The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Hon. Marie-P. Poulin: Honourable senators, I am delighted to rise in tribute to the Honourable Vivienne Poy, who has graced this chamber since her appointment in 1998 as Canada's first senator of Asian descent.
In the dozen years she has been here, Senator Poy's quiet and charming ways almost camouflage her energetic and tireless commitment to human rights, minority rights and gender equity. Such pursuits grew from her background: born into war and displacement, and her family's flight from Hong Kong into China as refugees and, later, migration to Canada. If anyone knows about the tribulations of immigrants and minorities in Canada, it is Senator Poy.
Senator Poy received a PhD for her dissertation on Chinese Canadian women immigrants, and she has been at the forefront of the Japanese and Chinese communities in this country. She played a primary role in having May recognized across Canada as Asian Heritage Month. In addition to her inspirational volunteerism, Senator Poy has garnered stellar achievements as a corporate leader, author, historian, public speaker and academic. Indeed, she is one of the country's most remarkable women.
In recognition of her many achievements, last month Senator Poy was named one of Canada's Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2010 in the second annual people's choice award presented by the Canadian Immigrant magazine in association with the Royal Bank of Canada. More than 200,000 people voted online for their choice out of hundreds of submissions, that were whittled down to 75 finalists, and then to 25 winners.
Honourable senators, this is just the latest recognition of a remarkable woman who, over the years, has received numerous awards and honours, including several honorary degrees, the Outstanding Asian Canadian Community Award from the Canadian Multicultural Council and an International Women's Day Award. Without a doubt, Senator Poy has been an inspiration to young people, women and new immigrants, and a respected ambassador of this institution.
Honourable senators, please join me in extending warmest congratulations to Dr. Poy on her Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award.
Hon. Ethel Cochrane: Honourable senators, on May 31, people around the world joined together to celebrate World No Tobacco Day. The World Health Organization created this annual event in 1987 to bring global attention to the negative effects of tobacco.
It might be hard to believe but, in 2008, almost five million Canadians aged 15 and older were smokers. According to The Lung Association, tobacco kills about 45,000 Canadians every year. That is more than the total number of deaths from AIDS, car accidents, suicide, murder, fires and accidental poisoning combined.
Honourable senators, Canadians and people around the world need to know that there is no safe tobacco. It does not matter if it is smoked in a cigarette, a cigar, a pipe or even chewed; it is still not safe; and "light" cigarettes and "smokeless" tobacco products are not safe either. Regardless of packaging and form, it is a poison, pure and simple.
I am particularly concerned about the arrival of the so-called new generation of smokeless flavoured tobacco products. I recently learned about products in the U.S. that look like breath mints and breath-freshening strips, both in terms of their packaging and in presentation. We need to educate people, in particular our children and youth, about the real dangers that these toxic chemicals pose.
As a society, we are making gains in the fight against tobacco use and addiction. For instance, I was happy to learn that in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, over 70 municipalities have made their outdoor recreation and sporting facilities smoke-free. As well, I commend the College of the North Atlantic for taking action and declaring that all of its campuses will be smoke-free by September 2010.
We are standing up to tobacco companies and their incredible marketing machines. To use yet another example from Newfoundland and Labrador, since January 1 this year, large retail tobacco displays — so-called power walls — are no longer permitted in the province.
Honourable senators, I am heartened by the progress that has been made. However, it is clear that we must persist in our efforts to reduce the tragic grip that tobacco products have on users around the world. On May 31, we stand up against the dangers of tobacco use and encourage tobacco users to reclaim their right to a healthy life.
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, a few weeks ago a major deal was announced between Canada's forestry industry and a consortium of environmental organizations in respect of the boreal forest area that runs across the middle of Canada. This agreement
ended years of conflict between the two sides and created a process that will ensure the protection of critical ecosystems and the revitalization of the forest sector. It is a win-win scenario that marks a distinct advancement over years of bitter struggle.
Some of the same players were involved in the agreement in British Columbia a few years ago to create the Spirit Bear reserve and to implement an ecosystem-based land-use plan that will protect the environment, while permitting sustainable forestry, mining and tourism with First Nations involvement. This approach is the wave of the future and proves that environmental protection can go hand in hand with economic development and growth.
Currently, the federal government is seeking to improve regulatory processes in the Northwest Territories. They could well take a page from the two agreements described above. Land management will not improve in the North if the federal government takes a heavy-handed approach that does not respect Aboriginal rights and the wishes of Northerners. Rather, they need to take a collaborative approach to address the issue.
Recently, I released Seeking Certainty, New Approaches to Land Management in the Northwest Territories. This paper, written by well-known Yellowknife consultant Jamie Bastedo and supported by the Senate Liberal caucus research fund, outlines the challenges of regulatory reform and recommends practical solutions. I highly recommend it to the government and urge they follow its suggestions.
Hon. Bob Runciman: Honourable senators, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-391, a bill to disband the long-gun registry, and to comment on the fallacy that all police officers support continuation of the registry.
On September 21, 1995, I appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, then considering Bill C-68, which created the long-gun registry. I was there to present the Ontario government's opposition to the registry.
At the time, I pointed out that the great tragedy of Bill C-68 was that it emphasized a politically attractive measure at the expense of realistic and effective gun control. It might look good on the six o'clock news but it would not work on the streets, and it would divert money and personnel from the things that do work.
Boy, did it divert money. From an initial estimate of $2 million, the cost rose to more than $2 billion. Think of what good use those tax dollars could have done in effecting meaningful gun control and real control of criminals.
Senator Mercer: Put on another G8.
Senator Runciman: In 1995, the Ontario government warned that costs of establishing the registry could exceed $1 billion — ultimately an underestimate, but dramatically closer than the phoney numbers provided by the government of the day and misguidedly supported by many in police leadership. I want to stress "police leadership," not rank and file officers and not all leaders. We hear the same folks continuing to defend this ill-conceived and ineffective measure and continuing to perpetuate the myth that their voices represent all police officers across Canada. Of course, that, like the original $2 million cost estimate, is another fiction.
That myth was shattered very effectively by MP Brent Rathgeber during a committee hearing on Bill C-391 in the other place on May 13. In an exchange with Charles Momy, the President of the Canadian Police Association, MP Rathgeber elicited an admission from Mr. Momy that less than 1 per cent of his association's membership responded to a survey on the long-gun registry — a survey that Mr. Momy, earlier in the meeting, had implied was an indicator of the widespread support of the registry among rank and file officers. Also, at an earlier hearing on the bill, three retired police officers from Winnipeg suggested that frontline officers have been intimidated and effectively silenced from speaking out on this issue.
Honourable senators, it is truly unfortunate that many of the same suspects who brought us this misguided program are again attempting to confuse the public about the effectiveness of the gun registry and its support in the policing community.
The gun registry is a costly failure and it is time to shut it down.
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, yesterday the Irish community of Quebec City, Quebec and, indeed, all of Canada laid to rest a great contributor to the Irish heritage of our country. I am sure that Madam Suzanne Duplessis would join with me — we were both MPs in the same riding in Quebec City — in agreeing that Marianna O'Gallagher, who died last week, deserves, by far, the title of "the greatest Irish Canadian of Quebec City."
Her writings encouraged many to study the history of the Irish in Canada. Her work in the research and promotion of the Irish culture in Canada was recognized and respected not only in Quebec and Canada but also in Ireland.
In addition to being the author of several books on the subject — Grosse Île: Gateway to Canada, Eyewitness: Grosse Île 1847 and The Shamrock Trail — Ms. O'Gallagher was also the recipient of both the Ordre national du Quebec in 1988 and the Order of Canada in 2002; and on several occasions Irish heads of state and foreign officials have visited Grosse Île in her company.
She left us with a substantial list of contributions beyond the written word. When I was first elected as a member of Parliament in the other place in 1977, 33 years ago last week, I was subject to her immediate lobbying on behalf of the Irish community.
I knew Marianna because she was a teacher where I was both a student and later in life became chairman of the school board. She came to my campaign office following the election and, even before I was sworn in as an MP, started to lobby me — yes, it is an honourable thing to do — on behalf of the Irish community to create and later promote the Grosse Île committee that she had formed many years before.
She came to me favouring the concept of giving access to this sad but important doorway to Canada. She succeeded beyond anyone's dreams, humanizing Grosse Île's history with victims' personal anecdotes found through the meticulous historical research for which she was famous.
Thanks to her, not only do we have the access that was denied before, but today Grosse Île, the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada, is recognized as one of Canada's greatest landmarks for its contribution to Irish heritage and to Canada's link with its past.
Time after time, she asked me to visit the site with her and I mistakenly declined. She was and will remain our best guide to that chapter of our history.
As a descendant of a family that arrived on Grosse Île during that period, I always felt strong affection for what she was doing. I also live around the corner from the family home in Sainte-Foy and held many political events in the old home that was later transformed into a popular restaurant.
Two months ago, Ms. O'Gallagher finished her illustrious career by serving as Grand Marshall at this year's revival of Quebec City's St. Patrick's Day parade. Yes, you heard me right — Quebec City's St. Patrick's Day parade. It shows the extent of the involvement of the Irish community in Quebec, and it was all done in an environment unique to Quebec.
That all happened in cooperation with francophones in the Quebec City region, who exemplify multilingual and multicultural cooperation in Canada.
It was my personal pleasure to know her from my childhood until her death and to work with other members of her family, who are also outstanding examples of integration and collaboration among speakers of different languages in Quebec.
Please join me in thanking Marianna O'Gallagher for her contribution to our history.
Hon. Janis G. Johnson: Honourable senators, a great Canadian passed away on Sunday past in Winnipeg. The Honourable Duff Roblin, P.C., C.C., was a man for all seasons. He was a businessman, a wing commander in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, the premier of my province for 11 years, a senator from 1978 to 1992, and during part of that time, served as Leader of the Government in the Senate. He was a devoted husband to dear Mary and father to Jennifer and Andrew and had four grandchildren. He was also a tremendous squash player.
Mr. Roblin, as I always called him, was a family friend since I was 10 years old, beginning when he showed up at our Gimli house and asked my dad to run for him. My late father was a family doctor who had never been involved in politics in his entire life and was more concerned with his patients than with political issues; but Duff, as he was affectionately known, did not care. He travelled Manitoba as leader of the Conservative Party, looking for candidates. He found them by asking, "Who is the most respected person in this area?", and then convincing them to run for his opposition Conservatives.
I know he spent two years coming to our door — my mother thought he was a drug salesman the first few times — until my father said yes. With Duff's PC team, they went on to defeat the Liberals, who had held power for 25 years.
His government, honourable senators, changed the course of history in Manitoba and was the most progressive government in Manitoba's history. They revolutionized the education system, brought Medicare to Manitoba — because my dad was the minister at the time — expanded social spending and strengthened social welfare programs. They built highways and roads; they brought in water and sewage to the entire province, including my town of Gimli, Manitoba, which had never had it before. The Roblin government continually promoted urban development by combining municipalities in the Winnipeg area to create the City of Winnipeg.
