delays at the border, especially as they might affect British Columbia and the Olympic Games next year; the "buy-America" protectionist provisions in the various states that will receive the bulk of infrastructure funding from the federal recovery package; arising trade irritants once again on softwood lumber; labels of origin affecting agricultural products; and finally, a sleeper, anticipatory regulatory changes affecting Canada's large hydroelectricity facilities and, of course, the tar sands.

Some of us audited governors' meetings on infrastructure, and congressional hearing committees on energy, climate change and the financial sector, which were most informative as they set out the current thinking in Washington.

(1420)

The mood in Washington, honourable senators, was hectic and heated about economic issues, overshadowed by the dangerous rising question of U.S. debt, which will exceed $11 trillion and will grow to double in the years ahead, with interest costs approaching half a trillion dollars in the near future.

It was imperative to bring to the U.S. decision makers Canada's concerns. Over and over again, we brought to Washington's attention that Canada is the largest trading partner of 35 U.S. states and that Canada and the United States represent the largest trading bloc in the world, approaching half a trillion dollars a year.

We reminded decision makers of Canada's robust role in NATO and, specifically, that we were punching well above our weight in Afghanistan.

Washington is obviously absorbed in the global economic crisis. It is our job as Canadian parliamentarians to press forward on all fronts to ensure that Canada's interests are heard and respected, and do not suffer from unintended or consequential damages as America moves forward to address the historically fearsome economic issues confronting it, its people and its marketplace.

The Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group will continue its activist role in the weeks and months ahead with an even greater frequency of meetings with its Washington counterparts.

I thank members of the entire all-party delegation who worked so assiduously last week in Washington to drive home Canada's vital economic interests, which are at the heart of America's interests as well.


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Property Qualification of Senators

Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, pursuant to the order adopted on January 27, 2009, I have the honour to table the list of senators who have renewed their Declaration of Property Qualification.

National Security and Defence

Report Pursuant to Rule 104(2) Tabled

Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 104(2) of the Rules of the Senate, I have the honour to table the first report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, which deals with the expenses incurred by the committee during the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament.

(For text of report, see today's Journals of the Senate, p. 198.)

Scrutiny of Regulations

First Report of Joint Committee Presented

Hon. J. Trevor Eyton, Joint Chair of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, presented the following report:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations has the honour to present its

FIRST REPORT

Your committee reports that in relation to its permanent reference, section 19 of the Statutory Instruments Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. S-22, the committee was previously empowered "to study the means by which Parliament can better oversee the government regulatory process and in particular to enquire into and report upon:

1. the appropriate principles and practices to be observed

(a) in the drafting of powers enabling delegates of Parliament to make subordinate laws;

(b) in the enactment of statutory instruments;

(c) in the use of executive regulation — including delegated powers and subordinate laws;

and the manner in which Parliamentary control should be effected in respect of the same;

2. the role, functions and powers of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations."

Your committee recommends that the same order of reference, together with the evidence adduced thereon during previous sessions, be again referred to it.

Your committee informs both Houses of Parliament that the criteria it will use for the review and scrutiny of statutory instruments are the following:

Whether any regulation or other statutory instrument within its terms of reference, in the judgment of the committee:

1. is not authorized by the terms of the enabling legislation or has not complied with any condition set forth in the legislation;

2. is not in conformity with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Canadian Bill of Rights;

3. purports to have retroactive effect without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

4. imposes a charge on the public revenues or requires payment to be made to the Crown or to any other authority, or prescribes the amount of any such charge or payment, without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

5. imposes a fine, imprisonment or other penalty without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

6. tends directly or indirectly to exclude the jurisdiction of the courts without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

7. has not complied with the Statutory Instruments Act with respect to transmission, registration or publication;

8. appears for any reason to infringe the rule of law;

9. trespasses unduly on rights and liberties;

10. makes the rights and liberties of the person unduly dependent on administrative discretion or is not consistent with the rules of natural justice;

11. makes some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the enabling legislation;

12. amounts to the exercise of a substantive legislative power properly the subject of direct parliamentary enactment; or

13. is defective in its drafting or for any other reason requires elucidation as to its form or purport.

Your committee recommends that its quorum be fixed at four members, provided that both houses are represented whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, and that the joint chairmen be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and authorize the printing thereof so long as three members are present, provided that both houses are represented; and, that your committee have power to engage the services of such expert staff, and such stenographic and clerical staff as may be required.

Your committee further recommends to the Senate that it be empowered to sit during sittings and adjournments of the Senate.

Your committee, which was also authorized by the Senate to incur expenses in connection with its permanent reference relating to the review and scrutiny of statutory instruments, reports, pursuant to rule 104(2) of the Rules of the Senate, that the expenses of your committee (Senate portion) during the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament are as follows:

Professional and Other Services    $ 300
Transport and Communications    —
All other expenditures    1,179
Witness Expenses    3,854
TOTAL    $ 5,333

In addition to the expenses for the examination of legislation as set out above, your committee also incurred general postal charges in the amount of $239.

A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence (Issue No. 1, Second Session, Thirty-ninth Parliament) is tabled in the House of Commons.

Respectfully submitted.

JOHN TREVOR EYTON
Joint Chair

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

(On motion of Senator Eyton, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration at the next sitting of the Senate.)

[Translation]

The Senate

Notice of Motion to Extend Wednesday Sitting and Authorize Committees to Meet During the Sitting of the Senate

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That, on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, at the end of the Orders of the Day, Inquiries and Motions, but no later than 4 p.m., the sitting be suspended to reassemble at the call of the Chair, with a fifteen minute bell;

That, when the sitting resumes, it be either for the purpose of adjournment or to receive a Message from the House of Commons with Bill C-10, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and related fiscal measures;

That, after dealing with any such Message from the House of Commons, the Senate stand adjourned;

That the order adopted by the Senate on February 10, 2009, respecting automatic adjournment at 4 p.m. be suspended on Wednesday, March 4, 2009;

That committees scheduled to meet on that day be authorized to sit after 4 p.m., and the application of Rule 95(4) be suspended in relation thereto.

[English]

Financial Administration Act
Bank of Canada Act

Bill to Amend—First Reading

Hon. Hugh Segal presented Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act and the Bank of Canada Act (quarterly financial reports).

(Bill read first time.)

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

(On motion of Senator Segal, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)

(1425)

Fisheries Act

Bill to Amend—First Reading

Hon. Mac Harb presented Bill S-229, An Act to Amend the Fisheries Act (commercial seal fishing).

(Bill read first time.)

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

An Hon. Senator: Never!

Senator Harb: I move that this bill be placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is there a seconder for the motion of Honourable Senator Harb?

[Translation]

Honourable senators, the motion will not be received, since no senator wishes to second it.

[English]

Rules of the Senate

Notice of Motion to Amend Rule 86(1)(r)

Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I shall move:

That Rule 86(1)(r) be amended by replacing the word "nine" with the word "ten".

Human Rights

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Issues of Discrimination in Hiring and Promotion Practices of Federal Public Service and Labour Market Outcomes for Minority Groups in Private Sector and Refer Papers and Evidence Since First Session of Thirty-eighth Parliament

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights be authorized to examine issues of discrimination in the hiring and promotion practices of the Federal Public Service, to study the extent to which targets to achieve employment equity are being met, and to examine labour market outcomes for minority groups in the private sector;

That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the First Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament be referred to the committee; and

That the committee submit its final report to the Senate no later than March 31, 2009.

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Issues Related to National and International Human Rights Obligations and Refer Papers and Evidence Since First Session of Thirty-seventh Parliament

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights be authorized to examine and monitor issues relating to human rights and, inter alia, to review the machinery of government dealing with Canada's international and national human rights obligations;

That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the First Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament be referred to the committee; and

That the committee submit its final report to the Senate no later than March 31, 2010.

(1430)

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study International Obligations Regarding Children's Rights and Freedoms and Refer Papers and Evidence Since First Session of Thirty-eighth Parliament

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights be authorized to monitor the implementation of recommendations contained in the committee's report entitled Children: The Silenced Citizens: Effective Implementation of Canada's International Obligations with Respect to the Rights of Children, tabled in the Senate on April 25, 2007;

That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the First Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament be referred to the committee; and

That the committee submit its final report to the Senate no later than March 31, 2010.

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study On-Reserve Matrimonial Real Property on Breakdown of Marriage or Common Law Relationship and Refer Papers and Evidence Since Second Session of Thirty-seventh Parliament

Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights be authorized to invite the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to appear with his officials before the committee for the purpose of updating the members of the committee on actions taken concerning the recommendations contained in the committee's report entitled A Hard Bed to lie in: Matrimonial Real Property on Reserve, tabled in the Senate November 4, 2003;

That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the Second Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament be referred to the committee; and

That the committee continue to monitor developments on the subject and submit a final report to the Senate no later than March 31, 2010.

National Security and Defence

Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study National Security Policy and to Refer Papers and Evidence Since First Session of Thirty-seventh Parliament

Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence be authorized to examine and report on the national security policy of Canada. In particular, the committee shall be authorized to examine:

(a) the capability of National Defence to defend and protect the interests, people and territory of Canada and its ability to respond to and prevent a national emergency or attack, and the capability of Public Safety Canada to carry out its mandate;

(b) the working relationships between the various agencies involved in intelligence gathering, and how they collect, coordinate, analyze and disseminate information and how these functions might be enhanced;

(c) the mechanisms to review the performance and activities of the various agencies involved in intelligence gathering; and

(d) the security of our borders and critical infrastructure.

That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the First Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament be referred to the committee; and

That the committee report to the Senate no later than June 15, 2010 and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 90 days after the tabling of the final report.


QUESTION PERIOD

Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Fixed Election Dates

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, this government amended the Canada Elections Act to provide for fixed election dates. The bill provided that the next general election would be on Monday, October 19, 2009.

Minister Steven Fletcher recently stated that the four-year fixed election dates are in place for majority governments, but this bill does not apply to minority governments.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us how this government interprets Bill C-16?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, I do not have the bill in front of me, but it brought in a fixed election date that clearly had a provision that provided the Governor General with the opportunity to call an election on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Senator Cordy: It is clear that the Prime Minister broke the spirit of the law when he called an election on September 7, 2008.

When Senator Murray commented during his speech that there was no debate suggesting that fixed election dates were only for majority governments, the Leader of the Government in the Senate's reply, as recorded in the Debates of the Senate, was, "You did not ask."

In this supposed new era of openness and accountability from this government, "you did not ask," as a response, is alarming. Unfortunately, it is not surprising. It shows that this government does not care. How can Bill C-16 have any merit?

(1435)

Can the minister tell us how this bill prevents Stephen Harper from calling an election when it is most opportune for him and the Conservatives?

Senator Di Nino: He is not Mr. Chrétien.

Senator Tkachuk: The people of Canada are really worried about that.

Senator LeBreton: I will take that question as notice. It is not something at the top of mind for most Canadians at the moment. What is would be the state of the economy and the necessity for the government to get the budget passed so the stimulus money can flow and improve the ability of Canadians to get to work and weather this severe, worldwide economic storm.

Senator Cordy: Just last week I heard Prime Minister Harper threatening an election. How concerned is the Prime Minister about this economy and Canadians if he threatened last week to call an election?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator LeBreton: It was not the Prime Minister who was threatening an election. The Leader of the Opposition says he has put us on probation, even though it was on a commitment we had already made in the budget. The Liberal Finance critic, Mr. McCallum, was speculating about an election in June. The Prime Minister was simply stating the obvious. If the budget does not have the support of the House of Commons and is defeated, obviously there will be an election.

Senator Day: The budget is already passed.

Finance

Study on Bankruptcy and Insolvency

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable senators, in 2003 the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce did what most people consider to be an outstanding study on bankruptcy and insolvency. Many of the senators sitting here today were very involved in that study, as I was at the time — not as a senator but as a consultant to the committee.

Many of the recommendations of that study were embodied in Bill C-55 that passed both chambers. An amending bill was passed quickly in both chambers as well because of the obvious urgency of getting bankruptcy and insolvency legislation in place for the 21st century.

I have inquired a number of times — not here but elsewhere — as to why most of that legislation has still not been proclaimed by this government and was told that the government was waiting for regulations to be put in place. The regulations are available. They have been widely circulated, widely approved, and the government still has not moved.

Honourable senators, these amendments are critical for small and medium businesses who are struggling to weather the economic downturn. What is the government waiting for and why does this government not care about Canadians?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): Honourable senators, this government cares very much about Canadians, which is why the government consulted so widely over the period from Christmas through to when the budget was announced at the end of January and why the budget reflects the results of those consultations.

I will take as notice the honourable senator's specific statement regarding the recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and the regulations that he claims were drawn up as a result.

Senator Goldstein: I am pleased to hear that the minister will take that question as notice. Frankly, I had expected her to do the usual and dodge the question. In anticipation of that standard form of behaviour —

Senator Di Nino: That is totally uncalled for.

