Debates of April 20th, 1998
House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.
- National Head Start Program
- Nunavut Act
- Armenian People
- National Textiles Week
- Cancer Awareness Month
- Ytv Youth Achievement Awards
- Multilateral Agreement On Investment
- Canadian Flag
- Ethos Radio
- The Senate
- Fernand Labrie
- Parti Quebecois
- Hepatitis C
- The Senate
- C.D. Howe Institute
- National Volunteer Week
- National Organ Donor Week
- Correctional Service Canada
- Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis C
- C. D. Howe Institute
- Young Offenders Act
- Cigarette Prices
- Young Offenders Act
- Hepatitis C
- Year 2000
- International Development
- Acquisition Of Submarines
- Persons With Disabilities
- Corporate Taxation
- Order In Council Appointments
- Government Response To Petitions
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Request For Emergency Debate
- Business Of The House
- Nunavut Act
The House resumed from February 19 consideration of the motion.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak in favour of Motion No. 261 as proposed by my hon. colleague for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
I am also pleased to hear of the support for this motion from other parties. As has been stated many times, this is not an issue that needs to attract political sensitivities. It is unfortunate that members of the Bloc appear to be attempting to characterize this proposal in that fashion.
They referred to encroachment into the area of provincial jurisdiction. They have tied this motion into the Canadian unity debate. That is quite a stretch for the imagination. It may be an example of paranoia, whereby the separatists now see every issue as an attempt to attack Quebec. This motion should and must be solely seen as an attempt to address problems experienced throughout our society. It affects all Canadians.
As to the issue of provincial jurisdiction, I would first like to point out that the motion includes the words “develop, along with their provincial counterparts, a comprehensive National Head Start Program for children in their first 8 years of life”.
Just as with health and education, the federal government has an acute interest in the proper development of our children. As well, the primary purpose of this motion is to provide a good start for our children. Extensive studies have shown that the first eight years of life are critical in an individual's development.
Inadequate attention and nurturing for our youngsters can often lead to subsequent developmental difficulties. With a poor start children may often wind up on the wrong side of the law. Since the federal government has a significant stake in the area of criminal law, together with our institutions of the police, the courts, the prisons and the parole system, there may well be a sufficient argument toward federal jurisdiction merely on the basis of criminal law. After all, the federal government should be interested in any opportunity which results in such successful crime prevention whereby a dollar spent on providing a good head start results in the saving of many dollars down the road through decreases in our criminal statistics. But as I said, this motion only proposes the development of the program along with the provinces.
The government has already implemented head start programs among our aboriginal communities. They have been primarily limited to reserves, but both aboriginal people living off reserve and non-aboriginal people are also in need of such programs.
This government's own National Crime Prevention Council has been very supportive of a national head start program. In its 1996 report at page 2 of the executive summary it states:
There is ample evidence that well-designed social development programs can prevent crime and be cost-effective. Rigorous evaluations, mainly American, show that crime prevention through social development pays handsome dividends. In almost 30 years of participant follow-up the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan has been shown to be responsible for very significantly reducing juvenile and adult crime.
This motion proposes that the government explore models based on the Perry Preschool Program, among others.
The Secretary of State for Children and Youth has already spoken to this motion. She commented on how successful the aboriginal head start program has been. She pointed out that funding had doubled due to its benefits. She encouraged further expansion to include the protection of all our children and to assist needy parents toward proper nurturing and caring of the next generation of our society. This motion is on all fours with the secretary of state's comments.
Additional comments have been made in this place about how a national head start program can be a head start on the prevention of crime, about how it is like a registered retirement savings plan. Invest a dollar today to reap many more dollars in the future.
The Minister of Finance should be the first to climb on board and support programs of this nature. He should not concern himself solely with attempting to solve the problems of the present, but should plan ahead. By spending money today as an investment in our children he can save much more in the future through decreased health costs, crime costs and societal costs.
The Minister of Health knows that well fed, well adjusted children from sound families lead much more healthier lives. The Minister of Justice knows that this type of child is much less likely to come before our justice system. The Solicitor General will be very pleased to see less strain on his limited prison and parole resources.
A couple of years ago the Minister of Finance recognized that an investment in our children today would keep them out of jail in 20 years. He said that caring for children should be Canada's number one priority. This motion encourages him to do just that.
I note that recently the province of Ontario provided $10 million to fund a home visiting program for new mothers. It is known as Healthy Babies, Healthy Children. Hospitals will screen all new mothers to identify babies and families who may need extra support and services. It is to provide high risk families with the parenting help needed and to avoid child abuse and neglect. But already health authorities are saying the funding is not enough.
Everyone appears to be on side as far as need and as far as applicability. But, with all due respect, there is a definite requirement for federal involvement. Pooling of resources will reduce costs of implementation. Ideas and successes can be shared. National standards will ensure children from all parts of this country receive necessary assistance and protection.
Canada has come under criticism by the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime. It has been pointed out that Belgium, with a population of 10 million, spends $140 million a year on crime prevention. Canada, with nearly three times the population, spends only $10 million.
Crime costs Canadians approximately $46 billion a year. So far caring for children through crime prevention measures, as proposed by this motion, has not become our number one priority.
Back in August 1996 the former minister of justice commented about the justice system and how the harm has already been done by the time people come before the courts. He stated “We must do more than deal with the symptoms of the problem. We must go to the source”.
Programs as proposed by this motion go to the source. In 1996 the Child Welfare League of Canada argued the need to create a comprehensive and permanent universal program cross Canada to address funding for early intervention measures to assist our children. Sandra Scarth, executive director of this organization, in meetings with the former justice minister and solicitor general pointed out the necessity to identify mothers and children who are likely to be in difficulty and who need regular intensive support from birth until school entry.
Some of the facts presented were:
Child maltreatment in Canada is estimated at one in five.
There are 40,000 Canadian children in substitute care, such as foster homes and group homes.
Child welfare authorities are monitoring nearly 200,000 children who may be in unsatisfactory and unacceptable positions in their homes.
One sex offender in three suffered some kind of sexual trauma as a child.
Eighty per cent of female prisoners were physically and/or sexually abused as children.
The risk of drug abuse is seven times as high for children who have been sexually abused as for children who have not, and the risk of suicide is 10 times as high.
The biggest factors in whether a parent will abuse a child are childhood experiences, social isolation and physical or developmental problems with the child.
Surely facts and figures such as these should be enough for all of us to address how we can better provide for a proper good start for our children. They are the most defenceless and least protected members of our society. This motion is a good start toward addressing some of the inadequacies toward these children. We will all benefit from the further developments as proposed by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
There is much demand across this country, and rightly so, to strengthen the Young Offenders Act, especially as it relates to violent crime. Would it not be nice if we were able to head off the problems before they entered the realm of criminality? Would it not be nice if we never had to invoke the Young Offenders Act or the Criminal Code in the first place? Of course we know that such a state is unattainable. It would be Utopian, but perhaps this House could move the country one small step closer by supporting this motion.
I urge my colleagues in this place to give it careful consideration.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House today on Motion No. 261, advocating a national head start program for Canadian children.
In the last decade we have learned a tremendous amount about early child development. What happens in the first few years of life, indeed as early as the prenatal period, can have a lasting effect on the development of a child. A child's earliest experiences often affect his or her capacity to learn, to be healthy and to be productive throughout life. We now know, for example, that the brain develops more rapidly in the first year of life than had previously been believed.
While most children go through the early years of life getting everything they need to develop to their full potential, some children are not as fortunate. Unfortunately poverty is the largest single factor affecting young Canadians today. Many children who live in poverty have inadequate housing or do not get enough to eat. Other Canadian children live in families who are isolated without adequate social support or who face barriers to accessing quality health care and social services. Still other children experience neglect or abuse. It is estimated that one in five children are living in conditions of risk.
The hon. member will be pleased to know that early investments in healthy child development are a priority for this government. The government is taking a preventative approach to physical and mental health by optimizing early child development for all children and intervening early for at risk and marginalized children. The government recognizes the importance of supporting families, which have undoubtedly the most important influence on a child's development. Also recognized is the need to support parents in their role as children's teachers and their protectors.
The Government of Canada has developed three programs that provide long term funding to community groups to design and deliver programs to address the needs of pregnant women, young children and families living in conditions of risk. The first program is the Canada prenatal nutrition program, CPMP; the second is the community action program for children, CAPC; and the aboriginal head start program is the third.
The Canadian prenatal nutrition program, or CPMP, funds 264 projects in 751 communities. These projects offer food supplements, nutrition counselling and support, education and counselling on issues such as alcohol abuse, stress and family violence. These projects also make referrals to other services; 8,500 in their first six months of operation.
CPMP participants are pregnant teens, women living in isolation, women who abuse alcohol or other substances, women living in violent situations and women diagnosed with other problems including diabetes, et cetera. This program is successfully reaching pregnant women who are at risk of low birth. In fact the number of participants in 1997 and 1998 is 30% higher than was anticipated.
The community action program for children, or CAPC, funds over 450 projects across Canada so that children get a better start in life and are ready to start school and improve their chances of growing into healthy and productive adults. Activities include home visiting, parenting classes, play groups, discussion groups and counselling. Over 30,000 parents and children are involved each week in CAPC activities.
In addition, these projects have created 1,000 jobs with 20% of them filled by CAPC parents. The projects also account for 30,000 hours of volunteer time every month. I can speak from experience regarding the CAPC. It is an exceptional program and certainly one which is valued by the residents of my riding Waterloo—Wellington.
Children at aboriginal head start spend an average of three hours per day and four days per week in classroom activities. Approximately 30,000 children are enrolled in the program with an average of 30 to 40 children at any given site. Approximately 400 aboriginal people are employed in head start centres and aboriginal communities are involved in the planning, development and operation of all aboriginal head start projects.
Aboriginal head start, CAPC and CPNP have all proven successful in working within broad based community partnerships channelling resources into areas where they have the most positive impact on at risk and marginalized children. The success of these programs speaks volumes to the value of co-operative community based interventions for children.
This community based approach is paying back dividends by getting more children off to a better start in life, increasing their school readiness and improving their chances of growing into healthy and productive adults who will participate fully in Canadian society.
There are some key issues raised by the motion in the context of the national children's agenda which I would like to highlight at this time.
First, the motion represents a major emerging theme in the national children's agenda but is only one part of that agenda. Early child development while a central theme to NCA is only one piece of the overall agenda and discussions are still in an early stage. No decisions have been made regarding the specific areas of action. The national children's agenda is a more comprehensive approach to child development than the present motion covering children throughout their entire childhood. For example, other areas of interest include supporting families around work, family balance and effective safe communities. It is important to support children in early years but that support must continue throughout development.
