House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.


Comments by Member for Winnipeg South CentrePrivilege

11:05 a.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to respond to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake on Thursday, May 3. The member for Selkirk—Interlake alleges that just prior to the vote on Wednesday, May 2, I crossed the floor and made threatening comments to him and that he felt intimidated.

First, I acknowledge crossing the floor on the said day and approaching the hon. member in order to voice my displeasure with respect to what appeared in a ten percenter sent to my riding. Yes, I was angry, and yes, I was upset. However, I in no way intended to threaten the hon. member and I am sorry to hear that he felt intimidated by my comments.

My demeanour is not usually interpreted as intimidating, but if the hon. member felt that I was either threatening or intimidating I apologize to him, as it was certainly not my intention to do either.

Once again, I apologize to the member. It was not my intention to make him feel overcome with fear. I am sorry if he felt threatened and I am sorry if he felt intimidated.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg South CentrePrivilege

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for her important intervention in this matter. I will look at the two interventions now and come back to the House, if necessary, with a decision in respect of this.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should fully fund the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre to assure that it continues to operate in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to speak on a issue that is extremely important not only for Canada, but for Canada's international reputation, for our allies—the people who work with us on peacekeeping missions abroad—and for the people who work for the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Nova Scotia, Ottawa and Montreal. The centre, which has been in existence since 1994, is doing an outstanding job and continuing to evolve. However, staff never know from one year to the next where the centre's funding will come from or how it will keep on providing good services.

My motion asks the government to provide ongoing funding for the Pearson Centre so that it has the financial stability necessary to reassure everyone we work with in this area that the centre will continue to operate in Canada and abroad in the coming years. The motion also aims to guarantee to the people of Nova Scotia and the Kespuwick Industrial Park that the Pearson Centre will continue to be there, providing jobs and services. The centre is in dire straits at present. Not only is the government refusing to provide ongoing funding, limiting its commitment to the next three years and indicating that they will be the final years of funding, but it is also refusing to honour past funding agreements for operations in Nova Scotia.

Often, the government refuses to support regional operations, and officials find all sorts of reasons why it is very hard to operate in the regions and preferable to do so in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver—and they even find reasons not to operate in Vancouver. The government prefers to operate in the major cities in central Canada. I encourage the government and invite the members of this House to look at this issue and consider what the role of the Government of Canada is, if it is not to promote regional development.

The situation we now find ourselves in with the Pearson centre is troubling. It is very troubling for our allies, but is also troubling for all the Canadians working in peacekeeping operations and especially the people working In Kespuwick Park in Cornwallis or in Deep Brook, Nova Scotia.

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre was established in 1994. At that time, we saw the closure of CFB Cornwallis, the major employer in that area. There was some restructuring within the military. There were some cutbacks at the federal level because we had a huge deficit at the time. For my part of the country, the loss of 700 jobs in that area was very difficult.

A group of volunteers and civic leaders got together and formed the Cornwallis Park Development Agency. They received some funding from the federal government through various departments, a lot of it through ACOA but a lot through DND and the external affairs department, to see how we could turn the negative story of a base closure into a positive economic story for western Nova Scotia. It has been a tremendous success because a lot of players have come together. One of the things the federal government did was create the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and establish its operations out of the former CFB Greenwood.

Ken Ozmon, president of St. Mary's University at the time, was chairman of the board. A lot of good people went to work there. They offered courses internationally. They brought together people from the military, non-governmental organizations, policing outfits and the Red Cross and things like that and trained them in peacekeeping operations. Nationals from many countries were brought there and they looked at how to apply the three Ds principle of peacekeeping and peacemaking: defence, diplomacy and development.

Also, extramural activities were started by the staff of Pearson, with organized training sessions in other countries, in over 30 countries and in three languages. Those courses were offered out of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre where training sessions were held.

The first level of funding was supposed to be for five years. Then it was to be self-supporting from the sale of services. That did not quite happen, so we had to come in again with some new funding, which we did. We refunded the project and the Pearson centre made some changes. It moved the marketing officers at the beginning in Montreal and Ottawa and established a presence on the campus of Carleton University.

Then, in the dying days of the last government, we came to an agreement in working with the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre, which was established on the base. Its purpose was to use the hospitality facilities on the base to create a conference centre whereby it could sell rooms to and organize conference training sessions for the general Canadian public and internationals alongside what the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre was doing.

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre reached a deal, financed by the federal government through ACOA and DND, and I believe there was some funding from the external affairs department, whereby the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre purchased the facilities of the Pearson centre and upgraded them and then was to sell the services to the Pearson centre. It is a marvellous deal. The facilities would be operated more efficiently and used for more purposes, such as international schools and all sorts of things.

Then what the federal government did to ensure the success of the story was guarantee the purchase of services and the purchase of seats from the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. Everybody wins in this story. The Annapolis Basin Conference Centre becomes self-financing and has better facilities, while the Pearson centre concentrates on what it does best, which is programming, and we keep those valuable jobs in the area, jobs that can support other things. That base also has the Acadia cadet camp, Camp Acadia, which we financed for the long term, and these same people sell services, so it was a very good deal.

Now we learn that the government has withdrawn from that. My motion intends to re-establish that relationship.

I want to take the House back to Kespuwick Park and what CF Cornwallis Base became. What were the other things that we were able to establish there? They include the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre, which I mentioned, Camp Acadia, which I mentioned, and also the military museum. I was at the museum on the weekend for the Battle of the Atlantic ceremonies and the rededication of the stained glass windows honouring the 24 Canadian vessels lost in the Battle of the Atlantic.

We also have, of course, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, and Discovery Toys, with 80 jobs, manufacturing out of homes and selling internationally. There is also Acadian Seaplants, a local company but international in perspective, doing high end research and development, funded from its own resources but participating in the Atlantic investment partnership program. There is a fibreglass business doing very complex structures and shapes and providing many jobs.

There was also Shaw Wood, which unfortunately had to close after I believe five years of operation selling solely to the Ikea market, leaving behind a very good facility for which we hope we can find an entrepreneur to take over where Shaw Wood left off. There is the Convergys Call Centre. I should have checked on the number of jobs there, but I believe it is over 600, and it is still looking for employees. There also are quite a few smaller businesses and public institutions.