Senator Goldstein: — given the fact that she spoke about red tape and blue tape last week, I took the liberty of buying some "duck" tape for her so that she could continue to "duck" questions at her leisure.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

Senator Goldstein: I purposely chose white duct tape so as to avoid political stripes, and I will have the page bring it to the honourable senator.

Some Hon. Senators: Shame!

Senator Stratton: That is the last time they write the rules.

Senator Mercer: Table the duct tape.

(1440)

[Translation]

Heritage

Quebec City Armoury

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Chapter 3 of the budget, under the heading Investments in Federal Infrastructure Projects, indicates that Budget 2009:

. . . will set aside funds to build and renew federal public infrastructure . . .

And specifically it says:

. . . Committing $2 million to develop a plan for the future of the historic Manège Militaire in Québec City, destroyed by fire in 2008.

The Régiment des voltigeurs de Québec is based at the Manège militaire de Québec, the Quebec City Armoury. The regiment has existed since 1885 and participated in the Northwest Rebellion and the First and Second World Wars, to name a few. It has sent and continues to send soldiers to Afghanistan.

Why does the government want to establish a plan for the future for the Quebec City Armoury, even though the Voltigeurs regiment still exists and continues to serve within the Canadian Forces, despite the fact that the Quebec City Armoury was destroyed by fire?

[English]

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I was not clear specifically whether Senator Dallaire was referring to infrastructure money for the armouries. I was not clear about the exact question and I apologize. I would like clarification.

[Translation]

Senator Dallaire: The budget refers to a plan for the future. This would suggest a plan that involves something other than reconstructing a building that is part of Canada's heritage, since it was built in 1885. It is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The regiment is still based there and wants to remain in the same building; however, a plan for the future is being developed, which might suggest that there are plans to do something other than rebuild the armoury.

[English]

Senator LeBreton: As honourable senators know, there was a tragic fire that destroyed an historical building. I have no knowledge whatsoever of plans other than to rebuild the facility. I would be shocked if there were some other plan. I am not sure where this information originated from. However, I am happy to pass on the honourable senator's concerns not only to the Minister of Defence but also to the minister responsible for infrastructure, for an update on the status of rebuilding the armoury.

Senator Dallaire: I have in front of me the option that was presented — informally I gather — to ministers with regard to replacing the armoury with a stage. The Mayor of Quebec City obviously sees big productions there, so he wants to build a stage instead of the armoury, and put the regiment in an industrial park in some other part of the city. This site is the home of the oldest French Canadian regiment in the Canadian Armed Forces — a regiment that is part of the history there. There is a park in front with the monuments to soldiers from three regiments who have died. That park would ultimately also be part of that stage to open up onto the Plains of Abraham. Essentially, this proposal means that we do not care about regimental spirit, we do not care about people who served in that regiment and we do not care about their history. All we want is to build a stage, and there seems to be a proposal because it will cost a lot less than to rebuild the armoury.

Is it possible that the government would move the oldest French-Canadian regiment, and also a Canadian flag right beside the National Assembly of Quebec, into an industrial park because we think we will save a couple of bucks when, in fact, we are trying to move a whole whack of money to rebuild infrastructure?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

(1445)

Senator LeBreton: There was a story in the newspapers today where apparently there are documents, suggestions or recommendations from individuals. I have not seen this article, but I can tell the honourable senator that such a proposal has not been presented to the minister, the government or the cabinet. With a government such as ours that is working so hard to restore the history and heritage of this country, I cannot imagine a suggestion by someone to put a stage on such a valuable and historical piece of land would be paid any notice.

I have not heard about this proposal. However, we have a government and several ministers in the government who are making every effort to inform, educate and involve Canadians in our wonderful history and heritage, and what it means to be a Canadian. Unfortunately, our history is not taught enough in our schools. I would be equally as alarmed as Senator Dallaire if ever such a proposal made it to the government.

Senator Dallaire: Hopefully, the leader will query Minister Verner's involvement in particular, and the involvement of the Minister of National Defence. I do not know what Minister Verner's involvement is, although she is responsible for Quebec. It is the Ministry of National Defence that will pay for this. Query them on whether any other possible option would be considered, other than to rebuild the armoury. I remind honourable senators that that regiment's band is the band that played O Canada for the first time in 1880 in that place. Making it a stage may make it a bit of a farce.

Senator LeBreton: I am happy to make inquiries, but I think that when people make suggestions such as the one the honourable senator has read into the record, it is beyond credibility.

I know how we value that particular regiment and historical armoury. It was a terrible tragedy when that armoury burned down. Fortunately, portions of it were saved, as the honourable senator knows. However, I am happy to warn them that such a proposal is being advanced.

Human Resources and Skills Development

Employment Insurance

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Across the country, tens of thousands of Canadians are waiting to receive their Employment Insurance benefits. In Atlantic Canada, 30,000 people are waiting. More than 8,000 are past the four-week processing guideline. Many families need that money to pay the rent and to put food on the table, but some applications take up to eight weeks to process.

How does this government find it acceptable to have Canadians, who have no income, wait eight weeks for their EI to be processed?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): We do not find it acceptable. It is not acceptable at all. The government is taking every possible measure to speed up and rectify this serious issue.

We have taken a number of steps. The government has hired additional staff and has recalled retired employees of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Employment Insurance division. We have increased the number of hours of overtime, opened EI call centres on Saturdays and increased the automatic claims processing.

(1450)

In addition, when HRSD learns that businesses or industries are contemplating layoffs it encourages them to have Employment Insurance officials help formulate a plan, such as job sharing. If job sharing is not an option, the officials help employees fill out EI applications to expedite the process.

Senator Callbeck: Honourable senators, this is obviously a big problem. I am happy to hear the minister say that it is not acceptable. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development has indicated that they are processing up to 50 per cent more claims this year than last. If the recession worsens, more Canadians will be laid off, the number of applicants will increase and the backlog will get worse. Public servants are concerned that they will never get caught up and that employees will be stretched to their limit.

How many extra people have been hired to deal with this extraordinary situation?

Senator LeBreton: I thank Senator Callbeck for that question. In addition to extending overtime hours, retired employees have been brought back to work on these new applications. I do not have at my fingertips the number of extra people they brought in, but I will get that information for the honourable senator.

As a result of consultations that were held in all regions of the country, EI benefits have been extended by five weeks. A significant part of the Employment Insurance program is dedicated to retraining those who wish to enter a new occupation and to retraining workers in single-industry towns and therefore have very little chance of returning to their previous job.

I can assure the honourable senator that we take this situation very seriously and are doing everything possible to deal with it.

I would be happy to obtain the numbers for Senator Callbeck.

National Security and Defence Committee

Meeting Times

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, my question is directed to the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

I wish to refer to some comments made yesterday at the committee, which I will read verbatim:

One of the questions worth considering is how much time the committee wants to spend on those 10 days.

That quote refers to the 10 days that the committee has between now and the end of the session.

A motion has gone through the Senate that restricts three of those days, because they fall on a Monday after a break week for the Senate. That restricts us to a 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. time period. On the rest of those days there is no restriction on the time that the committee can meet, other than that it be on a Monday. That motion was passed last week. Senator Comeau moved it, and it was adopted the next day, I believe.

Has Senator Kenny read the motion that was passed last week? If so, is this his interpretation of that motion?

Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, I would have to ask the Honourable Senator to repeat the beginning of the question. The noise was such that I did not hear it.

(1455)

Senator Comeau: The comments of the chair at yesterday's meeting are as follows:

One of the questions worth considering is how much time the committee wants to spend on those 10 days. A motion has gone through the Senate that restricts three of those days, because they fall on a Monday after a break week for the Senate. That restricts us to a 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. time period. On the rest of those days there is no restriction on the time that the committee can meet, other than that it be on a Monday. That motion was passed last week. Senator Comeau moved it, and it was adopted the next day, I believe.

Senator Kenny: I am unclear what the question is.

Senator Comeau: Has the honourable senator read the motion that was passed last week? If so, is his interpretation of the motion the same as it was yesterday?

Senator Kenny: My interpretation of the motion that was moved by the Deputy Leader of the Government, I believe on February 12, is that three committees are restricted to sit between the hours of —

An Hon. Senator: Take your time.

Senator Kenny: I am taking my time because I cannot find the place.

Senator Comeau: I can help you; I have the motion here.

Senator Kenny: It says — I am sorry; I read it at my speed.

Senator Angus: This is the best speech you have given.

Senator Kenny: Thank you, Senator Angus, I hope to provide more good speeches like this.

. . . at their approved meeting times.

That is what I take of the honourable senator's motion.

Senator Comeau: May I read the motion which was passed by this chamber? In the form of a question, of course.

That, pursuant to rule 95(3), for the remainder of this session, the Standing Senate Committees on Human Rights, Official Languages, and National Security and Defence be authorized to meet at their approved meeting times as determined by the Government and Opposition Whips on any Monday which immediately precedes a Tuesday when the Senate is scheduled to sit, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding a week.

Does this motion in any way change the fact that the two sides approved the meeting times?

Senator Kenny: No, I am sure it does not. I think that because this motion was adopted by the chamber, the committees are bound to meet at that time.

Senator Comeau: That is right.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: There is a lot of talking and I am having a hard time hearing the senator who wants to ask a question. Order, please!

Senator Comeau, was that the end of your question?

Senator Comeau: I will have more to say about this subject later on.

Veterans Affairs

Access to Veterans Independence Program

Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, in response to a question that I posed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate on November 26 of last year, she noted that veterans are happy with the treatment of veterans by this government. That may well be a good thing, but at the time, I was asking about the needs of veterans' widows, not veterans themselves.

Since then, it has become clear that this government does not care about Canadians. I have heard again from Joyce Carter, the outspoken advocate for improving access to the Veterans Independence Program. In a letter dated January 23, 2009, Ms. Carter indicated that there are still far too many Canadian veterans and their spouses who are having to lobby this Conservative government for benefits that had been previously promised to them.

With this in mind, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate why this Conservative government is choosing to ignore the Prime Minister's promise to the widows of veterans to extend the VIP program to all widows of Second World War veterans and Korean War veterans.

(1500)

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)): I thank the honourable senator for her question, but I disagree vehemently with her when she says that this government does not care. We care a great deal, and that is why we are working so hard to deal with this serious worldwide economic situation and to do our best to ensure that Canadians come out of this in relatively good shape.

Our government has expanded the Veterans Independence Program by setting aside $282 million over three years in Budget 2008 to give more low-income and disabled survivors the help they need to remain independent in their homes. The extension provides these survivors with a maximum of $2,400 per year to help with housekeeping and ground maintenance repair costs.

We have much work yet to do because nothing had been done in this area by the previous government. We will continue to look at ways to improve our programs and services to ensure that those with the greatest need will have the assistance they require to remain in their homes. I would like to think that some credit is given to the government for the great steps that have been taken thus far.

Senator Milne: Honourable senators, I am disappointed with that answer because it is quite clear that responding to the needs of veterans and their families is far from being complete when it comes to the Veterans Independence Program, given that only 30 per cent of veterans' widows are eligible for benefits.

Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise honourable senators as to whether a cost-benefit analysis has been performed by Veterans Affairs Canada to determine how much it would cost to fulfill the Prime Minister's promise and to extend the VIP to all widows of Second World War and Korean War veterans? Can she undertake to provide honourable senators with the results of that study? Does this government care more about their budget than about Canadians?

Senator LeBreton: In our first three budgets, the government allocated $1.6 billion more in new funding. The honourable senator is absolutely right when she says that we have a considerable amount of work yet to do in this area. However, we have made great strides from the situation of a scant three years ago. We will continue to work on this matter and Minister Thompson will continue to work with others in support of our veterans and their widows.

[Translation]

Delayed Answer to Oral Question

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table a delayed response to an oral question raised by Senator Jim Munson on February 5, 2009, concerning health, autism.

Health

Autism

(Response to question raised by Hon. Jim Munson on February 5, 2009)

The federal government is undertaking a range of initiatives to help address Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); for example, it encourages high-quality scientific research while supporting the sharing of best practices and communication amongst partners, stakeholders, and the population at large. Activities in this regard will improve knowledge about autism so that future action by provincial and territorial governments, service providers, and families will be well informed.

For example, on October 20, 2007, the Government of Canada announced $1M, over five years, for a National Chair in Autism Research and Intervention at Simon Fraser University. This chair will support research regarding interventions for individuals with autism.

As well, Health Canada provided $50K in 2007/2008 to the Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network (CAIRN) web site to support the development of updated material and the translation of information into French. Canadians can now log onto the popular and respected site and access French or English summaries of autism research — presented in terminology that is useful to families who need it. An additional $75K is being provided to CAIRN to enhance the content of this website, conduct a survey of research priorities and to host a conference to support research across this country.

Further, since 2000, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) has committed approximately $27.1M for autism-related research, and, in November 2007, a national symposium on autism research was held to share knowledge and to support dialogue on future research priorities. The report from this Symposium is now available on the CIHR web site.