Second, further consideration is needed on how to strategically focus our efforts on the early years of childhood. The exact development years which would be included in early child development remains under discussion. The motion does not consider the prenatal period which is crucial to child development. For example, low birth weight babies are more at risk for later developmental problems. As well, though the motion refers to children ages zero to eight, it may be more appropriate to start with children in their early preschool years, for example under age four or five where no formal system currently exists. Then as the system develops the program could be expanded to include children ages six to eight when school transition issues begin.
Third, the motion misses the importance of citizen engagement in plans to improve the well-being of Canada's children. The motion speaks to the need to work with the provinces and territories on children's issues. However no mention is made of the importance of engaging the public. The national children's agenda is intended to be more than a product of governments talking to governments and other partners will be engaged as the agenda moves forward. All Canadians will have the opportunity to contribute their views regarding possible areas for action and to define how we improve the well-being of all Canadian children.
Fourth, full implementation by the year 2000 is overly optimistic. Though the programs listed in the motion in the federal government's CAPC provide good models on which to build, full implementation of the national head start program by the year 2000 is too optimistic. Given the overlapping areas of jurisdiction and the cross sectorial approach needed to properly address children's issues, negotiations for a national head start will take some time, not to mention the time required for broader consultations to engage citizens.
In light of the growing body of research demonstrating the window of opportunity which exists in early childhood, and in view of the growing political and public interest in the area of child development, a system to enhance early child development is critical and should be an early priority.
Clearly children's issues, particularly those relating to early child development, are a priority as indicated in the September 23, 1997 Speech from the Throne, the recent first ministers' meeting of December 12, 1997, and the commitment to federal-provincial territorial development of the national children's agenda. This is apparent.
Motion No. 261 is consistent with this emphasis on enhancing children's well-being. However, given the status of the national children's agenda it would be inappropriate for the motion to go forward.
Early in 1997 federal, provincial and territorial governments began working together to develop the national children's agenda. It would be inconsistent to now be advancing on another front on a private member's motion and what it suggests.
Most recently at the December 12, 1997 meeting, first ministers reaffirmed their commitment to new co-operative approaches to ensure child well-being. Noting the progress of the national children's agenda, first ministers agreed to fast track work on that agenda. Until that work in progress has been outlined and discussed Motion No. 261 is premature.
Therefore I ask all members of the House to vote accordingly.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
Maud Debien Laval East, QC
Madam Speaker, I will begin by going over the wording of Motion M-261 introduced by my colleague for Esquimault—Juan de Fuca, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) develop, along with their provincial counterparts, a comprehensive National Head Start Program for children in their first 8 years of life; (b) ensure that this integrated program involves both hospitals and schools, and is modelled on the experiences of the Moncton Head Start Program, Hawaii Head Start Program, and PERRY Pre-School Program; and (c) ensure that the program is implemented by the year 2000.
Far be it from me to question the good faith of the hon. member for Esquimault—Juan de Fuca and his noble intentions to prevent child and youth crime. We are all concerned about giving children a good start in life. We are all concerned about crime among young people, especially the fact that it is on the increase.
Either in their role as MPs or in their professional activities, all of the members in this House have been in a position to observe cases of youth crime. We all agree that the deep-seated causes of this must be dealt with seriously.
Once again, however, the Bloc Quebecois is forced to point out that this motion falls within an area of exclusively provincial jurisdiction, and that it inaugurates new national standards and directives we do not support.
The Bloc Quebecois is therefore opposed to the mechanisms proposed by the hon. member for Esquimault—Juan de Fuca to fight youth crime. We believe the provinces are better placed to identify and assess community needs and to put into place programs and various types of intervention with young people.
We know, and experience has shown, that each province has its own particular philosophy about the prevention of youth and adult crime. It may be a question of identity and culture. We have only to think of the debates in the House regarding the Young Offenders Act. It became clear that members' attitudes, reactions and solutions with respect to this legislation differed enormously.
The same is true in this debate. Quebeckers and Canadians often see things differently, as is evident from their approach to social issues. By setting up a comprehensive program such as the one proposed by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, the federal government would not only be interfering in areas of jurisdiction where it has no business, but would not be helping children and young people whose situation requires an adapted approach.
If the other provinces wish to have the federal government intervene and set up programs to keep youth from turning to crime, we respect that choice. Quebec's choice must also be respected.
It must be pointed out that a good start has already been made. I was most astonished to hear the Reform member who spoke before me just now speak about the Bloc Quebecois' paranoia, because we are opposed to this bill.
If Reform members were to come to Quebec and find out what is being done, they would perhaps not hold these views about us.
In fact, as I mentioned earlier, Quebec has already taken the lead in this area. In his health and welfare policy, the Quebec minister of health and social services has made the elimination of youth crime a priority. What we have seen is that there has been no increase in the number of young offenders in recent years, but that their offences have become much more serious in nature.
In addition, the causality and risk factors underlying this major change in youth crime have been identified. These include single parenthood, the absence and desertion of the father, poverty, drug addiction, social exclusion, school adjustment problems, the company of other young offenders, parental crime and conjugal conflicts. The causes are numerous and they were clearly identified.
Finally, Quebec advocates five priority measures to reduce the prevalence and seriousness of delinquency by the year 2002: making fathers more accountable; strengthening the father-child relationship; taking action in the school environment; supporting flexible interventions instead of rigid ones; seeking a better balance in the funds earmarked for boys and girls who are experiencing difficulties; giving special attention to girls and, among other initiatives, adjusting any new measure and action related to the Young Offenders Act.
As you can see, the approach taken by Quebec stakeholders speaks for itself. They identified the problems, along with their causes and risk factors. Then, they proposed solutions while also setting realistic goals. This approach reflects the reality of Quebec society, and more specifically that of young offenders.
This action plan was part of the national priorities on public health, on which all stakeholders were consulted, including the health and social services network, community organizations, professional groups, municipalities, and the education, environment, transport, justice and recreation sectors. All took part in the development of the program. Since it is the result of a consensus, the program is based on joint action and is very flexible. This would unfortunately not be the case if Quebec had to implement a program designed and developed in some federal administration back room.
Let us tell it as it is. In what way would the federal government be in a better position to resolve the problems facing young children when poverty has been on the rise ever since this government took office? There are serious child poverty problems in Canada. There are 1.5 million poor children whose basic needs are not met and who do not have what is needed to get a good start in life.
But remember that where there are poor children, there are poor parents. A study released in March by the economist Pierre Fortin showed that 58% of the unemployed who are not eligible under the employment insurance plan have no choice but to go on welfare. These individuals cannot qualify for EI benefits. They are therefore forced unto social assistance and on the way to living in poverty.
What has the government done to help eliminate child poverty? Not much. In fact, it has cut transfer payments to the provinces, attacked the unemployed from all sides to increase surpluses in the employment insurance fund and supported the finance minister in his accounting operations. Injecting a measly $425 million in the child tax benefit program will certainly not help children get out of poverty in the short term.
This centralizing policy which the Reform Party is putting forward will once again prove to be useless and expensive because of the overlap it will create in Quebec.
We must avoid falling in this trap at all cost. The federal government and the Reform Party must understand once and for all that Quebec can look after its own business and take care of its own problems as well. It does not need big brother looking over its shoulder to achieve its goals.
As I mentioned earlier, Quebec has already taken the lead in dealing with youth crime. The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca should come and see what is being done in this respect. Perhaps the members of the Reform Party would then change their minds.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
John McKay Scarborough East, ON
Madam Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for bringing forward this important motion to the House. I hope that he has as much success in influencing the agenda for change as he did with respect to the land mines issue.
This is a serious motion which deserves a serious and thoughtful response. The essence of the motion links rising crime among young offenders with dysfunctional family dynamics.
Do we put resources in at the front end of a child's life or do we pay for it later on through involvement in the justice system? Are the resources to go to programs to help families or do we build bigger jails? Either way, we are going to spend resources. What is the best way to spend them?
Stating the question is easy. The answer, however, is far more problematic. Unfortunately influence in society is not like physics. Every action has an opposite and equal reaction in physics, but the same cannot be said of the sociology of social programs.
In his support material the hon. member makes reference to programs in Hawaii and New Brunswick. I am not so pretentious as to dispute the efficacy of the programs or their research. However, those results may not necessarily play out in a larger, less controlled societal environment. In other words, the larger the target community, the less measurable will be the results.
There does seem to be a correlation between a drop in juvenile crime and meeting the basic needs of children. However, it is not as neat as we would like it to be. There appears to be a correlation but it is not neat.
I draw attention to an article by Cathy Campbell in Child Health , winter issue 1998, volume 20, quoting Dr. Clyde Hertzman, professor of health care and epidemiology at UBC: “Lower income children who get good early childhood education are healthier, go further in school, get better jobs and rely less on the social welfare system”.
The National Crime Prevention Council estimates that crime costs Canada $46 billion annually. If we took $1 million and invested it in prison space for career criminals this would prevent 60 crimes annually. If we took the same amount and used it to monitor 12 and 13 year old delinquents it would prevent 72 crimes a year. Further, if that $1 million were invested in incentives for young people to graduate from high school it could be estimated that we would save 258 crimes annually.
In some manner we visit this dilemma every time there is a major crime involving a juvenile which generates media attention or when there is government initiated legislation in the field. If and when the government tables its response to the justice committee's report and recommendations on young offenders this debate will be played out again.
Canada incarcerates children at the rate of four times that of the United States and 15 times that of the average European nation. So much for being a kinder and gentler version of the United States. We are world class incarcerators of juveniles.
I do not think that is something to be proud of. It certainly gives one pause to consider one's very sense of who we are as Canadians.
Canadians believe that juvenile crime is out of control, that they are at risk every time they go to the store to pick up a bag of milk or a carton of cigarettes. Yet arguably the young offenders legislation is tough enough and puts away far more children than any other civilized nation.
There is a discrepancy between what Canadians believe and what is the reality of the legislation. The hon. member proposes a long term solution which has some merit. Some members of his party could easily be described as people who feel that the government is not tough enough on crime, that the government is made up of a bunch of wimps, that the young offenders legislation is not tough enough.
The government responds, as it did through the minister of state for children and youth, by saying look at all the things it is doing. There was the Speech from the Throne, the aboriginal head start programs, the Canada prenatal nutrition program, the $850 million in the budget and a further $850 million promised for a child benefit system. The debate goes on and on.
One side firmly believes that we should toughen up all legislation affecting youth and youth crime and the other is saying we need more head start programs.
I do not find myself seriously disagreeing with the hon. member's motion. I might quibble with the wording to ensure that children are seen as part of the family and that programs should be tailored to support the family. Beyond that, I would see his motion as something that supports government initiatives and the general direction of this government. Only it urges a more coherent view on the government.
I support the thrust of this motion. However, I am concerned that there is not an easy correlation between head start programs and crime reduction. The government should continue to monitor its initiatives in light of the tests set out in this motion.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to support private member's Motion No. 261 by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I congratulate him on bringing this matter forward.