The success story is quite good for that park. There are more jobs in that park now than there were when the military was operating. Also, all the residential facilities have been turned into retirement homes and summer residences, thus adding to the economy.

As well, the federal government, through ACOA, participated in funding the LIFEPLEX Wellness Centre that is operating there now. It has very good health facilities, with a swimming pool, running track, weight rooms, exercise rooms and physio facilities. It is a very good project. We funded phase one of it. However, the president of its board thought he was smarter than the federal government and thought he should do both phases before he had the full funding, so the municipality had to step in and take over the debt left behind by the president of that organization.

Luckily, the municipality did that and the population now has access to it, but it was a huge debt. However, this is not unknown to that gentleman. He was minister of finance for Nova Scotia where I believe he left behind an $8.5 million debt. He will be running for the Conservatives in the next federal election and trying to continue his great tradition.

Thus, that part has been a very good success story, and an anchorstone within that park is Pearson. As I mentioned, there is the relationship with the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre. When we look at the synergy created there, we see that it means over 100 jobs for rural Canada, for western Nova Scotia.

Bureaucrats will tell us that they would prefer to be doing that training in Ottawa because people find it difficult to get to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. Let me tell members something. The people we are training there are going to be serving in Afghanistan. They are going to be serving in Haiti. They are going to be serving in Darfur. They are going to be serving in hot spots all over the world, so I have difficulty in understanding why they cannot take a one and one-half hour flight and a two and one-half hour ride in an air conditioned van to get to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. That concept escapes me, but I am not a highly educated civil servant.

I believe the role of government is to ensure that we give potential to the regions. When we look at what the volunteers have done there and at what the personnel of Pearson Peacekeeping Centre have built there over the last 13 years, we can see that it is very regrettable that the federal government now would withdraw from it. It is not acceptable. I certainly hope that I will have support from all parties for this motion to reinstitute full funding for Pearson, including its activities in western Nova Scotia.

Let us look at what the current government has been doing to rural Canada and to Nova Scotia in particular. I do not have to remind anybody of the Atlantic accord. I think we see seven editorials a day calling the government pure and outright liars in having failed Nova Scotians on the accord.

The withdrawal of the Coast Guard is not unrelated. Right after the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans got in trouble in his home province because of the Atlantic accord due to the fact that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador agreement was broken just like the Canada-Nova Scotia agreement, two icebreaking vessels were moved from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland.

The argument is that this is more economical, more efficient and a better business plan. It so happens that the icebreakers were sent to two different ports and, lo and behold, the two ports are represented by two Conservative members. Coincidence or economics? I would say politics. My belief is that the Coast Guard is out there to protect mariners, not save seats for ministers.

There are research vessels, DFO and the port of Digby. It is the same story. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley made accusations, serious allegations, and he had a right to do that because we all have concerns about how the money was being used by the organization that removed the port of Digby. Everybody had serious concerns. Everybody made some enquiries that ended up at arbitration.

The arbitrator reported during the last election that while the Maritime Harbour Society had not done anything counter to the agreement, had not done anything illegal, the agreement itself was very weak. It was terrible. It had a loophole so big that we could drive a truck through it, to paraphrase the report. That agreement was written by Transport Canada.

For 16 months now Transport Canada has had that report. The Conservatives, when they were in opposition, were saying how we should come to the assistance of Digby, and I agreed with them then and I agree with them now. But 16 months later the port of Digby has not been remediated, the government has not taken ownership. It is not under DFO as it should be and the facilities are not being repaired. That is not acceptable.

We could look at small craft harbours generally and the reduction of funding. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans who was on the fisheries committee as an opposition member spoke of increasing funding and is now presiding over the reduction of funding. For the port of Digby this is serious. It is like Pearson and I want this government to act.

We had people last week, in the storm, leaning over a wharf, untrained for that type of thing, having to strap the bumpers so that they would not fall on their vessel. The minister must act. This motion speaks to Cornwallis and to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. I ask for the support of all members in this House.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for bringing this motion before the House today and I am very anxious to have a chance to speak on it briefly as well.

The member represents the area in which this very important institution, originally called the Pearson Peacekeeping training centre, now reduced to Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, was established. I wonder if he could give us just a thumbnail sketch around the trend of the funding for that centre.

He already referred to the fact that what was bled off initially was the marketing part of the program to Montreal and then further parts of the program to Carleton and so on. However, I wonder if he could give us a picture about the federal government's support for the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre from its earlier inception to the present because it seems to be a process of erosion that has happened.

I know that the member has focused on the economic impacts of this for the community, which are extremely important. However, there is also the fundamentally important aspect of this twinning of the economic needs and the tremendous need in the world for meaningful commitment to peacekeeping training both here in Canada for our own troops and for others, as many as 30 different countries, who avail themselves of those training programs. I wonder if he could just outline what that trend line has looked like.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the governance of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and its relationship to government is a fundamental question that has yet to be outlined and answered properly, and established in the right way.

It was established as a non-profit organization, selling its services to the Government of Canada. That causes a lot of trouble because three departmental clients fund its operations. A lot of the contracts it needs are sole-sourced type contracts to DND or to External Affairs through CIDA. Because it is not a related government department this creates problems. The government has had no problems with the defence industries.

The board of directors is made up of bureaucrats. The decision that should be taken by government in consultation with Pearson is whether or not it should be a stand-alone body or whether it should be part of either CIDA, National Defence or DFAIT. There would be arguments raised that it should be integrated within the government.

As for the financing, the original financing was for five years. Since that original financing on the operational side, the previous government has always maintained or increased the funding and created partnerships with the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre and other government departments that would buy services from the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre to ensure that it would be viable in the future.

This is the first time where we see such a drastic cut and even a terminator clause within the contract. They are saying that the funding is for three years only for part of its operations and then it will be done.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his motion and for standing up for his community.

He mentioned the Coast Guard situation. He is a former Minister of Fisheries responsible for the Coast Guard. I noted with interest that the strategic business plan for the next number of years for the Coast Guard, dated April 1, had no mention of the move of icebreakers from Dartmouth to Newfoundland. Does the member have any thoughts as to why that might not have been in the business plan?