In addition, the Public Health Agency of Canada has completed a consultation on ASD surveillance. The results will be incorporated into the Agency's planning process for new work on national surveillance of developmental disorders. This work will start in earnest in the spring, with the new fiscal year.

While screening and treatment services are a provincial/ territorial responsibility, the Government of Canada is committed to supporting the development of the autism evidence-base, and is confident that these activities will contribute to and enhance Canada's capacity to address this important issue.

In December 2008, the Minister approved a contribution of $147,863.00 to Queen's University to expand their existing ASD surveillance system to include children in Manitoba (Queen's currently collects data from Southwestern Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador). This is another step that towards creating a national surveillance system for ASD, which is a key request from autism stakeholders.

There is no immediate plan to establish a division of autism within the Public Health Agency of Canada. The Minister wishes to assure her colleagues that the health portfolio acknowledged the importance of ASD, and as indicated by the above noted activities, is an issue that is being taken very seriously by this Government.

[English]

Points of Order

Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, it has been brought to my attention that as of 12:36 p.m. today on the website of Fisheries and Oceans Canada there is a press release and a statement by the Honourable Senator Fabian Manning from Newfoundland and Labrador that criticizes the introduction by Senator Harb, in this place, of a bill on the seal hunt. It attributes the bill to and says that it is endorsed by the Liberal Party of Canada.

Honourable senators, it was rather obvious that senators on this side had nothing to do with and no interest in the bill proposed by Senator Harb. That was why Senator Harb could not find a seconder on this side or the other side. I think Senator Manning owes an explanation and an apology to all of us on this side of the chamber.

(1505)

Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, we on this side of the house, along with Canadians and especially Canadians in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador were amazed on Friday when we received the letter from Senator Harb stating his intentions. The silence on the opposite side of the house, within the opposition party and from the leader, Michael Ignatieff was deafening. This issue is very important to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, especially those who derive a living from the seal industry.

We are concerned about the hidden agenda. We are very concerned about the fringe elements of the Liberal Party of Canada working behind the scenes to destroy the seal hunt and to give the animal activists ammunition for their cause. That is what we are concerned about and we will stand against this measure in the Senate, in the House of Commons, and stand up for the people who derive their living from the fishery and within the seal industry.

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Will Senator Manning have the decency to withdraw the statement that appears on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website? In that article Senator Manning says, "Sealers need to know that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party want to abandon the Canadian seal hunt."

That is inaccurate and he knows it. He should have the decency to stand in this place and withdraw the statement.

Senator Manning: Not a chance. If I believe in something, I will say it. I will not withdraw after what happened on Friday with the letter from Senator Harb; what happened in the house today; the media attention it received over the weekend; and the ammunition given by Senator Harb and others on that side to the animal rights activists in their fight against the seal hunt. I will not withdraw, I will not take it back and I will stand up for the people making a living from the sealing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Canada. Our party will do it proudly.

[Translation]

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I would like to deal with this issue in a serious manner. A resolution was adopted yesterday by the European Parliament, by a vote of 27 to 7, banning seal products, except those for personal use by the Inuit.

My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate: What does the government plan on doing about this issue?

[English]

Hon. Yoine Goldstein: Honourable Senator Manning, one of the elements that we have to deal with here is speaking truth. I would like the honourable senator to tell us whether he still believes —

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Goldstein, you can finish your question.

Senator Goldstein: Tell us the truth about the seal hunt and your statement.

Senator Manning: The truth about the seal hunt is that we have a well-managed, sustainable, humane hunt in Canada that our government has supported and for which our government has fought long and hard over the past few years with the support of Ambassador Loyola Sullivan in his many trips to the European Union. He has visited 27 countries in the European Union fighting our cause and putting forward our concerns on behalf of the government. The truth is that we have a well-managed, sustainable and humane hunt.

(1510)

The truth is that a senator from the honourable senator's side stood in this place today to introduce a bill in this house. It was similar to the measure introduced yesterday at the European Union. Does the honourable senator believe for a moment — does anyone in Canada believe for a moment — that the letter that was written on Friday by Senator Harb was on the table at the European Union on Friday and yesterday to help their cause when they stood to vote against the seal hunt in Canada?

He should be ashamed. People on the opposition side should check up on him instead of checking up on me.

Hon. Lorna Milne: To help Her Honour in her deliberations on this point of order, I want to clarify the situation by saying that, for the last six years, I have fought in favour of the sealers.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Milne: I have done so at the Council of Europe. This initiative is not an initiative of this government; it is an initiative of all Canadian governments, and has been for years.

I point out that we do not have a bill before us because no one in this house seconded it. I congratulate all honourable senators who did not second it.

Hon. Joan Fraser: On the point of order, the Rules of the Senate ban personal, sharp and taxing remarks. I am sure, if the authorities are searched, various references will be found to an assumption that speakers in this chamber will attempt to speak the truth and will attempt to reflect the truth in their public utterances referring to this chamber.

This has been raised as a point of order. It might equally well have been raised as a question of privilege because what Senator Manning has done, and has compounded by his refusal to withdraw his public statement, is accuse many senators of something that is obviously not true. I cannot believe that falls within the range of acceptable conduct under our rules, conventions or traditions.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Senator Manning's website states that the bill was introduced in the Senate today. That statement is an untruth. The bill was not able to be introduced because there was no seconder by any other senator in this place.

I ask Senator Manning to do the right thing: Remove this statement from his website and withdraw his remarks today stating such things that are untruths.

Senator Manning: What I said was that today in the Senate, Liberal Senator Mac Harb is introducing misguided, uninformed and grossly irresponsible legislation in an attempt effectively to end the commercial seal hunt in Canada. My purpose in putting the information out beforehand was to raise the concern with senators on this side and the other side to show that no one stood and seconded. The mission was accomplished.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I thank honourable senators for their comments and for the information given. I will take the issue under advisement and endeavour to return with a decision as soon as possible.

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Earlier in Question Period, an issue was raised regarding a motion that had been passed last week in the Senate. An interpretation of that motion was made at the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. There is no need to repeat all the items that were said during Question Period; the Honourable Speaker can refer to those items.

However, I will refer to the key line:

On the rest of those days, there is no restriction of the time that the committee can meet, other than that it be on a Monday. That motion was passed last week. Senator Comeau moved it and it was adopted the next day . . .

I want to put on the record the motion that was made last week, as passed by this chamber. It said that the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence:

. . . be authorized to meet at their approved meeting times as determined by the Government and Opposition Whips on any Monday which immediately precedes a Tuesday when the Senate is scheduled to sit, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding a week.

The effect of that motion was that we do not need to present that motion every time there is a break week. In other words, this motion was a kind of house order that we established, that those three committees would not need to seek permission to sit on a Monday following a break week.

In no way does the motion suggest that on those days that succeed a break week, that the committees can meet at any time they want provided it is on a Monday and that they can meet from 2 o'clock in the morning until 9 o'clock at night if they wish. That possibility is in no way suggestive of what this motion is all about.

I ask Your Honour to review the points raised today during Question Period and place them in light of the practice in this chamber — that the committees are given approved meeting times by the two whips.

I will provide examples of a couple of areas that the Speaker might wish to examine. Under Senate Administrative Rules, it says:

The Senate Administration, acting in consultation with the leadership of the parties, shall assign a meeting schedule and reserve a room to be made available for the use of each Senate committee and subcommittee that meets regularly.

In other words, the whips on the two sides determine when the committees meet, whether that would be on a Monday or any time during the week. That practice is a long-established one.

Additionally, there is a ruling by the Speaker dated November 3, 2003, whereby the Speaker says in the Journals of the Senate, pages 1,298 to 1,300:

It has been acknowledged that the consent of both whips is usually obtained before a committee holds a meeting outside its time slot. This is a practice or custom that has developed in recent years to accommodate the interests of the Government and the Opposition as well as Senators generally.

All this is set out so that the whips on both sides can assign their members to various committees and not worry that a committee will go far beyond its normal time periods, which places our senators in a time conflict with other committees. Also, it allows other committees to have access to the room.

The liberal interpretation of the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence may be that, given that this motion was passed, the committee can sit at any time they want. The committee could sit from 1 o'clock in the morning until 12 o'clock at night — any time, anywhere — other than those three days referred to in the motion, which was passed last week.

I ask Your Honour to review the points I have raised and the points raised during Question Period and to report back on the Speaker's interpretation of what is suggested in yesterday's motion of the committee that the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence can meet whenever it wants on Mondays after a break week.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Do any honourable senators wish to speak on that point of order?

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Assuming that the Senate will rise for summer recess, say, at the end of June, it looks to me like there are two Mondays — April 20 and May 25 — following break periods. Those days, as I understand it, are the days that the time period would be 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for that committee and others to meet.

(1520)

Senator Comeau mentioned a comment made by the Speaker — I am unsure of the date — in the context of the government benches then having only 20 members and being hard-pressed to man their committees. I ask Your Honour to also consider that when deliberating the ruling on this point.

Hon. Terry Stratton: Honourable senators, if Her Honour checks with Heather Lank, the director responsible for Senate committees, she will find that there is an allocated time slot and day for each and every committee. It is not willy-nilly. I would ask Her Honour to check with Ms. Lank.

Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, I am at a disadvantage. I have a direct interest in this issue and I have not heard the discussion to date. I would ask that I be given an opportunity to see what the discussion has been and then to be able to make an intervention.

Senator Stratton: Honourable senators, if that is the case, I would suggest that the meeting next Monday be within the time parameters defined by the committee clerk.

Senator Kenny: The honourable senator cannot just get up and say that if that is the case, that things be restricted.

This committee was founded a number of years ago, along with three others. It met on Mondays. It has had flexibility since it was founded to meet at different times on Mondays, sometimes because of the inconvenience to people having to travel so far and because of the difficulty of getting witnesses, but primarily for the convenience to senators. Most of our committee members come from a long distance away: Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia. In some years, we have sat on alternate Mondays, with full days on those Mondays. Other days we have sat in the evenings; other days we have sat in the afternoons. Some years we sat all day. The committee has consistently done this since its inception.

I am at a disadvantage, having not heard what was said. Out of natural justice, I am asking for an opportunity to read what was said and to respond to it tomorrow.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Could I ask the honourable senator a question?

Correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding that once a committee is established, members are appointed, the Committee of Selection has done its work, and the steering committee takes charge of the agenda and gets agreement from the committee to proceed, the timing of individual meetings and the agenda are the purview and mandate of the committee. If, in fact, the Senate as a body chooses to interject, it can do so by resolution. Am I correct?

Senator Kenny: Senator Grafstein is absolutely right. We were sitting at a time when no committees were sitting at all. For decades, no committees ever sat on Mondays. That is why we had this flexibility.

Hon. Tommy Banks: I have the same disadvantage as Senator Kenny in that I was absent from the chamber when the point of order was made. I look forward, as he does, to reading it.

Honourable senators, I have said this before. I really object to efforts by either the Senate or the proper administration of the Senate to try to stop senators from working, saying to senators: "You may all have decided that you want to work longer hours on this committee; you may all have decided that notwithstanding the history of this place, that committee will meet on Mondays," as Senator Kenny has said, to the disadvantage to some of its members. I object to the concept that those senators who wish to do that and who have asked to be on those committees should be constrained in their efforts to serve the interests of this place by some administrative tail wagging the dog.

[Translation]

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I thank all honourable senators for their comments regarding the scheduling and effectiveness of committees. I will take the issue under advisement and endeavour to return with a decision as soon as possible.


ORDERS OF THE DAY

Customs Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, seconded by the Honourable Senator Raine, for the second reading of Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Customs Act.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)

[English]

Referred to Committee

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

(On motion of Senator Tkachuk, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.)

Speech from the Throne

Motion for Adoption of Address in Reply—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Fortin-Duplessis, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gerstein:

That the following Address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada:

To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:

We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

Hon. Yonah Martin: Honourable senators, I ask leave to speak a little bit of Korean, followed by an English translation in my speech.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, I ask leave to respond to the Speech from the Throne, with all my heart, full of respect, gratitude and hope.

[English]

During the remarks, Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada expressed deep concern for Canadians as we face a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. The global credit crunch has dragged the world into a crisis whose pull we cannot escape. Canadians face a difficult year, perhaps several difficult years; yet, in the middle of such uncertainty, Canadians are able to celebrate progress toward equality for women. This week marks International Women's Week, a week to commemorate the struggles and successes of those women who paved the way so that I may freely rise in this chamber and celebrate their accomplishments.

Canadians also take time to celebrate our current leaders, such as Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, who is an important role model not only for Canadian women but also for women of Haiti and women around the world.

Each year at this time, Canadians reflect on current challenges and consider future steps in achieving equality for all women in all aspects of their lives.

In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on member states to proclaim a day for women's rights and international peace. Following the United Nations' lead, Canada chose March 8 to celebrate International Women's Day. This is International Women's Week.