The underlying concern it represents for our children, particularly the ages encompassed by the bill from time of birth until age 8, is a concern that will receive support from people across the country. I think it will receive support in the hearts of every member in the House.
When we did the 10 year review of the Young Offenders Act we travelled across the country and listened to witnesses, both expert and professional, as well as lay people who had an interest in the whole area of the development of youth, of preventing youth crime and wrestling with the question regarding what to do with the very small percentage of violent young offenders who do create a threat to the lives and safety of members of our society.
During that hearing experts told us that aberrant and over aggressive behaviour could be spotted as early as grades one, two and three in the schools by teachers.
I want to assure my Bloc colleagues that when we arrived in Quebec, we found that Quebec had programs far ahead of some of the other provinces. To set their minds more at ease, in the Young Offenders Act meetings that we are holding across western Canada today, as I stand and speak I make mention of the fact that there are programs in Quebec that ought to be looked at and perhaps emulated by other provinces if they have a real concern about dealing with the early detection and preventive programs.
This is the three level approach that my party has taken to the whole area of the Young Offenders Act. The two areas, of course, lie within the jurisdiction of the provinces. The first is the early detection and prevention where resources are placed in the programs where a teacher, for example, seeing a child having difficulties can refer that child to a program of the provincial government where the child as well as the parents can receive the help they need to keep that young child on track.
We think this is a very worthwhile program, very much along the lines of the head start program that my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is referring to in this motion. There are aspects of this ongoing in Canada already. My colleague from across the way earlier mentioned the head start programs in some of the aboriginal communities in Canada.
What we want to do through this motion is create a greater awareness of the need to help the children and the benefit, not only from a societal point of view but from the economic point of view, as my colleague who just finished speaking touched on, we think is extremely important.
We also looked at programs such as the Sparwood program and the Maple Ridge program in B.C., two excellent programs where young children who get into difficulty for the first or second time with the law are diverted from the court system into these community justice systems.
We met last week with Lola Chapman who heads the Maple Ridge program. She gave us some astounding figures that gave me and my colleagues great hope and encouragement that we can keep more of our young children out of the criminal justice system while at the same time catching them at a time when rehab efforts will have the greatest impact on them.
Let me give an example. The figures she gave us started three years ago. At that time in her area there was a juvenile court sitting once a week and approximately 45 to 60 young offenders passed before the court during one day. That is now down to an average of eight per day. That is a very commendable achievement on the part of those very concerned and dedicated volunteers who support the program and work with the young people who are referred to them rather than taking them into the court system. The police and now the crown are able to refer them to this program that has been running for approximately three years.
Miss Chapman spoke about the success rate and I asked her to define what success meant. She said they consider a success to include any young offender who has not repeated within at least a year's time. She also said their success rate was 94%. That is very commendable. The Sparwood program is a little different but still has the same high success rate of over 90% in dealing with young people who have brushed with the law for the first time and who have never returned to difficulties. This is very commendable.
When we look from the federal point of view of how to reduce the number of people entering the youth justice system and what we should really be doing with the Young Offenders Act we are encouraged by these two programs. This is the early detection and preventive program, the best of which I have seen so far in Quebec, and also the diversion program. This program is involved when young people get into difficulties for the first or second time and they are diverted away from court. They have concerned people who will stick with them 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to help and guide them.
In those cases involving restitution in 100% of the cases restitution has been paid and that again is another astonishing figure. It shows the degree of accountability and responsibility that we need to engender in our young people so that when they become adults they have that sense of responsibility with them.
When we look at this whole area of the youth justice system and what we should be doing with the Young Offenders Act, we could introduce and have every community set up its own unique program similar to what the Sparwood and Maple Ridge programs have set up. I understand they are spreading across the provinces and it is into Alberta now.
We could reduce that very small percentage of violent young offenders who threaten the lives and safety of members of society. As the federal government and as federal politicians we have to wrestle with that problem. What do we do with that very small percentage of violent young offenders who threaten the lives and safety of members of our society?
We must not shrink from the use of incarceration. At the same time we must ensure that our educational programs and other rehab programs in the institutions are sound and are getting through to our young people so that the possibility of rehabilitation is very real.
We visited closed custody and open custody facilities. We did not see very much to encourage us with regard to the rehab programs. In most cases they are voluntary and are not compulsory. Young offenders can sit and watch TV or play cards if they do not want to engage in the programs.
This motion brings an awareness. If that awareness is followed through it will strengthen the early detection and prevention programs at the point where it is so badly needed.
I only have another minute or so but I want to refer to the Sydney mines project outside Sydney, Nova Scotia which we visited. It involves children who have fallen through the cracks, who have had to leave school, have bumped into the law and so on. They are doing a magnificent job in getting those young children up to speed in educational areas. They are getting them on track and are moving forward. There have been enormous successes.
We must divert our resources from the back end to the front end so that we do not have a continually expanding criminal justice system which simply eats away at more dollars and does not attack the real cause of crime.
If poverty is a cause of crime which in many cases it is, then we should look at the high taxation levels which have left one family in every five living in poverty.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK
Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Motion No. 261. The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has raised a very important challenge for this country.
I am speaking from experience in terms of my being in the educational system and in the administration of a school district for the last 12 years. I have also seen the beginning of the aboriginal head start program in my community.
The member proposes that the first eight years of life are crucial for child development. I remind the House and fellow citizens of Canada that children in aboriginal communities were affected by the residential school system policy, much to the detriment of the parenting process in those communities. I must caution that we do not try to institutionalize our children at a very young age. We must not abandon the family structure of our people. All Canadians want to live in a family environment.
Head start is crucial if the family environment is not intact. If the parents are not able to provide the academic, social, economic and emotional support, then the head start program plays an important role. The head start program is the community taking the leadership in an extended family role.
The community base is crucial. The aboriginal head start program made that a major priority. Community groups had to be involved in the development of head start. The other aspect is the educational systems in Canada.
Why could the schools not administer the head start program so that an additional administrative structure is not created? We do not need to duplicate administration. We want to create programs and services for children and their families, not to spend money on administration. We should allow the school systems to administer the program as is done in the province of Quebec.
The head start program will require curriculum development. An integral part of the aboriginal head start program is language development. Neheyo-watsin, in my language, we cannot lose the aboriginal languages of this country's aboriginal peoples. This is the homeland of that language. If head start imposes English or French as opposed to the community's first language, it is a detriment and takes us back to institutionalization and residential school policies. That is not the intention of the community aboriginal head start programs.
The communities want to keep their languages first. If children can keep the first language intact until the age of eight years, then they can pick up a second, third or fourth language with greater ease. However, their first language must be developed first.
While the motion mentions provincial and federal partnership, it begs to include community partnership in this development. It mentions hospitals and schools. In educational and community development, schools play a more integral part than do hospitals. There is more readiness of schools than hospitals in our communities.
Transporting a child of three, four or five years of age across the community to another city or town to attend head start programs or receive services is a little out of vision. Many of the head start outreach programs are at the home base. This allows the development of children at home by the parents with support services from the head start program. Keeping a family together is very important.
I have another example concerning crime. Reform members have taken this as the flagship of reducing crime. There is a statistic which astounded me. On a tour of the Saskatchewan penitentiary during the royal commission hearings the commissioners heard many briefs given by inmates. At the end of the day the co-chair, Mr. Erasmus, asked the attending inmates how many of them had come through the foster home program. Eighty per cent of the inmates in that room had come through the foster home program. This points to the family structure.
If immediate families cannot carry the burden of raising a child, the extended families must immediately be put into place. The community must be given the authority and the means to provide that child support in the child's immediate surroundings. By displacing children elsewhere in the province or in the country is not to their betterment. We must keep the families as close as possible within their immediate areas. This is a concern I have with the head start program as well.
In my community I have seen the evolution of urbanization. Because of low incomes and social housing, families are forced to stay in a community with water and sewer systems. Traditionally however, they lived along the rivers and lakes which is where the clans raised and supported each other. Now, because of the way neighbourhoods are designed, a sister could be living across town and an uncle could be living on the other side of town, leaving no family support system in the community structure.
There is also an evolution on the family farms. They have been hit hard by declining incomes. The spouses must rely on a second source of income which will take members away from the family. The federal and provincial governments should support the family as much as possible. Farmers provide for the wealth of the agricultural community. They provide food for this nation and for the world. The fishermen who provide the food do not diminish their responsibility or their role in this country. Keep their families intact. Do not compromise them by creating programs that keep parenting away from their responsibilities. My message is to keep the families intact.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
Ben Serré Timiskaming—Cochrane, ON
Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak on Motion No. M-261, a motion which encourages the government to develop a comprehensive national head start program. I thank my colleague the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for introducing this motion. I congratulate him for his compassion and for the work he has done on this very important issue.
There is no doubt that youth crime is alarming. Social workers are getting calls from parents who claim their children are uncontrollably violent. It is even a problem among elementary school children and preschoolers. It is not rare to see 10-year old children behaving violently at school, nor is it rare to see that between siblings. There is indeed something inconceivably wrong with an 11-year old boy who rapes or a 14-year old who stabs a 7-year old to death.
The truth is that harsher punishment or counselling and proper parenting are simply not enough. What is the solution? The solution might be found in programs such as head start which would assist at risk children in their development. Head start programs aim to level the playing field before children enter the public school system. This is a constructive approach to deal with the problem.
Every year thousands of disadvantaged children enter school for the first time. Many have health problems and many lack self-confidence. If children are allowed to fall behind in the early years, then often their troubles are compounded in later years. Extensive research has shown that it is possible to enhance the ability of a disadvantaged child to cope with school and their total environment.
A real head start program addresses the emotional, social and psychological needs of children, as well as their health and nutritional requirements. All existing head start programs have been very favourably received by educators, child development specialists, community leaders and parents.
This program will have a significant impact on communities. To a certain extent, it will make it possible to find solutions to a variety of situations: single-parent families, teenage pregnancies, illiteracy, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, and ill-treatment of children.
A head start program helps children to do better in school and provides parents with the knowledge and services they need to manage their lives better. Parents must participate directly in their children's development, playing a great role in this regard.
The head start program is patterned on the national action program for children and on the agreement worked out by premiers for the purpose of accelerating the work planned under this program.
Naturally, funding for the head start program would come from the federal, provincial and municipal governments and would require the participation of community volunteers. It would recognize that the needs of children vary by community, province and region.
What is the priority? The priority must be our children. They learn how to learn at an early age. Have members ever been in an intensive care neonatal unit? Have they ever seen a baby addicted to drugs or affected by alcohol? Do they know how much that costs? It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then the child becomes a ward of the community, perhaps permanently damaged.
This is why we are having this debate today. We want to stress the importance of little children, young and formative pieces of clay. Children are and must be our priority.
We must create a special early childhood development program for disadvantaged children. It is an investment we will never regret.