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is only one reason why one would not find that type of an activity or a major restructuring in the business plan: it is because it is not business as usual. It is purely political in order to save the electoral future of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and maybe two members from Newfoundland. It makes no business sense whatsoever, so it would have no place of course in any business plan.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today in the House and speak about a Canadian organization which has developed a domestic and international reputation as the centre of excellence in international affairs, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre.

I listened to the member for West Nova, but I am not quite sure what he was speaking about. I think it was partially about the things that he participated in and now, as a member of the official opposition, wished he had not participated in. I am talking about allowing the ferry from St. John's to Digby to be divested to a private organization. I am talking about the wharf in Digby being divested to a private organization. I am talking about a continual lessening of funding dollars for the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre under the previous government.

I am not sure if the member said anything of relevance about the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, but he did say a number of things about a lot of other issues that he was directly involved in, such as the icebreakers that were scheduled under a previous Liberal government in 1999 being moved to Newfoundland in 2008-09 also alluded to by the member from Dartmouth. I really question how he can rewrite history because the member represented that area when the cuts were made. Now all of a sudden he takes history out of context. It is really mind boggling.

Let me get back to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. Created in 1994, the centre has built a global reputation in research, training and capacity building for peacekeeping. The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre was born in the tumultuous period in the wake of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War. The war in the Balkans was raging and increasing demands were being made on peacekeepers. The increasing demands were not just in the numbers of peacekeeping troops required, but also in the complexity of the peacekeeping challenge.

Peacekeeping was no longer a matter of observing a ceasefire across no man's land. It now required the involvement of soldiers, police officers, and an array of civilian officials such as diplomats, corrections officers, judges and lawyers, and human rights and elections monitors to stabilize and reconstruct war-torn societies. Modern conflict resolution also now involves addressing humanitarian issues and failed civil societies through the intervention of international and non-governmental organizations.

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre led the way in developing the now internationally accepted integrated multi-disciplinary approach to conflict resolution and post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction.

Let me give the House a sample of the impressive international reach and scope of the work of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. NATO is a huge player in international peace operations. It contributes troops and expertise to the peace operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as to the international security assistance force in Afghanistan where Canada is significantly involved. NATO gets its peace operations training from the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre.

The Pearson exercise training unit in Nova Scotia regularly trains two NATO rapid deployment corps headquarters, the German-Netherlands corps and the NATO rapid deployment corps-Turkey. These are big, well resourced organizations and it a testament to the professionalism of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre team that they source their peace operations training from this Canadian organization.

The European Union is playing an increasingly important role in contributing to peace operations, for example, in the Balkans and in Africa. The EU has contracted the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre to conduct the certification exercise for the deployment of the EU battle group headquarters, which is on standby for deployment to Darfur.

In July the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre has been contracted to conduct validation exercises for the doctrine supporting an initiative to eliminate child soldiers. This event will be conducted in Ghana, Africa, a continent where children have been the tragic victims of armed conflict due to child recruiting.

In February, the Pearson Centre, with federal government assistant, conducted a conference in Brasilia on developing an integrated approach to the critical Haiti peace operation called MINUSTAH. Brazil was a major contributor of troops to MINUSTAH and Canada has some 80 to 100 Canadian police officers serving, as well as corrections officers to bring stability to that troubled country.

The Pearson Centre took the initiative to partner with Brazil and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs to bring together government ministers and officials, UN headquarters officers and MINUSTAH officials.

All concerned expressed their satisfaction with the outcomes. Most noteworthy was the statement by the Haitian minister that in his experience it was a useful opportunity for the Haitian government to interact with MINUSTAH officials and other stakeholders to discuss the country's future.

I also want to say a word about the scope of the impact that the Pearson Centre has within Canada, something in which the hon. member for West Nova might actually be interested.

It is of note that as we speak the Pearson Centre is conducting a round table on United Nations peacekeeping doctrine, which is drawing to Ottawa UN officials, peacekeeping petitioners, government officials from foreign affairs, national defence, CIDA and other departments, as well as academics and eminent Canadians in the peacekeeping world. Doctrine development is an important dimension of UN peacekeeping reform.

In March of this year, at the Canadian War Museum, and again with federal government assistance, the Pearson Centre conducted a model mission of a typical UN peace operation. The event served to introduce some 130 university students from across Canada to the complexities of the processes and the diversity of the players in modern UN peace operations.

Eminent Canadian peacekeeper, General Lewis MacKenzie, was the lead participant. The event was highly successful and the centre is considering repeating the event to reach even more students.

I trust that in the last few minutes I have been able to give members some idea of why I am honoured to speak on the subject of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. It is an exciting and innovative Canadian institution that is doing important work and is directly relevant to Canada's foreign policy priorities. Its work resonates with Canadians who are interested in Canada's place in the world.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to speak proudly about this motion that our colleague defended proudly, of course, although he had less to say about some of this centre's benefits, which I will address.

The Pearson centre was created at a time when the world was changing. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, or after the collapse of the Soviet empire, there was a need to train not only soldiers, but also all the people who could work on what we called peacekeeping missions. This need grew.

So the needs of the community affected by the closing of the Cornwallis base, along with the needs of Canadian foreign policy, led to the creation of the Canadian Pearson Centre at that time. In Cornwallis, there was a military base, some parts of which had to be rebuilt, renovated and transformed because they were most certainly no longer adequate for receiving soldiers, officers and people from all over the world, from the 55 countries with which Canada has international agreements.

So we agree that the centre was created at a time and for a purpose that was and that is extremely important.

It has been said repeatedly here today that peacekeeping missions are no longer the same, that the preparation of our soldiers must be more rigorous, or in any case, must prepare them to play a part in more dangerous situations. We can acknowledge this fact, but it does not mean that peacekeeping missions are not essential. I think the opposite is true, since they are in a process of transformation. People from the centre who have acquired experience and helped train many soldiers, officers and other personnel in various capacities know this. They have contributed to this transformation or can contribute to it.

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre therefore fits perfectly into this desire to maintain peace, as we are doing at this time in many countries around the world that truly need it. As we all know, there is also a need in many other countries.

When the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre was established in Cornwallis, and when it later expanded with two more offices in Montreal and Ottawa, the Bloc Québécois was thrilled and gave its support.

