In the Chamber
Click the links below to review past speeches/statements I have given in the Senate.
NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I draw your attention the important and significant role played by Canada in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. As honourable senators will know, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly provides an opportunity for parliamentarians to understand and influence the direction of the diplomatic and governmental activities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary on April 4, 2009. Canada, as one of the founding members of NATO, has played an important leadership role throughout the history of NATO and continues to do so through involvement in several activities, most notably Canada's role in Afghanistan. Canadian parliamentarians, in particular, members of this chamber, are making a significant contribution to the work of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is governed by a president, five vice-presidents, a treasurer and five separate committees. Our colleague, Senator Raynell Andreychuk, is the rapporteur for the political committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and, in that capacity, presented a report to our recent annual meeting.
We are very proud of the fact that the treasurer for the 26 member nations of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is Senator Pierre Claude Nolin. He submitted his first treasurer's report during our recent general assembly. I have the honour of chairing the assembly's sub-committee on Transatlantic Defence and Security Co-operation.
I also chair the political caucus of liberal democrats. Honourable senators will know that Senator Rompkey earlier chaired that same liberal caucus of political parties in the centre of the political spectrum. I am pleased to inform honourable senators that Senator Jane Cordy was elected to one of the vice-presidential positions at the recent annual general meeting of the assembly. Senator Cordy has taken on ever-increasing responsibilities with the assembly over the past several years, culminating in her being chosen at our plenary session of all parliamentarians of the assembly as Vice-president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for the next two years.
Congratulations, Senator Cordy.
Recognizing Service of Bomber Command
Motion to Urge Government to Recognize Service of Bomber Command in Liberation of Europe During World War II Adopted
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Meighen, seconded by the Honourable Senator Johnson:
That the Senate urge the Government of Canada to take appropriate steps to end the long and unjust delay in recognition of Bomber Command service and sacrifice by Canadians in the liberation of Europe during the Second World War.—(Honourable Senator Day)
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, over the past few months I have stood in this chamber and noted the immense contribution made by all branches of the Canadian military in ensuring our freedom and security. Today I wish to join in the debate of Senator Meighen's motion, which reads:
. . . to end the long and unjust delay in recognition of Bomber Command service and sacrifice by Canadians in the liberation of Europe during the Second World War.
The Bomber Command campaign received public attention last year when many in the military community protested the Canadian War Museum's wording on its display entitled: An Enduring Controversy. Many felt that the wording on the panel was derogatory to veterans, and after extensive deliberation by our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, the museum changed the wording to a more acceptable, neutral statement. I very much appreciate the words of Senator Segal when he spoke on this motion, acknowledging the contribution our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs made in relation to that public debate.
Honourable senators, on April 1, 1924, six years after the birth of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force came into being. At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Canada had only a handful of RCAF personnel and a small number of outmoded aircraft. Yet the ambitious program to train thousands of pilots, air crew and officers in Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which began in December 1939, was very successful. That success was due to the efficiency, the enthusiasm and the organizational talent of the resourceful personnel of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
In acknowledgement of the high number of Canadians serving in the RAF, that is the Royal Air Force, at the beginning of World War II, a separate group under Bomber Command was created called No. 6 Group made up primarily of the Royal Canadian Air Force. That happened in January 1943. Bomber group was in existence prior to that and continued for the rest of the war.
Honourable senators, it is important for you to understand that Bomber Command No. 6 Group was comprised almost entirely of Canadians. Canadians served in the other five Bomber Command groups as well, and also in other groups under different commands later.
Overall, Bomber Command units were made up of 125,000 soldiers or air persons — British, Canadian, Australian and other Commonwealth personnel. Overall, approximately 30 per cent of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command wartime flying personnel were Canadians — approximately 40,000.
Honourable senators, missions routinely faced enemy fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft fire, intense clouds, rudimentary wireless equipment and petrol tanks punctured by flak, leaving Bomber crews little chance of returning to their bases in Britain. The flight into battle required courage, decisiveness, daring and, one could say, a bit of recklessness.
The war that raged from September 1939 to 1945 brought such harrowing experiences and tragic destruction to the lives and property that some areas have not yet fully recovered from the damages caused. The deep penetration by Bomber Command flights into Germany, France and Italy devastated inland industrial cities, destroying iron and steel plants, petroleum storage facilities, aerodromes and railroad yards by dropping many tonnes of high explosives and bombs.
Bomber crews attacked strategic targets of importance that included launching sites for the V-1 rocket bombs that were launched towards London and major communication centres. By so doing, they contributed to the collapse of the German military hegemony that had been built up over a period of five years of annexation and conquest. To military specialists of Nazi Germany, units of the Royal Canadian Air Force deployed overseas and RAF — Royal Air Force — Bomber Command constituted a persistent threat. Although there were many unfortunate civilian casualties as a result of the bombing campaign, the Royal Air Force, along with the specific Canadian and Australian groups operating within the RAF, were able to inflict crippling blows to some of the most important Nazi assets. Without the work of Bomber Command, the final Allied victory would undoubtedly have been achieved much later, if at all.
Canadian fatalities of those fighting within Bomber Command were one in four, honourable senators, and amounted to 10,500 air crew personnel. Canadian Armed Forces' casualties over the course of the war totalled 41,000 personnel; hence, one quarter of all the losses were Bomber Command air crew.
Honourable senators, it will be apparent that the members of Bomber Command are deserving of recognition for their tremendous contribution. Today, the only specific recognition available to the men and women who served so bravely and who fought for our freedom in the service of Bomber Command is a commemorative medal produced by a private company in the United Kingdom. There is no official Bomber Command medal or bar from any Allied government. For a force so involved in the Second World War, one wonders if their service should be marked by something more than a mere commemorative medal which they may not even wear as part of their formal dress as an official award.
The medals that the Canadian Bomber Command personnel may have received are rather generic. They include the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, which was awarded to persons of any rank in the navy, army or air force; the Defence Medal, which was awarded to Canadians who served at least six months in Britain; the War Medal; the 1939-45 Star for air force personnel; the Air Crew Europe Star and the France and Germany Star.
Honourable senators, in addition — and it is important for us to remember — officers and warrant officers who displayed exceptional valour, courage and devotion to duty were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross; and 4,292 Canadians were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during the Second World War.
Bomber Command personnel were also eligible for decorations such as the Victoria Cross, George Cross, Distinguished Service Order and many other awards for valour. Most Bomber Command personnel would have received five or six medals. They have been well decorated by the British and Canadian governments, even without a specific medal for their arena.
Even though there was no specific honour for Bomber Command, they were awarded. In World War II, certain campaigns other than Bomber Command did receive specific recognition, such as the Dieppe Bar, a bar worn on the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal.
Honourable senators, one possible path to take to meet Senator Meighen's motion may be a bar recognizing Bomber Command. I point out, honourable senators, that no other command in the Royal Air Force or the Canadian Air Force received any special recognition.
The question is how to best promote this deserved recognition. Bomber Command was a British formation in which Canadians participated. I am aware of a major campaign to convince British authorities to award a medal for all Bomber Command personnel.
What role does the Canadian Parliament have in encouraging a decision of the British government? Do we encourage Canada to award or recognize only the Canadians who served in Bomber Command? What about those Canadians who worked tirelessly to keep the aircraft serviceable? Any pilot will say they believe the ground crew personnel who looked after their aircraft and kept them serviceable were heroes as well. Should recognition be awarded to the air crew who flew in planes as well as to ground crew personnel?