This year the theme is strong leadership, strong women, strong world equals equality, reflecting the government's firm belief that increasing women's participation and access to leadership roles and opportunities will help women and girls reach their full potential and help build a more prosperous Canada.

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Canadian women have made enormous strides. The current Conservative government has the highest percentage of women in cabinet in Canadian history. Ministers Rona Ambrose, Leona Aglukkaq, Diane Finley, Bev Oda, Josée Verner, Diane Ablonczy, Lynne Yelich, Helena Guergis, Gail Shea, Lisa Raitt and Parliamentary Secretaries Alice Wong, Shelly Glover and Sylvie Boucher are models of strong women who are leading by example.

Of course, I would be remiss, honourable senators, if I did not mention our highly respected Senate leader and cabinet minister, the Honourable Senator Marjory LeBreton, as well as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Senator Claudette Tardif. I must also express my respect for the distinguished women of our Senate caucus, paying particular attention to the Chair of our Human Rights Committee, Senator Raynell Andreychuk; my Senate buddy, Senator Nancy Ruth; and my seatmate and former Olympian, Senator Nancy Greene Raine. I am the envy of many of her fans. I also have a phobia of skiing, and Senator Raine has offered to teach me.

Around great women are equally great gentlemen. In our Conservative caucus, and especially our Senate caucus, they are all great men. I must especially acknowledge my sponsor, the one and only Senator Gerry St. Germain, or as my best friend Nancy's Falcone's daughters, Taylor and Julia, endearingly refer to him, "the Duke."

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Martin: It is a fitting name for a man who reminds them of their own Nono, or grandfather, Tony Mior. They both possess the qualities of uncompromising integrity, steely grit, tireless commitment to family and friends and, of course, a bit of swagger, which have earned them the respect of many.

Senator St. Germain, thank you for taking me under your protective wing.

Thank you, honourable senators, for welcoming me so warmly and so instantly, for your kind words, generosity of spirit, and for showing me, through your authenticity, that being my best true self is the key to a successful and meaningful tenure in the Senate.

I must add my resounding words of thanks to the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Paul Bélisle, and his staff in various departments, the senators' staff, the constables and the pages, who contribute much to the Senate of Canada.

[Translation]

Your impeccable professionalism is admirable. Thank you for helping me get settled in Ottawa.

[English]

Like our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, a leader of great character and clarity of vision can empower men and women to answer the call to action, to serve their country and put themselves in harm's way to protect others. Promoting the leadership and equality of women and girls, the Government of Canada is continuing the Canadian tradition of ensuring that women have the opportunity to participate fully in Canada's social, cultural, economic and democratic life. In asking me to serve in the Senate of Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper created an opportunity for me to give Metro Vancouver a voice at the governing table and add to the collective voice of other British Columbians, including Honourable Senator Richard Neufeld, former British Columbia Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, and Honourable Senator Larry Campbell, the former Mayor of Vancouver, who, for the record, got my vote.

One day during the last federal campaign, an elderly gentlemen said to me, "You know that in the past you could not be doing what you are doing now for two reasons: Because you are a woman and because you are Asian."

Honourable senators, on this day of International Women's Week, I pay tribute to all the courageous women of the suffrage movement and to Agnes Macphail, the only woman elected to the House of Commons in 1921, the first year in which women had the right to vote.

I also honour Douglas Jung, the first Conservative Canadian parliamentarian of Chinese descent, elected in 1957, whose biographic documentary, entitled I am the Canadian Delegate, truly inspired me during my own political journey. Douglas Jung and the pioneers of his heritage community built the railroads and ventured down untrodden paths so that others and I could follow.

Honourable senators, 88 years after women won the right to vote and 52 years after the first Asian served in Canada's Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made history in Canada, in Korea and around the world by appointing the first Canadian female senator of Korean heritage — me, Yonah Kim Martin. I have been told that my appointment was celebrated across Canada, in Korea and around the world as I am the first Korean outside of Korea to serve in the Senate at the federal level.

I also stand proudly as "Martin," which is my husband's family name. The Martins and his mother's side, the Elliots, have deep roots in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, respectively. My husband's great uncle, the late Eric Martin, was the former Health Minister of British Columbia, who served with former Premier W.A.C. Bennett.

I stand before you today, honourable senators, as a daughter of two great nations: Canada, my home, and Korea, the place of my birth.

[Editor's note: Senator Martin spoke Korean.]

Honourable senators, I am a proud Canadian of Korean heritage. I am here because of the resilience of the Korean people and all those who came before me. I am here because of the dynamic Korean Canadian community, without whom there would be no foundation on which to stand. There would be no need for a non-profit organization like Corean Canadian Coactive Society, or C3, which I co-founded to bridge communities and which naturally helped me become the leader that I am today.

I was born in Seoul, Korea, in 1965, just 10 years after the signing of the armistice of the Korean War. In 1965, Korea was a poor, developing country. Our washroom was a hole in the ground, and I remember sharing one room with my entire family, sleeping snugly against my mother on the floor to keep warm during the biting winters. Today, it is the eleventh strongest economy in the world, with figure skater Yu-Na Kim winning the 2009 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships; the Hyundai Genesis winning the 2009 American and Canadian Car of the Year; and Korean dramas and pop idols topping the charts all through Asia and parts of North America in what is called the "Korean wave," or hallyu.

The Korean Canadian community is one of the fastest growing communities in all major cities in Canada. Sandy Lee, a minister of the Northwest Territories and the first Korean Canadian woman elected to Canadian public office, has observed that no matter where one goes in Canada, even in the most remote towns and villages, one will find a Korean family operating a motel or business.

Barry Devolin, Assistant Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, who taught in the port city of Busan, Korea, believes that this is true because from his observations, he knows Koreans to be industrious and never afraid of work. They possess an entrepreneurial spirit and make any business work by working that much harder. I know many of my friends' parents who operated grocery stores and dry cleaning businesses, working 16-hour days, seven days a week. Many of us, the "1.5/2nd" generation Korean Canadians, as we call ourselves, grew up watching our parents work selflessly and tirelessly. We have become self-professed workaholics ourselves.

This is one of the core reasons I have faith in our party. The fierce determination and work ethic that I inherently possess, I have seen matched in members of our Conservative government and caucus, like Minister Jason Kenney, who has attended more than 500 community events to date. Someone needs to tell him there are only 365 days a year. He is truly amazing.

With similar amazing indomitable spirit and resilience, Korea has risen from the ashes of war in only half a century to become one of the G20 nations of the world. By the time World War II ended in 1945, Japan had occupied Korea for 36 years. Hundred of thousands remained or were imprisoned; tens of thousands lost their lives in their fight for freedom and independence.

(1540)

March 1, 2009, marked the ninetieth anniversary of the march for independence of Koreans from Japanese colonialism. It is fitting to honour a 16-year-old girl named Yoo, Kwon Sun, known as the Korean Joan of Arc, and thousands of others who willingly gave their lives for their nation. She was not afraid to die for what she believed in. Her spirit, her love of country and her burning desire for freedom and independence for those who are subjugated around the world is like that of the brave men and women of the Canadian military, past and present.

Honourable senators, there are no words to express the indebtedness and respect that an entire nation feels toward the veterans of the Korean War. The Korean Canadian community across Canada, in solidarity with Koreans in Korea and around the world, will never forget how more than 26,000 Canadian soldiers answered a call to serve, to fight alongside other United Nations forces for a strange people in a foreign land across an ocean thousands of miles from Canada.

The Korean War Memorial in Central Park in Burnaby, British Columbia, stands as a reminder of our undying gratitude and remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Senators, 516 Canadians died on Korean soil. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and millions of Koreans also lost their lives, but my parents survived. I am here because of their sacrifice. I owe my very existence to those who served and those who died in the Korean War.

Allow me now, honourable senators, to give you a glimpse into my parents' epic journey of courage, survival and love, set in the backdrop of war.

[Translation]

As the great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

[English]

My father, Lee Sung Kim, was born in Pyongyang, the present capital of North Korea. During the Korean War, my father fled south to escape the invasion of communist forces from the North, but my grandmother and my aunt, who was nine months pregnant at the time, were separated from the rest of the family. Tragically, he never saw them again.

Nearly 60 years later, and only in his frail state leading up to his eventual death last spring, did my father's tears flow for the loss of his youth and the longing to see his mother, the grandmother I never knew, but from whom I inherited her strength and optimism.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Does the honourable senator wish to ask for more time?

Senator Martin: Could I have permission for five more minutes?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Martin: My mother's journey began on one of the Japanese islands where she, Kye Soon Kwon, was born into one of the wealthiest families. Due to growing unrest, my grandparents decided to return to their native Korea. Not everyone in my mother's family survived the long voyage on a ship my grandfather had purchased for the dangerous trip. My mother's family went from riches to rags more than once due to the volatile waves of war.

Fast forward to 1961. My mother tells me that on the day that she went to meet my father for their first introduction, she sent her best friend to tell another suitor that her answer was no to his proposal of marriage. "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and" she "took the one less travelled," which has made all the difference.

My parents, like so many, lost nearly everything yet found one another because of war. How else would a man born in North Korea and a woman born in Japan ever meet? The answer, of course, is destiny.

Our father's dreams and hopes brought us to Canada, a nation that has afforded us many opportunities to reap the blessings of a truly democratic nation, where our freedom, justice and the rule of law are principles that we value and uphold.

Honourable senators, I know that everything that has happened before now is a prelude to this moment. I am here as a fulfillment of my parents' destinies and a fulfillment of my own. It is with extreme honour and pride that I represent the beautiful province of British Columbia, particularly Metro Vancouver, which our Prime Minister has called the jewel of the West Coast. It is, indeed.

Honourable senators, 2009 is a year to surely be recorded in history as one of the most notable for British Columbia. For instance, Wayne Wright, Mayor of New Westminster, were he here, and my friend and a proud New Westminster community leader, Lorraine Brett, who is, would proudly tell you that their royal city, being the oldest in Western Canada and the first capital of British Columbia, is celebrating its one-hundred fiftieth anniversary.

[Translation]

Coquitlam is the oldest French-speaking city in Canada outside Quebec. Mayor Richard Stewart can prove it. The city just celebrated its 100th anniversary.

[English]

Mayor Joe Trasolini of Port Moody would want me to state for the record that his city is equally historic, just like its founder, Colonel Moody, and is one of the most picturesque cities that inspires wellness and artists and is befitting of its claim as the City of the Arts.

In July, half a year in advance of the 2010 Olympics, the world is converging in the cities of Burnaby and Vancouver with the World Police and Fire Games. The City of Burnaby and the organizing team, in partnership with the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia, are preparing to welcome the world to those highly anticipated games.

As a long-time resident of Vancouver, I am so proud of my city and all the cities of Metro Vancouver. I am especially proud of the rich cultural diversity that is the very fabric of the West Coast.

Alas, honourable senators, I share with you one of my personal stories to illustrate my deep conviction that all that you can and will become you are already. As we age, we do not get older; we become more and more ourselves.

My story is from the first day of school in Vancouver in the spring of 1972. It was a small annex that only housed kindergarten and grade 1 students. I entered the grade 1 class from holding my father's hand. It was warm and slightly rough. He spoke in his English, as it was his major, let go of my hand and nudged me forward toward a smiling woman with light hair. She was pretty and she was smiling warmly.

When I walked into the classroom, all the children looked so foreign to me — their hair colour, their eyes, which scanned my face and body, and I felt self-conscious. Some were smiling. I sat at a desk and the teacher opened a book in front of me that had a picture with lots of lines, circles and dots. It looked like the English that my father had shown me in his books, but I did not know any of it. Then I heard my name. The teacher motioned me to come to the front of the class. She was smiling. I got up and was soon standing in front of the class. Everyone was staring at me. The teacher pointed her index finger up into the air, then pointed to the three bears on the page and said, "How many?" I stared at her finger, which was still pointing down at the littlest bear. Then she pointed upward again and down onto the page a second time and repeated, "How many?" Her voice was louder, and she had spoken slower, enunciating each syllable.

Well, I thought, I heard you the first time; I do not need to be told twice what to do. Just as I watched her doing it twice, I pointed my finger upward into the air and then down onto the page and pointed to each bear exactly as she had done it and repeated, "How many?"

The room erupted with sounds of laughter and noise that sounded more like snickering, and I knew, even at that tender age of 7, that they were laughing at me, even the teacher.

I do not remember what happened next, but I remember the view from under the front stairs of the school. I sat crouched under the stairs, hiding from the students, watching the very foreign world outside, wishing I could go back home to Korea, where I could go back to my grandfather, back to my friends at school, back to my class where I could be president, back where I understood.

What I did not understand at that moment was that within a year, I would learn English well enough to keep up with everyone else and eventually make lots of friends.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: The honourable senator's time is up.

Senator Cowan: Let her finish, please.

Senator Munson: Five more minutes; we love it.

Senator Martin: Could I have five more minutes?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed that she finish?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Martin: I would be school president in grade 12, major in English and teach in high schools, and one day in the distant future, be given the honour to represent my region and province in the Canadian Senate.