I would remind the House that the centre has always had funding problems and that, originally, it was supposed to become self-financing. We looked for centres of that nature, centres that are self-financing, but found none.

I would like to point out that, just two years after the centre was established, the Auditor General told the government of the day that it should give some thought to the centre's ability to self-finance. Indeed, the tremendous constraints imposed on the centre must be considered, as well as the fact that the preparation of officers and soldiers for peacekeeping missions in many countries around the world can be very costly and can require more funding than initially anticipated. This is why it is so difficult to plan the budgets, which can be sizeable.

The Bloc Québécois was pleased last March when the Conservative government—to the relief of many—decided to allocate $13.8 million over three years, from March 2007 to March 2010, to the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre.

This amount is for basic infrastructure: salaries, leases, hydro, etc. However, it is not for funding programs. In other words, if the Department of National Defence, for example, does not award the contract of some $2 million budgeted for officer training, the Pearson Centre will not be able to provide this training, even though it is fully equipped to do so. There is a good chance it would have to close its doors.

Some officials, some people in the military think that these sessions could be given in the Ottawa area instead. I understand the hon. member for West Nova when he says he does not understand why we could not continue to send to this centre, which is rather exceptional for its concentration and its simulation facilities, everyone—officers, soldiers or others—who needs training. Why not continue to send them to Cornwallis? I have not been there, but I am told it is quite nice.

We have to realize what is at stake. The basic infrastructure of the Pearson Centre is not at stake, but the programs are. It seems they are at stake not just for Cornwallis, but also for Montreal and possibly for Ottawa. It is extremely important for us and for all those, like the Bloc Québécois, who believe in the need for this centre, to know whether this withdrawal from program funding will occur elsewhere as well. This would be the beginning of a slow death for the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. We do not want to let the Cornwallis base die in its new capacity. Nor do we want this highly important, Montreal-based expertise to disappear. Furthermore, a number of professors from Montreal and elsewhere have contributed to training sessions in Africa. They are the ones who go to the foreign countries. This training and these programs are also extremely important.

I want to thank the hon. member for presenting this motion in this House. The members from the Bloc Québécois want to assure him of our support.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to comment further on the motion introduced by my colleague, the member for West Nova.

The previous speaker really hit the nail on the head in recognizing that the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre at Cornwallis in Deep Brook was a very important institution in the first instance.

There is a major concern which is widely shared not just by Canadians but by others who used to respect Canada as a meaningful peacekeeper and peace builder in the world as to whether Canada is seriously committed to that role any more. It is not a pretty picture what people draw about Canada in many parts of the world today. Those who watch closely see some of the contradictions in Canada's position, in that we bow to the peace altar, but what we actually do is a contradiction to what really needs to be done.

As this debate goes on in this place, the NPT PrepCom meetings are happening this week in Vienna. Canada will take part, as it has done again and again, in discussions about how we are going to prevent the world from annihilation through nuclear proliferation. Canada will say it is very much in support of the NPT. As a signator of the non-proliferation treaty, it commits us to serious abolition of nuclear weapons. However, at the same time Canada will be there waving the flag of NATO.

NATO and many countries in NATO are serious violators of the provisions of the NPT. By association and by being part of the NATO family, we become partners, and hypocrites really, in the exercise of saying we are serious about maintaining peace and literally the survival of the human race, but we are also signators to the many violations taking place among our partners in NATO.

It is sad but true that the previous Liberal government and now the current Conservative government have been quite prepared for the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre to be on life support since its inception. It was a brilliant, creative response to the closure of the Cornwallis base in the first instance to understand the desperate need for leadership in peacekeeping and peace building in the world today. We must recognize that the wiping out of 700 jobs is devastating to that economy. It was seen as a partnership and a coming together of interlocking needs to put forward this proposal.

I have to commend the original authors of that, who, in collaboration with the community, joined community needs with the government's responsibilities to put this forward. Erika Simpson and Peter Langille were very instrumental in this in the first instance.

What is sad is that the Auditor General within a year or two had already commented that the centre's long term viability was going to be very much in question. This was from a pure economic point of view. The previous Liberal government moved further and further away from taking any real responsibility not just for the economic viability of that centre, but for the integrity and the comprehensiveness of the peacekeeping and peace building mission that drove the vision in the first place.

Part of the backdrop that has unfolded has been sort of a Greek tragedy in a way for Canada and the world. Canada has been a major contributor to peacekeeping in the world. Canada used to be in the top 10 year after year, but Canada has now so eroded our commitment as participants in peacekeeping that we are now, I think, 57th among nations contributing to peacekeeping in the world.

Some people may say they have already heard the messages from Rick Hillier, from the finance minister and, I think by implication, from the Prime Minister that peacekeeping is not that important in the world anymore. Both of the previous speakers quite correctly pointed out that the original notion of peacekeeping as just maintaining a truce between two parties to an agreement has very much expanded into a broader notion of peace building in all of its complexity. The world has never been more desperate for leadership in this area.

It is a source of pride to Canadians, and if I may say so, particularly Canadian women, that the new head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission is a Canadian woman. She has had a distinguished career in public service with CIDA, with United Nations development programs, and ultimately in a tremendous demonstration and example of a meaningful, complex peace building process in Burundi.

We know there is more and more need for this. Why? Because most conflicts today cannot be solved by military means. There is a desperate need for a security element in peace building. What is absolutely clear, and we have heard it from our own Prime Minister, our own defence minister, and from Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, is that in Afghanistan it is acknowledged that there is no military solution. What is needed is a comprehensive peace building process.

The reality is that the world is desperate for this kind of leadership. What did the previous Liberal government do? It started dismembering it, like a slow process of amputation. Fortunately the human body can sometimes survive amputations. We bring massive medical know-how to bear and the human body sometimes is able to respond to this kind of trauma. But the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Nova Scotia has not been surviving the systematic dismembering that has been happening, and the withdrawal of government support on anything but a commercial basis, and now the withdrawal of the needed economic support to have assured its long term viability.

I hope, at the very least in this minority government that maybe we could see some leadership. I hope that all parties could come together to say that we have to recommit to peacekeeping and to complex, comprehensive peace building in a serious way. There will be no solution to Afghanistan until we do that.