Additionally, there exists a further hurdle to overcome from the British point of view, and that is the long-standing practice in Great Britain of not rewriting history by awarding recognitions and awards more than five years after the event.
Honourable senators, there are many worthy campaigns and battles from various wars in which Canadians have fought, but all were fought in a collective, unified cause, and we cannot have awards for every one of their efforts, lest special awards lose their impact.
I am also aware of an individual effort led by Mr. John Wiebe — a different Mr. John Wiebe from our former colleague — who lives in Ottawa. His campaign is to erect a monument dedicated to Bomber Command personnel at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa. Perhaps this is the best way in which to recognize the extraordinary contribution of Bomber Command personnel. Such a monument would be a lasting tribute to our deserving veterans, both air and ground crew, and it would be a public monument that would serve to keep their memory alive for future generations.
Honourable senators, the Canadians who served in the army and the merchant navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadians who served in Bomber Command, in particular, served in a joint effort with all of the Allied forces, ultimately securing our freedom. By recognizing the sacrifices of certain units we must avoid diminishing the collective efforts that ultimately brought us victory, and with it the peace and security for which those sacrifices were made.
We must honour all of their accomplishments and pay them the respect they so richly deserve.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Motion agreed to.
Bill C-50, Budget Implementation 2008—Third Reading
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Stratton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Nolin, for the third reading of Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, the third reading debate began on Bill C-50 last evening. My deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, Senator Stratton, spoke, and I commend him for his overview of the bill. I also commend to you the words and the comments by Senator Murray.
Senator Murray spoke about the value of having pre-studied this particular bill. We spent three weeks, prior to receiving the bill, studying the subject matter of the bill so we could understand what was in the bill when we received it. I agree with Senator Murray, and I think Senator Stratton does as well.
I thank all members of the committee for coming out during that pre-study, over a three-week period with extended sittings. All of us had an opportunity to go much more in-depth into some of the issues.
Unfortunately, when we have that opportunity, we see more and more items that we would like to investigate further, and we have more points to comment on than we might otherwise have had if we had received the bill in the normal course. There is also public pressure on us to pass the bill quickly and bring it back here before the House of Commons recesses. I was pleased that we were able to do the pre-study.
The point made by Senator Murray yesterday is that this is not a matter of confidence. Nothing in this chamber is a matter of confidence. It probably ignores, to some degree, the fact that what we do here has political repercussions, whether we are or are not a house of confidence.
Therefore, Senator Murray might have pushed the envelope a bit with respect to that issue. However, he makes a point that there are some matters in this bill that we should consider dealing with differently from other matters in this bill.
Honourable senators, let me deal with some of the issues that we learned of, and that were of concern to members of the committee. Honourable senators will recall that, when we returned this budget implementation bill without amendment, we attached certain observations. Those observations will form the focus of my remarks today. I will try to point out to honourable senators some of the concerns that the majority, at least, of the members of the committee had in relation to the points that we will discuss.
First, I wish to mention the fact that this bill, although we shorten its title and call it a "budget implementation bill," has a long name. It is "An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008. . . ." It then continues: ". . . and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget."
I will state again: "and to enact provisions." That wording gives the government a basis for a much broader bill, an omnibus bill, than a pure budget implementation. The subject of the omnibus bill, honourable senators, is where I will start my remarks.
One of the more troubling practices of governments in recent years is the tendency of including legislation measures that have no direct relationship to budget implementation bills. Bill C-50, the bill before us, runs for 139 pages. It comprises 10 different parts. It contains 164 clauses that amend 26 other pieces of legislation. In fact, it creates one piece of legislation. A new act is created when we vote on, and if we pass, Bill C-50. We are creating another separate, stand-alone bill.
Honourable senators, listen to some of the different areas that are touched upon in this bill. There are a variety of tax changes; a new financial aid program for students; sweeping changes to our immigration system; mortgage insurance changes; a significant change to the powers of the Governor of the Bank of Canada; a new premium-setting system for Employment Insurance programs; payments to the provinces and territories under various agreements; payments to several entities, such as the University of Calgary; and other less-known areas of activity, such as changes to the Donkin Coal Block Development Opportunity Act.
Honourable senators, the practice of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into a budget bill makes it difficult for any single committee in this place or, indeed, in the other place to perform a thorough job on all the various aspects of the legislation. There is a tendency to be distracted by one or two larger issues that receive a high degree of media attention. In addition, we in the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance are not experienced with respect to Part 6 of the bill. Part 6 of the bill is the immigration portion of this bill.
It is not possible to explore fully the big picture with respect to that particular immigration aspect or other components of the bill.
We are forced to deal with the various components in a superficial manner because of the time constraints, even though we spent three weeks on this study. All honourable senators worked hard to try to understand the components. Honourable senators can understand, when not studying the big picture and trying to focus on the amendment, how one could miss some of the unintended consequential changes that might occur.
This year, we attempted to improve our changes by conducting the pre-study, as I indicated. That pre-study was helpful. However, again, I think we only managed to scratch the surface on many of these aspects.
Of course, budget bills often contain provisions that transfer large sums of money. We understand that aspect. They do that both to other levels of government and to other entities. Bill C-50 follows that pattern.
I submit to you, honourable senators, that these promises of money are sewn into the budget bill to secure rapid passage. Such announcements can be implemented easily through the supply bills, such as Bill C-58 and Bill C-59 that we dealt with yesterday, supported by the estimates, which we study throughout the year, as well as the supplementary estimates. Indeed, in many cases, such an approach would ensure more rapid passage of the major financial aspects.
However, as I indicated to honourable senators, the financial aspects are woven into all these other aspects to fend off scrutiny and to disarm the opposition. A committee that attempts to conduct a thorough examination risks being accused of delaying a transfer of those sums of money. We suddenly receive letters from all over the country — from municipalities and provincial governments — saying, "Do not hold up this bill."
In the present bill, the government has included a large number of amendments to acts of Parliament that have no bearing on fiscal or economic policy. In particular, the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act belong entirely in a stand-alone bill. They have nothing to do with the fiscal management of the government, and they have sweeping implications as to how Canada conducts, or will conduct, its immigration program.
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance has no particular expertise in immigration matters and, given that these amendments were only one of 10 parts of this bill, we could devote only so much time to examining them.
In the future, I think this chamber — if it is not done before such a bill arrives — should seriously consider splitting such bills. I do not recommend this course of action to delay the progress of the government's legislative agenda but, rather, to ensure that major policy initiatives receive the full and expert attention of the relevant committee that has the institutional memory and the focus to evaluate that particular portion properly.
Senator Carstairs: Hear, hear!
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Day: Honourable senators, now that I have presented the overriding concern about throwing everything in this bill, I will move on to some specific aspects.
Next, there are scholarships. Honourable senators, I will be selective in dealing with various matters. I wanted to deal with scholarships first because time will not permit me to deal with all the issues and the questions that arose throughout our study of Bill C-50.
I first point out to honourable senators that we did not hear from certain people that we wanted to hear from. Time did not permit it and their schedules did not meet with the schedules that we had over the three-week period. We did not hear from the Governor of the Bank of Canada, although several requests were made to him. We did not hear from the Minister of Finance or from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Several other interest groups asked to appear before us that we could not hear from.
The Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation board was one of those boards from which we did not hear. We heard from student groups. However, it would have been good to hear from a board that has been in place for 10 years; one that we heard started out in a somewhat rocky fashion in that new foundation but pulled things together and was doing some good work. We were unable to bring them in to talk about what their concerns and achievements were.
One of the major concerns articulated by just about every commentator is the fact that the government is effectively stretching the same pot of money to reach a larger number of students. The government is cancelling the Millennium Scholarship Foundation and creating another program of assistance for students, which will only go to those students who have made an application for a loan.
In our committee's deliberations, we also learned of concerns shared by two different national student organizations that the important research capacity of the Millennium Scholarship Foundation would be lost because the program announced to replace it did not include any research component.
There was also the issue in the Millennium Scholarship Fund of students receiving scholarships on merit, or students who needed some assistance but did not want to borrow money from the Canada Student Loans Program and were working part time or working in the summer. The Millennium Scholarship Fund provided for that assistance, and those aspects are now no longer available under this new program.
Let me turn to the subject of Employment Insurance. This is one of the areas where there is new legislation. Our committee heard from several witnesses, including representatives from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, who expressed concern that the provision for $2 billion for the Employment Insurance Fund reserve is simply inadequate. It is not enough of a reserve for this new stand-alone organization to handle the ups and downs of the economy. They are mandated to borrow and pay back anything more than $2 billion, and to set premiums annually that keep them from exceeding that.
What will happen there, honourable senators? It is obvious what will happen: This burden will be borne on the backs of people and employers who pay into Employment Insurance; whereas, previously, Employment Insurance was part of government and had a much larger amount of money available to take out the swings. The stated goals of a financing board are to avoid dramatic fluctuations in premium rates. With only $2 billion, how will they do that? The Canadian Institute of Actuaries says that $2 billion is not nearly enough to do that. They need between $10 billion and $15 billion. Virtually everyone that appeared before us stated the same.
Considering that the government announced this initiative as a way of addressing the Employment Insurance surplus, which they claim exceeded $50 billion, if there is a surplus in government funds anywhere near $50 billion, why are they saying that we are cutting everything off right now — we will keep $48 billion and we will give $2 billion to this new organization?
In the absence of some substantial reserve, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and others testified the premiums will fluctuate dramatically, even in good economic times. What is more, the tiny reserve will force the board to raise premiums dramatically during an economic downturn, further depressing — and that is the problem here — job creation at the worst possible time. Addressing the EI surplus was a laudable objective. However, I regret to say that the specifics of the government's plan leave much to be desired.
I could speak more, honourable senators, on the board that is being created and the qualifications — for instance, who will be on this board? There is a great concern from the labour sector that they will not be represented on the board that sets the premiums that they and their membership must pay. There is much concern about that.
Honourable senators, let me go on to an area of great concern to many of us, namely, Part 6 of this bill dealing with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. I have already mentioned Part 6 in passing, but it is an area that deserves attention. Part 6 deals with amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and gives to the minister unprecedented discretionary power.
I want to reiterate that these changes have sweeping implications. We felt at a loss in the committee to evaluate them fully — that is, to see them as part of the larger picture — in the little time we had before the end of the parliamentary calendar, which is nearly upon us.
The consensus among most witnesses was that these changes represent an unnecessary and excessive expansion of the discretion of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. They are unnecessary because the powers that they publicly allege to be seeking are obtainable through the normal regulatory process in the existing legislation and they are excessive because they are much more than is needed.
I was struck by a witness who told us that the minister already has that legislative authority. This witness is very knowledgeable in this particular area. The witness wondered aloud whether these legislative changes actually implemented the stated plans of the minister and the government, or whether they served an objective that the government has not publicly revealed.
We were also concerned in committee with the government's desire to establish the power to issue instructions under the act without notice and consultation, subject only to the requirement to publish instructions after the fact. The government stated very plainly that it intends to consult broadly, but we are legislators, honourable senators; we deal with the law as we interpret it and as we pass it, not with promises of processes in the future.
This legislation provides the power to establish instructions. The minister can give instructions to all of her department as to how to deal with applications, without any consultation. Not only can these instructions be issued without notice, they can have a retroactive effect. Someone could apply for immigration or refugee status and then the minister, after the fact — seeing this group of would-be immigrants, seeing this group of applications — could decide to issue instructions to say, "Reject all of those applications."
The applications can be rejected without it being a decision. That is it another provision, honourable senators. Not being a decision means that it is not open for judicial review. These are the provisions that are contained in this legislation.
We have an established process for regulations and, together with the House, we have the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. These are not statutory instruments; these are not instruments subject to the scrutiny of regulations. We are not able to review these.
Even more troubling, honourable senators, is the fact that the regulations are not statutory instruments. They will not be subject to any prepublished draft regulations, like the regulations are in the existing act. That normal mechanism guarantees that there would be consultation. That is not there any longer. We are left with nothing more than the promise of a minister that she will consult — a promise that is only good until the next cabinet shuffle.
The instructions are not to be subject to review by the standing committee, as I have indicated. The very troubling provision is that any decision under these instructions is not deemed to be a decision from the point of view of any type of review.
Honourable senators, there seems to be a pattern developing here. I mentioned this before, but the more one reviews it, the more one can see the pattern. We see a similar attempt to grant regulation-making power to the Minister of Heritage in Bill C-10 — again, without notice; without the requirement to publish in advance; without parliamentary scrutiny. Other bills contain similar provisions, honourable senators. Parliamentarians of both Houses will have to look at this issue in a much broader context than in this piece of proposed legislation only to determine how to address this pattern of seeking authority to make regulations or instructions completely free from parliamentary oversight.
Honourable senators, with respect to the immigration provisions, I point out that Bill C-50 does not address the existing backlog of applications, although that is one of the stated purposes of this proposed legislation. At committee, we learned that the backlog of applications of would-be new Canadians is nearing 1 million. Nearly 1 million people have applied to come to Canada and their applications are waiting to be processed. However, the bill addresses only those applications that were filed after February 27, 2008. Moreover, the funding announcement of $22 million per year for five years represents little in terms of engaging staff to process the backlog. Rather, that amount would be used to establish the new instructions and how they are to be handled. Bill C-50 does not make a serious attempt to deal with the backlog and, therefore, the provisions on immigration are troubling.
I mentioned to honourable senators earlier that certain observations were attached to the bill when it was returned without amendment. Honourable senators will have had an opportunity to review the observations. A number of senators were hoping that because the committee did not prepare a report on the pre-study of the bill, this would provide some record, in précis form, of the committee's issues and points of concern in respect of the bill.
One point that I had hoped would be included in the observations dealt with the proposed powers to the Governor of the Bank of Canada. I mentioned earlier that we tried to have the Governor of the Bank of Canada appear before the committee, although we heard from officials from Treasury Board and the Department of Justice Canada, who said that the Governor of the Bank of Canada would like to have these powers to be able to act quickly.
Honourable senators, there is nothing in the observations with respect to this, so I would like to go on record as pointing out that this continues to be a matter of serious concern. We should not overlook mentioning this on the record at third reading stage of Bill C-50.