Honourable senators, I am sharing the story with you today, as I have shared with thousands of students for the past 21 years, to inspire, to instil hope and to encourage them to study and work hard to become what they can and will become. We all have a story of perseverance, and in sharing our stories, we learn from one another and we break down the walls that get in the way of building meaningful relationships.

A teacher is as much a student as she is a facilitator of learning. Every single student has taught me something. My greatest teachers, other than my parents, are my husband, Doug Martin, and my daughter, Kiana, who is presently 13 going on 20. Their love and support sustain me. We as a family accept both the blessings and the sacrifices we must make in order for me to serve in the Senate, as we live thousands of miles apart for a portion of the year. I am grateful to so many people, too many to list by name.

(1550)

This is International Women's Week and March 8 is International Women's Day around the world. In Canada we celebrate our achievements and realize there is still so much work for all of us to do in ensuring that no woman, man or child suffers under oppression in our global village, that those of us enjoying our liberties and safe democracies use our voice to speak up for the rights of women and children everywhere. On International Women's Day, let each of us reflect on how we can support our brave men and women in the Canadian Forces who serve to ensure that families around the globe may also enjoy freedom: freedom of speech, free will, freedom to practice their faith and respect their neighbour's rights.

How do we know if we have succeeded? The philosopher-poet Ralph Waldo Emerson defined success in a way that is simple and easy to measure ". . . to know even one life has breathed easier because we have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Honourable senators, let us continue to lead with intention and lead with right action. Let us govern with principle and purpose so that we are truly successful as individuals, as communities and as a nation.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)

[Translation]

The Estimates, 2009-10

National Finance Committee Authorized to Study Main Estimates

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to notice given on February 26, 2009, I move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to examine and report upon the expenditures set out in the Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010, with the exception of Parliament Vote 10.

(Motion agreed to.)

Vote 10 Referred to Joint Committee on Library of Parliament

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, pursuant to notice given on February 26, 2009, I move:

That the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament be authorized to examine and report upon the expenditures set out in Parliament Vote 10 of the Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons to acquaint that House accordingly.

(Motion agreed to.)

[English]

Canada Elections Act
Parliament of Canada Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Order Stands

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Moore, seconded by the Honourable Senator Day, for the second reading of Bill S-224, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (vacancies).

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: Honourable senators, this is the third week that this bill has been up for debate. As a courtesy, if honourable senators wish to speak, I wish to let them know that one week from today, Tuesday, March 10, I will make my speech in right of final reply.

Financial Administration Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Lowell Murray moved second reading of Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (borrowing of money).

He said: Honourable senators, Bill S-221 is identical to Bill S-236 that I introduced in this place last June. For those of you who are of an archival bent, you will find my speech opening second reading in the Debates of the Senate of June 10, 2008. It was the only speech given in the debate at that time. Senator Segal took the adjournment and the bill died on the Order Paper with dissolution of the Thirty-ninth Parliament.

The purpose of this bill is to restore Parliament's authority over government borrowing. When did we lose such authority? How did we lose such authority? I noticed in reading the transcript of the House of Commons Finance Committee several days ago when Bill C-10 was before them and the witness was the Minister of Finance, Mr. Flaherty, that the Honourable John McCallum, a former Minister of the Crown and a person with considerable experience in public affairs and, in particular, in Parliament, actually asked the question: Do you mean to tell me that we will not have borrowing bills anymore? I am paraphrasing here. Mr. Flaherty gently explained to Mr. McCallum that the authority had been taken away from Parliament in 2007.

Mr. McCallum said that he thought that measure had something to do with Crown corporations. It did but it also effectively took away the authority of Parliament to approve government borrowing; it eliminated it.

The authority of Parliament over government borrowings was removed in the course of a budget implementation bill in 2007, an omnibus bill. Does that sound familiar? That legislation was composed of 154 clauses in 14 parts and 134 pages amending 25 other acts of Parliament. Our attention as parliamentarians here in the Senate and over in the House of Commons was on a number of major initiatives in that budget and in the implementation bill. In particular, I seem to recall the Atlantic accord and changes introduced to the equalization formula, among many others. While our attention was focused on these major matters, very quietly, without any of us noticing it here or in the other place, a new section 43.1 was slipped in, added to the Financial Administration Act under the heading "Power to borrow":

43.1 The Governor in Council may authorize the Minister to borrow money on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada.

There are just twenty words, and with those 20 words a parliamentary prerogative that had existed in this country for more than a century was consigned to the ash can. No one noticed.

Some Hon. Senators: Shame.

Senator Murray: My friends say "shame"; I say yes, but shame on us for not noticing it. We were not doing our job; they were not doing their job in the House of Commons.

Senator Banks seconds this motion avidly because he was the first person to notice it. Unfortunately, he noticed it only a couple of days after the bill passed when he then wrote to me and called me about it. I doubt very much that any cabinet minister, with the exception of the Minister of Finance, knew what was going on. This thing was slipped in there quietly while our attention was focused on other major matters. It was slipped in and slipped by us. Honourable senators, let us get this straight. That is exactly the tactic that the authors of this amendment intended. Slip it in there when their attention is diverted by other important matters and we will get it through and there goes Parliament's authority over borrowing bills.

Senator Banks: Just like Bill C-15.

Senator Murray: Honourable senators, the time has come to reassert the authority of Parliament over the purse, over government borrowings and to send a message to those clever devils in the Department of Finance that they will not get away with it. The time has come to restore Parliament's authority and never again will they be able to take it away in a sneak attack, which is what this was.

(1600)

The bill will simply restore the status quo ante. Under the bill, the Minister of Finance, with the approval of the Governor-in-Council, will be able, as in the past, to borrow money under certain limited and specific circumstances — that is, for refinancing existing loans and for certain temporary loans. However, the general rule will be that the government must come to Parliament with a borrowing bill.

I want to put something in parentheses, because the last time I spoke on this matter, which was in June 2008, I was guilty of some overgeneralizations regarding the practice in the provinces of Canada and in some other places with a Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. I generalized too widely.

Honourable senators, I have had further research undertaken by the Library of Parliament. Researchers have supplied me with information, including an entire table as to the provisions in the various provinces. I will make this information available to those honourable senators who may be interested.

In a nutshell, their research tells me that no uniform procedure applies across the country. Rather, each province applies its own rules and restrictions to the authority to borrow, and when the express approval of the legislature is necessary.

Then, researchers take us from province to province. I will not go all that way but in Manitoba, for example, there is an annual loan act to provide borrowing authority to raise a specific amount of funds to cover any deficit outlined in a provincial budget. In Ontario, there is some discretion for the lieutenant-governor-in-council for the payment renewal, repayment of an existing loan, but that new loans require express statutory authority. This authority is provided primarily by way of the Ontario Loan Act, which is passed each year within a larger budget measures bill.

I can tell honourable senators, on the basis of the research, that in New Brunswick, the borrowing authority for new debt is provided by an annual loans act, which is introduced shortly after the presentation of the budget.

In two of the provinces, there is less parliamentary involvement in the process. In British Columbia, there is a careful and elaborate risk-management process, supervised by a committee comprised of senior public servants and two external members from the financial and academic community. In Quebec, the Financial Administration Act gives authority to the lieutenant-governor-in-council to borrow money.

I have all that information province by province, and honourable senators who are interested can obtain it from me.

When I raised this question a year ago, it was as a matter of principle — an important matter because it involved the rights of Parliament. At that time, it was hypothetical. I was dealing in the world of hypotheses. Who would have thought — certainly, I did not — that the government would need to have recourse to deficit financing, and so soon?

If honourable senators had asked me, I would have said that there would be no deficits in what I believed to be the foreseeable future. We know what has happened. We are now in the world of deficits for at least four or five years in the future.

The bill that I speak to today is now more timely and urgent than it was. If honourable senators are interested, they will find the debt-management strategy of the government in the budget plan dated January 27, 2009, at page 279. It is annex 4 of the budget plan. That is there for honourable senators' own reading. They say that for 2009-10, a budget deficit of $34 billion and a financial requirement of $101 billion are projected.

What they would come to Parliament to request, by way of borrowing authority under the system that existed until 2007, is not clear to me from reading this annex. I see that government financial requirements will be some $312 billion, of which refinancing accounts for $232 billion.

In any case, that annex in the Government of Canada's budget plan is there for honourable senators to see. With a $34 billion budget coming up, the amount of money they would need to borrow — and if this bill goes through, would come to Parliament for authorization to borrow — is not insignificant.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, expanding the executive power at the expense of Parliament is not a new phenomenon. Progressively and gradually, over the years, through legislation, through administrative means, even by passing so-called parliamentary reforms, our role has been weakened or relegated to little more than symbolism or protocol.

Unfortunately, we are unlikely to succeed at changing the relationship between the executive and Parliament through major reforms. In practical terms, we will recover our prerogatives just as we lost them or gave them up, that is, gradually, little by little. The case before us today provides a perfect example and excellent opportunity.

The prerogative in question, that of parliamentary authority over the lending of government funds, is directly linked to fundamental parliamentary rights pertaining to government finances.

Our legislative authority was taken away quietly, almost without our knowledge, by an amendment that was passed virtually unnoticed in an omnibus bill in 2007.

That is why I urge all honourable senators to support this initiative, thereby restoring a right that is extremely important to our parliamentary democracy.

[English]

Honourable senators, in the past when governments were in deficit positions, there was at least one borrowing bill every fiscal year. This bill was an opportunity for Parliament to review and debate the government's fiscal and economic policy and its performance, and to debate the debt-management strategy of the government.

Without this bill, we will be inundated with paper from the Department of Finance and from the government in general. We will be inundated with projections and with reports ex post facto of what has happened. However, when it comes to borrowing, despite an avalanche of paper, we will be cut out of the action. Parliament will be out of the loop and that is not where Parliament should be.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Will Senator Murray accept a question?

Senator Murray: Certainly.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Those of us on this side who have discussed this matter as it relates to the current supply measures with the incorporation of legislation through the back door share your angst and your concern, but the progression increases; it does not decrease. We have heard that in the current measures before this chamber, some 42 statutes are being amended, some of them of major importance. These amendments will not have ample debate in this place or the other place.

I return to a previous measure that the honourable senator introduced, and question him about one issue I had focused on for some years, and that is the role of the Bank of Canada. In the Budget Implementation Act, 2007, vast powers were given to the Governor of the Bank of Canada with only retrospective parliamentary scrutiny. The honourable senator pointed out that the funding of debt is now in the hands of the executive and is simply reported to Parliament. Thus, Parliament has lost its powers there. Parliament has also lost power in dealing with the Bank of Canada, which has enormous powers to buy, sell, or do anything at the risk of the Canadian government and without any parliamentary scrutiny. Has the honourable senator looked at that measure? Does that concern him equally?

(1610)

Senator Murray: I have not looked at it as closely as my honourable friend has looked. I believe that it was the 2008 budget implementation bill that raised such a focus. The honourable senator will find that Bill C-10, currently in the other place, proposes additional discretionary powers to the Governor of the Bank of Canada and to the Minister of Finance. Such powers always bear the closest scrutiny and, if I may say, the most sceptical scrutiny on the part of Parliament. Little by little, we make ourselves ciphers if we are not careful, and we have not been careful enough in the past, going back many, many years.

Senator Grafstein: I share my colleague's concern. I might refer my honourable friend to a textbook that I studied many years ago that was brought to our attention by former Justice Bora Laskin, who was one of our teachers at the University of Toronto law school. All of us doted on one particular book called, The New Despotism by Lord Hewart, which brought to the attention of the British Parliament the creeping powers of administrative bodies that take away powers from government. That was on the regulatory side, and it has gone ever so swiftly since then. Very few powers remain in this place or in the other place to scrutinize the power of administrative tribunals as independent bodies on the regulatory side.

On the financial side, the new despotism has taken over again. Honourable senators, what can we do to arouse Parliament to its powers of scrutiny and check and balance on the executive?

Senator Murray: While the honourable senator was speaking, it occurred to me that one of the real improvements made here quite few years ago was the setting up of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, on which Senator Eyton sits as joint-chair. When we come to debate Bill C-10, you will find in the sections dealing with the Navigable Waters Protection Act that not only are they expanding the area of government and ministerial discretion and regulation at the expense of the legislature but also they are exempting at least some, if not all of the hypothetical new regulations from scrutiny. Certainly, we will examine that when Bill C-10 arrives.

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: I wish to commend the honourable senator on his effort, the work he has done and his persistence over the past year. In view of the fact that this power has been taken away from parliamentarians and their historic, traditional role of overseeing the public purse, is this a matter of constitutional concern? Has the honourable senator considered that? I am sure that average Canadians do not know that this is happening and think that the people who represent them in Ottawa, whether in the House of Commons or in the Senate, are over-sighting the public purse. Has the honourable senator thought about that and the constitutionality of the provision that was slipped through last year?