In the first 18 months a child learns to think well or poorly of himself. In the first two years children either learn how to learn or do not learn how to learn. This is why we must provide them with tools for their development and guide them on the right path. It costs a lot more to send kids to prison than to send them to school.
I am passionate about early childhood education for disadvantaged, tiny children. Studies prove that if we love and nurture, show affection to these little pieces of clay they will be honour students. Furthermore, studies confirm that there can be more than $7 in savings for every $1 spent on such programs.
We must be on the cutting edge of this initiative. We have eliminated the deficit. It is now time to invest in our children, our greatest asset. We have to take responsibility because it is our duty.
Let us come out of this debate with a consensus. We must continually rework the head start idea for it to become the most cost effective program ever developed.
I see that the hour has come to an end. I will continue the next time the matter is before the House.
National Head Start Program
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
Jane Stewart Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
moved that Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure and an honour for me to begin the debate on Bill C-39, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867.
I remind the House and indeed all Canadians that on April 1, 1999 something very important will happen, something that is reflective of who we are as a country and as Canadians, something that describes how we have been able through the course of the 20th century to find ways and means of modernizing democracy, of reflecting the will of the people of the land, and of taking creative approaches through negotiation, building treaties and discussion to find better ways to build governing structures that are representative and reflective of the people we are elected to represent.
On April 1, 1999 Canada will have a new territory, the territory of Nunavut. Over the course of the 20th century we as a country have found ways to build a nation, to make change. If we go back to 1905, it was in that year that two new provinces were created out of the Northwest Territories, the province of Alberta and the province of Saskatchewan. In a peaceful way we reflected the interests, the needs, and respected the requirements of the people living in what we now know to be two very important special provinces in our federation, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
At the beginning of the 20th century we had something very important and now we have at the end of the 20th century something equally important.
The creation of Nunavut is something we should all be proud of. It is something that is capturing the attention of the world. We know it is very rare that countries can in peaceful ways through negotiation build, change, redraw their maps and in a very active way remember and reflect on the fact that governments really are about people. Our challenge is to find modern ways to ensure that the people of the country feel a part of it and feel that their ideas and their concerns are reflected in their governing structures.
Bill C-39 is an extremely important piece of the legislative framework that will allow us to have a successful creation of or transition to the new territory of Nunavut on April 1, 1999.
As a result of conversations with my counterparts in the Government of the Northwest Territories, with the leadership of the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, with the work of the interim commissioner Jack Anawak and of the Nunavut Implementation Committee, we have identified that we need to build on the work that has gone on in the past and to implement amendments that will ensure the stable, safe and seamless transition to the new territory of Nunavut in April 1999.
Bill C-39 then is not an end in itself but is one piece in a long history of what the peoples of the eastern Arctic wanted and require. It makes sense to have a government that reflects them in modern times.
If we think back on the history, it is a fascinating one. We know now that the Inuit people were in Canada's Arctic and high Arctic over 4,000 years ago. I have had the great fortune to travel to the north. I am constantly amazed at how the Inuit and others living in the eastern Arctic have found ways to acclimatize, to live and to thrive in very harsh environmental conditions. If we think about that, 4,500 years ago, it is a tribute to the human condition, to human nature and to the Inuit people to see that they have stayed, thrived and flourished. They are bringing up families in northern climes, something that we have come to appreciate as very much a part of Canada.
In the mid-1500s Martin Frobisher, the explorer, was trying to find a passage to the Orient. He travelled through the islands of the high Arctic. Carrying on with our history, in the 1870s and 1880s the British crown transferred the Arctic and the islands of the high Arctic to Canadian authority.
In the early 1900s we saw structural changes to the Northwest Territories and the creation of the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. In the 1920s there were discussions with other international parties, the Danes and the Norwegians, but again we viewed these lands to be very much a part of Canada and have defended that strongly.
It has been interesting to note that in the 1960s in the very large territory of the Northwest Territories which crosses over three time zones there were the beginnings of discussions about the need for division. There was a recognition that there were differences across that large geographic mass.
In the 1960s a task force was assembled, the Carrothers commission, to look at the appropriateness of the geographic alignment of that territory and how well we were able to represent the interests of the people there with one governing structure. As we know in the Mackenzie Valley and in the Beaufort Sea at that time there was increasing interest in the natural resources, an increasing population growth and an interest in building toward stronger representative government.
In 1973 a significant decision of the supreme court allowed us to start thinking about the Northwest Territories and other lands in Canada in a new way. In 1973 in the Calder decision the door was opened for us to consider the issue of aboriginal title in Canada and the fact that it may continue to exist. In 1973 the Inuit Tapirisat began to research the traditional occupancy of the Inuit people in the far north, to reflect their information and beliefs and to encourage us to work together to build a modern land claims structure and strategy.
The year 1973 was the turning point and gave us the interest to build the modern land claims strategy that we now see being implemented across the country, not only in the north with the Inuit people, with the Dene and the Metis but in British Columbia and Quebec where we are settling comprehensive agreements on land claims and self-government.
Over the course of the seventies and into the eighties the discussion about division and appropriate boundaries in the Northwest Territories continued. There were different strategies put forward. The Dene suggested that we break into three different territories. The Inuvialuit, the Inuit people around the Beaufort, became very interested in focusing on their self-government in land claims agreements. We have settled those and are proceeding to implementation in the western part of the Northwest Territories.
In 1992 we came to understand more fully the importance of settling what has come to be Canada's largest land claim agreement, the land claim agreement in Nunavut. This is a huge territory in and of itself, covering over 200 million square kilometres of land. In 1993 the Nunavut Act legislation was passed that allows us to settle the land claim and create the new and innovative governing structures that we need so that the people of the eastern Arctic feel that their government is reflective of their interests and of their concerns.
While the government will not be dissimilar in many ways to the governments we see in the territories, there will be some differences. One that is of particular interest and that has been strongly encouraged by the Inuit in the eastern Arctic is that the government be decentralized and that there be bodies of the government in remote communities so that people are connected with their structures of government.
It is an interesting undertaking which as I said is reflective of our capacity as a country to build democracy, to build a nation and to understand that democracy is not static and has to change and evolve, and that a country and a federation as successful as ours can find ways in modern times to evolve and to change.
The history that has brought us to this point has been a long and arduous one. It has been 20 years since we have focused our attention on building a new government in the eastern Arctic. This has been strongly supported by all people in the Northwest Territories, and it would have to be because when boundaries change there are issues associated with division that have to be negotiated.
I am proud to say that the discussions are currently continuing and being undertaken to ensure we have the platform for governing structures available on April 1 and are proceeding in a positive fashion.
As I said at the outset, we have discovered that we need more legislation to allow us to continue to make progress. That legislation and these amendments are real and important. They were not just dreamed up by this side of the House. The needs were fed to us by our partners in the Northwest Territories, the Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, our partners in the Nunavut Implementation Commission and the interim commissioner, Mr. Jack Anawak, a former colleague of ours in the House who has taken on the task of ensuring that we are implementing “Footprints In the Snow”, the document that gave us the grand design for the territory itself.
The amendments that are part of Bill C-39 fall into two broad categories: the amendments that are particularly technical in nature and the second group of amendments to ensure full representation for the people of Nunavut both in the House and in the other place.
When it comes to the technical amendments, they essentially are required so that we have a stable and even flow of activities between now and April 1, 1999 and then into the future. We want to make sure, for example, that people have the ability to have their car licences continued, that people have a court structure which has continuity, that for cases which have been or are being heard there is not a requirement for a stoppage, but that things can flow and continue.
We want to make sure that social services continue to be provided and that we have platforms so that there is no stop or start, that individual residents can be assured that their circumstances will not change in terms of their day to day lives.
These technical amendments are critically important and they are necessitated by the fact that we believe and are sure we can create this new territory with a minimum of confusion, concern and difficulty for citizens in what will be the western Arctic and the eastern Arctic.
We can imagine the work that goes into preparing this platform. The interim commissioner as we speak is in negotiations with the Government of the Northwest Territories with the Government of Canada, looking at arrangements, at contracts that have been struck between the federal government and the Northwest Territories and sorting them out to make sure that the assets and liabilities in the territory are clearly split fairly and identified and that there is an acceptable and fair approach to the creation of this whole new territory.
When we look at the other set of amendments, they are equally important because one of the things that we believe in strongly in this country is that individuals must be represented within their governments. At the federal level that means having representation here in the House of Commons and it very clearly means having representation in the other place.
With this bill we will confirm the member of Parliament for Nunavut. My colleague, the member for Nunavut, ran in that territory in the election of 1993 and for the first time it was called Nunavut, but that needs to be confirmed in the Constitution so that there is a place for the people of Nunavut in this place.
As I have said, we have to ensure that the voice and representation of the people of the Northwest Territories and the western Arctic and eastern Arctic is heard in the Senate. That is why we have to make an amendment to the Constitution Act, 1867 to ensure that their voice is heard in the Senate.
This bill is not about redefining the structures of government as they exist. It is about making sure that the voices of the people in Nunavut and western Arctic will continue to be heard in their houses of parliament.
I would like to continue on by talking about the relationship we have built among ourselves, the people of this country, to ensure we do have a positive and successful transition to the creation of Nunavut on April 1, 1999.
As can be imagined, it is not easy. What we see is a willingness of the part of all people associated to make sure this works. They reflect on their history. They reflect on the importance of the land claim agreements. They reflect on the importance of proving that we can continue to develop a democracy that works, a federation that works, a nation that works.
I have had the pleasure of sitting down at a principals meeting in Iqaluit with my counterpart, the deputy premier of the Northwest Territories, Mr. Goo Arlooktoo, and with the president of the Nunavut Tungavik Corporation, Jose Kusagak, listening to the interim commissioner talk about the plans and the implementation strategies that must occur in the next few days.
It is a challenge and it is our view that the best approach we have in place is the basic framework of our legislation package so that the people of Nunavut, upon electing their government, their men and women who will be in their territory to represent them, can make the decisions that are required to build a series of legislation that truly reflects the realities of the eastern Arctic.
In this bill we are asking the House to confirm and to agree to early elections. We want to make sure that before April 1, 1999 the men and women of the eastern Arctic have been elected and are ready to take office on that very important and significant date, to begin their work as representatives of the people who are Inuit and non-Inuit.
There are things that are very important in this that we must understand. First of all in the context of this land claims agreement, we are not talking about self-government for the Inuit people. We are talking about building a public government that will represent all who live in the eastern Arctic, in the territory of Nunavut.
With this public government, we will have a structure that better represents the Inuit people who make up 85% of the population but which, in addition, is representative of those other Canadians who live in the territory.
To this point, the Nunavut Act would have the elections occur after the transition, after the creation, after April 1, 1999. In our view and in the view of the Nunavut implementation commission, that is inappropriate. Rather, the election must occur before.