I refer honourable senators now to Part 10 of the bill. The interesting thing about Part 10 parenthetically is that it is the summary of the bill. The summary at the front of the bill, printed inside the cover of the first reading version, provides an explanation of each part of the bill. However, Part 10, on amendments to the Bank of Canada Act and other acts, states: "Part 10 amends various Acts." That is quite an explanation, honourable senators.
Clause 146(1) is found at page 125 of the bill. Paragraphs 18(g) and 18(g)(i) of the Bank of Canada Act are to be replaced by the following paragraphs. The introductory words to the replacement paragraph 18(g) state, "for the purposes of conducting monetary policy. . . ." That is the work of the Governor of the Bank of Canada. He does it well, and we understand that. However, the other power at 18(g) is ". . . promoting the stability of the Canadian financial system." I would love to have had the Governor of the Bank of Canada appear before the committee to explain the parameters of that specific power as provided in the bill.
As proposed paragraph to replace 18(g)(i) of the Bank of Canada Act states, the governor may:
(i) buy and sell from or to any person securities or any other financial instruments — other than instruments that evidence an ownership interest or right in or to an entity—. . .
He can buy and sell to anyone. Clause 147 of the bill suggests that section 19 of the Bank of Canada Act be replaced with proposed section 18.1(2). It states, "The Bank of Canada shall publish the policy and any amendment to it in the Canada Gazette. . . . " He cannot act for a period of time until after they have been published so we can determine the provisions under which the governor is acting.
Honourable senators, on the power to promote the stability of the Canadian financial system, Bill C-50 proposes this change to paragraph 18(g) of the Bank of Canada Act:
(ii) if the Governor is of the opinion that there is a severe and unusual stress on a financial market or the financial system, buy and sell from or to any person any securities and other financial instruments, to the extent determined necessary by the Governor.
That is not according to any published guidelines. We do not know what he will be thinking about. The restriction I referred to earlier is "other than instruments that evidence an ownership interest or right in or to an entity." He could buy into any business of his choice and could buy and sell to anyone. His only obligation under section 19 would be not to consult with the government who might have made a policy decision; not to prop up the particular company; not to hold any meetings; and not to follow any published guidelines; that in exercising that authority, he should publish, when he thinks it appropriate to do so, his statement of reasons in the Canada Gazette.
Honourable senators can understand why some concern was expressed that we should be dealing with two or three short provisions of an extremely important function in our society tucked into a budget implementation bill. Why could those provisions not have appeared in a separate piece of proposed legislation and been studied by a committee of this chamber that could delve into the broad implications of it? I do not know whether these powers are exercised in the United States or in the U.K., although some senators indicated that they were.
Those are just some of the points on Bill C-50 that I wanted to bring to the attention of honourable senators. I am not certain how this chamber will deal with Bill C-50. I know the political pressures are on all of us to pass the bill, which contains some good provisions. However, in my respectful submission, other provisions require some considerable thought, and others require some amendment.
It would have been helpful to split some of these issues, such as amendments to the Bank of Canada Act and to the Immigration Act, so they could be dealt with separately. Certainly, some honourable senators will want to address some of those issues individually. Therefore, I focused on a broad brushstroke peek into this omnibus budget implementation bill, Bill C-50.
Hon. Lorna Milne: Would the Honourable Senator Day accept a question?
Senator Day: Certainly.
Senator Milne: Senator Day, does the empowerment provision in the bill mean that the Governor of the Bank of Canada could sell the Canadian Centres of Excellence or raise money by selling the Canadian Wheat Board?
Senator Day: If the governor is of the opinion that there is a severe and unusual stress on the financial market or the financial system, he may buy and sell, from or to any person, any securities and any other instruments to the extent determined necessary by the governor.
Senator Milne: That means, in effect, that he could sell the Canadian Wheat Board to these companies that are waiting to pounce on it south of the border.
Senator Day: In fairness to the way the governor would be advised to read it, he would have to form the opinion that there is a severe and unusual stress on the financial market.
We do not know what the guidelines will be in that regard, which is the problem. If there were some guidelines to help us understand what factors would determine that there is a severe and unusual stress on the financial market, then we would be more comfortable knowing how this may possibly be exercised.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: I have a question for Senator Day. I was surprised to hear that the Minister of Immigration did not appear before the committee to explain the need for this legislation in the Budget Implementation Act and also how she would exercise her power.
The honourable senator spoke about a promise that the minister gave. I am not clear on that. Can the honourable senator tell us how he received this promise from the minister?
Senator Day: I thank the honourable senator for her question. The promise was in a published statement from the minister. It did not come to us directly. The minister had given the committee times over a three-week period when she was available to see us, but that did not work with our schedule. Therefore, we asked to work out another time when she could come to talk with us. We were not able to find another time during the three weeks when we could meet with the minister.
However, we did hear from the minister's officials. They were able to explain to us much of what I have told the honourable senator.
Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein: I want to thank the honourable senator for that enlightened exposition of the problems he faced before the committee. There are two areas of concern to many honourable senators, that relate to the provisions dealing with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
The honourable senator made the point that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act has no place in this bill, but it is in the bill. It seems to me as though this is flush time. We are flushing everything through the sewers of this particular legislation with the assumption that no one will be able to correct, siphon or filter it.
I have two questions related to this information. First, in regard to immigration, I want to be clear about what the honourable senator is saying with regard to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Instead of a careful balance of the rule of law in immigration decisions, in effect, this measure will have the rule of law being swept away with respect to individual decisions and we now have the unaccountable, arbitrary discretion of the minister to determine particular cases.
Second, in regard to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, I recall when I first became involved in politics in the early 1960s. There was much dispute over the relationship between the federal government — effectively, the cabinet — and the Bank of Canada. That was the Coyne affair.
If I recall correctly — and I have not looked up the history — essentially, the governor of the bank felt there was unreasonable intrusion into his powers. Therefore, a bargain was struck that was accepted by Parliament. The bargain was that, yes, the governor could act independently of the government, but he was bound by statutory restrictions and he would have to come back and account.
What the honourable senator is saying, if I listened to him carefully, is that these amendments have been plastered into the backside of this bill and have no place in this particular bill. They give the governor of the bank the largest sweeping powers I can remember in living history, all in one flush.
If I look at the transcripts from the other place, from the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance — I am not criticizing, this is simply factual — less than 10 minutes of thought has been given to this sweeping power. The deal that was made back in the 1960s between Parliament and the role of the Governor of the Bank of Canada has been washed away.
Would the honourable senator say that is a fair analysis of his comments?
Senator Day: I do not have the same history of the Coyne affair that the honourable senator does. Therefore, I am not in a position to compare the current powers with the powers that were brokered between Parliament and the Governor of the Bank of Canada at that time.
I raised the issue of the obvious sweeping powers without any restrictions and I could not find out from any of the witnesses who appeared before us why there is a restriction with respect to proposed clause 146(1) that will amend paragraphs 18(g)(i) of the Bank of Canada Act, which says:
. . . other than instruments that evidence an ownership interest or right in or to an entity. . . .
No one could explain why that restriction does not appear in the proposed amendment to paragraph 18(g)(ii). The only answer I could get was that the governor would like to have these powers to be able to react in times of emergency.
I am hopeful that either the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce or the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance will follow up and have a better understanding of these powers in the future. We obviously are not able to do so now, but it would be helpful for us to remember these issues and follow up on them.