He is probably best and most warmly remembered for "Duff's ditch," the Red River Floodway which coincidentally was open on Sunday, the day he died, to help control the flooding in the Winnipeg area at this time. This floodway was constructed in 1968, and it has saved us billions of dollars in flood relief over the past decades.
I know all my colleagues from Manitoba in the chamber knew and loved Duff Roblin as much as I did. My dad always said that Duff brought Manitoba kicking and screaming into the 20th century. We entered the modern age and I will never forget the changes as I grew up; they were phenomenal.
When Mr. Roblin left politics in 1967 after successful elections, he ran for the P.C. Party of Canada and, as we all know, lost to Robert Stanfield. However, he went on to have an illustrious career in business in Montreal and Manitoba, always maintaining his passion and interest in the Conservative Party.
I came to the Senate two years before Mr. Roblin retired. However, in those two years, he was my mentor and it was humbling. I was a mere rookie, and just watching his parliamentary procedure, his debate and the way he handled himself was such an experience it was almost breathtaking because he was such an expert and such an incredible gentleman. He mentored me as he had my late father.
Honourable senators, I always kept in touch with Mr. Roblin — he was always saying "Call me Duff, Janis, call me Duff" — but I do not know what path the Johnson family would have taken if he had not knocked on our Gimli door all those many years ago. We have no regrets.
Thank you, and my deepest sympathies to his wonderful family.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the revised actuarial report for the Canadian Forces Pension Plan (regular forces) for the period ending March 31, 2008.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Allegations Respecting Business and Financial Dealings Between Karlheinz Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney.
Report of Special Committee Pursuant to Rule 104 Tabled
Hon. Hugh Segal: Honourable senators, pursuant to Rule 104, I have the honour to table the first report of the Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism, which deals with 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. 469.)
Bill to Amend—First Reading
Hon. Robert W. Peterson presented Bill S-219, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (rural postal services and the Canada Post Ombudsman).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Peterson, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Assembly and Related Meetings, October 19-21, 2009—Report Tabled
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, respecting its participation at the One Hundred and Twenty-First Assembly and Related Meetings of the IPU, held in Geneva, Switzerland, from October 19 to 21, 2009.
Assembly and Related Meetings, April 5-10, 2009—Report Tabled
Hon. Dennis Dawson: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the One-hundred Twentieth Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly and Related Meetings, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from April 5 to 10, 2009.
Parliamentary Meeting on the Occasion of the Fifty-fourth Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, March 2, 2010—Report Tabled
Hon. Nancy Ruth: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the Parliamentary Meeting on the Occasion of the Fifty-fourth Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: the Role of Parliaments in Enforcing Gender Equality and Women's Rights, Fifteen Years After Beijing, held in New York, New York, United States of America, on March 2, 2010.
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Meet During Sittings and Adjournment of the Senate
Hon. Irving Gerstein: Honourable senators, having consulted with the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, and with his agreement, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, until June 30, 2010, for the purposes of any study of a bill, the subject-matter of a bill or estimates, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance:
(a) have power to sit even though the Senate may then be sitting, with the application of rule 95(4) being suspended in relation thereto; and
(b) be authorized, pursuant to rule 95(3)(a), to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week.
Notice of Motion to Condemn Attacks on Worshippers in Mosques in Pakistan and to Urge Equal Rights for Minority Communities
Hon. Doug Finley: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the Senate condemns last Friday's barbaric attacks on worshippers at two Ahmadiyya Mosques in Lahore, Pakistan;
That it expresses its condolences to the families of those injured and killed; and
That it urges the Pakistani authorities to ensure equal rights for members of minority communities, while ensuring that the perpetrators of these horrendous attacks are brought to justice.
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Sharon Carstairs: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 57(2), I give notice that, two days hence:
I shall call the attention of the Senate to the state of Palliative Care in Canada.
Monitoring of Social Media
Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The Canadian Press reported last week that, in order ". . . to monitor social activity and help identify. . . . areas where misinformation is being presented and repeated as fact," the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has engaged a Toronto company, the Social Media Group, to find questionable online comments.
According to the report:
The firm alerts the government to questionable online comments and then employees in Foreign Affairs or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who have recently been trained in online posting, point the authors to information the government considers more accurate.
Honourable senators, we may find irony in the concept of this or any government trying to correct misinformation. Sometimes, it is the business of government to produce misinformation. However, it is perfectly fine, so long as the representatives of the government are identified as being representatives of the government.
Can the minister confirm that all government representatives who use government resources while interacting in this way on social networking sites will identify themselves as government representatives?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has engaged with a social media firm to monitor social activity and help identify for DFAIT, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada areas where misinformation on the seal hunt is being presented and repeated as fact. The firm will not be engaged in any online posting or discussions on behalf of the Government of Canada.
The monitoring and information correction phase ran from March 15 to May 21. Designated employees of the Government of Canada will respond to this misinformation by directing authors to the online content already publicly available. The designated employees represent each department and receive training for online posting.
Senator Banks: Honourable senators, when those government employees do that good work in correcting misinformation, do they identify that they are government employees?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I understand that the employees do identify themselves as such, but I will confirm that.
Sydney Harbour Project
Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, the people of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia are still waiting for funding to dredge Sydney Harbour so that a modern marine port can be established.
The Province of Nova Scotia, including the former Progressive Conservative premier and the current NDP premier, have indicated they are willing to take part in cost-sharing to begin this project, as long as the federal government is committed. The municipalities are also committed to cost-sharing. An environmental assessment was conducted and a company is waiting to start work.
The already extended deadline was this past Friday. There is still no word on funding from Ottawa.
Why is this government not committing to fund this project so that much-needed infrastructure jobs can be created now?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I thank the honourable senator for the question. As he indicated in his question, this is a complex and complicated matter that deals with many levels of government. Many agencies were involved in working on this serious situation.
Minister Ashfield has been actively engaged in negotiations with his counterparts in the provincial and municipal governments. That is all I can report at the moment. I am sure Minister Ashfield will address the subject when the details have been worked out.
Senator Mercer: Honourable senators, the leader used the words "complex" and "complicated." The issue is neither that complex nor complicated. Sydney Harbour needs to be dredged. The federal government had money in the budget for the Atlantic Gateway. Two successive provincial governments agreed and the municipalities agreed. The only people not at the table are those with the Atlantic Gateway or the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Budget 2007 provided $2.1 billion between 2007 and 2014 for the new Gateways and Border Crossings Fund. However, the Atlantic Gateway was not mentioned in the budgets of 2008, 2009 or 2010. I believe that in December 2009 Minister MacKay said he was confident that they would see further investments throughout the region in our infrastructure, particularly with a mind to building this gateway, which was, in his view, a game changer for Atlantic Canada and for the Atlantic Canadian economy.
What hollow words again from Minister Peter MacKay. He talks a lot and never delivers.
Why has new ACOA Minister Ashfield not sought funding for the dredging of Sydney Harbour? If neither he nor former Minister MacKay have enough political clout to get this done, perhaps the Leader of the Government in the Senate could use her sway with this government and commit to ensure that the federal government will provide funding to this much-needed project.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I said the matter was complex and complicated because many levels of government are involved and many questions must be considered.
The honourable senator raised the subject of the Atlantic Gateway in a question with me several weeks ago and I took his question as notice. It is incorrect to say that the federal government is not seized with this issue. I will take Senator Mercer's second question as notice only to remind myself to find out from the department when the answer to our exchange of a few weeks ago will be forthcoming.
Senator Mercer: Honourable senators, I appreciate the leader's follow-up and will remind her again, if need be, in the future.
The importance of the question relates to the deadline as extended, which was last Friday. That deadline has passed and no commitment has been made. It is agreed by nearly everyone involved in promoting the Atlantic Gateway that the simplest part of the gateway is the dredging of Sydney Harbour.
Believe it or not, we now import coal into Cape Breton. It sounds strange, but that is the way the world has evolved. I never thought I would say it, but we import coal to generate electricity at the generating station in Cape Breton.
When a ship loaded with coal arrives in Sydney Harbour, it is loaded at only 70 per cent capacity. The reason for this is that Sydney Harbour has not been dredged. However, the fee paid by Nova Scotia Power for coal to generate power for the good people of Nova Scotia, such as Senator Oliver and me, is the same rate as if the ship were full.
Dredging Sydney Harbour will help maintain low power rates in Nova Scotia because ships could be loaded to 100 per cent of their capacity. Everyone agrees — municipalities, the province and even federal bureaucrats — that this is the simplest part of the Atlantic gateway to fix, and also one of the cheapest. I ask the minister to please put her weight to this issue to see if it can be done.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I am well aware that coal is imported from Venezuela for the coal-fired electrical plants in Nova Scotia.
As I indicated, all levels of government have been involved. I promise the honourable senator that I will seek the delayed answer that I requested several weeks ago, only because I do not want to be reminded again in two weeks that I still have not provided an answer to his question.
Hon. Fred J. Dickson: Honourable senators, I am as much of a Cape Bretoner as Senator Mercer, and I am concerned about the Cape Breton economy. While Tom Kent was president of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, the Liberals did a lot of good work in Cape Breton, but many initiatives did not work out as well. Why did the former Liberal government not dredge Sydney Harbour? The problem with Sydney Harbour did not arise overnight.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Senator Mercer would obviously like to answer the question, but I will take it.
It is a good question. As in many other areas, the Liberals demand that our government take immediate action when over many years, the former Liberal government had the opportunity to act and it did not. However, that does not mean we will follow their past practices. Our government realizes this is an important issue.
As I promised Senator Mercer, I also promise Senator Dickson that I will obtain an answer to the question from the minister.
Hon. Richard Neufeld: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Our government has been focused on the economy, jobs, and on ensuring that Canada's Economic Action Plan is rolled out in communities across Canada. Statistics Canada reported that a record 108,700 jobs were created in April, the largest monthly job gain on record.
Could the Leader of the Government update all honourable senators with the latest information from Statistics Canada regarding our economy?
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, it is nice to receive the occasional economic question. Certainly, our colleagues in the other place are never asked questions about the economy, so I am happy to comply.
Statistics Canada announced that Canada's economy grew 6.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2010. This represents the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade. Consumer spending and business investments are up. Since last July, Canada's Economic Action Plan has helped create nearly 285,000 new jobs. Standard & Poor's says that in the G7, Canada has best weathered the financial crisis. The Economist magazine called Canada "an economic star." The OECD recently said Canada's economy "shines." Both the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund predict our economic growth will lead all G7 countries both this year and next.