Senator Murray: I have not done so in the sense of the written Constitution, but it concerns me in terms of the essential conventions of our parliamentary democracy. I have reflected on it in another context over the past few days. People expect a great deal from their government, of course, but they also have a right to expect a good deal from those who are not in the government. They are entitled to expect a good deal from parliamentarians, and if I may say, in particular from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Whether citizens agree or disagree with what the government or the loyal opposition is doing, I do not think you will find many people who believe that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition should roll over before the government, not to put too fine a point on it.

In the case of the Senate, the one thing we can be sure of is that we are, effectively, the last line of defence against abuse of power by any government.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Moore: Senator Segal spoke about quarterly reporting, but that does not address the issue because the money is spent by then. The point is the access to the funds that Parliament does not have purview over. The accounting is one function but it is the laying of hands on the cash that we no longer have a look at.

Senator Murray: I supported Senator Segal's bill. In fact, I believe that I seconded it because it improves the parliamentary scrutiny of spending. They threw away their right to scrutinize estimates in the House of Commons such that they are deemed to have been approved by a certain date, whether any committee has ever opened the book on them. We have talked about that before.

Senator Segal's bill, as I understand it, will do what is done widely in the private sector. Quarterly reporting will give us an opportunity to follow the money, as they say, in a much more careful and detailed way.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned).

World Autism Awareness Day Bill

Second Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Munson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Milne, for the second reading of Bill S-210, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day.

Hon. Wilbert J. Keon: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today in support of Bill S-210, which establishes World Autism Awareness Day in Canada, to be celebrated each year on April 2. We are fortunate in this chamber to have had an opportunity to learn a great deal about autism in recent years. In particular, I am referring to the study undertaken by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, on which I was greatly honoured to serve as deputy chair, and the resulting report, Pay Now or Pay Later, Autism Families in Crisis. Autism has also been kept on the agenda through the nurturing efforts of Senator Munson.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that the Senate study on autism was the result of a motion by Senator Munson, in which he called the attention of the Senate to the issue of funding for the treatment of autism. I would like to thank Senator Munson not only for his work in this area but also on behalf of all Canadians with intellectual disabilities. These are people who offer much to the richness of our society but who lack a voice and far too often are without advocates in the community.

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I also want to thank Senator Oliver who seconded this bill. He has spoken often on the topic, both inside and outside this chamber. Such cross-party cooperation is an indication of how members of this chamber can join together effectively on matters of great importance.

Through the studies and work undertaken in the Senate, we have had the good fortune to learn much about autism, its impact on families and communities and how it is treated by medical professionals, as well as other individuals and government.

We have learned that autism itself is complex. Autism spectrum disorder, ASD, is a neurological difference that begins in early childhood and persists throughout adulthood. ASD includes five pervasive development disorders, the most commonly known of which are classic autism and Asperger's syndrome.

As a spectrum disorder, the symptoms range from mild to severe, but generally include difficulty with social skills, communication problems, behavioural issues such as repetitive movements and restrictive interests, as well as difficulty with audio and visual processing. Some people who are more severely affected lack any ability at all to communicate with others, and may exhibit forms of extreme aggression and seek to injure themselves.

We learned that the prevalence of autism has increased greatly in recent years as the preamble to this bill states, "the number of Canadians diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has grown by 150 per cent in the last six years."

Such increases translate to some 48,000 autistic children up to age 19, and 144,000 adults in Canada — a staggering number. By way of illustration, adding together the men, women and children represented, we would have a city almost as big as Kitchener, Ontario. That number would not include the family members of these individuals whose lives are so deeply affected by autism on a daily basis.

I remind the chamber that during the committee hearings, we were told that families must adapt their whole lifestyle to meet the needs of children who have autism. If we were to include family members of people with autism in the numbers I have given to honourable senators, we would have a more complete picture of the extent to which autism impacts on the lives of Canadians.

We learned about the wide variety of ways to manage the treatment of autism, from applied behavioural analysis to intensive behavioural intervention, to an integrated multidisciplinary approach involving biomedical and nutritional treatments, in addition to behavioural interventions.

We learned from the experiences and concerns of people who have autism that their families and others — such as clinicians and researchers — live lives immersed in a world that is, generally speaking, foreign to us. Access to treatment is uneven across the country, in part because of issues relating to funding, wait times and disability supports. As well, it is the case, as with the rest of our health care system, that treatment is in the hands of the provinces and territories, which compounds the inequality.

Generally speaking, medical wait times are exacerbated by the continuing reliance on paper records, as opposed to electronic records. The article in The Globe and Mail on June 14, 2007 by columnist Andre Picard gave an all-too-accurate description of how the health care system far too often ends up working so inefficiently because of paper records.

I am pleased that the government saw fit to include $500 million in the budget to address this problem. We will see enormous progress over the next two years with electronic records for half our population.

A major concern in our study on the funding of autism treatment was the high cost to the families of treatment — sometimes as high as $60,000 per year. The lack of adequate funding and high cost of treatment can be an impenetrable barrier for many families.

As Jason Oldford of Fredericton, New Brunswick argued before our committee:

. . . if you pay for it now, look at the return you get on your investment. The people with autism will get out in the real world and get jobs, and that will stimulate the economy. Or you can pay later, which means they will go into group homes and it will cost the taxpayers a lot of money to keep them there.

I have spoken many times on the need for research because we really do not understand what this entity is. Research is the foundation upon which proper care must be built. Generally speaking, if the research is not adequate, the treatment on which it is based will also be inadequate.

We are well aware that a great deal of work is taking place, and the Senate report reminded us of some of the broad resources that have been directed to autism research, stating:

According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), funding for autism-specific research has increased from just over $1 million in 2000-2001, to $3.5 million in 2005-2006. In total, CIHR has invested $15 million during this period. The Committee also heard that Genome Canada, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and Health Canada invest federal funds into autism research. Witnesses commented on the excellence of the Canadian autism research community, highlighting collaborative spirit and collegiality.

I want to point out a few examples of the support for autism research and work that is being undertaken. In October 2007, our government announced the establishment of a national Chair in Autism Research and Intervention at Simon Fraser University with $2 million in funding from the provincial and federal governments. The Autism and Developmental Disorder Laboratory at Simon Fraser University is led by Dr. Grace Iarocci, who is studying cognitive and social development among children and adults with autism and other development disabilities.

On the other side of the country is the Joan and Jack Craig Chair in Autism Research at Dalhousie University, led by Dr. Susan Bryson. Dr. Bryson was a founding member of the Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network, and worked to establish the Autism Research Unit at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.

Senator Oliver pointed out the fine work being conducted through the Craig Chair and the tremendous support that Joan and Jack Craig have thrown behind this research.

Another example is Kilee Patchell-Evans Autism Research Group, which is a Canadian multidisciplinary team located at the University of Western Ontario in London and directed by Dr. Derrick MacFabe.

Scientists are looking at the causes of autism, which could include genetics, brain function and prenatal factors. Other factors could be environmental toxins, viral infections and immune system deficiency.

In addition, the Autism Research Training Program recruits and trains researchers in the field of autism in such medical disciplines as genetics, brain imaging, epidemiology, neurology and psychology.

Allow me to put on my other hat for a moment, which is the one I have worn as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Population Health. I believe it is highly appropriate to look at autism through the lens of population health and the determinants of health.

As honourable senators are aware, the committee has been involved in examining the impact of multiple factors and conditions that contribute to the health of Canada's population — known as the social determinants of health.

These determinants include factors such as income, social status and education, working conditions and social support networks. This work involves not only understanding the impact of social determinants of health, but also translating that information into policies that will improve the overall health of Canadians in general, and in this case, provide more opportunity and hope for people with autism.

Dr. John Lynch from McGill University called for such policy-relevant research when he came before the committee and said:

I would also suggest that there is a fairly poor evidence base on what are most effective and most cost-effective interventions. I do think we can build a better policy-relevant evidence base, and that should be the priority in Canada.

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For an example of work in this area, I would like to draw the attention of honourable senators to Columbia University sociologist Peter Bearman, who received a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health Director's Pioneer Award to support the study of the social determinants of autism. A September 2007 press release from the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University quotes Dr. Bearman as stating:

The autism epidemic is a huge and complex puzzle which impacts hundreds of thousands of children and families. . . . It is one of the most pressing population health problems of our time. The Pioneer award makes it possible for us to think new thoughts and take big chances in our understanding of the epidemic and hopefully to make major contributions to public health.

A little closer to home, we see the work of Dr. Peter Szatmari, a child psychiatrist who works with children with autism. He is Director of the Offord Centre for Child Studies and a founding member of the Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network. According to the 2008 Biennial Research Report of Hamilton Health Sciences, he is conducting a:

. . . multi-site, cross-Canada study of the developmental trajectories of very young children with autism/PDD from the point of diagnosis to their transition into Grade 1, a critical point in their lives. The study will attempt to identify important factors in the child, family, and community and in the interventions they received that were associated with the best outcomes.

Also involved in this extensive study are investigators Susan Bryson at Dalhousie; Eric Fombonne at McGill; Pat Mirenda at the University of British Columbia; Wendy Roberts at the University of Toronto; Isabel Smith at Dalhousie; Tracy Vaillancourt at McMaster; Joanne Volden at the University of Alberta; Charlotte Waddell from Simon Fraser University; and Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, also at the University of Alberta.

The depth and breadth of this research is precisely what is needed to more fully understand autism and the mechanisms that are associated with good outcomes for children. However, the need for research must constantly be supported. As an example, 40 years ago, we had little understanding of heart disease, strokes, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Today, about 50 per cent of heart disease, strokes, cancer and type 2 diabetes are preventable in the first place and the remainder are curable in large numbers of cases. This is all because of the knowledge base that unfolded over the last 40 year through Canadian and global research.

We must now do the necessary research to understand what autism is; then we must eliminate it as we did with smallpox and polio.

In addition to these efforts, there is a great role for Ottawa to play in the area of education and public awareness. During the committee's study, it was made very clear to us that there is a gap when it comes to an awareness about autism. The committee report stated that:

Throughout the course of the hearings on this difficult subject, witnesses identified a clear need for a national public awareness campaign. The Committee agrees that there is a great lack of understanding among Canadians about autism and its spectrum of disabilities and feels that a greater understanding of ASD by all Canadians could help to reduce the stress experienced by these individuals and their families.

Public awareness is vitally important in all areas of health, from encouraging people to garnering support. This need for public awareness brings us to the point of Senator Munson's Bill S-210, which will designate the second day of April each and every year as World Autism Awareness Day. It was celebrated for the first time this year, as the United Nations stated in a press release, "to highlight the need to help improve the lives of children and adults who suffer from this disorder."

In November 2007, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day. Canada has, of course, already joined in the celebration of World Autism Awareness Day. This past April 2, former Minister of Health Tony Clement issued a press release.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I am sorry to interrupt the Honourable Senator Keon. Does he wish to ask for more time?

Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): He may have five more minutes.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Keon: His press release marked the "first annual Autism Awareness Day launched by the United Nations and recognized worldwide." However, our participation was by virtue of membership in the United Nations.

Through the passage of this bill, we are showing that we truly respect Canadians with autism. I would like to remind honourable senators that the conclusion of the committee's report states:

Members of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology are profoundly aware of the challenges facing those with autism and their families.

The recognition of World Autism Awareness Day is a clear and unequivocal affirmation of that sentiment.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Does any senator wish to continue debate?

It was moved by the Honourable Senator Munson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Milne, that Bill S-210, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day, be read the second time now.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to and bill read second time.)

Referred to Committee

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the third time?

(On motion of Senator Munson, bill referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.)

Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Accessibility of Post-Secondary Education—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Callbeck, seconded by the Honourable Senator Corbin:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be authorized to examine and report on the accessibility of post-secondary education in Canada, including but not limited to:

(a) analysis of the current barriers in post-secondary education, such as geography, family income levels, means of financing for students, debt levels and challenges faced specifically by Aboriginal students;

(b) evaluation of the current mechanisms for students to fund post-secondary education, such as Canada Student Loans Program, Canada Student Grants Program, Canada Access Grants, funding for Aboriginal students, Canada Learning Bonds, and Registered Education Savings Plans;

(c) examination of the current federal/provincial transfer mechanism for post-secondary education;

(d) evaluation of the potential establishment of a dedicated transfer for post-secondary education; and

(e) any other matters related to the study; and

That the Committee submit its final report no later than December 31, 2010, and that the Committee retain until June 30, 2011, all powers necessary to publicize its findings.—(Honourable Senator Comeau)

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, although the Order Paper says that this item stands in Senator Comeau's name, it was my recollection that we broke off last week when I had not exhausted my time to speak to it. Therefore, I propose to continue my remarks briefly now. I understand that Senator Comeau believes that to be in order.

Honourable senators will recall the debate last week about the matter in which this motion had been presented. I have had occasion to consider the careful explanations given by Senator Callbeck about the way in which she had proceeded as she drafted this motion and I have reread the motion carefully.

It strikes me that it is a classic example of the kind of thing that the Senate does and does well. Also, it is my understanding that the chair of the committee actually agrees.