With respect to immigration, there are two aspects to the powers that are of concern. First, under our Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, we had a previous provision that if someone filled out the form, the application would be received along with the application fee and he or she would have knowledge that it would be reviewed.
The problem has arisen that the number of applications has slowly built up until we have a backlog of almost a million people now. That is not fair. However, there has been no purging of that list to determine how many people have changed their minds, how many people have died, or how many people came in other ways. None of that has occurred. That work must be done and they need to use modern electronic computers to handle this better.
The proposed section 116 amends section 11 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and changes the word "shall" to "may." From February 27, 2008 onward, it does not matter if a would-be Canadian has filled out the application the way he or she has been told; a landed immigrant status document may be issued following an examination or it may not be issued. It is permissive now. That seems to be one of the ways that the minister will handle the growing backlog. This caused those people working in immigration to say that is a discretionary thing. It takes away from the objectivity of our highly respected system internationally. It has changed with one word.
In addition to that, clause 118 would add a new section 87.3(3) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that the minister may give instructions. This is not to say that the minister may generate regulations. It states:
. . . the Minister may give instructions with respect to the processing of applications and requests, including instructions . . .
Further, at new section 87.3(3)(c), it continues:
. . . setting the number of applications or requests, by category or otherwise, to be processed in any year. . . .
This is not subject to scrutiny. This is instruction. There is another clause that says everyone who works for the minister shall comply with those instructions. This is a very strange way of handling a process that, in the past, has been quite objective including regulations, pre-publication and consultation. People who work in the area had an opportunity to say, "If you pass this, did you consider the effect it will have on that?" That is the pre-consultation process. None of that is left.
The instructions will be published in the Canada Gazette, but there is no pre-consultation. It does not say these instructions will be published before they are in effect. That is my concern. If they were to be published before they come into effect, there would be an opportunity for people to point out that there is a problem. There would be an opportunity for someone who was applying to come to Canada to say, "I will not go through this process because they will publish these instructions and I cannot fit the educational standards; I do not have the qualifications they are looking for, or the language standards."
That does not have to be published beforehand. There is the potential for abuse, and that is the problem. The instructions could apply retroactively to move out or to deny certain applications for reasons that would not be in the best interest of Canada.
Hon. Consiglio Di Nino: I have several points of clarification by way of a question to the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance.
Could the honourable senator confirm for us that the special powers granted to the Governor of the Bank of Canada, to be used only in emergency situations, are powers that a number of central bank governors, particularly in the Western world, now already have? We heard testimony to that effect.
Senator Day: I do not know that to be the case. I heard that mentioned by other senators, but I do not know that to be the case. Whoever does the study on this should study exactly that. I appreciate that the honourable senator was present at all of the hearings that I was at, and I thank him for the good work that he did on that file.
Senator Di Nino: I thank the honourable senator for that. If the honourable senator checks the record, he will find that testimony to that effect exists.
My main question deals with the observation that the honourable senator said was not appended to the report. Would he verify that comments similar to those the honourable senator made on this issue were actually contained in an observation that was rejected by the majority of the committee, and those who rejected that particular observation contained members of both sides of the chamber, plus an independent?
Senator Day: Honourable senators, I can confirm that a certain motion was made by one of the senators to include observations or to attach observations to the bill.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, Senator Day's speaking time has expired. Does the honourable senator wish to request more time?
Senator Day: With your permission, I would like to finish my answer.
Some Hon. Senators: Five minutes.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Leave is granted.
Senator Day: Thank you, honourable senators.
I appreciate that I just had a chance to go over much of this quite briefly, and there is so much detail in here. Senator Di Nino is quite right that there was a proposal as part of the motion to include an observation with respect to the Bank of Canada that did not pass. I have already given the indication. I do not think I have to read it again.
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: I thank the honourable senator very much for his explanations of Part 6 of Bill C-50 with regard to immigration policies. He was discussing the unprecedented and unaccountable discretionary powers that will be granted to the minister. He also indicated that the witnesses did not feel that these changes were necessary.
There was a poll conducted at the beginning of May by Nanos Research, reported in the June issue of Policy Options, which indicated that nearly three quarters of Canadians think that immigration is either important or somewhat important. It is a topic that is very much on the minds of Canadians.
If Part 6 remains in Bill C-50, rather than being removed and dealt with separately, what do we say to Canadians? What do we say to groups like the Chinese Canadian National Council, that has probably written to every senator in the chamber, indicating that it wishes that section to be removed? The council represents 1.6 million Canadians, the second-largest racialized group in Canada, second only, I think, to South Asians. It is obviously an important issue, so why are we keeping this measure in Bill C-50? Why is that the recommendation? What do we say to them?
Senator Day: Honourable senators, that is a question that would be much better answered by the sponsor of the bill. Like the honourable senator, I have a great deal of difficulty answering the many hundreds of letters I have received in relation to this particular aspect of the bill. I can tell the honourable senator that I received a submission from the Chinese community along the lines of why we have this legislation. It is a very difficult question to answer when I have so many concerns myself.
Hon. Serge Joyal: May I ask the honourable senator if, during the course of the study, the committee paid attention to the impact of those sections in relation to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? The Supreme Court of Canada, in a famous decision, has stated clearly that no one has a right to immigrate to Canada; no one can claim that he or she has a right to immigrate. However, in the treatment of someone requesting immigration to Canada, the principles of the Charter of Rights apply.
Let me give honourable senators an example. Suppose the government decides that they do not want any more people of colour in Canada, for X, Y or Z reason. That decision would probably not be announced on those terms. They would identify X, Y or Z country where a majority of immigrants are people of colour.
The government could decide, on instruction, not to proceed with any request from that group of applicants. I believe that would be totally contrary to section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Once you are charged with a discretion, you have to apply the principles of the Charter. Section 15 is quite clear. It says "every individual." It does not say "a citizen." There are sections of the Charter that apply to citizens; there are sections that apply to persons, whatever the status of the person is, an applicant for immigration or otherwise.
Did the honourable senator question the impact of those sections of Part 6 of the bill in relation to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Senator Day: That is an extremely important question. I want to go on record with an answer.
During one of our meetings the issue arose, however briefly. It was expressed as a concern, but we did not have time to delve into the issue. Part of my submission here today is that there are many aspects of this legislation and other pieces of this bill that need to be looked into. Obviously, the honourable senator raises a very important point.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Day, your time has expired.
John Peters Humphrey Memorial
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, yesterday afternoon over 500 citizens in New Brunswick gathered in Hampton for a monumental occasion, and I want to tell you about what transpired. The story begins in the early 1900s, when John Peters Humphrey was growing up in Hampton, New Brunswick. Fast-forward to his attending Mount Allison University and McGill University law school, where he taught for a good number of years as a professor of law.
Eleanor Roosevelt asked John Humphrey to be the first director of the Human Rights Directorate of the United Nations, following the Second World War. One of the first actions of the United Nations was the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which formed the basis for all the protocols that followed with respect to human rights.
It was not until many years afterwards, at the time John Humphrey retired from teaching and his material was found, that it became clear that John Humphrey was, in fact, the person who wrote the first draft that ultimately became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, in his early lifetime, he never received recognition, nor did he seek it, for the work he had done.
That document on human rights that John Humphrey helped draft, as Nelson Mandela has said, has become the Magna Carta of human rights. It was the fundamental document — I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said that.