While it is encouraging to see Canada's economy on the right track, the global recovery does remain fragile, and that is why we need to fully implement Canada's Economic Action Plan. While our plan is helping Canada lead the way on jobs and growth, Mr. Ignatieff's and the Liberals' plan of raising job-killing business taxes and the GST would halt our recovery in its tracks and cause us to lose all those great jobs we so recently gained.
ecoENERGY Retrofit Program
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government. At the end of March, the federal government ended the ecoENERGY Retrofit program. Many homeowners, service providers and companies were negatively affected, as honourable senators can appreciate. In the North — the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — this program was very effective and used by people to close out the cold and, in their own way, save energy and thus ameliorate the global warming situation. The territorial government will continue to fund their 50 per cent share of the program, but it cannot replace the money lost from the federal government.
We in the North sometimes do not understand the way things happen in the South and why governments do the things they do. Recently it was announced that the federal government would spend $1 billion on security for the G20 and G8 conferences. I am also aware that the government will have to spend billions of dollars on prisons because of their approach to dealing with crime.
We in the North are wondering how the government can justify closing such an effective program, which probably costs just a few million dollars, while at the same time the government is willing to spend billions of dollars on the other measures that I spoke about. We do not understand why the government does these things.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the government is responsible for programs in a host of areas. It is not a situation of trade-offs. Certain monies are allocated for certain areas.
With regard to the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, the government did not cancel the program. The government put a considerable amount of money into the program and, as we all know, the program was very popular and oversubscribed. The ecoENERGY Retrofit program and the Home Renovation Tax Credit program were valuable, especially as part of the economic stimulus in order to get the economy going and to create jobs.
The ecoENERGY Retrofit program was very popular. Like the stimulus package, a certain amount of money was allocated to that program. Government employees are still accepting and dealing with all the applications that are still in the pipeline. However, just like the stimulus package, which will terminate at the end of fiscal year 2010-11, the ecoENERGY Retrofit program was so popular that it was oversubscribed.
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday, Commissioner Oliphant released his report on the allegations regarding financial and business dealings between Karlheinz Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney. Before I talk about what I feel is unacceptable, I would like to read an important excerpt from the report. I quote:
I found that the business and financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney were inappropriate. I also found that Mr. Mulroney's failure to disclose those business and financial dealings was inappropriate.
Commissioner Oliphant was generous with his choice of words, but I have no problem saying that what is also inappropriate is that the Conservative government, which preaches transparency and accountability, prefers to avoid getting involved when the time comes to take action.
Could the Leader of the Government tell us whether her government will take steps to recover the $2.1 million that was paid to Mr. Mulroney in 1997 as compensation, based on his testimony and good faith?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, the government thanks Mr. Justice Oliphant and all of those who worked on the Oliphant inquiry in producing the report that was tabled by my colleague moments ago. The recommendations of the report are with the appropriate authorities, who will review the recommendations, and of course, the government will respond to any recommendations that are made by these people.
Cost of Security for G8 and G20 Summits
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, considering how the leader's government recommends that public monies be spent, I trust the leader will agree that it is of the utmost importance to recuperate $2.1 million. Those recuperated funds could serve to pay the government's inappropriate bill for the G8 and G20 summits, its inappropriate cuts to women's and cultural groups, and to slow down its inappropriate debt.
Will the government follow Commissioner Oliphant's recommendation to improve conflict of interest regulations for former parliamentarians, with the intention of preventing taxpayer money from being spent to compensate lying and unethical parliamentarians?
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I did respond to the senator's question. Mr. Justice Oliphant produced a report and recommendations yesterday. The appropriate authorities will be reviewing the recommendations and the government will respond to the recommendations that are made to the government following this review.
With regard to the honourable senator's other comment, we did not cut money to the Status of Women Canada programs; we increased it.
With regard to the G8 and G20, I was given a figure earlier today with regard to the considerable dollar cost of the Kananaskis summit. It was a considerable amount of money for the G8. This money is spent based on the best advice of security officials and on the scope and magnitude of security operations.
Hosting two major summits back to back is unprecedented. Some 30 world leaders will be attending. I do not think people understand this. This involves 30 leaders and thousands of delegates. Each country brings many hundreds, in fact thousands of officials to travel with them. We are talking about between 10,000 and 12,000 people. All of these people have to be housed, fed, transported and, most importantly, protected.
All of the costs, as I mentioned in answer to a question the other day, have been budgeted. We budgeted $930 million for the cost of security for the summit. As we also stated — and as Ward Elcock, the official responsible for our security, has stated — we will be happy to have these costs fully scrutinized by the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Senator Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, we share the same concern about security at the summit. However, if the cost is as transparent as the leader pretends it is, we would like to see the figures before the event takes place, not six months after.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I am surprised by that question, in view of the honourable senator's past position. The honourable senator would obviously know that security is based on information the experts tell us we will face. Obviously, we will not know until after the summits are over whether the amount of money allocated was sufficient or whether more is needed. The fact is that the government cannot determine in advance the exact costs for an event that has not taken place.
Hon. Francis Fox: Honourable senators, I have a supplementary question for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Canadians are interested to know the reason for the great discrepancy between our cost and the costs for the summits held in the United Kingdom and the United States, which were, I believe, $20 and $30 million respectively. Here we are talking about $980 million.
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, Ward Alcock answered that question better than I could when he appeared on both major television networks last week, and, in fact, called into question the published media reports on the cost of those meetings. As the person in charge of our security, he would know that better than most of us.
Hon. Percy E. Downe: I am wondering if the Leader of the Government in the Senate would table the security recommendations on where to hold the meeting. The reason the previous G8 summit was held in Kananaskis was because of the location. The bears in the woods did not charge much for security. No one would recommend the largest city in Canada for the location of a G8 meeting because the costs go up accordingly. On what advice — security or otherwise — did the Prime Minister pick Toronto?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, the answer is pretty clear. The G8 summit in Kananaskis was held when Mr. Chrétien was Prime Minister and cost almost $500 million. I believe, if you take those dollars and put them into today's terms, they would be pretty well on target with the current costs.
We had already decided to have the G8 summit in Huntsville. The G20, as we know, has gained greater prominence, especially since the G20 countries and our global partners have been instrumental in guiding the world economy through an economic situation that could have easily taken the whole world into a serious depression. The G20 has taken on incredible responsibilities.
The G8 summit was being held in Huntsville, and when it was decided to add the G20 conference, the city of Toronto was chosen precisely because of the numbers I mentioned a few moments ago. We are talking about hosting between 10,000 and 12,000 people. Where in the country, other than a large, major, urban centre, could we accommodate that many people with hotels, communications and travel? That is why Toronto was chosen.
Senator Downe: The same request came in for the previous G8 meeting. As honourable senators will remember, in addition to the G8 members, the African leaders were also in attendance. Various interest groups, organizations and NGOs all wanted to bring as many people as they could. It became somewhat of a status symbol to have the biggest delegation. We restricted the size of the delegations to keep costs down. Just because 12,000 people have requested to attend, does not mean that all 12,000 are needed. Why would the government allow the conference to get so out of control, particularly on the cost side?
Senator LeBreton: This is an important meeting. Canada is proud to host this meeting. We are, as I indicated in my answer to Senator Neufeld, seen as a shining light in leading the world in economic recovery. This is an important meeting for us.
I dare say, when Senator Downe was Chief of Staff to the former Prime Minister, I would have loved to have seen him go and advise the Prime Minister to tell certain delegations that they were not allowed to come because they were bringing too many people. That is rather absurd.
Senator Downe: I did not do it, but the Prime Minister certainly did it. We restricted the size of the delegations and kept the costs down.
Senator LeBreton: I dare say that the size of delegations was restricted because there was not room to accommodate them.
Senator Downe: That is exactly the point. In picking a location away from a main city there is control over the number of delegates. Many people stayed in Calgary at the expense of their own delegation because we said we were not paying the costs. That is how we controlled costs.
I am surprised a Conservative government would let the costs run up to $1 billion.
Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is talking about the G8 meeting in Kananaskis. Similarly, Huntsville was chosen for the G8 summit and can easily accommodate the numbers. When it was decided to host the G20, because of its ongoing importance in shepherding the worldwide economy through these difficult economic times, it was obvious there would be large numbers of people attending.
We are the host country. We are proud to host the world in both of these summits. Obviously, the size of the delegations and the importance of the meetings dictated that only a large metropolitan centre could accommodate these numbers. That is exactly what we are doing.
This is not money we want to spend. It is money we have to spend in order to provide security and properly run these important meetings. Hopefully we will have a situation whereby people will obey the law and the heavy security will not be put into action. We cannot take that chance, of course, because the world has changed significantly, and we listen to our security advisers in order to assess what types of security measures to follow.
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 2 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.
Finance—Capital Requirements for Segregated Fund Products
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 4 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.
Veterans Affairs—Health Care Review Undertaken in 2007
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 17 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.
Canadian Heritage—Changes to the Public Service Employment Regulations
Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (Deputy Leader of the Government) tabled the answer to Question No. 19 on the Order Paper—by Senator Downe.
Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Patrick Brazeau moved that Bill S-11, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on first nation lands, be read the second time.
He said: Honourable senators, I am proud to speak here today and to show my support for Bill S-11, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on first nation lands.
This bill is an essential part of a comprehensive approach that is already helping to resolve some long-standing, disturbing problems related to the quality of drinking water in many First Nations communities. Bill S-11 establishes a mechanism to protect health, safety and investments by creating a federal regulatory framework.
The roots of Bill S-11 lie in the Government of Canada's response to a series of reports and studies, including one completed by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. This research was inspired by the chronic problems related to the safety of drinking water in many First Nations communities. Although each report and study recorded particular observations, they all identified the lack of a comprehensive regulatory regime as a significant contributing factor.
In March 2006 the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations joined forces on a wide-ranging plan of action for drinking water in First Nations communities. The action plan called for the establishment of an effective federal regulatory regime and articulated a multifaceted plan to achieve this goal. The introduction of the safe drinking water for First Nations bill takes us one step closer. To realize the significance of Bill S-11, however, I believe colleagues must first appreciate the larger context.
The collaborative Plan of Action for Drinking Water in First Nations Communities is designed to address each of the specific factors that conspire to hinder the consistent delivery of safe drinking water. Officials from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the Assembly of First Nations, in consultation with their counterparts from Environment Canada and Health Canada, carefully crafted each element of the action plan. This collaboration, a success in itself, has been essential to the progress made in the last few years.
The collaborative approach adopted by the parties focuses on three actions: assess, invest and protect. These actions are both interconnected and mutually reinforcing.
Impartial assessment of the quality of treatment systems and drinking water, for instance, provides the information needed to make appropriate decisions about investments of taxpayer dollars. So, too, does information about levels of operator expertise and adherence to water and waste water treatment protocols.
Targeted investments informed by accurate assessments will help sustain the infrastructure that provides access to safe drinking water in First Nation communities. Accurate assessment will also protect the investments of taxpayer dollars required to build and maintain drinking water infrastructure.