If I may, I would like to make a challenge to my colleagues from Nova Scotia, several of whom are in the House for this debate. At the very least I would hope across party lines that we could recognize that Nova Scotia could continue to be a leader in terms of peacekeeping and peace building, but it is going to require pulling together to make that happen.

In conclusion, it is a commentary on Canada's hypocrisy in the world today that we say on the one hand that we are really committed to the NPT, and on the other hand we say that we can be partners in NATO which is violating member countries' obligations left, right and centre.

Let us tackle this as a comprehensive issue, one of the great questions of our time. Let us do it perhaps by looking at some creative partnerships between the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and the Pugwash Peace Exchange, which is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. The synergy between those two could put us on the map as meaning what we say about Canada being committed to peace building and peacekeeping in today's world.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion presented by my colleague from West Nova. As we all know, he is a very dedicated member of Parliament committed to his region and is a valuable member of the Liberal caucus. He is respected by all members. He was also an excellent minister for ACOA and the fisheries in the previous Liberal government.

It is unfortunate that he has had to present this motion today. As other speakers have indicated, at a time when peacekeeping and international diplomacy are so necessary, the government seems to be in the process of phasing out the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia.

The Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Training Centre, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, was established in 1994 with a goal to be a world leader in peacekeeping. It is appropriately named after Prime Minister Pearson. Among Lester Pearson's many achievements were the introduction of student loans, universal health care in Canada, the Canadian pension fund and the Canadian flag. His efforts in defusing the Suez Canal crisis stand out as a crowning achievement and earned him the Nobel Prize.

He placed Canada on the map as an important middle power, a power that sought peaceful solutions to difficult and complex issues in the world. In subsequent years, Canada became known as a nation of peacekeepers, a distinction that is reflective of Canadian values.

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre located in Cornwallis seeks to continue his legacy. The centre teaches and trains those who serve in conflict zones around the world. They bring together military, civilian and police personnel for the purpose of learning to resolve conflict through peace and security.

For the people of Cornwallis the establishment of this centre followed a painful closure of CFB Cornwallis in the early 1990s. I am familiar with that from the closure of Shearwater, which is very near Dartmouth and closed at around the same time. It took some innovation and creativity for local people to spur the economic activity that followed those difficult times.

Now we have the Annapolis Basin Conference Centre. We have Acadian Seaplants, a huge international success story, operated by Louis Deveau and now his son J.P. Deveau, with an office and plant in Cornwallis, plants around rural Nova Scotia and an office in my own constituency of Dartmouth. They have leveraged Canadian knowledge in a previously underexploited resource and are doing very well. We also have the Lifeplex.

At this point in time when we have a successful entity, why is this happening? It is not a financial crisis. Is the government in deficit? No. The Liberals solved the $42 billion financial crisis left by the last Conservative government. Why in an era of surpluses does the government continue to cut back on important areas like the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre? Unfortunately, it is a pattern with the government and it is a pattern that is not good for the province of Nova Scotia. Would this centre be closed if it were named after Preston Manning, one wonders. I doubt it.

The lack of support for the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre is another assault on Nova Scotia. I do not want to go through the Atlantic accords. My colleague mentioned them and has been through them, but there are changing stories on the Atlantic accords. First, we were told not to worry, that the accords were still there, and then no, they are not there, but it is actually a better deal. Then we were told it is not really a better deal but we would get a choice of two deals. Now the government is negotiating to save face in some way.

There are lots of things needed in Nova Scotia. The Atlantic gateway is very important. Again it should not be a choice of that or the Atlantic accord. They should both be judged on their merits. One should not be penalized for the other.

Most recently there was the moving of two Coast Guard vessels, two icebreakers, from Dartmouth in my riding to Newfoundland. Conveniently, one ship straddles one riding held by two Conservative members and the other ship has gone to another constituency held by a Conservative. My colleague from South Shore—St. Margaret's said that this had been in the planning since 1997 and asked who was upset about it. A number of people are.

In fact, Mr. Stewart Klebert went public. He happens to be the commanding officer of one of the icebreakers. In a letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, he said among other things:

The recent announcement that both the CCGS Terry Fox and the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent will be transferred to Newfoundland Region has hit this region like a ton of bricks. It was completely unexpected and the justification for this move is supported by extremely weak rationale. I would venture to say that there has been no impact study for the vessel, the people or the region--

Another letter that showed up in The Chronicle Herald is from David Marsh, a retired superintendent of the Coast Guard, who said among other things:

This move would not show any enhancement in coast guard operations....when operating icebreakers, the fuel saving is minimal when considering transit in open waters as compared to icebreaking activities.

He closed by saying:

I would ask the minister to reconsider his decision to redeploy [the icebreakers]...considering the “facts” are flawed and the damage is...irreparable.

Somebody else was caught by surprise, too. Although the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's said everybody was surprised, the following week he said, “When I first heard that the boats were going I had some concerns”. He did not know about it either, and he is the chair of the fisheries committee. However, he is not the only one who did not know. The workers and the union did not know. Even regional management of the Coast Guard was not considered.

On April 1, a draft business plan for the next three years for the Coast Guard was put forward. There was no mention of the redeployment. Even today, when I was coming here this morning, I noticed in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald a letter from an L.G. Meisner, captain Coast Guard, retired, Lunenburg. He says, among other things:

This move is a disaster on a purely operational basis and only the next federal polls will determine if it was an acceptable political one.

It is a pattern. Nova Scotia has not done well under the government. Is Nova Scotia being penalized? I do not know.

The member for South Shore—St. Margaret's is a good enough guy. The member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley is a great guy, but he is a little out of step with the government. I do not think they have even been considered. The federal minister responsible should be standing up for Nova Scotia on the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre as well as the Coast Guard and the abject betrayal of the Atlantic accord.

The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, in the riding of the very hon. member for West Nova, provides a valuable service to Canadian peacekeepers at a time in our history when we need to enhance and ensure that our image as peacekeepers is real and maintained around the world. When we are doing work that could be enhanced by the work of people who could be trained in Cornwallis, it is a shame, it is unconscionable and it is unacceptable. I urge all members of the House to support my colleague and this motion today.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre is recognized internationally as a leading centre of excellence in its field. Since its beginnings, the PPC has trained over 10,000 foreign military, police and civilians from 140 countries and has delivered courses in 31 countries. Pearson graduates can be found in key posts around the world.