This brings some great urgency to this piece of legislation and why I would encourage all members of the House to support the speedy passage of Bill C-39.
As we all know, the process of election, the process of presenting oneself to the public for consideration takes time. Individuals need to question proposed candidates, to get to know them, to understand their point of view, to determine if they have the philosophy that is so much defined for us in footprints in the snow.
That is why I am asking the House to support us in moving Bill C-39 through the process of legislation as quickly as possible. We need to ensure that there will be representation for the people of Nunavut in their government in Iqaluit, in their house of Parliament here on this side and the other side.
As I say, this is a truly exciting time. Our job together, my job as the representative from the federal government in this very important initiative, is to have the platform ready, to have the basic legislative framework there, to ensure that there is a public service there to serve and support the men and women who will be duly elected before April 1, 1999.
Our job is to provide that infrastructure but then to give it over in a stable fashion as smoothly as possible, as efficiently as possible to the individual men and women who will be elected by the people of the eastern Arctic to sit on their behalf in the new government of Nunavut in Iqaluit.
Members can see why Bill C-39 is required. It is required so that technically we have the structure in place for the new government to function.
It is required so that the people of Nunavut can hold their election and truly celebrate their new government on April 1. It is required to ensure that the people of Nunavut will have their voices heard here in Ottawa, in their national capital, in the House of Commons and in the Senate.
As I said at the outset, this is just one small piece in what has been a long and exciting and tremendously important history of our eastern Arctic. I want to congratulate all those who to date have put their time and energy into such a significant undertaking.
I think of John Amagoalik who chairs the Nunavut implementation commission, called Mr. Nunavut, who has over the course of his lifetime really worked for nothing more than a clear representation, a clear governing structure for the Inuit and other Canadians who live in eastern Arctic.
I congratulate those men and women in the existing Government of the Northwest Territories who have consistently supported this approach, the minister of finance, John Todd, the deputy premier, Goo Arlooktoo, the premier and the representatives from the eastern Arctic and the western Arctic now who are working and focusing on making this an effective example of how Canada works.
I want to thank those men and women here in the federal legislature, the member for Nunavut who has so strongly supported this initiative and provided me with direction and advice and I expect will explain to the House her involvement in the whole process.
This is an exciting time in Canada's history. We can be very proud of our country. We can be very proud of its heritage. We can be very proud that we are part of a nation that takes very seriously the issues of democracy, the structures of government, the focus that we believe that we can build ways and means that represent all individuals who live in this nation. We can be flexible and through positive initiatives of negotiations, of treaties and discussions, keep our country moving forward in a healthy and hopeful direction that is not static, that is not arbitrary, but is thoughtful and always recognizes that the role of government is to make the lives of its citizens better.
In my mind this undertaking, the creation of the new territory of Nunavut, is a shining example of how we make progress in this country, of how we show that our federation works, of how we indicate to the rest of the world that we are unique and that we are building a democracy that is second to none.
I will just ask all members to reflect on what is being asked for in this legislation and to understand that by supporting it they are supporting the values and the strengths that make this country so great.
Preston Manning Leader of the Opposition
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the bill before the House, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867.
My remarks will focus almost exclusively on that portion of the bill which amends the Constitution in relation to the Senate of Canada. In fact, I want to use the opportunity of this debate to make the case against the Senate in its present form and the case for a reformed Senate to the benefit not only of the people of Nunavut but of all Canadians. Before doing so, let me address a few words on behalf of the official opposition to the good people of Nunavut.
The territory of Nunavut was created by the passage of the Nunavut Act in 1993. As the minister has already said, it establishes a territory with an area of two million square kilometres that encompasses much of the eastern Arctic. It is a huge, rugged, impressive part of Canada. This territory is inhabited by over 24,000 people, 85% of whom are Inuit and 15% of whom are other aboriginal peoples and non-aboriginals. As one of the largest and most thinly populated regions of our country, its representation in Parliament presents some unique challenges.
On behalf of the official opposition, I wish the people of Nunavut well. They will enjoy the full support of the official opposition in developing democratic, accountable and effective political institutions as well as federal policies that protect and advance their interests. On this latter subject, I will advise the people of Nunavut concerning two serious weaknesses in the approach of the current Liberal government to Canada's north.
First, the government has no vision of the north other than to bureaucratize it, overregulate it and overgovern it. If the deficiency of the substitution of bureaucracy for vision is to be overcome, it must be overcome by northerners themselves developing their own vision. As they do so, the official opposition pledges its help in communicating that vision to other Canadians so it can be realized.
Second, I regret to say that this Liberal government is not competent when it comes to constitution making. It has made no effort and has no intention of attempting to repair the weaknesses and defects of the Canadian Constitution. In passing the Nunavut Act in 1993, we believe the federal government has made a major constitutional error. Nunavut will pay a heavy price in the future if that error is not remedied.
I refer particularly to the point made by Reformers when the Nunavut Act was passed that in effect the federal government was creating a new province. By doing so without following the provisions of the current Constitution, namely by failing to get the required approval of the other provinces, it was creating a situation where the Nunavut Act itself and every law and regulation passed under it may someday be challenged in the courts as being constitutionally invalid. This is an inexcusable mistake for the federal government to make with respect to the creation of Nunavut. The official opposition will do everything in its power to remedy that mistake.
Several of my colleagues, in particular the chief opposition critic for Indian affairs and northern development, the hon. member for Skeena, will analyse part 1 of this bill and propose improvements that will benefit the people of Nunavut in practical ways.
My intention is to focus entirely on part 2 of the bill. This section seeks to amend the Constitution of Canada. In particular it provides for the representation of the Yukon territory, the Northwest territory and Nunavut in the Senate of Canada. It raises not only for the people of Nunavut but for all Canadians the issue of what representation in the Senate of Canada means today and what it should mean in years to come. This is a subject which is long overdue for a thorough discussion in this House.
When Reformers first arrived in this House, despite the fact that our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and that all of us were elected on a platform that included Senate reform, we were amazed to discover that references to the Senate were often considered taboo and were discouraged, if not suppressed. The standing order that prohibits the use of offensive words against either House or against any member thereof was never intended to prevent reference to defects in the operations of either House or in the performance of the duties of members, nor was it meant to suppress frank and open discussion of the need for parliamentary reform.
One of the most profound ways in which we can show our respect for Parliament, for either House and for the office and person of its members is to acknowledge shortcomings when they exist and to advocate remedies for those shortcomings. Constructive criticism of the upper house and its members by members of this House and the advocacy of reform, even the advocacy of the abolition of the upper house must not be misconstrued as offensive or disrespectful. There is ample historical precedent for this position.
The Canadian Senate and other upper houses and the conduct of their members have been intensely analysed, scrutinized and debated in the legislative assemblies of Canada in the past. In the Confederation debates in the legislative assemblies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that gave birth to our country, discussion of the proposed Senate and the limitations of the existing legislative councils dominated those debates.
The reform, retention or abolition of upper chambers was the subject of intense debate and discussion in the Manitoba legislature in 1876, the New Brunswick legislature in 1892, in the Prince Edward Island legislature in 1893, in the Nova Scotia legislature in 1928, in the Newfoundland legislature in 1934 and in the Quebec assembly in 1968. If we need other Commonwealth examples, we could cite the debate and discussion of this subject in the New Zealand legislature in 1951 and the frequent discussion of this subject in the Australian lower house right up to the present day.
Of course discussion of the Senate in this House has been primarily discouraged by the unwritten and unspoken agreement between the two traditional parties whose members dominate the Senate. Why such an agreement? Because the current Senate is an institution which, if ever held up to genuine and prolonged public and media scrutiny, would not survive in its present form.
As I am sure everyone will agree, fortunately there is one particular circumstance under which full discussion of the Senate in all its aspects is not taboo and cannot be discouraged or prevented. That is when the government itself introduces legislation that refers directly to the Senate, representation in the Senate, changes to the Senate and changes to those sections of the Constitution governing the Senate. That is precisely what we have in part 2 of the bill before us, in particular clauses 43 to 47.
Today we have been given the perfect opportunity, and I might say the rare opportunity, on behalf of the people of Nunavut who are being offered representation in the Senate of Canada and on behalf of all Canadians, to do three things: one, to make the case against the status quo of the Senate as presently constituted; two, to consider the case for and against Senate abolition; and three, because Reformers always want to get on to positive alternatives, to make the case for a reformed Senate, in particular an elected, equal and effective Senate. It is now my intention to lay these three cases before the House.
The case against the status quo Senate, the Senate as it is, the Senate to which this bill proposes to send a senator from Nunavut, could fill volumes. However let me outline only seven of the most serious and telling arguments against the Senate in its present form, arguments which we have to take into account if we genuinely respect that institution and want to ensure it has a future in the 21st century.
The first point is that the Senate was defective and fraudulently constructed from the very beginning. In other words, the Senate of Canada, if you will allow me to use a theological expression, Mr. Speaker, was conceived in sin. I am not referring here to the drinking bouts which characterized the Quebec and Charlottetown conferences at which the proposal for the Senate was first put forward.
In the 1860s, John A. Macdonald and the other Fathers of Confederation particularly from Upper Canada were confronted with a dilemma. They had a deadlock in the Parliament of the United Colony of Canada, an equal number of seats for Lower Canada and Upper Canada, but with the population of Upper Canada rising rapidly. They wanted a new assembly based on representation by population, rep by pop as George Brown put it, but how to persuade Lower Canada, Quebec, to agree to give up equal representation which it already had in the colonial assembly.
Said Sir John A. and others “We will create two houses with rep by pop in the lower house and equality between Quebec and Ontario in the upper house. Moreover, we will assure Quebec and Atlantic Canada as well that the main function of this upper house, this Senate based on equality, will be to protect local and regional interests, including the language and culture of Quebec”. Thus the Senate of Canada was conceived and brought into the world.
We have John A., our first and best prime minister, declaring in the Confederation debates: “In order to protect local interests, and to prevent sectional jealousies”—which was the 19th century term for regional alienation—“it was found requisite that the great divisions into which British North America is separated should be represented in the upper house on the principle of equality.
Likewise we have George-Etienne Cartier arguing that Quebeckers should accept this arrangement which limited their province to perpetual minority status in the House of Commons because in compensation, Quebec would be represented in the Senate by a block of senators equal in number to those from Ontario.
There is only one thing wrong with this whole scheme. It was defective at best, and some observers would say and have said that it was even fraudulent. The new Senate was not to be democratically accountable. It was to be appointed which virtually guaranteed that in a time when democracy was in ascendancy, an appointed Senate would decline in influence, respectability and effectiveness in relation to the lower house.
The new senators were to be appointed by the prime minister which meant that rather than representing local and regional interests they ended up representing the partisan interests of the prime minister who appointed them. Thus from the very outset the effectiveness of the Senate in safeguarding local and regional interests, the big selling point to Quebec, was compromised. What good was equality no matter how it was defined in such an unaccountable and an ineffective chamber?