Honourable senators, let us consider a few key facts. At the outset of the action plan, First Nations suffered from a chronic shortage of qualified system operators. To address the issue, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada increased its investment in the Circuit Rider Training Program and nearly doubled the number of qualified instructors in the past four years. Today, operators with at least level 1 certification are in charge of more than 60 per cent of all First Nation treatment facilities.
Another example of the action plan's informed investment involves treatment protocols and technical support. Four years ago, stakeholders had little concrete guidance on what constituted adequate treatment practices and procedures, and operators were often left on their own to troubleshoot technical problems. The action plan saw the Government of Canada set up a 24-hour toll-free hotline and publish the Protocol for Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities.
These actions have had direct impact. In 2006, the number of drinking water systems deemed at high risk of failure stood at 193. This number has fallen to 49 and continues to decline. Another statistical indication of progress is the number of First Nations communities with a combination of high-risk treatment systems and drinking water advisories. In 2006, 21 communities were in that precarious condition. Thanks to a series of remedial actions taken by partners, only three remain there today, with steps being undertaken to remedy the situations of these three communities.
Moreover, the Government of Canada has continued to monitor the success of the action plan in part to ensure that Canadians are aware of the impact of public investment on drinking water for First Nations. The plan calls for an annual progress report. At least four such reports have been submitted to Parliament to date.
Bill S-11 is the next step in protecting these public investments and safeguarding access to safe drinking water in First Nation communities by enabling the establishment of an effective federal regulatory regime.
The first step in the identification of feasible options for such a regime involves the expert panel. The panel gathered testimony from representatives of First Nations, the provinces and territories, along with various experts in water and engineering. The November 2006 expert panel's report identified three feasible regulatory options, one of which is federal incorporation by reference of provincial and territorial laws with adaptations to meet the needs of First Nations communities.
Rather than simply moving ahead with one of the options in the expert panel's report, the Government of Canada chose a more studied and cooperative route, having extensively analyzed the option and through continuous dialogue with First Nations leaders. To understand why this option offers the best hope for success, one must first consider several authoritative studies and reports.
The first is a report completed by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. The report details that nearly $4 billion was invested between 1995 and 2008 by the Government of Canada into First Nation water and waste water systems. The report also describes the First Nations Water Management Strategy, a joint initiative launched in 2003 by Health Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. According to the report, the initiative suffered from an inherent flaw: an absence of clear performance indicators and accountability mechanisms. This flaw helps explain why, three years into the First Nations Water Management Strategy, despite sizeable investments in infrastructure, water quality on-reserve did not improve. Page five of the commissioner's report states, in part:
It is it not clear who is ultimately accountable for the safety of drinking water.
A section on page 11 states:
There is no legislation requiring that drinking water quality and safety in First Nations communities be monitored.
Finally, this definitive statement appears later in the report:
Until a regulatory regime comparable with that in provinces is in place, INAC and Health Canada cannot ensure that First Nations people living on reserves have continuing access to safe drinking water.
The commissioner's report made a series of five recommendations: first, recreate a federal regulatory regime for drinking water on-reserve; second, clarify design codes and standards; third, ensure monitoring and follow-up; fourth, create institutions for capacity building; and, fifth, provide progress reports to Parliament.
As honourable senators likely appreciate, the action plan, initiated in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations, addresses each one of these recommendations. Significant progress in improving water conditions on-reserve across Canada has been made. To build on this progress, Budget 2010 extended the First Nations Water and Wastewater Action Plan for two more years, for an additional $330 million. However, much work remains to be done, of course, and that is why the legislation before us is so important.
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples prepared another relevant report to Bill S-11. After hearing from a series of witnesses, the committee published its report in 2007, approximately one year after the launch of the action plan. The report acknowledges both the underlying inequity of the current situation and the recent progress made to eliminate the inequity. An excerpt from the report states:
First Nations people in this country have a right to expect, as do all Canadians, that their drinking water is safe. Through sustained investment and dedicated efforts, there has been notable improvement in the quality of water delivered in First Nations communities.
The Senate committee's report goes on to make a key recommendation:
That the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development undertake a comprehensive consultation process with First Nations communities and organizations regarding legislative options, . . . with a view to collaboratively developing such legislation.
In response to this recommendation, the Government of Canada initiated an ongoing consultation process, which included engagement sessions. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada published a discussion paper and distributed it to interested parties in advance of a series of focused engagement sessions. Nearly 700 participants, including more than 500 representatives of First Nations, were provided with the opportunity to make their comments and suggestions on the viable option proposed by the government of incorporation by reference of existing provincial and territorial regulations with adaptations to meet the needs of First Nations communities. No other viable option was put forward.
As we all recognize, engaging the very people in the creation of a regime to which they will be subject builds public support and inspires respect for new law. This legislation will enable the government to work together with First Nations in the development of federal regulations. To date, Canada has maintained an open dialogue with First Nations in addressing water issues in First Nations communities.
As part of the overall consultation process, our government has engaged with First Nations through numerous workshops, information-sharing sessions, engagement sessions, regional impact analysis, and continuous dialogue on legislation and a regulatory framework since the 2006 expert panel hearings until the most recent engagement with regional First Nations chiefs in 2010. We continue to work in close cooperation with regional First Nation organizations to try to address specific regional issues and concerns. The consultation process will continue into the future when we commence regulatory development.
By creating regulations, Bill S-11 will help establish drinking water and wastewater standards that are similar to off-reserve standards.
What is more, this will provide new opportunities for First Nations communities and municipalities to work together in areas such as training and shared systems.
This process would lay a common foundation for assessing the effectiveness of the operation, design and maintenance of wastewater treatment systems. In other words, this would make it easier to provide continuous assessments to protect the quality of drinking water in First Nations communities.
Under Bill S-11, the development of a federal regulatory regime would engage the people with the greatest knowledge of pertinent issues: Provincial and territorial officials and First Nations. These men and women set and enforce regulations. They operate and maintain water and wastewater treatment facilities in First Nations communities. They have the first-hand experience; they know what works, what does not work and how to make water and waste water treatment facilities work. This is precisely the kind of insight we need to craft a new federal regulatory regime.
Representatives of First Nations, Canada and the appropriate province or territory would work side-by-side to analyze the components of existing provincial and territorial regimes. They would identify which elements to incorporate into a federal regime and which to discard. They would also be free to adapt existing elements and create new ones, if necessary.
This approach to regulatory development will produce a federal regime that will encourage collaboration between First Nations and individual provinces and territories. Perhaps they would agree to share treatment and distribution facilities or hold joint training sessions for systems operators.
Another advantage of such an approach to regulation-making is that it would enable the parties to address the particular gaps of existing provincial and territorial regimes. For instance, few existing regimes address private wells and septic systems. In rural areas, many people rely on these for their drinking water, as do a large number of people in First Nation communities. Regional experts working together on the particular drinking water challenges that face First Nations in a single province or territory are ideally positioned to develop a practical, sustainable regime.
Honourable senators, the legislation before us today is an appropriate response to the numerous reports and studies into the issue. Allow me to quote again from the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples report, this time from the conclusion, which states:
Legislation to regulate water standards on reserve is required. No one, including this committee, argues differently. Regulations are, however, only part of the answer. Sustained investment in the capacity of First Nations community water systems and of those running the systems is absolutely essential to ensure First Nations people on reserve enjoy safe drinking water.
I believe that this quote sums up the issue perfectly, and Bill S-11 is a crucial component of a larger approach to address it. This approach includes significant and sustained investment in First Nations community water systems. It also includes training programs for systems operators and the development and dissemination of materials on how to design, operate and maintain treatment systems.
The approach has already begun to achieve measurable progress: Fewer treatment facilities at high risk of failure and more trained and certified operators are in place. Sustainable progress, however, cannot be achieved unless adequate accountability mechanisms are also in place. This is a key finding of the reports that I have cited today. Bill S-11 aims to establish these mechanisms. It aims to fill a regulatory void that contributes significantly to water problems in many First Nation communities.
Bill S-11 also proposes to extend the cooperation and goodwill that has begun to correct a fundamental wrong. No longer would First Nations be denied the legal protections afforded to other Canadians when it comes to drinking water.
Ultimately, the proposed legislation aims to restore a sense of justice and equality in this country. It aims to provide residents of First Nation communities with the regulatory certainty enjoyed by all other Canadians.
Bill S-11 is one critical element of a comprehensive solution to a complex problem. The bill proposes having a federal regulatory system corresponding to the specific needs and specific situation of the First Nations communities. It also supports the perfectly reasonable approach of assessment, investment and protection.
I believe that residents of First Nation communities have every right to expect, as do all Canadians, safe, clean drinking water. Their health and the safety of their communities depend on it. Any honourable senators who share my belief must, in good conscience, join me in supporting Bill S-11.
Hon. Gerry St. Germain: Would the Honourable Senator Brazeau accept a question?
Senator Brazeau: Yes.
Senator St. Germain: Honourable senators, due to the urgency of this particular situation, would the honourable senator be willing to talk to the government side as well as to the opposition about this proposed legislation?
It is such a basic need in our First Nation communities that they have fresh drinking water. With the time that will be required to draft regulations, unless there is a very good reason to delay this legislation or to hold it up — not that I am inferring it will be held up — is there a way of expediting this process?
As sponsor of the bill, would Senator Brazeau take it as his responsibility to speak to the leader on this side to ensure that we get this bill through as soon as possible? I think I see heads nodding on the other side in that some are in concurrence with this request.
Senator Brazeau: I thank the honourable senator for that important question. My community is one of three communities that are still in an emergency state in this country.
As the sponsor of the bill, I will absolutely do whatever I can to try to expedite this legislation. Let us face it: This piece of legislation is about a health and safety issue. If it was occurring in any non-Aboriginal community, it would be unacceptable. That is why it is so important that this bill passes immediately.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Will the honourable senator accept a further question?
Senator Brazeau: Yes.
Senator Banks: Honourable senators, sadly, there are other communities that are susceptible to the problems having to do with drinking water. I thank Senator Brazeau for his speech and obvious commitment to this bill; I am glad that he is its sponsor.
The honourable senator has referred to other reports by Senate committees. Does he have any familiarity with the reports having to do with the safety of drinking water and, in particular, with reference to drinking water on First Nations that have been made by the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources? In particular, those bills that have to do with that matter that have been proposed over the past four years and changed by Senator Grafstein.
Senator Brazeau: I thank the honourable senator for that question. I was not aware of a report from the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. However, I became familiar with the report that was tabled by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in 2007, which focused on drinking water on reserves.
Hon. Sandra M. Lovelace Nicholas: Honourable senators, Senator Brazeau mentioned programs that will be in the communities. There was no mention as to whether these programs would present equal opportunities for both men and women.