I will focus my comments today on the outstanding work the Pearson Centre is doing in Africa, in support of the Prime Minister's commitment with his G-8 colleagues at St. Petersburg to enhance global capacity for peace operations with a focus on that continent.

The Pearson Centre engagement in Africa began with the CIDA funded Programme de développement des capacités en maintien de la paix et sécurité launched at the Summit of la Francophonie in Moncton in 1999. Through this initiative, programs and curricula were developed that strengthened the capacity of thousands of Francophone African military officers, civilian police and civilians to take part in peace operations.

There is an established and urgent need for well-trained, French speaking personnel to work in major peace missions around the world in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Burundi and Côte d'Ivoire. The Pearson Centre's history of training assistance in Africa, as well as its bilingual ability to provide training assistance in both French and English, enables it to effectively respond to this requirement.

The Pearson Centre is also working to expand the training capacity of regional training institutions in Africa such as the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana as well as at l'École de Maintien de la Paix in Mali that play an important role in building African capacity to manage conflict and face future crises. Within the space of a few years and with the support provided by the Pearson Centre, the Kofi Annan centre has emerged as a state of the art and internationally recognized training facility.

The Pearson Centre is also a key partner of Mali's École de Maintien de la Paix, EMP, where it provides, with federal government assistance, about one-third of the school's instructional program. Since the EMP early beginnings, upwards of 1,400 African officers have been trained with the support of the Pearson Centre. Officers leave the school with a greatly enhanced knowledge of modern multidisciplinary peace operations, thus increasing their ability and those of the forces in which they serve to contribute effectively to peace operations in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

Another area where the Pearson Centre is having a tremendous impact in Africa is in helping to meet the growing demand for civilian police, or CIVPOL, in peace operations.

International police peacekeeping is an essential component of Canada's engagement in building a more secure world through stabilizing failed and fragile states.

Over time, not only the number of UN police has substantially increased, but as with other elements of peacekeeping missions, mission mandates have evolved significantly from simple monitoring activities to active engagement in implementing the rule of law such as executive policing in places like Kosovo and East Timor, to direct participation in assisting post-conflict stabilization, peace building and security sector reform such as in Haiti.

It is estimated by the United Nations that there will be a need for up to 29,610 trained civilian police over the next five years due to the current surge in peacekeeping. The Pearson Centre is making tremendous headway in addressing this challenge.

Through the West African police project, or WAPP, the Pearson Centre is strengthening the capacity of six west African countries, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone as well as the Economic Community of West African States to provide civilian police to peace operations. Since the project began in 2005, CIVPOL deployments from these countries have more than doubled.

Supporting greater integration of women into peace operations is called for by United Nations Security Council resolution 1325. Such results, to Canada's credit, are being noticed internationally. The United Nations and others have called for the expansion of the Pearson Centre programming in Africa.

The Pearson Centre serves Canadian foreign policy interests through its training and capacity building assistance in Africa. It further serves to demonstrate Canada's commitment to integrated multi-disciplinary international peace operations. It is for this reason that successive governments have provided the Pearson Centre with core funding since its creation in 1994, as well as specific program funding assistance ever since.

I will address the remarks of the hon. member for Halifax for just a moment. She and her colleagues of the New Democratic Party will never understand the concept of peace through strength.

I point out for her that the NATO family, which she is so quick to denigrate and so happy to denigrate every chance she gets, was responsible for keeping the nuclear annihilation, of which she fears rightly, at bay throughout world war three, which, as we call it, was the Cold War. We won that war. We won it without firing a shot. We won it by peace through strength. There were a lot of losses suffered, many of whom were friends of mine. We did not fire a shot and it was done by peace through strength.

Despite the prevalence of inhumanity and terrorism, there are still opportunities for Pearsonian style peacekeeping. There are still sacrifices to be made.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge today the loss yesterday of Corporal Benoit Chevalier, the Canadian peacekeeper who was lost in the Sinai, with eight French peacekeepers, in the crash of an aircraft.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning...We will remember them”.

Pearson Peacekeeping CentrePrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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.

The House resumed from April 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, An Act to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

When we last considered Bill C-43, there were six minutes left for questions and comments to the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington. I think he is ready to respond to a question from the hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was not so much a question that the hon. member was putting forth as it was a comment. We had been engaged in a discussion much more heated than is normal between the hon. member and myself because we normally get on very well together. It was over the record of Mr. Broadbent, the former member for Ottawa Centre. I think the member misinterpreted me as being inappropriately disrespectful of Mr. Broadbent.

While I think it was a misinterpretation, I have no doubt that it was a sincere misinterpretation based on a legitimate desire to protect the reputation of a remarkable parliamentarian.

Therefore, I want to take the opportunity to say that while I had not intended to be disrespectful, if that misinterpretation was made, I understand it. However, I want to be clear that I was not being disrespectful. I have a very high regard for Mr. Broadbent, who disagrees with me on a number of issues, including some issues relating to the Senate, electoral reform and the whole democracy package, but who has these disagreements from a very sincere and principled point of view.

When my time ran out, I went over to the hon. member and indicated to him that I would make these comments when debate resumed. I want to ensure that is on the record.

The other thing I want to mention is there is nothing like having a week's break in the middle of a response. I did a little checking and it turned out that I had made an inaccurate statement regarding the minimum age at which people could serve in the Senate. I said it was 35. I am getting relatively advanced in years myself and we can make these slip-ups from time to time. Actually age 30 is the minimum age at which a person can serve in the Senate.

The point I was trying to make at that time, however, is still valid. The bill attempts to deal in a non-constitutional way with the issue of making the Senate more democratic. We have de facto elections referred to, as the Constitution requires, as consultations. We cannot change certain things about the Senate without a formal constitutional amendment, and one of those is the minimum age at which people can serve in the Senate, which is a provision that remains in place. This was the reason for bringing up the issue at that time.

By contrast, it would be possible for individuals to be elected under separate legislation, which is before the Senate right now, Bill S-4. It would make it possible for people to serve pass the age of 75 if the Senate itself ever made a decision to allow that constitutional amendment to go forward.

I point out that Bill S-4 has now been sitting before the Senate for almost a full year, despite the fact that it has only about 60 or 70 words.