Second, I want to argue that the Senate was and is a compromised house and that by the end of the 19th century it had become apparent that it was already a compromised institution. It was compromised in terms of accountability. It was compromised by partisan patronage. It was compromised in its ability to represent regional interests. Its equality was compromised by ineffectiveness.
In referring to the Senate as a compromised house, do not misunderstand me. Reformers are often accused of being unwilling to recognize the value of compromise but that is not true. Of course we recognize the value of compromising to achieve a greater more principled objective such as the creation or preservation of a country. What Reformers object to is the tendency of old line politicians in Canada not only to compromise but to then compromise their compromises, and then to compromise again until there is no discernible principle left in either their positions or their actions.
This is precisely what has happened to the institutions of both the House of Commons and the Senate throughout the 20th century under Liberal and Tory mismanagement. A two house parliament, a bicameral parliament, is itself a compromise. It is a principled compromise between geography and demography with representation according to the principle of population, numbers of people, in the lower house and representation according to the principle of geographic area in the upper house.
Lincoln said it most succinctly when he described the compromise made by the American founding fathers: “The convention that framed the United States Constitution had this difficulty: the small states wished to so frame the new government that they might be equal to the large ones regardless of the inequality of population; the large ones insisted on equality in proportion to population”. What did the American founding fathers do? These are Lincoln's words: “They compromised it by basing the House of Representatives on population and the Senate on states regardless of population, and the executive on both principles”.
In Canada we started out down the same road, but then we compromised the compromises. Representation by region or province in the Senate was compromised by patronage. Then we started jigging the numbers of senators allotted to each province, departing further and further from the principle that Sir John A. himself enunciated in the Confederation debates, that the great divisions into which British North America is separated should be represented in the upper house on the principle of equality.
Then in later proposals, like the Charlottetown accord, it was even proposed that some seats in the Senate be based on race and some on gender, some by direct election and some by provincial appointment, until there is no discernible principle left as a basis for Senate representation or to guide the Senate's activities.
Similarly over the same period, successive federal governments began to compromise representation by population in the lower house, minimum numbers of seats for P.E.I. and Quebec, overrepresentation for rural ridings to compensate for their geography, underrepresentation for cities, underrepresentation for the fastest growing provinces like British Columbia.
Since 1867 with respect to parliamentary representation successive Liberal and Tory regimes have compromised the compromises until we have neither genuine representation by population in this House nor genuine representation by province or by area in the upper house. By compromising the compromises they have rendered both chambers less effective in serving the public and less effective in representing national interests than they would otherwise be.
My third point is that the Senate is hopelessly tainted by patronage, and I have already referred to patronage as contributing to the decline of the Senate in the early days. Let me now explicitly list this factor of patronage as a specific and particular reason why this institution is falling into disrepute.
It appears to the public, and it is the public we are here to serve and the Senate is also here to serve, that the majority of senators have been appointed not on the basis of acceptability to electors and not on the basis of ability or achievement but primarily on the basis of their service to party and the sitting prime minister.
With respect to 20 of the last 28 appointments to the Senate by the current Prime Minister, if we asked an average citizen primarily informed by news reports why they think these people were appointed rather than others, the most likely answer today is the appointed people had strong connections to the Liberal Party.
Let me give a couple of examples. On March 6 of this year Senator Fitzpatrick, a prominent B.C. Liberal organizer whose friendship with the Prime Minister dates back 35 years, found himself appointed to the Senate. Only later did the public become aware of the business relationship between Senator Fitzpatrick and the Prime Minister.
In 1987 the Senator and the corporation he formerly owned and operated co-ordinated a stock flip that helped earn the Prime Minister a quick $45,000 profit. In other words, the Prime Minister appointed a long time party activist, personal friend and financial benefactor to the upper house. A reasonable person operating on the general information available to the public would conclude that this was, whatever else it was, first and foremost a patronage appointment.
The same type of patronage connection was evident when Brian Mulroney appointed Senator Fernand Roberge to the Senate in 1993. Senator Roberge was president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal, once Prime Minister Mulroney's favourite watering hole and the site of much of his plotting to unseat Joe Clark as the Tory leader. Senator Roberge was one of the insiders assembled for Mulroney's second run at the party leadership in 1983. Senator Roberge organized the friends of Brian Mulroney gathering of 5,000 people when Mulroney launched his winning leadership campaign and a hospitality suite operation to woo stray delegates. Senator Roberge was also a member of the candidate selection committee for Quebec during the next election.
What is the public to think when it reads through the list of Senate appointees and finds these things? Senator Angus from Quebec, former chairman of the PC Canada fund, known as one of the most successful political fundraisers in the country's history, helped raise money for the Mulroney failed leadership campaign in 1976 and a successful one in 1983.
There is Senator Buchanan of Nova Scotia, former Tory premier of Nova Scotia but one with a notorious reputation for provincial patronage. Senator Cogger was co-chairman of the federal Conservative 1988 election campaign in Quebec and a long time friend of Mr. Mulroney. Senator Jessiman of Manitoba is a long time Tory fundraiser from that province.
I could go on and on but let me deal with some of the appointments by the current Prime Minister. First, Senator Bryden of New Brunswick, candidate for the Liberal leadership in New Brunswick and the person who managed the Prime Minister's 1990 Liberal leadership campaign; Senator Joyal from Quebec, former Liberal MP and prominent Quebec Liberal backroom worker; Senator Robichaud from New Brunswick, former secretary of state in the Prime Minister's government and active worker for the Liberals a great deal of his life; Senator Taylor, former Alberta Liberal leader.
I will tell the House what the public thinks of such a list. I have carried this list around with me for a long time. The public is not amused, the public is not impressed, the public is led to believe that personal and partisan connections to the Prime Minister, patronage connections, not ability or acceptability to electors, are the principal criteria for becoming a Canadian senator.
Fourth, the Senate is further discredited when some of its members are tainted by allegations and charges of ethical misconduct, including allegations of criminal misconduct and no preventive or pre-emptive steps or concerns are shown by the Senate unless the whole thing gets into the media, and no proactive steps are taken to investigate or to suspend during the possibility of investigations or to discipline or remove such senators by the Senate itself.
For example, there has been a swirl of influence peddling allegations for years surrounding Senator Michael Cogger. This senator is alleged to have accepted more than $200,000 from a Montreal businessman vying for government grants, using his influence as a senator to lobby on behalf of the business community for $45 million in federal-provincial grants. This Conservative senator for Quebec was acquitted four years ago on influence peddling charges but the Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial in this influence peddling case.
I raise this case not for the purpose of saying anything for or against Senator Cogger. That is not my point. It is to ask why the Senate itself, why for its own protection, why for its own self-respect does it not take a more proactive role in investigating these types of rumours until they get the life that they have, and if necessary disciplining in some way, not for criminal content but for the ethical aspects of the misbehaviour, when the alleged misconduct reflects negatively on that institution. And it is not only that institution. The public does not make a lot of distinction between parliamentarians in the upper house and the lower house. If we are all frank to admit it, it reflects on everybody, including respected members of the House.
In another case the name of Saskatchewan Senator Eric Berntson has been repeatedly mentioned in connection with a fraud scandal involving well known provincial Conservatives in that province. Senator Berntson is currently standing trial on a charge of breach of trust arising from that scandal. The charge is in relation to a January 1987 transfer of $125,000 in public funds from the PC caucus to the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan. It is alleged that Senator Berntson obtained money from his legislative expense allowance by submitting false invoices from three companies. In November Senator Berntson was committed to stand trial on another charge of defrauding taxpayers of $68,000.
Again, the point here is not whether Senator Berntson is guilty or not guilty of fraud. That is for the courts to decide. My point is that these rumours have been swirling around for years, particularly in Saskatchewan and all too frequently allegations of unethical conduct, including even allegations of criminal misconduct, arise against members of the Senate. When that body is so slow and so reluctant and so half heartedly becoming proactive in acknowledging these things and investigating them and doing something to discipline its members then it is the Senate and I would argue the Parliament of Canada that get discredited as institutions.
My fifth point is that the Senate is further discredited by the unconscionable work, travel and spending patterns of some of its members, not all of its members. That is why it is important to distinguish. The Senate is further discredited by the work ethic or lack of work ethic exhibited by some of its members and by the abuse of travel and other privileges.
What is the public to think of former Liberal Senator Andy Thompson's work ethic? Senator Thompson showed up for Senate sittings about once every two years, just enough to fulfil his requirement to keep the Senate seat. Between 1990 and 1997 Thompson collected $519,550 for attending 14 sitting days in the Senate. With an attendance rate of 2.6% that means he collected $37,110 per day. That is getting up into the Wayne Gretzky league.
The Senate itself did nothing about this delinquent behaviour until it was forced to do so by pressure from the media and the official opposition in this House. Even after that the most it could do was vote to suspend Thompson without pay.
What is the public to think about Senator Eyton's attendance record or the eight other senators, Kolber, Lucier, Pitfield, Lawson, Angus, Carney, Austin and Sparrow with attendance records of less than 50% between June 1990 and November 1997? What is the public to think of Senator Taylor's travel budget? Senator Taylor billed Canadian taxpayers $105,000 for travel expenses. This bill included the cost of flying in eight of his nine children at taxpayer expense for his induction. He said it was one of those once in a lifetime occasions when they pay for the family to fly down to the ceremonies.
What is the public to think about Senator Lucier's place of residence? We are talking about representation of a northern territory in the Senate of Canada. This senator is supposed to represent Yukon, to provide regional representation for that vast northern territory through his seat in the Senate. Senator Lucier lives in British Columbia and he has said that the Senate's legal staff approved his change in residency five years ago when he moved to Vancouver.
I do not want to be one sided on this. Defenders of these defective work habits and attendance records and travel abuses will say, and I regret that they say this, we have all of this in the lower house as well. Perhaps there is regrettably some truth in that. On some other day I will address the need for reform of the House of Commons.
The great difference between the House and the Senate on this score is that in the case of elected members of this House if the public finds out about these abuses or if it judges something we are doing to be an abuse, whether it is or not, the public can do something about it. It can refuse to re-elect. It can throw us out. But in the case of our unelected, unaccountable and largely untouchable senators there is nothing the public can do to rid the chamber of such abusers and such abuses. That is what makes party patronage or unethical activity, lousy attendance or abuse of privilege even more odious when it occurs in the Senate than in the House of Commons.
I am talking about some members of the Senate, not all. That is the reason I mention names. I do not want to impugn people who do not deserve to be impugned. The Senate is discredited when the principal occupation of some of its members is primarily partisan political work. Some senators certainly work hard but the work they do, supported by their Senate salary, their Senate office, their Senate staff and their Senate travel allowance, is primarily partisan work.