Senator Brazeau: This is about clean, safe drinking water, and if one looks at the operators who will have to become certified to manage the systems, those jobs and opportunities are open to both men and women. In my own community, a woman manages the system, so that opportunity is there.
More importantly — and this needs to be mentioned — since 2006, broad consultations took place between the Government of Canada, First Nations organizations, regional organizations, people in the communities and technical experts, all of whom were both men and women. When we talk about consultation, it is important that both men and women are consulted. That is what happened in this case. This process has gone on for four years. We now have this bill, and hopefully we can move forward with it.
Senator Banks: I understand the alacrity with which we must deal with the situation. Senator Brazeau is right that it is emergent. However, I would like to consider this in light of the sponsor's first speech. Therefore, I move the adjournment of the debate.
(On motion of Senator Banks, debate adjourned.)
Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Grant Mitchell moved second reading of Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.
He said: It is often said by senators, when they stand to address a given issue or debate a given bill, that they do so with pleasure, and I am sure they do. In this particular case I do so with pleasure because I am struck by the magnitude and importance of Bill C-311, which has been compounded significantly by virtue of the fact that it has been supported by the majority of the elected representatives in the House of Commons.
Bill C-311 lays out a number of provisions that will assist Canadians and the Government of Canada in achieving important obligations in the fight against climate change. This bill was authored and presented by New Democratic member of Parliament, Bruce Hyer. I have had the pleasure of working with Mr. Hyer for several weeks, and I am struck with his commitment to this important issue.
As I proceed with my comments, the deputy leader will realize that I, unlike him, am rising above partisan debate and partisan remarks.
Senator Cowan: You better explain that to him, because they do not know.
Senator Mitchell: They would know, because their leader wrote the letter with the Bloc and the New Democrats to propose a coalition prior to their winning a minority government a few years ago. I want senators to remember that.
Not to be diverted, I have grown to understand, appreciate and value and Mr. Hyer's commitment to this important issue and to doing something about it. He has a career of working in the wilds of Canada. He understands the environment intimately and he feels very strongly about this bill, as do I.
Mr. Hyer was not alone in the House of Commons in supporting this bill. It received a broad level of support from all three opposition parties representing 60 to 65 per cent of the Canadian population. That illustrates the thrust behind this bill.
In a specific sense this bill follows on from Bill C-288, the Kyoto implementation bill that we passed here several years ago. To some extent it provided a function and a service in the development of policy, although it has to some extent also been neglected by government. Its requirement for ongoing planning and reporting by government expires in 2012, and this bill will pick up where the Kyoto bill, Bill C-288, left off.
This bill does a number of things, honourable senators. I want to underline, particularly for my colleagues across the way, that this bill is not aggressive in the way that it has been construed by some, including, perhaps, their colleagues in the House of Commons. The bill fundamentally directs the government to plan. That cannot be that big a chore given that the government must be planning now. It has established and announced targets and programs. The bill simply brings the planning process out into the public eye. That is the first step.
The second thing that it does is to require an audit of how the plans are being implemented and a review of how the plans are established before they are implemented. The environmental commissioner will be charged with the responsibility of reviewing the government's five-year plans leading up to 2050. The national round table on the environment and the economy will be responsible for assessing where those plans have gone, what they have accomplished and whether they are sustaining the trajectory necessary to reach the 2050 targets and other targets that will ensure that we do our part and meet our obligation in this fight against climate change.
The bill establishes one irrevocable target while the other target that it establishes is not irrevocable. Both targets share a significance to the extent that they are based on science that says that we have climate change and we cannot allow it to produce temperature increases of greater than 2 degrees. That target is not a surprise because the Prime Minister himself has established his commitment to the target of limiting climate change to two degrees. He did that twice. He did it at last year's G8 conference as well as at Copenhagen. That target is not particularly controversial, given that the Prime Minister has accepted it.
The bill calls for a target of 80 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions based on 1990 levels by 2050. The government's own target is 80 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2050. One could say that that is a difference of consequence, but when you consider that it is spread over 40 years, it is of almost negligible difference year by year and could easily be achieved by a government intent on that second target. If it can achieve that, it can certainly easily achieve the one of below 25 per cent by 1990 levels.
The more controversial target is the 25 per cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. That is seen to be too aggressive. The parliamentary secretary responsible for this file said that it would be a disaster for our economy. However, that is not a required target in this bill. The government does not have to accept that target. It does have to accept the 2050 target but not the 2020 target by any means.
As soon as the government establishes its first plan for 2015 — and it could do that tomorrow — the second target no longer applies. The government is given a great deal of flexibility in this bill to establish a series of targets up to 2050 to increase or moderate the trajectory of those plans as long as the overall longer-term target of 80 per cent is achieved by 2050. It does all of those things.
It underlines planning; it enhances the planning's significance and impacts by requiring review by the environmental commissioner and the post-application implementation review by the national round table; and it establishes targets as guidelines, as a demonstration of commitment to the science that is required to be accepted. The government does accept them, as I said, but those are not unreasonable when you do the analysis of the bill and you see what the possibilities are.
In fact, it leads me to a conclusion that I do not see why the government would not have supported this bill, and I will get into that later. They are planning. The targets are not unreasonable, given what they have already accepted and said they would do. It would be great politics for them in accepting this bill, which is seen by the environmental community and many Canadians as being enlightened in its approach in dealing with climate change, and there would be little economic downside, if any. In fact, I believe there will be a great deal of economic upside, and I will talk about that as well.
There is a real urgency to action and to dealing with this problem. We all see the physical impact of climate change, and I will talk about the science of that. We all know at some deep level — or maybe not such a deep level — that it is occurring. Look at what has happened to the fisheries on the East Coast and the West Coast; look at the drought across the Prairie provinces; look at the sea level increases in the North — they are having an impact on the North and everywhere; look at what is happening to the pine beetle and the forests burning in British Columbia. I do not know if that is the reason in Quebec, but I would be interested in having a look. The point is that although someone might say these kinds of impacts are not significant — maybe one or two are not directly climate related — but when you have this preponderance of events that are out of the ordinary, many of them absolutely unprecedented, occurring at the same time with all kinds of evidence that temperatures are rising and are causing the change in the climate in this country and in the world, then you have to begin to understand that this is occurring.
The IPCC has said that there is about a 90 per cent chance that it is occurring and that we are causing it, and the IPCC has defended those miniscule attacks. The old story is if there was a 90 per cent that the plane you were about to get on was going to go down, how would you react? You would do something about it. We have to do something about it. People can say that these are unrelated incidents. The science says they are not, but the fact is they are occurring in a way that is damaging economies profoundly and could begin to damage economies infinitely in a way that would make any kind of investment impact, in trying to solve the problem, absolutely miniscule. In fact, I am not so sure, as I have said, that the investment impact will be negative at all. It will probably be positive.
The other thing that addresses and enhances the urgency of this bill and the need to embrace the action it calls for is what is happening with other nations. Whether or not we think it is occurring — believe me, I do, and I know we all do — and whether or not we feel that we are at some disadvantage in that process, the fact is that other nations have accepted that it is occurring. Other nations are beginning to take action and are undertaking economic initiatives that will at least leave us behind and at worst damage our ability to trade with them.
Nowhere is this more profound than in the case of the American power act, which was presented about three weeks ago by several senators in the United States. This is not their first draft. This is an iteration of that power act. Because they have been working at it for so long and it has come back in evolutionary form, it is getting closer to the likelihood of being passed. What they have laid out is very interesting, namely, the cap-and-trade system.
They will sell allocations to those companies that will be subject to caps. Those companies will have to buy credits and they say that most of the money will be returned to the consumers. They are taking steps to ensure that the market for allocations for carbon credits, will not be manipulated and cannot be manipulated. This is an important step. They have pointed to specific ways to ensure that occurs. They will put a collar on the price, which cannot be higher or lower than certain limits. Second, they will not allow people to speculate. Third, you can only buy them or sell them if you are actually under the cap-and-trade regime. You cannot buy or sell them because you want to speculate on them. You have to put up real money. You cannot buy or sell on margin, I would presume, so you can specifically limit how that thing applies and deal with some of those excesses that people perceive to be a problem or a potential problem with that kind of a market.
One element of this act that should be very urgent to us is that they, of course, are calling for border adjustments, and they are calling for a zero conventional and other oil import regime. They do not want to be dependent upon imported oil, and we export a lot of oil to them. They are prepared to put border adjustments, tariffs or penalties by another name, on products that we would like to export. That will not be just oil and gas by any means. It will also be manufactured products that have not been manufactured under a sufficiently rigorous carbon limit regime. Then we would not be able to sell those products to the United States.
A number of things can be taken from this. One is that they are progressing in a way that we have to be very conscious of economically, if we are to continue our trade with the U.S., and two, they are planning. They are not afraid to present that plan publicly. It presents a public planning model to us, and, second, a much greater urgency in getting this done. There are many advantages to plans and reviewing plans. Once they are public, you begin to harness the energy focus, and commitment of the private sector. You begin to harness the energy, commitment and focus of the other sectors, the people working in government and who are responsible for achieving these objectives. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. That is why it is so important to have objective public measurement, as would be called for in this bill by the round table on economy and environment.
My next point is that we disagree on many things in the Senate and in our political process here — and that is great because debate is wonderful. However, there comes a point in time when we have a chance to agree on something very important, something that, in many respects, should transcend specific values some of us might think we hold that do not allow us to embrace that issue. There comes a point in time that gives us a chance to do something that has a magnitude and an impact that is broad and significant, that is not just for tomorrow but is for eons to come. Honourable senators, this is one of those issues. It has transcendence in its importance for all of us, for our children and for the world. It also transcends partisan consideration. The fact is that we all agree to it. I have said it before and I will say it again: the Prime Minister agrees to the two degree limit; he has accepted an 80 per cent target that is well within the realm of the 80 per cent target for 2050 presented in this bill; and he is not being forced to do anything by this planning process that is contrary to what, clearly, he and his Minister of the Environment must be doing. They are planning now. They have programs and processes.
I want to make the case that we can agree on this, and that it is important that we agree on this. We have this chance to actually agree to do the right thing and to support this measure — I can hardly believe I am saying this — and to see the government gets some credit for doing the right thing on this very important environmental file.
I thought I would go through the arguments I have heard against this bill, and against the idea of doing whatever it is we have to do with climate change. Then hopefully I could prevail upon several senators who are predisposed to vote against it, get them to vote for it, pass it and really do something.
The first argument really underlines — and it is not as explicit any more — the debate and doubt about climate change and taking dramatic action and that is the problems people have with the science. I have said it a couple of times and I will repeat it again. There is no one on that side who does not believe in the science, certainly not my colleague.