Honourable senators, finally, at long last, 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a monument to John Peters Humphrey — who grew up in Hampton, New Brunswick, and who is buried there — finally has been erected.
This movement was a grassroots one, honourable senators. The monument comprises two wonderful columns three metres in height, a semicircular bench that represents the United Nations, and two figures of John Humphrey — one as a senior person and one as a boy growing up in New Brunswick.
I highly recommend, if you have the opportunity to visit, that you stop in Hampton, New Brunswick, and see this wonderful, world-class monument, which was designed by John Hooper. The late John Hooper created the Terry Fox statue on Wellington Street, across from the Parliament buildings. "Balancing," at the National Arts Centre, is another of his well-known pieces of art. He designed that work, and the studio completed it.
Honourable senators, I hope that everyone will have an opportunity to come to the area of Hampton, New Brunswick, to see this wonderful monument, a testament to the tremendous contribution by John Peters Humphrey to human rights in this country.
50th Anniversary of NORAD
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I would like to join Senator Tkachuk in saluting NORAD. Canada and the United States have shared a long history of military relations. They have not always been amicable, as our respective national interests have from time to time diverged. However, over the past 50 years, our two nations have shared a common interest in the North American Aerospace Defense Command. NORAD celebrated its fiftieth anniversary yesterday, May 12, and throughout this summer, there will be celebrations of the partnership we have shared in monitoring and defending the North American airspace.
Today, we use highly developed tracking systems to monitor aircraft, both identified and unidentified, as well as other objects that may invade the North American airspace. NORAD's mandate has expanded in recent years to include coastal maritime surveillance. NORAD is also instrumental in helping us maintain our Arctic sovereignty.
Established in 1958, NORAD was originally called the North American Air Defence Agreement. In 1981, it changed its name to that which is used today, North American Aerospace Defense Command. As international political and military situations have evolved, there have been coinciding changes to the agreement, but the main objective has always stayed the same, to protect North America from outside attack. Even that mandate changed slightly after the attack on September 11, 2001, when we learned that attacks from within North American airspace could also be a threat to security.
Honourable senators might be interested to know that during the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Canadian Lieutenant-General Rick Findley was in command of the NORAD operations centre. This clearly illustrates the fact that Canada is a full partner in NORAD.
NORAD headquarters is located in Colorado Springs. Cheyenne Mountain Operations Centre, where the majority of surveillance operations take place, is only a short distance away. There are also satellite bases in Winnipeg and Bagotville in Canada.
The lengthy relationship that Canada and the United States have shared in their mutual interest in the defence of North American airspace is one that we should be proud to uphold. Canada gains much from this alliance. We are indeed fortunate to have such a good working relationship while maintaining safety for the citizens of North America.
100th Anniversary of the Public Service Commission of Canada
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I am pleased to pay tribute to the Public Service Commission today, in honour of the 100th anniversary of this independent agency.
I am certain that honourable senators will join me in expressing our best wishes to this agency as it enters its second century.
This important institution reports to Parliament, and is directly responsible for ensuring the integrity, staffing and political neutrality of the federal public service.
These principles have been essential to building a professional and impartial public service, generally regarded as one of the best in the world.
The history of the public service form of government can trace its origins to the Qin Dynasty of China, three centuries before the birth of Christ. While Canada's Public Service Commission is not quite that old, it did celebrate its one-hundredth anniversary yesterday.
Over the millennia, civil servants have played a vital role in the administration of governments across the globe. As the British and other European empires expanded in the 18th century, they needed to establish a less militaristic form of governing their colonies and selected the Chinese civilian model.
By the end of the 19th century, the British government had begun to develop the system of an autonomous civil service, which evolved to become the model for our Civil Service Commission of Canada, adopted in 1908. Over the last 100 years, the civil service, which became known as the public service in 1967, has evolved into an autonomous, non-partisan civil body that has done the country a tremendous service of which we can all be proud.
The Public Service Commission of Canada is the guardian of that system. Although, with the Public Service Modernization Act of 2003, the hiring function has been delegated from the Public Service Commission to the deputy ministers, the Public Service Commission continues to audit and ensure that the principles of fairness continue to be employed. Employment equity is one of those principles, honourable senators.
The Public Service Commission also has an important role to play in the audit process to ensure that those four employment equity groups, namely, women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, and people with disabilities are employed proportionately in the public service equal to or exceeding their proportion in the national workforce. The Public Service Commission of Canada thereby helps parliamentarians to ensure fairness in the hiring practice of the public service.
Therefore, honourable senators, I take this opportunity to thank the public servants of Canada for the remarkable work they provide to our country and to wish the men and women of the Public Service Commission of Canada a very happy one-hundredth anniversary and congratulate them on the work they do for us.
World Intellectual Property Day 2008
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, today I would like to discuss intellectual property; in particular, trademarks, patents and copyrights.
Honourable senators, today we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day on the Hill. The day is not officially celebrated until April 26 but since it falls on a Saturday this year, we are celebrating early.
World Intellectual Property Day was first established by the World Intellectual Property Organization based in Geneva. This United Nations agency is focused on the development and understanding of intellectual property rights worldwide.
Today, we are hosting members of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada. The institute, which was founded in 1926, is the professional association of patent agents, trademark agents and lawyers practicing in the area of copyright and technology in the law. There are over 1,300 members of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, which includes international members practicing within and outside of Canada.
The term "intellectual property" may be contrasted with real or personal property. Real or personal property is something physical, like a car or a house. Intellectual property is non-physical. It is a non-physical right that can be enforced, and it arises by virtue of original creativity, such as writing music or a poem. The creator of that work does not own each word or each note, but the creator does have a right to the arrangement of those words or notes.
One of Canada's most recognizable patented items is the Canadarm, used to manoeuvre equipment outside the International Space Station. Companies like MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates and Microsoft often have as one of their most important corporate assets the innovative employees and the patents and intellectual property they develop.
Students, honourable senators, who participate in science fairs learn the value of innovation and protecting their inventiveness. The science fair ideas of today could well be a successful business of tomorrow.
This year's World Intellectual Property Day focuses on celebrating innovation and promoting respect for intellectual property. In support of the World Intellectual Property Day on the Hill, it is my hope that honourable senators will join me this afternoon between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in room 256 S. There, we will have an opportunity to meet and encourage both the young winners of regional science fairs as well as Canada's leaders in this important area of intellectual property law.
Vimy Ridge Day 2008
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I rise to join with my colleagues in remembrance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. For those of you who have had the opportunity to visit the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, my words will do it little justice. Simply put, the monument, originally completed in 1936 by Toronto sculptor Walter Allward, is one of the most humbling and awe-inspiring war memorials ever constructed anywhere in the world. I had the honour of travelling to France last year with a number of my colleagues here in the Senate for the ninetieth anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It was a beautiful ceremony, and an important reminder of the sacrifices made for our freedom.