That being the case, since Senator Callbeck has moved that we adopt this motion, I would urge that we do so now.

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Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, comments were made last week suggesting that I had said that the chamber does not have the right or duty to refer mandates to committees. That is not the intention of my intervention last week. It is, in fact, the chamber that refers mandates or terms of reference to committees.

If anyone has interpreted my suggestion that this chamber does not have the duty to refer mandates to committees, it does in fact have the duty.

I want to make absolutely clear what I was suggesting last week. It has been a tradition at committees that committee members meet amongst themselves and arrive at a work plan of areas to be studied by those particular committees, and that after the committees have deliberated, consulted and, in some cases, acted on consensus — in some cases voted — they bring the request for a mandate back to this chamber and seek that order of reference. In my view, that tradition is a far superior way to ask committees to look at areas to study. In effect, the committees themselves become the masters of the direction in which they are to go. They buy into the mandate that has been directed by this chamber.

I suggest that it would be polite and courteous to speak to committee members and ask them, as in the case of the education request of Senator Callbeck, if they are interested in studying this subject. Honourable senators can propose that it be studied by the committee and then they must convince committee members that it should be studied and the way in which it should be studied.

I was chair of a committee for many years. We deliberated long and hard on the areas that were the most critical at that point in time. Senator Watt is here now and I am sure he would vouch for this point. We looked deeply into areas that had not been looked at for many years and said, It is now time to look at this subject. We would then arrive at a consensus amongst ourselves.

As a shortcut, a member of a committee would move the motion on the floor of the chamber, and the chamber would dictate to the committee what it should do, rather than the other way around: namely, for the committee to seek a mandate from the floor of the chamber.

In no way do I suggest that the chamber does not have the right to order a committee to look at a certain subject. I do not suggest that.

I have more thoughts on this matter. It is the polite thing to do, particularly when we have new members sitting on the committee who were not even made aware of the request. Would it not have been courteous to approach these new members and ask if they buy into this area of study They were not approached.

I do not want to put words into the chair's mouth, but he said that the chamber should mandate or give orders of reference to the committee without the committee deliberating on them. That is his opinion. I disagree, but it is his opinion. If this is how he wants to act as chair of that committee, so be it.

When I was chair, I would not, for a second, have thought of going outside the committee members to seek views, prior to recommending a mandate from the floor.

I have some other thoughts on this subject. I want to consult more with committee members from this side to hear their views. With that in mind, I want to adjourn the debate.

(On motion of Senator Comeau, debate adjourned.)

Banking, Trade and Commerce

Committee Authorized to Study Credit and Debit Card Systems

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion by the Honourable Senator Ringuette, seconded by the Honourable Senator Rompkey, P.C.:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce be authorized to examine and report on the credit and debit card systems in Canada and their relative rates and fees, in particular for businesses and consumers; and

That the Committee report to the Senate no later than June 30, 2009, and that the Committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 90 days after the tabling of the final report.

Hon. Michael A. Meighen: Honourable senators, I welcome the opportunity to speak somewhat briefly to Senator Ringuette's motion calling upon the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce to examine and report on the credit and debit card systems in Canada and their relative rates and fees for businesses and consumers.

In this regard, allow me to draw the attention of this chamber to page 9 of Budget 2009: Canada's Economic Action Plan, where the government declared its intentions on these matters. The relevant sentences read:

A strong and stable financial system depends on the ability of its users to make informed decisions when managing the risk associated with using credit.

Canadians need to have access to credit on terms that are fair and transparent. The Government is proposing to strengthen the disclosure requirements on federally regulated financial institutions that issue credit cards so that consumers are better equipped to make informed decisions.

Insofar as improvements may be needed to existing practices, the government is clearly committed to exploring these matters.

To quote again from the January 27 budget document:

The Government will take a more principles-based approach in improving the disclosure of information to consumers. Improvements will be sought in areas such as the provision of clear and simple summary information on credit card application forms and contracts, and clear and timely advance notice of changes in rates and fees.

In her speech in support of her motion, Senator Ringuette honed in on business practices of banks and credit card companies. Again, a careful reading of the January 27 budget demonstrates that this government is mindful of scoping out avenues where there could be changes or improvements. The budget document clearly states on page 89:

The Government will propose to further enhance consumer protection by limiting business practices that are not beneficial to consumers. For example, the Government will require a minimum grace period on new purchases made with a credit card and move to improve debt collection practices of federally regulated financial institutions.

Matters of credit and debit cards and their relative rates and fees touch upon other issues, honourable senators.

One major area on which the government is particularly proactive is financial literacy: the ability to understand personal and broader financial matters, and apply that knowledge and assume responsibility for one's financial decisions. Especially in matters of personal finance, including the handling of credit and debit cards, Canadians need to be given, from an early age, the tools to look after their best interests.

To this end, the Government of Canada is committed to the establishment of an independent task force, which will make recommendations to the Minister of Finance on a cohesive national strategy on financial literacy.

This task force will include representatives of the business and education sectors, volunteer organizations and academics, and will be supported by a federal secretariat. The task force is expected to be launched in the spring of 2009. A positive outcome for the group will require the collaboration of the provinces, the private sector and community organizations.

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This is welcome news indeed, honourable senators, and I feel that it complements the subject matter referenced in Senator Ringuette's motion. Consequently, I believe that I can state without fear of contradiction that a constructive and balanced exploration of Senator Ringuette's motion is not inconsistent with the agenda of this government.

While Senator Ringuette and others on the Banking Committee may or may not part company on certain items in her speech supporting her motion, this does not mean we should prejudge the potential work that the committee might wind up doing on this topic. In fact, it only serves to underscore the need to hear from expert witnesses, industry representatives and others who can shed light on the topic.

Honourable senators, the financial services sector is an important part of our economy. It employs — and I found this to be a staggering statistic — over 500,000 Canadians, and it represents over 5 per cent of Canada's gross domestic product. At a time when other countries of the world are looking to Canada as a shining example of how to get things right in terms of developing, maintaining and regulating a mature and thriving financial sector in a balanced fashion, we should be leery of succumbing to the exaggerated and simplistic refrains of anti-corporate populism and bank-bashing. Such an approach stands to cast unfairly this vital component of Canada's economy in a negative and suspicious light.

I remind this chamber that in 2008, the World Economic Forum ranked Canada's banking system the healthiest in the world. While there is always room for improvement, it is it my hope and indeed my expectation that any examination of Senator Ringuette's motion would be carried out as dispassionately as possible.

The bottom line is that we do live in uncertain times. The upheaval and trauma caused by the global financial crisis, a crisis caused by factors beyond our borders and beyond our control, will be working its way through the international and domestic economy for some time to come. Yes, it is a perfectly understandable human trait, when faced with any kind of trauma, to look for scapegoats. I referred to anti-corporate populism and bank-bashing, but this impulse could equally apply to any of the other "isms" that sometimes take hold in periods of economic or social distress.

I am optimistic that in the coming weeks and months, we will get to see the sunnier side of human nature as the countries of this world navigate through stormy waters, especially in terms of dealing with our trading partners. In our own domestic, economic and regulatory interventions, we must be constructive and enlightened. We should also hope that our trading partners and other major actors with influence over our economic health take the same approach.

Honourable senators, with these sentiments in mind, I generally support Senator Ringuette statement. I associate myself with the remarks of the Leader of the Government to the extent that I would have preferred, had we had the opportunity, for some consultation among members of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce before the introduction of the motion. However, to be fair to Senator Ringuette, I do not think the Banking Committee had been constituted when she aggressively put forward her motion in a very timely fashion from her perspective. If it ends up in front of the Banking Committee, I think it would form the basis of a most interesting and instructive study.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: Would the honourable senator take a question? I served my honourable colleague notice of this question.

There are two reports of the Banking Committee outstanding and for which most of the work has already been done. One study is on the topic of hedge funds. Senator Angus and I virtually completed that study. The other study, which is nearly complete, is on the topic of reducing interprovincial trade barriers.

Could the honourable senator tell me what the committee intends to do with those studies, having in mind that the money has been spent?

Senator Meighen: I thank the honourable senator for his question.

Being a fervent democrat, I take the view that it should be the decision of the members of the committee and, more specifically, of the steering committee. I am happy to tell my honourable colleague that the steering committee will be meeting on these matters tomorrow morning. I hope to have some sort of answer for the honourable senator subsequent to that meeting.

I do point out, however, and not to discourage him unduly, that I asked for some information on where we stand on these two matters, since Senator Grafstein gave me notice of this question. It has been almost two years since we dealt with the hedge fund matter and the excellent work we completed in that area. At the very least, I hope — and I am not pushing to prejudge the committee's decision — it could be incorporated under perhaps a more general examination of investor protection and financial literacy.

On the other hand, I am less optimistic, but I will wait to hear the views of my colleagues, about what we could usefully contribute at this stage to the internal trade debate. The information may be somewhat dated. I see my honourable colleague shaking his head. I can only say that we will have a look at it with a dispassionate eye and not in any way, shape or form waste the valuable work that was done.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to.)

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly

Motion to Support Resolution on Expanding Trade Between North America and Europe—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, pursuant to notice of January 28, 2009, moved:

That the Senate endorse the following Resolution, adopted by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at its 17th Annual Session, held at Astana, Kazakhstan, from June 29 to July 3, 2008:

RESOLUTION ON EXPANDING TRADE BETWEEN NORTH AMERICA AND EUROPE

1. Reaffirming the importance of trade for economic growth, political stability and international peace,

2. Recalling the fundamental importance of the economic and environmental dimension in the OSCE's comprehensive approach to security,

3. Considering that expanded free trade between North American and European markets will benefit all OSCE participating States politically as well as economically,

4. Recalling the commitments made by the participating States at the Maastricht Ministerial Council in December 2003 regarding the liberalization of trade and the elimination of barriers limiting market access,

5. Recalling the recommendations of the 2006 OSCE Best Practice Guide for a Positive Business and Investment Climate, published by the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, which advocate stronger international trade policies and conditions favourable to the circulation of international capital,

6. Concurring with the conclusions of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities that free trade agreements and the reduction of tariffs are vital to a strong trade policy,

7. Recalling the importance that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly accords to the development of international trade as underlined by the Assembly's Fifth Economic Conference on the theme of "Strengthening Stability and Co-operation through International Trade" held in Andorra in May 2007,

8. Recalling the deep historical and cultural ties between the peoples and states of North America and Europe which shaped their common values, on which the OSCE is based, and which are reinforced by the strength of their economic links,

9. Recognizing the considerable impact that the economies of North America and Europe have on international trade,

10. Considering the increasingly interdependent nature of the economic links between North America and Europe,

11. Noting the scope and depth of trade between North America and Europe which benefits public accounts and the private sector in addition to generating opportunities for employment,

12. Welcoming recently signed agreements that promote greater and freer trade between a limited number of markets in North America and Europe, such as the January 2008 Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association,

13. Acknowledging the appeal of the emerging markets in Asia and South America, whose growth will generate new levels of competition and economic efficiencies for trade between North America and Europe,

14. Concerned with the persistence of trade barriers in the economic relations between North America and Europe which limit opportunities for greater economic growth and human development,

15. Concerned with the state of the Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization which is affecting inter-regional trade negotiations such as the Canada-European Union Trade and Investment Enhancement Agreement suspended since 2006,

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:

16. Resolves that seminars and conferences to raise awareness of the opportunities and shared benefits of trade liberalization should be considered;

17. Calls on the parliaments of the OSCE participating States to vigorously support and accelerate all multilateral, inter-institutional and bilateral initiatives that promote the liberalization of trade between North America and Europe, including the harmonization of standards and the elimination of regulatory barriers;

18. Calls on the parliaments of the OSCE participating States to sustain the political will of their governments as members of existing economic agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, the European Union, the European Free Trade Association and the Central European Free Trade Agreement, to develop transatlantic partnership agreements that expand and liberalise trade between and among them;

19. Recommends that current and future initiatives that target expanded trade between the economies of North America and Europe consider greater involvement where appropriate of regional and subregional governments and groupings;

20. Recommends that current and future initiatives that target expanded trade between the economies of North America and Europe reflect the principles and standards of the OSCE, particularly human rights, environmental protection, sustainable development and economic and social rights, including workers' rights, as agreed to in the 1990 Document of the Bonn Conference on Economic Co-operation in Europe, the 1990 Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE and the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe.

He said: Honourable senators, this resolution is self-explanatory. I urge all honourable senators to read it. It is neither long, nor complicated. It has been debated now for several years at the OSCE, which is an interparliamentary group to which I will refer in a few moments. Essentially, it calls for expanding free trade between Europe and North America. As you know, 87 per cent of our trade is with the United States. For years and years, some of us in this chamber have advocated alternate trade and diversification. Obviously Europe, the second or third largest market in the world after North America, is one market with which we should have closer ties, and certainly free trade, and free trade not just between Canada and the United States and the member states of the European Union but between regional and sub-regional governments and groups. I urge you to read the resolution carefully.