The science has been assaulted. Certainly over the last year it received some hits but, when the specific areas about which the science was attacked are identified, the conclusion is that they have been dispelled or explained. One was the number of emails in East Anglia. That has been absolutely dispelled. Yes, it revealed frustration and yes, some of them should not have been written the way they were written, but it certainly did not in any way taint the type of research, science and conclusions the scientists had drawn.
Then there have been a couple of other cases about the glaciers in the Himalayas. Yes, they are not melting as fast as it was said somewhere in a thousand pages of the IPCC's fourth report. The fact remains that glaciers are melting.
Honourable senators, the science is very strong. When we hear from people who are skeptical we do not ever see actual science that supports their skepticism. They certainly can nitpick at certain features of the science that supports climate change, but they cannot find ways to defend their arguments.
Some people have moved from pure skepticism that climate change is occurring, to skepticism that it is occurring but we are not causing it. My answer to them is — as I have said very often — if we are not causing it then we have a real problem, because we cannot fix it. The prospects of that scenario would make anyone hope that, in fact, we are causing it. There is overwhelming scientific evidence and support.
I note that the national academies of science in all of the G8 major industrialized nations have clearly endorsed the conclusion that we are causing climate change, it is occurring faster than we imagined and we absolutely have to do something about it. Science stands up very well when given a chance and really underlines and backs up this bill; remembering that this bill is premised upon the idea of a limit of 2-degrees increase in temperature.
Second, there was some argument or debate about when Bill C-311 was originally presented as Bill C-377. That debate was around whether it gave too much power to the executive and whether you could use a bill of that nature to essentially extend criminal powers to a realm outside of criminal law. What was determined by many experts and written into this version of the bill were some specifications that support specific powers for the executive but not too the extent that they erode the power of the houses of Parliament to watch government in that regard. It also has a provision whereby CEPA can be included under the administration of this act, and it has already passed constitutional muster in the determination of whether you can apply criminal-like sanctions under a law that is not the criminal law of Canada. Those constitutional arguments have been met.
Honourable senators, it is also true that this bill has been approved by authorities in the House of Commons in meeting the legislative requirements That is of some consequence because these bills are given great and rigorous review to ensure that they meet requirements, whether they are, among other things, a money bill and constitutionally compatible.
Also there is, as a final default, the peace, order and good government clause, which is not necessarily full support for the argument that this is constitutional, but it certainly does derive precedent that further strengthens this case. There is not a problem with the constitutionality of this bill.
Third, the issue of targets has been construed as a problem for the government. I have talked about it briefly and I will talk about it again. The relationship between the 2020 target of 25 per cent below 1990 levels and economic "disaster" is well overblown by the parliamentary secretary who used those words and, in fact, there is very little proof of any economic disaster occurring from any proposed climate change policies.
Just as an aside, I would like to say something that is very interesting to me. I cannot really remember seeing cases in any number of economic policy, government policy, and environmental government policy and environmental business policy that have hurt businesses or economies. In fact, good environmental policy absolutely protects and builds economies and businesses.
This concern is really dispelled by virtue of the fact that the government does not have to accept that target. They can accept a much different target and focus on pacing their achievement over the next 40 years until 2050. Setting that aside, I do not think targets are a problem at all.
The economics of the bill constitute the core problem for most people. Again, Parliamentary Secretary Warawa did say that this bill would create an economic disaster. Essentially he is contradicting the Prime Minister, who has said that the government accepts the science of the 2-degree limit, so you cannot have it both ways. However, it is okay, it is all good, because I do not see even remotely where the economic disaster would occur, unless it is in the continuation of climate change — climate change that is so far hurting the economies of the Maritimes and B.C. and probably some of the central provinces, the Prairie provinces, not to mention the problem with lowering water levels in the Great Lakes and what that will do to shipping and property values around them. That is the economic problem.
People say it will wreck the economy and it will be a disaster, as Warawa said, to do something about climate change. We had to fundamentally restructure the economy to win the Second World War, as did Britain. It did not wreck their economy. It did not wreck our economy. It created some of the strongest industrial economies in the Western world. Therefore it is not immediately obvious that that scenario would occur at all. In fact, when we consider the world taking on major environmental initiatives like acid rain, we find that it is not overwhelmingly costly. What we find is it is actually done in about one tenth the cost in about one tenth the time, and in that case it actually created an industrial initiative. It created opportunity.
Honourable senators, it does not follow that climate change initiatives will hurt economies. In Britain, 550,000 clean jobs have been created by a government and by an economy that has doubled the achievement of its Kyoto commitment, or all but done so and will have by 2012.
The real cost to the markets of reducing one tonne of carbon in Europe today is about $15 to $20. At that price, we could have fulfilled our Kyoto commitment if nothing else, and I am not arguing that we should have done so. Had we done nothing but buy reductions where they are cheap and easy to do so, it would have cost about $5 billion a year. That is all it would have cost us. That should say something to the conservative market-driven mind and that maybe it is not as expensive as we think it is. Maybe once we get going, we will find that it drives itself. We will find a way to do this through the creativity, commitment, energy and intelligence of Canadian business and Canadians generally. I have every confidence that they will find absolutely a way to do this much more cheaply than the cynics suggest it will cost.
We do have studies on the other side of it, it is very clear. The most recent one, which is excellent, was sponsored by the TD Bank and prepared specifically by Dr. Mark Jaccard, a well-known, internationally renowned environmental scientist from Simon Fraser University. The study concluded that if we carry on with business as usual until 2050, there will be a growth of about 2.4 per cent. If we make the move to reduce the rate of climate change to the 2020 figures, growth would be about 0.1 percentage points less, at 2.3 per cent instead of 2.4 per cent. I do not believe that is exactly the right conclusion, because economists are conservative and will not overplay the possibilities. If we are within 0.1 percentage point in growth by doing it versus not doing it, why would we not do it? Once we get started, we will find the growth to be even greater. How can it not be greater when one invests in an economy?
If it were not the case, then this government never would have introduced the stimulus package, which proves that investment stimulates an economy. To say that we should not invest in a green revolution during the next Industrial Revolution because it is too expensive is to say that we should not have invested in the last one. That cost money, too, but, thankfully, generations before us had the wherewithal to take the new and the unknown and to invest for the sake of a future that would be different.
My economic argument is that there is no danger. On the other hand, we have real danger if we do not proceed more quickly. If one wants to wreck an economy, just continue to allow climate change to spiral. That would demonstrate the real danger to the economy. If one wants to hurt an economy, just hold it back and hold back Canadian business when it wants to get going and it wants to compete but it does not quite know what the rules of the game will be. While the plan called for in this bill will not be entirely enough to give business a sense of security about what the rules of the game will be, it will certainly give direction upon which they could begin to do their planning and much of their thinking for the future. They might even begin to act more aggressively than what we see today.
Honourable senators, when you analyze all of the issues related to this bill, you will readily conclude that much of the concern raised over this bill to this point really does not apply. This bill will not hurt the economy. The government is not limited in what it is able to do under this planning section. In fact, it is probably already planning and I would give it credit for that because I see some of its announcements that suggest it is so. Once we see the plans, we will engage in further debate with better participation and produce better ideas. Once we review and audit their progress and implementation, then we will have greater motivation for people to do what needs to be done and to achieve it. The sooner we get started, the better it will be. For each day of inaction that goes by, we are losing not only on the climate change side, but also on the economic side with those countries with which we compete. They are progressing much more rapidly than we are. The U.S. spends 18 times per capita on clean technologies and renewable energy technologies than we spend in Canada. How can we compete if we do not get started? At some point, we will be so far behind that we will not be able to keep up.
I ask honourable senators to consider these arguments and to deem this bill an important piece of proposed legislation. It will give Canada a chance to do something important and special, leaving a legacy for our children. We will begin to see its importance and impact just scant years after we begin to act on it in the things it will cause and the energies it will harness.
Hon. Richard Neufeld: Will the honourable senator take a question?
Senator Mitchell: Certainly.
Senator Neufeld: I appreciate the honourable senator's comments about science. Most people believe in the science of climate change and that we must do something. The government is certainly moving toward that.
I have one question, depending on the answer. The honourable senator is from Alberta, which, thank goodness for the rest of us in Canada, produces most of the oil consumed by or exported from Canada. It produces high CO2 or GHG emissions and generates much of its electricity with coal. They have a particularly large problem in Alberta, which I know about from talking to various energy ministers and because I live right next door in British Columbia
I want to know whether the honourable senator agrees with the following in the bill: under Regulations, paragraph 7(1)(b) states:
limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that may be released in each province by applying to each province the commitment made under section 5 and the interim Canadian greenhouse gas emission targets referred to in section 6;
Subclause 5(a) states:
as a long-term target, to a level that is 80% below the 1990 level by the year 2050; and
Does the honourable senator know what it would do if it were applied? Does he have a response to the economic devastation that it would have on Alberta? Would the honourable senator comment on that? We need to keep this in perspective.
The bill tends to play around a bit, trying to make other people look bad and like they are not doing anything. Some of the elements of this bill are dangerous and we should be thinking seriously about them. It is not that we should not be doing something about greenhouse gas emissions; we should. However, when I read those two pieces by themselves, they send shivers up my spine. Would the senator be comfortable going back to Edmonton and telling those oil companies and Albertans what will take place?
Senator Mitchell: Absolutely. I have huge respect for the honourable senator and his work in B.C. as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, where undoubtedly he confronted precisely these kinds of arguments many times. He forged ahead anyway and today, they are state-of-the-art, world leaders in B.C. I congratulate the honourable senator for that.
If his argument is that the 80 per cent target will kill Alberta, then there are two problems. First, it is not all that different from the 80 per cent target that his government has announced. Spread over 40 years, the difference will be less than 1 per cent reduction per year. If the honourable senator thinks that his government or any government will be able to tweak it to keep it at 1 per cent tolerance level, he is dead wrong. I would be happy to go to Alberta and say that the Prime Minister of Canada has established a target that says 80 per cent of 2005 by 2050. I would be happy to do that. The difference between that and the other target is miniscule. If we get started earlier, it is even more miniscule.
Second, to some extent, what underlines the honourable senator's comments — and I know the honourable senator did not mean this — is this bias against Alberta. Alberta will pull its weight in dealing with climate change. It will do it for several reasons: first, because they are very good people; second, because they are resourceful and smart; and, third, because we do not have to go to a million places to find the carbon. We have to go to six, seven, eight or nine major coal and oil sands units and that is it.
Once we get the technology — and your government, good for it, is helping us find the way to do that — we will be able to capture all that carbon. The real drive, as well, is if we do not get it clean in Alberta, we will have an awful time selling it to the U.S., where we want to sell it. The American power program underlines that very thing, where it says "border adjustments." They are not messing around and we better not mess around either.
If you speak to the industry in Alberta, they want to fix this. They have the resources — the resourcefulness, the commitment, the intelligence, the technologies and the technical know how — to do it and they will do it. Alberta will solve its problem and we will be leaders in the country, just like British Columbia.