Senator Tkachuk billed $98,329, the second highest of all senators for travel in the fiscal year 1996-97. He explained his bill was higher due to his role as co-chairman of the Tory party and his need to travel to various party functions across the country. The senator explained that as campaign chairman he had to travel all over the country for the party before the election. The president of the Liberal Party from 1975 to 1980 was a senator, Senator Graham, appointed in 1972. This senator also co-chaired the national Liberal campaign in 1997.
Another senator, Senator Hays, was president of the Liberal Party during a campaign in 1997. The chair of the national Tory campaign in 1988 was Senator Atkins, appointed in 1986. There is a strange coincidence between these appointments occurring in one year and two years later full time political work. The Alberta election chairman for the federal Tories in the 1993 election was Senator Ghitter.
During these periods I do not deny that these senators do a great deal of work but it is primarily partisan political work. In attempting to justify this activity some will say that it is all work necessary to the democratic process. What the public does not support is this work being done on the payroll and the budget of the Senate. Nor does the public appreciate seeing Liberal and Tory senators paid from the public purse managing and directing campaigns against parties like Reform, the Bloc and the NDP which have no representation in the Senate.
Even more serious is that some of this political work done by senators is of such an unsavoury character that no amount of whitewash can justify it. Perhaps in this connection I can mention a personal experience. Maybe some believe that people get a negative view toward institutions because of their experiences younger in life. Perhaps that may be my case.
When I was in my teens I once had occasion to attend a reception given for new Canadians who had just received their Canadian citizenship. My family was very much involved in politics and political life in Alberta. I used to go to these things and I found them an inspiration. In the midst of one of these festivities I remember a prominent Edmonton lawyer, a well known Liberal, struggling to his feet because he was drunk and walking over to one of our new Canadians. I remember who the fellow was.
I remember who the fellow was. At least I can picture him. He was a fellow of Italian background. This lawyer put a hand on each of his shoulders. This is a new Canadian who has just been made a citizen a few minutes before. He says in a very loud voice so that everyone else in the room can hear, particularly the other new citizens, “You are now a Canadian citizen, but I hope you realize that it was a Liberal government that let you into the country and if you ever vote for a Tory government they will probably send you home”.
This lawyer was doing political work. I would argue it is political dirty work, intimidating new Canadians to vote Liberal.
Why do I mention this incident in the context of a discussion about the Senate? It is because this lawyer was eventually appointed to the Senate from which he continued to do this political work, particularly in Edmonton, only with greater prestige and greater authority.
This type of political work, performed by senators and supported by public funds, discredits the institution. It discredits the whole federal political system, especially in the eyes of new Canadians who are its victims.
Someone will protest and say this is all grossly unfair. Are there no good senators? Are there no senators who are hard working and conscientious? Are there no senators who render public service? Are there no senators who are distinguished persons in their own right? I would reply, “Of course there are”.
To be fair I will name some of them, although members will agree it is difficult for mere mortals like ourselves, and even more difficult for the public operating on partial information and media perception, to separate the sheep from the goats.
Here is a partial list of senators who are distinguished persons in their own right.
Senator Keon is a renowned cardiac surgeon who in 1969 helped to found the Ottawa Heart Institute. Sister Peggy Butts has dedicated much of her life to teaching at schools across the country and working to help women and the poor. She is a recipient of the Weiler Award which acknowledges and honours exceptional contributions to the community and social development in Canada.
Senator Archibald Johnstone is a distinguished World War II veteran. He served as a crew member with the Royal Air Force heavy bomber squadron and retired with the rank of flight lieutenant.
Senator Anne Cools is a former social worker who has dedicated herself to helping women and the poor.
I want to make a special appeal in a few minutes to these and other distinguished senators to divorce themselves from the other senators and become allies of Senate reform. But before I do, let me say what must be said, with no disrespect intended. I say that successive prime ministers abuse even these distinguished appointments in the following way.
In the inner circles it is referred to as applying the holy water principle. A prime minister wants to appoint his political friend to the Senate and he wants to appoint someone for purely partisan political purposes, so to make the appointment less odious to the public he seeks out and appoints at the same time some distinguished and honourable person to sanctify the other appointment.
Let me illustrate this. When Prime Minister Mulroney appointed eight special senators to help ram his GST legislation through the upper house, most of them were Tory patronage appointments: Normand Grimard, a party fundraiser; James Ross, a long time Tory activist; Eric Berntson, a former Tory deputy premier of Saskatchewan; Michael Forrestall, a former Tory MP; et cetera.
But they also included Senator Keon, the renowned cardiac surgeon and founder of the Ottawa Heart Institute, a distinguished non-Tory appointment to sanctify the other patronage appointments.
When the current Prime Minister makes his Senate appointments he does the same thing.
When in 1997 he appointed as senators the former Liberal premier of P.E.I. and a former Liberal MP who was in his own government, he also at the same time made a distinguished non-partisan appointment in the person of Sister Peggy Butts.
When this year he appointed as senator a prominent B.C. Liberal organizer and fundraiser, a two-time failed Liberal candidate from Newfoundland, he also at the same time appointed the distinguished World War II veteran Archibald Johnstone.
The tactic is to sanctify patronage appointments with a few distinguished appointments, but in the end the reputation of all, including the reputation of the Senate, is diminished rather than enhanced.
Let me quickly identify the seventh. Some political scientists, I suppose, would argue that this is one of the most weighty arguments against the Senate in its present form. I refer to the cost of the Senate, particularly the enormous cost in relation to the insignificant benefits.
Over the past 30 years the Senate of Canada has cost the taxpayers of this country some $1 billion. This breaks down approximately as follows: senators' salaries, $354 million; senators' travel, $133 million; senators' office expenses, $72 million; Senate administration and services, $441 million.
We would argue that there is no way that Canadians have received anywhere near $1 billion in benefits from this institution. Certainly Canadians have not received $1 billion in legislative improvements as a result of sober second thought. Certainly Canadians have not received $1 billion in effective representation of regional interests.
For example, I do not know exactly what percentage of that billion in Senate representation represents the cost of British Columbia's Senate representation.
During the last 30 years none of B.C.'s big, major, provincial and regional issues from the state of the west coast fishery to the unique B.C. aboriginal issues to B.C.'s unique constitutional positions to B.C.'s views on equalization have been given anywhere near the representation on the national stage that a province that is going to be the second largest province in Canada deserves. The only way a B.C. senator has been able to get national attention for B.C. in recent years has been to muse publicly about B.C.'s secession.
Regional representation of B.C. interests in the Senate has been completely ineffective. The same can be said for Senate representation of regional interests in every part of the country.
The cost of the Senate is staggering. The benefits, particularly with respect to regional representation, which Sir John A. himself said was the reason it was being set it up, are negligible.
I say this is an ominous conclusion since, if the abolition of upper houses is studied in the provinces of Canada and in other British jurisdictions, the principal argument for the abolition of upper houses has, in the end, been the excessive cost in relation to minimal benefits.
Time does not permit me to further elaborate on these defects of the old status quo Senate. I want to get on to the more positive dimensions, but further elaboration should not be required.
The seven deadly sins of the current institution are: fraudulent beginnings, compromised principles, partisan patronage of the worst kind, unethical conduct and work habits, abuse of privileges, a higher priority to partisan political work than to the public service, and excessive cost in relation to negligible benefits.
If these grievances and defects are not addressed, what will be the inevitable result? The result will be increasing public dissatisfaction, with dissatisfaction growing into anger, and anger resulting not in demands for reform, but demands for complete abolition of the whole place.
Perhaps it would therefore be appropriate to conclude this case against the Senate of Canada with a reference to one of the most infamous ends to a parliamentary institution in all parliamentary history.
We had nothing to do with the planning of this debate at the time, but it is ironic that it was 349 years ago to the day, April 20, 1649, that Oliver Cromwell walked into the chamber of the so-called rump parliament in England.
This was an institution that had so discredited itself with inactivity and corruption in the pursuit of self-interest that one of its own members, Cromwell, the man who had defended that parliament against the king, who had risked his life to try to save it, who had risked soldiers' lives and had soldiers killed to try to save the institution, now turned against it.
The record says that he came to that British parliament on this day in 1649 and at first he sat in a seat at the back. As he listened to the discussion in the rump parliament, the one for which he had sacrificed lives, the members debated not how to reform the parliament and make it a better servant of the people and the king, all they discussed was how to perpetuate it exactly as it was.
According to historians, Cromwell got up from the back seat and, contrary to accepted practice, went to the front. He walked up and down in the aisle between the seats and gave one of the shortest, hottest speeches of denunciation of a parliamentary institution that has ever been made.
I will read it in part just to give members a flavour. He said:
It is high time—to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured—; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches—Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?—Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls (for a cleansing of) this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House—Depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! — Be gone!
It is to prevent the necessity of any such terrible speech ever being given or such drastic action ever being taken in relation to the Senate of Canada that I now turn to the case for and against Senate abolition and the case for genuine Senate reform.
If the Senate was fraudulently conceived, has compromised its basic principles, is tainted by patronage, unethical conduct and bad work habits, and is excessively costly, it is understandable why some members might ask: Why not simply abolish it?
This is the position of the NDP and a position which commends itself to many as long as it is not critically examined.
The reason a majority of Reformers oppose abolition, despite our vehement opposition to the Senate as it is, is very simple. It is a reason which rests on the very nature of our country and the prerequisites for good government and national unity.
If we were to abolish the Senate—and we ask the NDP members to think about this, particularly those from Atlantic Canada and western Canada—Canada would have a one-house parliament in which the heavily populated areas of southern Ontario and southern Quebec would have an absolute majority of the seats.
In such a parliament, I ask, how would the regional interests of Atlantic Canada, western Canada, northern Canada, northern and rural Ontario, and northern and rural Quebec ever be properly addressed? If Canada were a small country perhaps the effective representation or accommodation of regional interests could be ignored. However, Canada is the second largest country on the face of the earth. Our regions are big enough to be countries in their own right.
National unity, as well as good government, therefore demands that we develop national institutions which recognize and accommodate regional interests rather than ignore or subjugate them, or rather than leave regional representation exclusively to the provincial governments.
The way that the other big federations, the U.S., Germany and Australia, have reconciled the interests of heavily populated areas with those of thinly populated areas is by properly adapting the two-house parliament to their needs. It is high time that Canada did the same.
For those who think this would represent some Americanized departure from our form of federation or the British parliamentary system, let them study and improve upon the Australian model rather than the American model if they prefer.
Suffice it to say that what we should be striving for in terms of parliamentary institutions is a two-house parliament that works: a lower chamber based on genuine representation by population in which the heavily populated areas rightly enjoy the greater influence, but also an upper chamber in which there are equal numbers of senators per province or state, as in the U.S. and Australia, where the thinly populated regions will have the greater influence.