Therefore, if I could take this opportunity to encourage the Senators to move a little more quickly than they have been doing in order to forward the cause of democracy in the Senate, I think they would be doing Canada a great service.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy the interventions of the hon. member in the House, especially in the areas of his expertise. That is why I would like to ask him to enlighten the House. I know he has quite a background in constitutional affairs. In fact, I enjoyed a presentation by him the other day when we were at an electoral reform meeting.

The bill has come under attack by some constitutional experts who have suggested it is unconstitutional. Yet other constitutional experts have suggested it is? Could the member enlighten the general public on both sides of the view of the constitutionality of the bill?

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not mean to be difficult but was the hon. member referring to Bill S-4 or Bill C-43?

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Bill C-43.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I must admit that I have not been aware of any credible arguments that it is not constitutional. This legislation successfully attempts to skirt the constitution by limiting itself and by not actually calling for the election of senators, which would be democratic but not constitutional because it would violate the constitutionally enshrined principle that senators are appointed by the Governor General.

However, they are appointed, and this is a convention that has sprung up in Canada since Confederation, on the advice of the prime minister. Therefore, if the prime minister's advice is guided by the choice of voters choosing to make a recommendation under the Senate Appointment Consultations Act, that would be constitutionally permitted.

We do have two precedents for this. One is the recent announcement of the appointment of Bert Brown, who was elected through a consultative election in the province of Alberta, to the Senate. Nobody is contesting the constitutionality of that. The second one was the appointment a decade ago of Stan Waters to the Senate by the Governor General on the advice of Prime Minister Mulroney after being elected in a similar manner in the province of Alberta.

I think the constitutional scholarship would all be on one side that in fact this is entirely constitutional by acting as a piece of legislation and being truly advisory.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-43, An Act to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate.

One of the reasons I am interested in being here today is that in a previous life I was parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for democratic reform. I also sat with the previous hon. member on the procedure and House affairs committee where I had the opportunity to travel with Ed Broadbent to several countries in Europe to establish a process on how we could study democratic reform here in Canada. It, therefore, is something I am very interested in but I also feel that the bill could be entitled “how to fulfill your electoral promises while not engaging in any of the significant constitutional changes that you promised”.

Before going further, let us start by understanding what the Senate does. To function well, any independent state needs a system of checks and balances, mechanisms to ensure that all political decisions are in the best interests of the population and all citizens.

The Canadian Senate is our checks and balances. Senators are there to provide sober second thought on the work done by the House of Commons and, since senators are not subject to the vagaries of elections, they can track issues over a longer period of time than can members of Parliament. Canadian senators can contribute to indepth studies by Senate committees on public issues, such as health care in Canada, illegal drugs, deregulation of the Canadian airline industry and urban aboriginal youth.

Furthermore, the wide range of experience of Canadian senators, who include former Canadian provincial premiers, cabinet ministers, business people from many Canadian economic sectors and respected Canadians from all walks of life, provide substantial expertise to these investigations. Senators also represent regional, provincial and minority interests that tend to be overlooked in the House of Commons. Therefore, the Senate is like the watchdog of Canadian politics, but it is a lot more than that.

I will attest to that from my own personal experience. When I first came here as a member of Parliament some five years ago, at my first meeting of the northern western caucus I had an opportunity to meet Senators Dan Hays, Jack Austin and Jack Wiebe from Saskatchewan. I had the preconceptions that probably many Canadians have, that senators are not necessarily that useful and are not doing much of a job. However, after that first meeting with them, my whole concept of the Senate and the quality of the people completely changed.

What I found with the people I just named and those with whom we share the second House is that they have a huge passion for their regions and provinces. Members of Parliament obviously do but our knowledge is limited to our ridings. However, I do not believe we could find better people who have a better understanding and a better perception of what is going on in their province or region as a whole than those senators.

I would like to name a few people and talk about the actual work they have done on certain files. In Manitoba, for instance, Senator Carstairs is now one of the world authorities on palliative care. She is asked to speak everywhere in the world. I know she travels a lot and is asked to go all over Europe to speak on palliative care. It is very important for us to have people like her representing Canada. When she is out there, she is speaking on behalf of the Canadian Parliament and we are very proud of that.

I look at Mobina Jaffer and her fight for Darfur. It is extremely important to have Ms. Jaffer representing us on Darfur.

I think of Roméo Dallaire. Can anyone think of a better person to have in terms of someone who knows about genocide and about the tough areas in the world? He has been a wealth of information. His credibility on the world stage is second to none. Those are the kinds of people we have in the Senate who are providing leadership and advice to both Houses.

On the cultural side, we have people like Andrée Champagne and Viola Léger who have contributed incredibly on the cultural side. We also have Hugh Segal and Norm Atkins. I could go on forever. The quality of the people in the Senate is varied, it is solid and they make a very strong contribution to Parliament as a whole.

For decades, discussions have taken place and studies have been undertaken on the need to reform the Senate. Some have simply asked for the total abolition of the Senate, pleading that the Senate accomplishes nothing. The leader of the Reform Party, Preston Manning, campaigned for a triple E Senate: effective, equal and elected. Many asked for a better representation of British Columbia and Alberta in the Senate.

Canada has undergone many major demographic shifts since the 1970s and it is easy to understand why a major reform of the Senate is needed. However, let us face it, as we say, “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. If the government is not willing to fully go ahead with a true, complete and real reform of the Senate, which requires wide consultation with the provinces and the ever perilous road to constitutional amendment, then it should not try to use smoke and mirrors to project the image that it does care about Senate reform, as it is trying to do with Bill C-43.

When I was referring to our study in Europe on democratic reform, my Conservative colleagues who were with me will certainly confirm that nobody thought we should be doing democratic reform on a piecemeal basis. Every country we visited told us that whatever we did we should ensure to analyze everything because by changing one thing we could affect another. That is extremely important to note and that is one of the reasons we think this legislation is not very serious.

Our government structure is based on the British parliamentary system and if we were to take one piece away, it would affect something else negatively. I am not sure all the repercussions have been examined and explored. We live in a very successful democracy right now. Our system does seem to be working fairly well. Is there a better democracy in the world than Canada? Someone would need to name them because I think we have been very successful over our last 125 to 130 years as a country.