Senator Neufeld: Honourable senators, Senator Mitchell has made some interesting comments. I do not disagree that the technology is evolving. It is coming and we are applying some of it in British Columbia. There are much smaller emissions to deal with in British Columbia but we are starting to deal with them. I agree that the honourable senator is correct that the industry will solve this problem. However, when I talk to the industry, and I do that regularly — I did that for eight years as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in British Columbia. During those eight years and beyond I have had many meetings in Calgary, Edmonton and Alberta and industry representatives told me there was a point where you will harm the established economic activity. We need to work together. That does not mean that you arbitrarily set this standard that is in this bill.
I think this standard is a bit too tough. You may say it is only 1 per cent; I do not totally agree and I do not think the industry will agree with you. However, the industry will have the technology and the knowledge and they are doing it now. What they need to find out is exactly what the targets are at the end of the day. Those targets need to be set with our common partner south of the border, with which we do most of our trade.
I agree with the honourable senator that we must ensure that it is clean or the United States will not purchase it, but we have to do that in concert with the U.S. We cannot arbitrarily walk out with a bill like this and say that his is what we are doing and we do not care what the United States is doing. There must be a great deal of cooperation, and that is what this government is trying to do — work with our major partners.
I remember how our industries reacted to the signing of the Kyoto Protocol. They said that they could not compete with the American industries. They have to compete with those industries because the U.S. is our major trading partner. They must learn to cooperate.
What I am trying to tell the honourable senator is it is not some little bill that is thrown into the mix; it is part of a much bigger picture, a huge picture about the economy of all of Canada. We have to work together with the United States. I think our government is doing a good job.
The honourable senator is smiling. I think that Senator Mitchell agrees with me that the government is working hard with the U.S. government to try to come up with some standards. We have the new Copenhagen Accord, which we should all be looking at. All the countries got together in Copenhagen and tried to figure something out so we can all move forward. Everyone agrees that we have to; the process is how do you do it? The answers are in the fine print.
I think that is something that we should look at seriously, not frivolously with something just thrown into the mix that creates a bit of a stir in the media for a while and then it is gone. Let us look at it seriously from a global picture and also from a North American picture.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, I will take that as a question, but I do not agree for one moment with what your government is, or is not doing.
I accept a great deal of what you said. I have said yes, we have to figure it out and ask the questions, but we have been doing that for 15 years. When do you just do it? When do you say, "I will provide some leadership and we will break through these problems and we will do it"?
Great leaders and great governments seek out challenges like this; they do not run from them and say we will talk to someone else and wait until someone does something. Great leaders do not say that if China does not do it, we will not do it. Great leadership does not do that. Great leaders stand up and say this is where we are going, come with me; we are going to figure out a way to do it, I have some ideas.
What happens here is that it is all behind closed doors because you are afraid to tell us anything. Nothing is happening, and then you say we cannot do it arbitrarily. Well, you are not doing it at all.
On the other point about dealing with the United States, yes, we have to deal with the U.S., but I do not see one iota of understanding of the issue. The issue is that if we specify, as the Minister of Environment has so proudly specified, we have 17 per cent of 2005 by 2020, just like the U.S., I say have you looked at the abatement cost curves. Have you looked at how much more difficult it is to reduce a ton of carbon in the U.S. than it is in Canada? If you have, if we both go to 17 per cent, we will reduce about one half of what they reduce. If we want to reduce exactly what they will reduce, which is probably what they will require, we will have to pay a lot more unless we find other cheaper ways to reduce. I am not sure that you and your organization are thinking about that.
You say to me that business is evolving. They are working on it and coming and thinking about it. Okay. How long do they need? When will they do it? Someone has to put the stake in the sand and say we are going to lead this; we will make this happen now. We will not wait any longer because the world and our kids cannot wait.
Senator Neufeld: Honourable senators, the honourable senator has convinced me that the leadership under the Liberal government, the non-leadership, under Prime Minister Chrétien and the Paul Martin government was zero. Every year since Kyoto —
The Hon. the Speaker: Order.
Senator Neufeld: — the emissions in Canada have been going up, up, up, so your leadership has been lousy on this front.
The Hon. the Speaker: Order!
Senator Cowan: Order. Look at His Honour.
Senator Neufeld: It is a little bit too much. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Senator Mitchell: Are you talking about legalizing marijuana?
The Hon. the Speaker: Order. I regret to advise honourable senators that Senator Mitchell's 45 minutes has expired.
Senator Mitchell: May I have five more minutes?
The Hon. the Speaker: Is the honourable senator asking for five more minutes? Is it agreed? Senator Mitchell, you have five minutes.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, I do not know why the honourable senator is talking about smoking. We are not getting into that debate, are we? There is some mandatory minimum sentence for that offence.
Regarding your point about Liberal leadership, I am glad to have the chance to clarify this point. First, the Kyoto Protocol was not signed until 1997 and it was not ratified until 2005. About three months after 2005, we brought out a package of programs that would reduce 250 million tonnes a year for five years. Even strong environmental groups said it was good for two thirds of it —
Senator LeBreton: A death bed conversion.
Senator Mitchell: — and we still had three years to get there. Do you know what happened? Your government cancelled every one of them. Imagine where we would be if they had simply kept in place the basic, great, well-endorsed and well-accepted programs that allowed people back then to renovate their homes, for example, a program that is cancelled today. Just imagine how much further along we would be. Do not give me this stuff about Liberal leadership not being adequate.
Finally, the context was very different. The fisheries were not dead. The forests in the honourable senator's province were not burning. The permafrost in the North was not melting; the sea was not rising in this way. There were not the kinds of random, intense, unprecedented weather events like New Orleans, for example, and many others around the world. There were not the floods, the mudslides or all of the other disasters. All of a sudden, we are in a different context and you had the advantage of that context.
An Hon. Senator: The world was perfect, right?
Senator Mitchell: Therefore, your failure to act is every bit more negligent.
The Hon. the Speaker: Continuing debate?
Honourable senators, typically, after the first speaker, who is usually the proponent of the bill, speaks at second reading debate, one usually goes to the other side and 45 minutes is allowed for the second honourable senator to speak. I know that Senator Banks seconded this motion.
Senator Comeau: I believe that Senator Neufeld intends to take the adjournment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is Senator Neufeld speaking now?
Senator Neufeld: Yes, I take the adjournment.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Banks wishes to participate, and it has been our practice that the 45 minutes for the second speaker would fall to this side.
Hon. Tommy Banks: Exactly.
The Hon. the Speaker: Therefore, Senator Banks is on debate.
Senator Banks: Honourable senators, I will speak briefly and then ask Senator Neufeld to adjourn the debate. I understand I will have the remainder of my time to speak later.
In the heat of the present argument, I cannot help but reflect on the irony of Senator Neufeld's predecessors having yelled loudly in this place about Kyoto that they want a made-in-Canada energy policy. However, the honourable senator is standing here saying we have to do what the United States does because it is impractical to do otherwise.
I must also remind honourable senators that every time we have tried to do something in this country about the environment which has involved industry, industry has said they will take their ball and go home. That has happened every single time, without exception, and they have never done so.
When we in this country said to the industry that they have to remove the sulphur from the natural gas that is coming out, the gas industry said, "If you make us do that, we will leave. You will watch the trucks leave tomorrow, and we will do no more exploration. We will shut down the wells and you will lose thousands of jobs." They removed the sulphur from the gas and they are still there. Some of them are making more money selling sulphur than gas.
When we said industries have to remove sulphur dioxide from the emissions that are polluting the Great Lakes, they all said, "If you make us do that, we will shut down and you will lose thousands of jobs." That did not happen, but the sulphur dioxide is gone.
When we said they to the oil industry that they have to take the lead out of gasoline, they said, "If you make us do that, you will lose thousands of jobs. We will shut down the refineries and move elsewhere." It did not happen.
As a matter of course, industry does not like change yet we must have that change. As Senator Mitchell has said, we require the leadership to do it.
I move the adjournment of the debate for the remainder of my time.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, for clarity, when one moves the adjournment of the debate for the remainder of their time, the next person to speak will normally be the person who adjourned the debate. This does not interfere with Senator Neufeld, who I understand will be the critic on the bill and who will have 45 minutes as previously agreed.
(On motion of Senator Banks, debate adjourned.)
Budget and Authorization to Engage Services and Travel—Study on National Security and Defence Policies—Second Report of Committee Adopted
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the second report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (budget—study on national security and defence policies—power to hire staff and to travel), presented in the Senate on May 27, 2010.
Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, I move the adoption of this report.
(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)
Hon. Grant Mitchell rose pursuant to notice of April 27, 2010:
That he will call the attention of the Senate to the online presence and website of the Senate.
He said: Honourable senators, I know this item is less controversial, so I am happy to be standing here.
Senator Comeau: Do we have to listen to you twice?
Senator Mitchell: That's right.
I want to make some observation about the state of our utilization of digital communication. That may not be the right word to cover what I am talking about. If I were under 25, I would know what word to use. However, to me, "digital" refers to use of websites, television, podcasts and electronic devices that can assist us. I know that podcasting is being worked on under another motion.
We are past the verge of a digital communications breakthrough that provides politicians and houses like the Senate with outstanding opportunities, not to communicate at the public, but to embrace and engage the public. We often hear that young Canadians especially are not engaged in the political process. We emphasize the problem of young people who choose not to vote; we discuss what that means to the future of community involvement, involvement in our societies, to our political process and how important it is to nurture and engender that kind of involvement.
For any of us who have children older than age four, we know how familiar they are with electronic communications. Teresa and I have three sons, all of whom live away. One has a television, not because he watches it but because he wants a bigger screen for his computer. They do not use the kinds of communications we do.
They see the world differently and they communicate with that world differently. It has all kinds of implications for how they will relate to society and their peers, develop relationships and networks, develop argument, and push issues. We saw the issue of prorogation and how that was developed, almost exclusively, through Facebook. That will happen no matter what we do.
I have considered this issue, as have many of us. I want to give honourable senators some idea of my frustration. I am not frustrated with the staff who works on this. There is good leadership there and they are struggling with getting the direction they need to gain the resources, et cetera, to do what we need to do.
Going to the Senate website is an experience in and of itself. If one were to type in "Senate of Canada," one would expect to get to the Senate website. However, one does not get routed to the Senate website. You go to a website that lists the websites and biographies of senators.
Senator Stratton: We know that.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, when we look at that website today, it includes biographies of senators who are no longer senators; the website is not updated and no one looks at it. We do not find the guts of the Senate where one can learn about committee hearings and so on. One simply finds biographies.
We must navigate out of that website and try to find, one way or another, a website of sorts for Senate committees. Do honourable senators know how long a young person will bother to pursue that information? Their interest lasts about two pages and two seconds before they are gone.