With its two distinctive towers rising 70 metres above the farmland, the Vimy memorial is a site that brings to Canadians a sense of patriotism like few others. It is an important symbol by which we are able to remember the 619,000 Canadians who fought during World War I to ensure our freedom and security. The statues that surround the memorial are definitions of what our men and women in uniform strive for: justice, peace, truth, knowledge, gallantry and sympathy. Not only does the memorial help us to remember those killed in the Battle of Vimy Ridge but those who lost their lives throughout the ongoing endeavours to secure international freedom and peace.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge marked a profound turning point in the First World War. For the first time, the four Canadian divisions, which had traditionally fought alongside their counterparts from Britain or France, fought together as a single unit, as a Canadian force towards the main objective: to capture Vimy Ridge from the grips of the Germans. It must be noted, honourable senators, that military control of the ridge was not only important strategically, but it was important symbolically. For 18 months the Allied forces had attempted unsuccessfully to take the ridge, and Canada was just recovering from the devastating losses suffered by Canadians at the Battle of the Somme.
In order to capture the important position, Canadian success depended, among other things, upon inventiveness and creativity. The use of tunnels to transport men and equipment, the ability to store ammunition in proximity to where it was required and the capacity to bring electricity and telecommunications to forward positions were essential to the success at the battlefield at Vimy Ridge. Digging trenches and tunnels and building miles of underground railway were not glamorous duties, but they proved to be vital components of the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge.
Honourable senators have heard that over 10,000 Canadian casualties occurred at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and 3,598 never came home. Overwhelmingly, honourable senators, it is to those young men and women that we must pay tribute on this, the ninety-first anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is truly a holy place that must continue to be restored generation after generation. We have an obligation to remember. We will remember.
Progress Report on the Implementation of the Federal Accountability Act
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Oliver, calling the attention of the Senate to the progress that has been made on the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act, highlighting the status of key measures of the Act and underscoring the importance of this Act to improving responsibility and accountability in our government.—(Honourable Senator Day)
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, I rise today to join in Senator Oliver's inquiry into the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2. You may not be surprised to hear that my views are rather different from those of Senator Oliver.
I was the opposition critic during the study of Bill C-2 and, along with others I know of in this chamber, I have followed closely the process since the bill was passed and received Royal Assent on December 12, 2006.
To give honourable senators some reflection on what was included in Bill C-2, there was conflict of interest legislation; there was access to information; there was the creation of the Director of Public Prosecutions; there was a Public Appointments Commission; there was lobbying legislation; and there was a Parliamentary Budget Officer, an Ethics Commissioner, the Procurement Ombudsman and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner with respect to whistle-blowing legislation.
Honourable senators, in the time available to me today, I cannot deal with all of those items. However, I will speak briefly to conflict of interest, the public appointments commissioner and lobbying, primarily because Senator Oliver touched on those areas during his presentation.
Honourable senators, it is clear that this government allowed politics to trump good government. It rushed too quickly to draft this extensive and far-reaching piece of legislation. In committee, we heard the government representative boast that the government knew exactly what it wanted to do with respect to this legislation and, within six weeks of being elected, it had the proposed legislation ready. Honourable senators will recall that during those six weeks, cabinet ministers were being appointed, so there was no consultation with cabinet ministers; and Parliament had not been recalled, so there was no consultation with Parliament. Honourable senators would be correct in wondering who, during those six weeks, prepared that proposed legislation.
Again for political reasons, the government exerted extraordinary pressure on both Houses of Parliament to speed up the study of the bill and to not pass any significant amendments to the bill. When the bill came to the Senate, it was said that the proposed legislation had been gone over with a fine-toothed comb and that there was no need for honourable senators to even look at the bill. However, when Bill C-2 came to the Senate it was deeply flawed. The government was eventually forced to acknowledge this as it put forward, in committee and at third reading in the Senate, 50 amendments to the bill.
Honourable senators, your committee passed a total of 250 amendments to Bill C-2. Unfortunately, the government was not convinced of the righteousness of those amendments and, therefore, was determined to ignore the views of the Senate and rejected all but 90 of those amendments. Thus, the Senate achieved 90 amendments to a bill that, according to Mr. Baird, was perfect when it came to the Senate.
I believe the government missed an opportunity to improve this bill. We have seen how unprepared the government was to actually implement many of the provisions set out in the bill. Even Senator Oliver, determined as he was to give a positive spin on it, could not fail to notice that some institutions to be established under the Federal Accountability Act remain unimplemented on the books. Others were established many months after the bill passed into law. Some sections of the FAA are being implemented only now, more than 15 months after the bill received Royal Assent and came into force. Some sections are still at the discussion and consultation phase.
Honourable senators may call me old-fashioned, but I would have thought that the proper way to develop good public policy is to have consultation before the proposed legislation is drafted. We are told by government officials that they are still in consultation with respect to certain aspects and that is why they have not implemented certain sections of the act. Sadly, this kind of behaviour seems to be the hallmark of this government. We have seen several examples of the government's my-way-or-the-highway attitude; or perhaps it is a legislate-first-and-think-later way of doing things. The bottom line is that this process does not produce good public policy and Canadians are not being well served by this kind of action.
One of Senator Oliver's first examples of the "powerful impact" of the Federal Accountability Act is a new Conflict of Interest Act that appeared as part of Bill C-2. He quickly glossed over the fact that this portion of the Federal Accountability Act was brought into force only on July 9, 2007, almost seven months after the bill was passed. Why did it take so long, honourable senators? This was not a case of needing regulations that required broad public consultation because the proposed legislation would only affect members of the government: ministers, senior government officials and other public office-holders. Why the delay? If this government was not ready to move immediately to proclaim those sections in force and implement provisions that affect the Prime Minister and cabinet members, then what was it ready to do when it first introduced the bill 16 months earlier?
I was very surprised to hear Senator Oliver say: "Further, these provisions ensure that no prime minister can overrule the commissioner on whether he, she, or a minister, or some other public office-holder has violated the act." Senator Oliver made that comment in this chamber a few weeks ago when he spoke to the bill. Honourable senators, Senator Oliver's description is simply not supported by this legislation. Certainly, it is what Prime Minister Harper and his government said the bill would do but, when one reads the legislation, it becomes clear that the act does exactly the opposite. I will explain.
The commissioner can investigate alleged breaches of the act in any of three circumstances: at the request of a prime minister; in response to a request from a senator or a member of the House of Commons; or on his or her own initiative. Section 47 of the act prohibits alteration of the commissioner's report, including where the commissioner has found that there was a breach of the act. Honourable senators, section 47 only prohibits alteration of the reports and inquiries initiated by a parliamentarian or by the commissioner, not by a prime minister. The section is strikingly silent about inquiries launched by a prime minister.
The committee tried to amend that section and honourable senators will no doubt recall that we passed an amendment that would have made such a prohibition apply to all three situations. However, the government rejected the amendment. This was not an oversight or error made in this government's haste to introduce this important bill. This was a deliberate omission.
Contrary to Senator Oliver's assertion, the much-touted Conflict of Interest Act would permit a prime minister to alter a conclusion of the commissioner, including one indicating that a minister or other public office-holder had violated the act. Honourable senators, under the act, a prime minister is not required to make the commissioner's report public and it can remain secret. We can have a prime minister order the commissioner to investigate a minister or senior official for a possible violation of the Conflict of Interest Act; we can have the commissioner investigate and report back that, yes, there was a breach of the CIA; and, no matter how serious the breach is, a prime minister can alter the conclusion and then either make it public or keep it secret, at his discretion. Do honourable senators think that Canadians intended the Federal Accountability Act to permit this? I doubt it very much. Perhaps Senator Oliver forgot about the amendment that the government rejected. I am sure that he will be the first one to re-introduce it to ensure that the section provides what this chamber has been told it does not provide.