The question you may ask is, why now? In my view, this resolution could not be timelier. Canada is a trading nation; 50 per cent of our jobs, economy and activity depend on foreign trade. Several weeks ago, we learned the disastrous news that for the first time that in over three decades we now have a trade deficit, especially in manufacturing goods and services.

It is time for the Senate to take a fresh and precise look at this particular question. At this precise moment, when we hear the awesome drum beats of protectionism in the United States, as we heard last week in Congress, and the protectionist responses in Europe and Asia, it is even more important once again to make the case for free trade. Now is the time for the Senate of Canada to take a stand.

The free trade debate, especially with the United States, has been raging in Canada since Confederation. You all know your Canadian economic history. Here is a quick survey. Forgive me for being less than comprehensive. This is a fast thumbnail sketch of free trade, as reflected by our key prime ministers.

Sir John A. Macdonald was against free trade. We was for high tariffs and protectionisms.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier was for free trade. However, in 1911, he lost the election on the question of trade reciprocity with the United States. He was a true believer in free trade.

The International Joint Commission was established in 1911, one of only three bilateral institutions ever established between Canada and the United States. In all the years, between Canada and the United States, we only have three bilateral institutions. The IJC was the one, and it continues to operate. The Honourable Herb Gray is our representative on that commission.

Mackenzie King was on all sides, as he was usually on all economic trade questions. A number of times he contemplated a trade agreement with the United States during the Great Depression when Mr. Bennett took on protectionist clothes of the Conservative Party, though many in the West and the East were free traders. After World War II, King dithered after considering and drawing up a comprehensive free trade agreement with the United States, but he withdrew this initiative as he was moving towards his resignation as prime minister in the late 1940s.

Louis St. Laurent was, by impulse, as many Quebecers are a free trader. He took a leadership role in order to establish closer economic relations with the United States and advocated a majestic binational infrastructure project, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway. Of course, the much maligned C.D. Howe was an advocate of free trade. John Diefenbaker, however, was suspicious of the Americans and was against free trade, as were some of his leading advisers. His cabinet was divided on the issue.

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Mr. Pearson was, by instinct, an internationalist and a free trader, but his cabinet in a minority government was split between free traders and economic nationalists. Mr. Trudeau started as a free trader and a continentalist, and then shifted at the height of the oil crisis to protectionism and relied on the foreign investment agency as a countervail to U.S. takeovers of Canadian firms.

John Turner was a reluctant free trader and led against the free trade agreement with the United States because he was afraid that there was not ample protection for Canadian workers or a satisfactory dispute resolution mechanism in the FTA promulgated by Brian Mulroney, and Mr. Turner was correct.

Of course, Mr. Mulroney, true to his Quebec roots, was an unabashed free trader. Mr. Chrétien, like most Quebecers, was also a free trader, as was as his mentor, Mitchell Sharp, but succumbed to protectionist sentiments from time to time as Minister of Energy and was ambivalent about his relationship from time to time with the United States leadership.

Mr. Martin was by nature a free trader but succumbed to protectionist sentiments from time to time, as has Mr. Harper, who I believe is an unabashed free trader.

The question is: Where does the Senate stand? The Senate has periodically considered the question of free trade, especially with the United States. Most recently, as a matter of fact, the late and very respectable George Van Roggen from British Columbia, a distinguished Liberal senator, who was Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate, on which I served, produced a report that antagonized the leadership of the Liberal Party when it recommended a free trade agreement with the United States.

Senator Van Roggen was a small "L" liberal senator in the great tradition of this place, who was prepared to sail against the winds of conventional wisdom on this question and other questions of the day.

Senators may properly question: Where do I stand? I am and have been a Manchester Liberal, a member of the Manchester school of liberalism that favours free trade over protectionism.

Winston Churchill was also a Manchester Liberal and an unabashed free trader. Let me quote from Winston Churchill on the free trade debate in the British Parliament in 1906. Winston Churchill's words —

Senator Segal: I was there when he made that speech.

Senator Grafstein: The honourable senator heard the original speech. Good for him. He was a Liberal for over two decades, during his most glorious and splendid period.

Let me quote Winston Churchill, from 1906, in the debate:

When we suppressed the slave trade we were fighting the cause of humanity. We broke the power of Napoleon in defense of liberties of Europe. So it was in the days of Greek Independence. So it was when we proclaimed ourselves Free Traders . . . in every part of the world, instead of being . . . little selfish preserves . . . have been thrown open to the commerce of all nations freely to buy and barter as they will . . . the people who have thrown open their ports to commerce of all nations are by far the greatest exporters.

That people whose coastwise trade is free to the foreigner as to themselves . . . are the same people who have secured overwhelming mastership of the seas. Large views always triumph over small ideas. Broad economic principles always in the end defeat the sharp devices of expediency; tolerance and liberty are always more profitable than arbitrary restrictions . . . free imports can contend with hostile tariffs . . .

Free trade is a condition of progress; it is an aid to progress; it is a herald of progress; but it is not progress. Some more is needed . . . we must produce.

Honourable senators, let me turn to the specific resolution and its origins. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, of which I am proudly the vice-president, for more than a decade has held regular economic forums across Europe and Asia to spread the free trade theology based on the European Union's template that has reached beyond Europe to its Eastern neighbours and now to the Mediterranean Basin. The EU is the largest trading zone in the world and the second largest market in the world, yet the EU has been ambivalent about opening up its economic space to free trade with non-member states and especially with North America.

Those of us who are free traders have had a problem until recently with the EU's commission, and particularly with the former Commissioner for Trade at the EU, Pascal Lamy, who was prepared to negotiate free trade agreements between the EU and Mexico, the EU and the Mercosul in South America, but was not prepared to negotiate a free trade agreement between the EU and North America; in fact, neither with Canada nor with the United States, together or alone.

The good news, honourable senators, is that Mr. Lamy has left the EU and, ironically, is now the head of the World Trade Organization and has now found the true faith of free trade but regretfully is encountering tough protectionist sentiments within the EU, especially with respect to our agricultural tariffs.

He has gone from the EU, so now it is time, in my view, to accelerate negotiations with the EU for a free or freer trade agreement between the EU and North America. That, I am pleased to report, is under way, but it is not moving fast enough.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, I cannot hear the speaker, so please keep the conversations low or in the Reading Room.

Senator Grafstein: Honourable senators will recall that in the 1930s Canada was a leader of Commonwealth trade preferences, involving trade protectionism, but those agreements and treaties were eventually displaced with Canada's active entry and adherence to the WTO, so back to the OSCE.

The OSCE is composed of 56 states reaching from Vladivostok to Vancouver. The OSCE emerged from the Helsinki Accords in the late 1970s into a full and active institution on the government side and on the parliamentary side where I so proudly serve, as I do with my colleague and great member of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Senator Di Nino.

If honourable senators read the Third Basket of the Helsinki Accords, the OSCE's organizing agreements, this basket stresses trade and economic cooperation. Indeed, in 1975, all member states, including Canada, agreed to expand mutual trade in goods and services and to foster conditions for economic development in the agreement within the Helsinki Accords. That agreement within the agreement is entitled "The Agreement and Cooperation in the Field of Economics, of Science and Technology."

By the way, this economic cooperation between member states is now under way with respect to the states of the Mediterranean Basin. The OSCE is reaching down to establish membership with partner states in the Mediterranean Basin in order to foster free trade in that region, and that is the subject matter of another resolution on the Order Paper.

Why now? The Helsinki Accords called for economic cooperation because one of the most important lessons of history teaches that free trade has always been a harbinger of stability, growth and the rule of law.

Historical examples demonstrate that "free" trading practices have contributed to modernization, prosperity, peace and stability. Trade propelled the growth of the Roman Empire. Trade propelled the ancient Middle Kingdom of China until subsequent decisions by Imperial China's leadership chose to close borders to trade and investment and to trade inward and downward.

Senator Segal: Where was the honourable senator in 1988? Why was he not campaigning on our side?

Senator Grafstein: I was in the Senate dealing with the issue here. Look at my votes.

China's opening in recent years to international trade investment has led to significant economic growth in that country and also significant moderation in its civil life. China's leadership has moved the debate in the country from internal ideology to trade and economics. They are opening up, and there is moderation coming, not as fast and swift as we would like, but it has certainly become a more moderate state than it was under strict communist rule.

Free trade created the Hanseatic League in the 14th century. "Free cities" of Europe formed an international trading union that led to the formation of the rule of law.

A lesson from history, honourable senators: Commercial rule of law preceded the civil rule of law. The rule of law, as it applies to civilians and citizens, came after commercial law. Commercial law even preceded the common law. Therefore, the commercial law is a harbinger of a common law, of a civil law and of an individual rights law.

The transformation of Japan during the Second World War reduced emphasis on military spending and gave priority to economics and trade. As a result, Japan grew quickly from the devastation of war to one of the world's largest and most successful leading economies. The lessons of history are clear. Free trade acts as a catalyst to growth. Growth produces jobs and wealth. Jobs and wealth foster peace and stability.

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Most instructive in Europe, the EU political arrangement of a single market was preceded by common coal and common steel agreements led by one of the greatest economic leaders of our times, the late Jean Monnet. He was the godfather of the European common market. It started in 1952, not with a political agreement but with an economic agreement to establish a free-trade zone for coal and steel. That agreement, in turn, led to the political integration, as we see it today, in Europe. Free trade came before political development.

Trade has always acted as a precursor or catalyst to broader international and domestic law; for example, rules around shipping lanes. Many on the other side are experts in navigation. If one looks at history, one will learn that the early rules of the sea were called lex mercatoria. Laws of trade were developed from those laws in medieval Europe and ultimately, emerged as the basis for both civil, local and criminal law for stability and predictability.

I will not bore honourable senators with my papers given at these past forums preaching free trade as a road map to peace and prosperity. The papers are available, if any wish to read them.

Now let us confront the emerging recession and perhaps depression. Have we learned the lesson of the last depression? Roosevelt's first 1932 new deal failed in the United States because Congress supported the Smoot-Hawley law, and established tariff laws as a defence against the depression, and we followed in Canada. As a result, that recession, instead of improving after we threw millions of dollars at it, grew worse until they removed, or started reducing, the tariff laws. Protectionism had the opposite effect of deepening the depression and reducing growth.

This subject has become a hot-button issue in the United States, as we learned from Senator Johnson who was meeting with Congressmen, senators and governors last week. They talk free trade — the President of the United States talks free trade — but if honourable senators look at the legislation, they will find it is crippled by protection elements. That was one of the mandated jobs that Senator Johnson and I led our teams to discuss with individual senators and especially governors.

Now we must learn once again the harsh and hard lessons of protectionism. It impedes growth, creates greater job loss and accelerates the downward spiral of economic activity.

As I said in another resolution, I will pursue the peace benefits of a free-trade agreement amongst and between the states of the Mediterranean basin, and now we need to be concerned with free trade in North America and Europe.

We need to actively counterbalance and counter the arguments against protectionism, which is the most recent reiteration in the stimulus recovery package recently passed by the American Congress. This resolution, honourable senators, is the right idea at the right time. Let the Canadian Senate speak and let us speak clearly. President Obama came to Canada and he will therefore listen more carefully to what the Canadian Senate thinks about this matter. The resolution might influence decisions taken not only in Ottawa but later in Washington.

On a personal note, I was concerned for the first time, as was Senator Johnson, to hear in our private conversations the drum beat of protectionism.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform the honourable senator that his time has expired. Is the honourable senator asking for more time?

Senator Grafstein: Yes, may I have five minutes, please?

In the National Post today, there is an interesting article on page 15 entitled "Obama's plan for unfree trade." I urge all honourable senators who have questions about the comments I have made to look at that article.

Honourable senators, I urge the speedy adoption of this resolution to help those who are against the cause of protectionism. This is a time for the Senate to speak because if we speak now, we will be heard not only in Canada but in the United States and across the heart of Europe. I urge the speedy adoption of this resolution.

(On motion of Senator Segal, debate adjourned.)

Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Committee Authorized to Study Issues Related to Mandate and to Refer Papers and Evidence since Second Session of Thirty-ninth Parliament

Hon. W. David Angus, pursuant to notice of February 26, 2009, moved:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources be authorized to examine and report on emerging issues related to its mandate:

(a) The current state and future direction of production, distribution, consumption, trade, security and sustainability of Canada's energy resources;

(b) Environmental challenges facing Canada including responses to global climate change, air pollution, biodiversity and ecological integrity;

(c) Sustainable development and management of renewable and non-renewable natural resources including but not limited to water, minerals, soils, flora and fauna; and

(d) Canada's international treaty obligations affecting energy, the environment and natural resources and their influence on Canada's economic and social development.

That the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament be referred to the committee; and

That the committee submit its final report no later than June 30, 2010 and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings until 180 days after the tabling of the final report.

(Motion agreed to.)

(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, March 4, 2009, at 1:30 p.m.)


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