Upon arriving at that committee page, what do we see? First, we cannot, in any way, shape or form, search the Debates of the Senate. We cannot type Senator Plett's name, for example, to find out all the things on which he has spoken, which would be a long list. We cannot type a committee name to find the committee. We cannot type a topic to find the topic. In the 21st century, in the Senate of the Government of Canada, we cannot find someone's name in Debates of the Senate.
If honourable senators eventually find someone or a topic in the written portion of the website, they are not linked to any recorded or video statements. It is incomprehensible that we cannot go to a website and click on a link to see more text or video. This is the 21st century; it is not 1950. The technology is tried and true; it has been used over and over again, but the Senate cannot do it.
If honourable senators want to find a report, we can look at the Fortieth Session of Parliament, but what is the Fortieth Session of Parliament? Does anyone know when the Thirty-seventh Session of Parliament occurred?
Senator Banks: It was a good session.
Senator Mitchell: All of us were here, so it was good.
Honourable senators cannot even find the dates for a session because they are not listed. If we are looking for a report — this may have changed, but I do not think it has — the report is listed only as report No. 1. What is report No. 1? How does it compare to report No. 1 in the Thirty-ninth Parliament, the Thirty-eighth Parliament or the Thirty-seventh Parliament? It makes me angry that the Senate is so backward. The potential is great and an online presence does not have to be particularly expensive.
The Senate of Canada does not have an independent presence. If honourable senators want to go to the Senate website to find a committee, we must select "committees" first and then committees for both houses are shown. Someone may ask, what is the difference? I will not dwell on that.
A young man set up a website called openparliament.ca because he could not conduct the type of searches he wanted on the House of Commons website. He created that website for the House of Commons, but he cannot do it for the Senate because our architecture is so archaic he cannot set up an external site for that purpose.
I talked about the importance of a search tool. It may seem like a small issue, but the Senate uses black and white pictures on its websites. No one uses black and white pictures. That does not interest young people. There is a marketing sense that the Senate must understand.
I have debated television coverage of the Senate, as have many others. I believe in my heart of hearts that the Senate must have at least a podcast of our proceedings. It does not have to be expensive. All of the problems that we might encounter have been handled by the House of Commons. The Senate has a different structure to the Order Paper, which entails a lot of standing. Some have indicated this may offend people. I do not think people will be offended, but we could organize our proceedings better.
Some people worry about honourable senators not behaving properly when we are on television. Honourable senators behave perfectly well, for the most part, when we are on committee television. I think if the public saw both the Senate and the House of Commons, they would say, "I wish the House of Commons would behave like the Senate." If honourable senators do not behave properly, we should fix that behaviour.
Currently, the Senate broadcasts audio to Parliament Hill. We can broadcast audio to the world for free, but we have decided not to do so. I do not understand why. People have a right to hear what we do here.
Senator Segal: Hear, hear.
Senator Mitchell: It is not for honourable senators to decide they do not like what they say or do. We stand and speak to the 105 people that are in this chamber. Even if the public wanted to see what happens in this chamber, how could they? They cannot find it easily on video or search the Debates of the Senate.
The old question is: If a senator speaks in the Senate, does anyone hear? No one does, but there is unbelievably good oratory in this chamber. For any honourable senator who has been here for any period of time, we know how important this institution is. If honourable senators sit here, we must believe in this institution. If we do not believe in it, then we should not be here. If we do believe in the institution, we should want people to hear what we say.
I also want a website that allows honourable senators to do virtual town hall meetings and receive feedback. The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources is trying to do this. We will receive feedback and solicit input. The Liberal Senate Forum does this.
I have a Kindle; it is an electronic book. It is fantastic item for those who travel. It can contain 1,000 books. I can borrow a book on Kindle from the Edmonton library. They give it to me electronically and it dissolves in three weeks.
I asked staff in the Library of Parliament if they have looked at Kindle and was told it has various copyright problems. I suggested they contact the Edmonton library for advice on how to resolve such problems. Even if only a small number of people want to borrow electronic books, it is much easier and there are an infinite number available. It is not like the current situation where the book may be unavailable because someone else is reading it. To be a state-of-the-art, leading library in the country, the Library of Parliament should consider Kindle.
The Conservative leader of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Ken Kowalski, is a fine parliamentarian and has done unbelievably good things for the legislature. He developed a virtual tour of the legislature where children can go to the website, dress in whatever clothes they want — skater, geek or whatever — and walk around the historic buildings. Much more can be done. Someone said we cannot do that because —
Senator Mockler: Can we do the same thing for senators?
Senator Mitchell: We should.
— there is a security risk. How is there a security risk? People can enter Parliament and take all the pictures they want. How can that proposal be a security risk? It is simply another excuse not to do something to bring Parliament to people across Canada.
There is an effort to get Flickr — a photograph exchange — on our website. The lawyer — a fine person, I am not being critical — indicated there is a problem; you might be Photoshopped. American President Obama uses Flickr; the Prime Minister uses YouTube. People can Photoshop you from any photograph taken anywhere. The argument is ridiculous; they are simply reasons to do nothing. All we have to do is find reasons to do things and the way to do it. We need leadership to allow us to do it.
About three weeks ago — and this is coincidental — my high school has a unit supported by the province and the school board where Terry Godwaldt, a fantastic young man, is developing a system of virtual meetings and conferences around the world. They linked schools in Brazil, Alaska, Mexico, Malawi, New Zealand, et cetera. I called him regarding environmental legislation and he suggested I participate in one of these activities. I told him I was not in Edmonton, but in Ottawa. I went to an Ottawa school where I was surrounded by high school students looking at a screen with eight or nine different classrooms pictured, including Brazil, Texas, Ohio, Alaska and Mexico. I was able to talk with those students all over the world. They stand up and ask questions. My high school is in a rough area in Edmonton where kids need a chance. They can see kids all over the world and ask them questions.
Kids from all over the world can see me as a senator on that, but not a single kid in Canada can see me as a senator giving this speech right now. That has to stop. We can change that.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Will the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Senator Segal: I will defer to my colleague across the way because I am a newbie by comparison to him in terms of membership in this place. It is kind of like after the Socreds swept into power in British Columbia. In coffee shops people would ask, "Did you vote for Mr. Bennett?" Everyone would say, "No, not me, not me." No one voted for him, yet he had a massive majority.
I have not met a single member of this chamber who, when I ask about televising, digitalizing, modernizing, stepping up to the plate, embracing the 20th and perhaps even the 21st century, does not nod their head in agreement, saying, "Great idea; super; let's move along; it's in committee."
The proposal on televisation is in committee for the third time. I predict that it will die, and it will die because people on that committee want it to die.
The officials who sit at the table are great and distinguished Canadians who work day and night on our behalf. It is their job to be supportive of whatever decision this place makes and to give technical and financial advice about what things cost and how they might be done. I would not for one moment say that they have been a force against this —
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator Mitchell's time has expired. Is it agreed that he be given five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Comeau: No more than five.
Senator Segal: There seems to be a consensus across the aisle that this is a good thing. People from different political backgrounds and different regions say that broadcasting the chamber is a good thing, but it is dead in its tracks. It is not moving.
Could the honourable senator share any perspective on why we cannot move this very simple file forward? I had the great privilege of starting this when there were 70 senators on that side and 20 over here. I had the privilege of starting it when there was a government that was of a different party affiliation than mine and I was sitting over there, and the same thing happened. I cannot find any evidence that whoever is in government or who holds the majority impacts the progress of this issue. I would be interested in any advice Senator Mitchell might share.
Senator Mitchell: I thank Senator Segal for the question and for all the work he has done on this file. I have asked myself that question many times. I do not have an easy answer, but I do speculate about a couple of possibilities.
People are worried about being on TV, and they need not be. The odd time you make a mistake here, no one pounces on you. I think some are confusing this issue with what it is like to be the leader, who gets pounced on all the time. In fact, broadcasting is not a threatening experience. Once the cameras are here, people will forget about them. I do not agree that people misbehave because of cameras, although I think they may sometimes misbehave because of the press gallery.
Does anyone think about the cameras being on in committees? No; you forget about them and it becomes natural.
Second, there is generally a resistance to change, which is not all bad. This is an important institution. As Senator Banks said earlier today in a different meeting, it is important that we have traditions, and I agree. There is a reason for slow change rather than precipitous change. We have had Facebook for many years now.
Finally, I think that the issue is in part a question of money. Ironically, broadcasting does not have to cost nearly as much money as people think. I know that some people here resist spending money. We have to get past that. Some 30 or 35 years ago, the day before we got computers, everyone was saying that they cost too much money. The next day we all had computers and faxes and whatever else we needed electronically, which may have cost a lot of money, but now we would not live without them.
If we can live without digital communication and TV in here, then we can live without computers, because that is every bit as essential to the 21st century as computers were in the 1990s and still are.
(On motion of Senator Segal, debate adjourned.)
Leave having been given to revert to Other Business, Other, Inquiry No. 16.
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Comeau calling the attention of the Senate to the career of the Honourable Senator Keon in the Senate and his many contributions in service to Canadians.
Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, a number of you paid tribute to our colleague, Senator Keon, when he retired. Without repeating the long list of decorations, distinctions and awards he has earned in the course of his long and fruitful career, I wish to add a few words to what has already been said.
Some of the most rewarding times I have had since I joined the Senate have been the opportunities I have had to work with Dr. Keon on different committees and subcommittees, including the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
Coupled with his medical knowledge was his burning desire to move mountains to improve Canadians' physical and mental health. He knew that stressing the importance of prevention would avoid a world of problems and alleviate our already overburdened health care system. He was determined to convince the government to take practical steps to promote prevention rather than treatment. I am sure that our leaders will continue to turn to him for sage advice.
He was a great comfort to me personally. Words cannot describe his compassion when life forced me to take a huge step backward and relearn how to talk, hold a pen and do things children do naturally, like walk.
He knew what I was recovering from, and he would often find a way to encourage me and congratulate me on my new abilities and the progress I had made. Knowing that he was there, close by, restored my confidence and forced me to set my sights high.
I heard about how he had looked after a Liberal senator who had taken seriously ill during one of our sessions. I said to myself that he would take good care of me as well. And now he is no longer here. Thank God, after three years, my major problems are just about gone.
When we think about Dr. Keon, Senator Keon, we will never forget his smile, which was often more visible in his eyes than on his lips, and the way he had of being so quiet and so convincing at the same time.
We were very fortunate to work with Wilbert Keon, who was and always will be a wonderful man.
I have no doubt that in the future, he will achieve many of the dreams he has cherished for so many years, and I thank him for giving us the benefit of his knowledge, his wisdom and his generosity.
We will miss him very much. Thank you again, Dr. Keon.
(On motion of Senator Di Nino, debate adjourned.)
(The Senate adjourned until Wednesday, June 2, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.)