I will limit myself to one more example from this portion of the FAA. The Conflict of Interest Act prohibits ministers and other public office-holders from accepting gifts "that might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the public office holder in the exercise of an official power, duty or function." That appears fine.
However, when you look at section 2, it says, "Despite section 1 . . ." In other words, honourable senators, even where the gift might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the minister or a senior officer in the exercise of an official power, duty or function, a public office-holder may accept a gift that is given by a relative or a friend, and then he does not even have to disclose it. Honourable senators, this disturbed us when we saw this legislation. Many of my colleagues tried to bring about amendments.
When you turn to the disclosure provisions, you discover that the act excludes these gifts from all disclosure requirements. In other words, a minister of the Harper government may accept a gift, no matter the size or value, even if the person could reasonably think that the gift was given to influence the minister in his or her official duties, and no one even has to be told about it — not the commissioner, and not the Canadian public. Again, we tried to change this particular section. Among other things, we tried to bring about transparency to the gift and amended the act to require disclosure, both to the commissioner and then to the public, if the gift from a friend were valued at more than $200. To our astonishment, the Harper government rejected this amendment and said it was unnecessary. Again, this was no drafting oversight; this was a deliberate loophole created in the legislation.
We were all shocked to know that the former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Karlheinz Schreiber. Mr. Mulroney has claimed that this only happened after he left the prime minister's office. Honourable senators, under Prime Minister Harper's Conflict of Interest Act, it would be perfectly acceptable for a minister, including a sitting prime minister, to accept this kind of gift in a paper bag from a friend. I am sure that Mr. Schreiber considered himself a friend of the prime minister at that time. According to Prime Minister Harper, such acts are not at all unethical, and no one ever need know about them. No wonder, then, that this government has been reluctant to probe too closely into Mr. Mulroney's dealing with Mr. Schreiber. Mr. Mulroney's actions were no more than what would be perfectly acceptable under Prime Minister Harper's centrepiece Accountability Act.
This is the much-touted Conflict of Interest Act, and these are just two examples that I have had the opportunity to go into with you today, honourable senators. I will try to find other opportunities to bring about other aspects of this particular part of Bill C-2 that will be of interest to you, I am sure.
We all recall the great pronouncement by Prime Minister Harper that public appointments would be very different under his government. You will remember that pronouncement during the election. The Accountability Act authorized the establishment of a new public appointments commission, and yet, here we are, 15 months later, with no public appointments commission. We asked about this in the meetings of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance hearings, and we were told —
The Hon. the Speaker: The honourable senator's 15 minutes has expired. Is he asking for more time?
Senator Day: Could I have five more minutes, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Day: Honourable senators, I have told you that there are nine sections, and I have dealt with only two aspects of one section.
I would like to talk more about the public appointments commissioner. I have told honourable senators that no public appointments commissioner has been appointed, although such a post is included in the legislation. The word is that the Prime Minister is not happy. Before the legislation was even presented, he tried to implement a non-statutory, similar type of situation, and he put in a provision at that time that the House of Commons would have an opportunity to review his appointment. The House of Commons rejected his appointment, so he is not happy and will not implement that portion of the legislation.
Notwithstanding that fact, over $2 million has been spent thus far on that secretariat that was created to support the non-existing commission — over $2 million. Senator Oliver's comment was that the secretariat is doing a good job advising. Advising whom? There is no commission. It is a secretariat for a commission that does not exist.
Honourable senators, I believe that we should also consider the fact that a number of very highly qualified people have been dismissed from their positions. Perhaps we should create a public dismissal commission to consider some of these various people, such as Adrian Measner, fired from his position as president and CEO of the Wheat Board, and Johanne Gélinas, former Environment Commissioner. Ask Linda Keen about independence, transparency and accountability with respect to her position as a commissioner with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Honourable senators, there are many aspects to this particular bill that I would like to bring to your attention. You should be aware that the lobbying legislation has not been implemented, and that just recently a former employee of one of the ministers, Mr. Van Soelen, was quoted as saying that he has found ways of joining the public sector after leaving the ministry recently. According to an article in the Ottawa Citizen, Mr. Van Soelen sent a letter to a potential client in which he proudly described his connection to Mr. Baird and promised to help clients score big. The arrogance of this government knows no bounds, honourable senators. Honourable senators will be interested to know that Public Works Minister Fortier's former director of parliamentary affairs has recently joined Hill and Nolton. What about the five-year cooling-off period? What happened to that?
Honourable senators, in conclusion, more than a year after this bill was passed by Parliament, we have no new restrictions for lobbying; a revolving door between Conservative ministers and lobbying firms; no public appointments commissioner in spite of over $2 million having been spent; a Parliamentary Budget Officer only recently appointed after three budgets and two economic updates have already been brought forward, with a fraction of the staff and budgetary resources that any committee would need in order to do the job; respected public servants reduced to public servant Dilberts, focusing only on process; and conflict of interest rules that allow a prime minister to supposedly change the supposedly independent commissioner's conclusions that a minister violated the act and allowed him and members of the government to accept gifts from anyone with impunity, as long as they were gifts from friends, and that they need not tell anyone about it.
This, honourable senators, is accountability and transparency. Honourable senators, it is smoke and mirrors, and we all know it. I thank Senator Oliver for initiating this much-needed inquiry into this government's shameless flouting of the principles of accountability and transparency. This was a brave step by Senator Oliver, and I congratulate him.
On motion of Senator Stratton, debate adjourned.
Air Force Appreciation Day 2008
Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators will have noticed a number of air force personnel about Parliament Hill today helping to commemorate Air Force Appreciation Day. Indeed, there are air force personnel in the gallery today, the men and women in uniform who were just introduced. I would like to thank them for being present with us today.
I would like to specifically mention General Victor Renuart, Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, commonly known as NORAD; as well as Chief of the Air Staff, Lieutenant-General Angus Watt. Both of these men will be at a reception later this afternoon.
The air force is the newest of Canada's Armed Forces but, despite that, it has had an eventful existence. Canadian aircrews first served as part of the British Army, Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War.
Following the First World War, the Canadian Air Force was established. In 1924, the prefix "Royal" was added to create the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Royal Canadian Air Force celebrated its eighty-fourth birthday this year on April 1.
During the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force was the fourth largest of the Allied air forces having, at its peak, an enrolment of over 200,000 personnel, compared to today's regular force numbers of only 65,000. In Canada, a vast training organization was established to train aircrew, such that by 1943 Canada was training 3,000 aircrew per month. Over a period of three years, more than 82,000 aircrew were trained in Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It was through these great efforts that the Royal Canadian Air Force was able to develop into the proud organization that it is today.
Today, the Royal Canadian Air Force is an important and integral part of the Canadian Armed Forces. It provides many important services within Canada, including search and rescue operations — honourable senators will observe the orange uniform present in the gallery today — military backup to diplomatic visits and wide-spread training of personnel. The Canadian Armed Forces is also very active internationally, including participation in NORAD, humanitarian missions and transportation into and out of danger zones. The Canadian Armed Forces trains extensively with international militaries and, as a result, has a very good rapport with other countries.
Due to the broad and often international scope of the work that the Canadian Air Force does, it has need of the best of advanced technologies and training. Honourable senators, we owe it to our Royal Canadian Air Force to ensure that they have that training.