Then, in that two-house parliament, let those two houses be so conjoined that laws do not become laws and federal policies do not become policies until they pass both houses, thus reconciling the demands of both representation by population and representation by area.
It is the position of the official opposition therefore that, of course, we should abolish those features of the Canadian Senate which render it useless and repugnant to voters and taxpayers. Abolish patronage appointments. Abolish inequitable representation. Abolish unethical activity and practices. Abolish ineffectiveness. However, do not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Let us not be tempted to believe that abolition would simply be the first step toward reform of the Senate.
If the Senate is completely abolished it is highly unlikely that it will be replaced in the foreseeable future with a reformed Senate. Among the members of this House who are suddenly advocating Senate abolition, I have detected no strong interest in establishing any other checks and balances on themselves, in particular the regional checks and balances which a reformed Senate provides.
Those premiers who would prefer to maintain their own monopoly on representing their provincial interests, rather than sharing this responsibility with a federal institution, would not be in a hurry to reinvent the Senate if it were abolished. If the Senate were abolished there is little likelihood that a reformed Senate would ever be established in its place, and the Canadian federal system would continue to fail to balance representation by population with representation by province.
It is therefore the position of the official opposition that the useless and offensive features of the current Senate should be abolished and an elected, equal and effective Senate should be created in its place. The long range interests of Canadian federalism are better served by Senate reform than by the short term expedient of Senate abolition.
It is long overdue that I put before the House the information and the arguments which will hopefully lead all hon. members to support the proposition that the Senate should be reformed and that we should get on with it. I will outline the objectives of Senate reform and its benefits to the people of Canada, the benefits to ordinary citizens with aspirations for jobs and better services and with concerns about taxes, deteriorating health care and national unity.
As the official opposition envisions it, the objectives of Senate reform are threefold. The first is to give the people of Canada more democratic control over representation in the upper house by electing those representatives, and to ensure that senators, whoever they are and whatever they are and whatever they do, are servants of the people of Canada, not servants of the party of the prime minister who appointed them. The first objective of Senate reform is therefore to democratize the place and to give Canadians the benefits of that democratization, namely accountability of the Senate and the senators to them.
The second objective of Senate reform as we envision it is to make the Senate an effective legislative chamber, more effective in its analysis and amendment of legislation and policy, yes, but in particular more effective in bringing regional perspectives and regional interests of people in different parts of the country to bear on federal government policy and legislation.
The views and the interests of the fisherman in Newfoundland are different from the views and the interests of the businessman in Montreal. The views and the interests of the logger in northern Ontario are different from the views and interests of the factory worker in southern Ontario. The views and interests of the prairie farmer, the Alberta roughneck, the northern trapper, the urban westerner or the retiree on Vancouver Island are all unique and different. All these views and interests are shaped by geography, by where these people live and work as well as by other factors. The challenge is to bring the uniqueness and diversity of these views and interests more effectively to bear on federal legislation and policy.
As I pointed out in the throne speech debate, there was hardly any regional sensitivity at all in the government's legislative program as contained in that speech, despite the fact that in the last federal election the Canadian electorate regionalized the House more definitively than it has for many years.
The government's legislative program and the government's budget did not even acknowledge the urgent requirement for a new Atlantic economic development initiative to address the crying need for more jobs and better incomes in that part of the country. The government's legislative program and budget did not even try to link the needs of both the west and east coast fisheries—the conservation needs, the management needs, the people needs, the community needs—and to address them as national issues.
Despite the government's acknowledgement that the national unity problem is rooted in the discontents of Quebec and that it is a priority, there is nothing in the government's legislative program or budget that specifically addresses the regionalized nature or dimension of this problem. Likewise there is nothing explicit in the government's legislative program or budget that addresses the need for recognizing and complementing the Ontario government's efforts to stimulate job and income growth through tax relief with a parallel federal initiative.
There is little or nothing in the government's legislative program or budget that explicitly addresses the needs of the north despite the fact that this region comprises the greater part of the country. There is nothing that seeks to harness the ideas and energies of the new west or the Pacific region to national objectives such as economic growth, strengthening of social services or national unity.
In the U.S. such frontline industries for the new economy as Boeing's aerospace facilities and Microsoft's headquarters in the Pacific northwest are located there in part because of leverage obtained over military contracts and development funds by western states in the U.S. senate, but there is no equivalent of that in Canada. My point is that the second objective of Senate reform should be effective regional representation and action through the Senate's legislative role.
The third objective of Senate reform as envisioned by the official opposition is to give practical and institutional expression to the great principle of equality of citizens and provinces. We fervently believe that the great principle of equality for all rather than special status for some will prove to be the foundation for national unity in the 21st century, and to have one chamber in the Canadian parliament where the voice of the people of each province regardless of their size or their stage of development is equal to that of any other would be conducive to national unity and ensuring the continuation of this great federation to the benefit of all its citizens no matter where they may live.
We can identify practical benefits to Canadians no matter where they live coming from Senate reform. The objectives of Senate reform as we see them are democratic accountability, effective regional representation in national legislation and policy, and affirmation of equality. Who in the House could possibly disagree with such objectives?
I turn now to two trails to Senate reform. The academic literature in Canada including studies commissioned by various parliamentary committees and task forces contains many studies and proposals for Senate reform. I could read off a page of them, but I will not bore hon. members by listing more of them. Suffice to say there is a great wealth of information available on this subject from the Library of Parliament.
What I would like to do is get down to the practical measures required to advance the concept of Senate reform beyond mere academic discussion. I would like to advance Senate reform to the stage where the public is agreed, the provinces are agreed and parliament is agreed on a plan of action which will start us down the road to real Senate reform, a plan of action that will transform the Senate from an obsolete 19th century embarrassment into a useful, functional, respectable 21st century institution.
In particular I want to outline for hon. members the two trails to Senate reform. The one trail which I will refer to as the Meech Lake-Charlottetown trail to Senate reform is one to which both the federal Liberals and the federal Conservatives have been attracted in the past. The current Prime Minister always refers to it when he is questioned about Senate reform.
First I want to examine the Meech Lake-Charlottetown trail to Senate reform and argue that it is a dead end, that it leads nowhere and should be abandoned by any parliamentarian or citizen who genuinely desires reform of the Senate.
I then want to lay before the House what I will unashamedly call the western trail to Senate reform. It is a trail which has its origins in a genuine desire from one great region of the country to advance its regional interests, not by threatening separation but by increasing the effectiveness and regional sensitivity of the institutions of the central government.
The western trail to Senate reform is over 20 years long. I will argue that it can become the Ontario trail, the Quebec trail, the Atlantic trail, the northern trail, the national trail to Senate reform, if we absorb its lessons and support its initiatives.
First I will refer to the Meech Lake-Charlottetown trail to Senate reform. Both the Meech Lake constitutional accord and the Charlottetown constitutional accord contained half-baked proposals for Senate reform. Both accords were opposed by many Senate reformers in all parties and both accords were rejected by Canadians, the Charlottetown accord being rejected through a constitutional referendum.
It is important to understand why the Senate reform proposals contained in these accords were rejected as well as the context in which the accords as a whole were rejected so that future attempts at Senate reform and constitutional change do not founder on the same rocks. I must say that I have been absolutely amazed at the superficiality of the comments made by the Prime Minister on this subject. I want to take some time to examine it thoroughly.
Members of the House, in particular those from western Canada, will have the following understanding of the events surrounding Meech Lake, Charlottetown and their Senate reform proposals. In 1981 the Government of Quebec under Premier Levesque refused to participate in any further federal-provincial conferences on the Constitution unless Quebec was given special rights and assurances.
In 1986 Premier Bourassa announced that Quebec would resume a full role in constitutional councils of Canada if five Quebec demands were met, namely recognition as a distinct society, the right to opt out of national programs and to be compensated for them, a greater role in immigration regulation, a role in supreme court appointments and a veto on future constitutional amendments.
On April 30, 1987 the Prime Minister and 10 premiers met in private at Meech Lake and without consulting their legislatures or electors drafted an agreement to meet Quebec's five demands and provide for a second round of discussion on further constitutional change including Senate reform. In order to get other premiers to accede to Quebec's demands the Prime Minister had to grant similar rights to other provinces, including the right to veto future constitutional amendments.
The resulting Meech Lake accord was then translated into a constitutional amendment and unanimously approved by the first ministers on June 2 and 3, 1987 in Ottawa. The premiers all agreed to return home and push a Meech Lake resolution through their legislatures without amendment as quickly as possible.
While the western premiers supported the accord with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the majority of their people opposed it. The more they found out about it, the less they liked it. What bothered them more than anything else was the top down, closed door approach to constitution making that Meech Lake represented. The process discredited those who participated in it as well as the content of the accord.
Second, westerners objected to the rigid amending formula. If every province were given the right to veto substantive amendments, the chances of securing the constitutional amendment to reform the Senate, for example, would be drastically reduced.
Third, westerners objected to Meech's token references to Senate reform and the lack of substantive assurances that real progress would be made in this area in any second round of constitutional negotiation.
It had taken the federal Conservative government a very short time to translate Quebec's five constitutional demands into a full blown constitutional amendment. Yet despite the presence in the cabinet and caucus of western MPs whose constituents had been demanding a triple E Senate since 1984, the federal government had no triple E Senate amendment in preparation and was unresponsive to representations by the Alberta government on that subject.
The poorly conceived token effort at Senate reform contained in the Meech Lake accord consisted of a proposal to appoint senators from a list submitted by the relevant province, provided the appointee was also acceptable to the federal cabinet.
There was also a promise to convene a first ministers conference at which Senate reform would be further discussed. Since every province would have a veto over future constitutional reforms and the Quebec government had already declared its antipathy toward a triple E Senate, the promise of Senate reform through a first ministers conference was meaningless.
Obviously these meagre Meech provisions for Senate reform were unacceptable to those who desired genuine Senate reform and who had developed comprehensive proposals for a Senate that was elected with equal representation and effective powers.
As hon. members will know, after the collapse of Meech, the Mulroney regime made one more attempt at a constitutional accord, an effort which culminated in the Charlottetown accord of 1992. While the process whereby Charlottetown was developed gave some belated attention to securing public input, mainly through the Spicer consultation, its Senate reform proposals were hardly more in tune with western Canadian thinking where Senate reform had been under active consideration for more than 10 years than those of Meech. The Senate reform proposals of the Charlottetown accord were contained in section 2(a) of the agreement.
For the written record I would like to have section 2(a) of the Charlottetown accord recorded at this place in Hansard . To save the time of the House I seek consent to dispense with the actual reading and have it recorded in Hansard as read. Do I have that consent?
Is the hon. member referring to unanimous consent right now or at the end of his speech?
Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB
Maybe now, if we could get it.
The hon. member would like to table information. Is there unanimous consent to present the motion?
Some hon. members