The reality is that Bill C-43 contains no real reform for the Senate. The bill is full of flaws and has an extraordinarily high potential to create awkward, bizarre situations. Even from a Conservative partisan perspective, the bill is far less than what the Conservatives promised and it actually creates more problems than it solves.

Let us be frank. The Conservative government is not really seeking reform with Bill C-43. It simply wishes to keep an old Conservative promise made to its political base without taking the time to truly reform the Senate. Once again it is unfortunate that this government is putting its own election platform ahead of real reforms that would benefit all Canadians.

Once again it is a question of perception.

It reminds me of the Federal Accountability Act. The Conservatives have been talking about the accountability act as the best thing since sliced bread.

In fact, when we start looking at the details and we start at looking at what is going on within the accountability act, we are finding certain things. For instance, part of the backbone of the accountability act was the public appointments commission. It would be a commission with people and guidelines in place to make sure that when we nominated people to certain appointments, it would be a fair, just and transparent process. But in fact, literally hundreds of people have been named over the last little while and there is no public appointments commission yet.

When we ask the President of the Treasury Board why that is so, he will just say that it is a complicated issue and it takes time. But Canadians are not fooled by that. They know that the Conservatives need to bring in their 300, 400 or 500 Conservative crony appointments before they can do this. That is what is sad. It is all about smoke and mirrors when they do this kind of thing. But the Canadian public is getting wise and they are seeing that this accountability act is not real .

I think we are seeing similarities here with Bill C-43. The Conservatives always speak against the Senate, that the Senate is not effective, that it does not do its job. But in fact when it serves their purpose, all of a sudden the Senate is allowable. Mr. Fortier was brought in as a minister through the Senate and all of a sudden that is acceptable and that is okay. So, there are certainly some major double standards here.

Bill C-43 is about trying to deal with constitutional matters without touching the Constitution. It cannot be done, clearly. Bill C-43 will not do it. In fact, some might even question the constitutionality of this proposed bill. I know my colleague asked that exact question a few minutes ago. I am sure there are experts right now who are not sure if this bill is constitutional.

Even if Bill C-43 is adopted, the Prime Minister will have full power to appoint whoever he wants to the Senate, as we saw last week. The Prime Minister is already choosing senators based on public consultations, as he did last week by appointing Bert Brown. I know my colleague spoke to that a few minutes ago.

This is nothing new or revolutionary. Almost 20 years ago Brian Mulroney appointed Stan Waters based on the result of a public consultation in Alberta. So, clearly, there is nothing new in Bill C-43 and it is not what it is all hyped up to be.

With the adoption of Bill C-43, the government would consult the population with regard to Senate candidates, but it would not make these consultations binding, like true elections. There is always a condition there and that has a lot of people very upset. Again, it is about smoke and mirrors. It is about the perception that the Conservatives are making real changes but in the end the Prime Minister will have the final decision as to who gets named.

This means that if the Prime Minister disagrees with the winner of one of these Senate consultations, he could technically ignore the result and appoint whoever he wants. This is not how democracy works. This is not a true elected Senate. Even more troubling is that it could create awkward situations where an elected senator is not appointed to the Senate by the Prime Minister. But for the government it is about, again, smoke and mirrors, making people think that they are making meaningful change, but it is not reality.

Do not get me wrong. I fully support reforming Canada's Senate. But on this side of the House, we believe true Senate reform needs to reflect some public policy while respecting the Constitution. The Liberal Party believes in democratic reforms. We believe in concrete, complete and real democratic reforms. It is just unfortunate that Bill C-43 is not such a reform.

Once again, I refer the members to the study we did, I believe it was last year. Half of the procedure and House affairs committee travelled to Australia, I believe, and the other half to Europe. I was on the European trip. The advice we had from people who had done some major democratic reform was not to do it piecemeal. We were told to ensure that it is very comprehensive. I am very concerned. My Conservatives colleagues who were on that trip with us heard that as well and it seems to me that they are not listening to the advice that we received from a lot of experts.

If this government truly wants to reform the Senate, my party would be happy to collaborate and ensure a real and complete Senate reform is put forward. But true Senate reform needs to address a number of issues that are totally ignored by Bill C-43.

I believe the Senate needs to represent all provinces and territories and give a voice to those who do not have one. Regional representation is extremely important, but the process of electing senators, particularly in large provinces, would be unwieldy and would give unprecedented influence to large urban areas over small communities.

In the United States, senators such as Patrick Leahy of Vermont and the late Edmund Muskie of Maine have clearly shown how regional representation is important. Although they have come from tiny states, they have had a voice in the American senate.

Unfortunately, Bill C-43 totally ignores provincial and regional equity. It weakens the voice of provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta, as those two provinces currently have fewer senators than the population warrants. It seems that this would be a major concern to some of our current Conservative colleagues from western Canada.

Alberta and B.C. have been growing disproportionately and we now have an inequity when it comes to representation in the Senate. It seems to me that this is the kind of thing that should be included in any change that we make. We cannot just leave that aside and deal with one issue when the other one is brewing as well. That is what we are talking about when we say that we are not dealing with the whole issue.

Perhaps more troubling is the fact that no consultations with the provinces and territories were held prior to the introduction of Bill C-43. So far both the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have already come out against the idea of piecemeal Senate reform and so did Yukon. I am sure that is why my hon. colleague from Yukon is here sitting beside me. He wants to make sure that his territory is well represented in the bill.

When the government does not have the approval of Ontario and Quebec, those are substantially big provinces that are missing. When such considerable changes are being contemplated to the way that Parliament functions, we would think that there would be a buy-in from the big players. Actually, the government should have it from all the players, if possible, but when Quebec and Ontario say that they do not agree, then the government has a problem.

In addition, provincial Senate elections would be very detrimental to candidates from minority groups. The issue is very important and particularly disturbing for Manitoba. My province has a large number of anglophones and francophones are a very small minority. If senators are elected for the entire province, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Franco-Manitoban senate candidates to get elected. It will be almost impossible, given their numbers, to get an Acadian senator elected in Nova Scotia, for example, or in Alberta.

Since Confederation, Manitoba has had a francophone senator. For the Franco-Manitoban community, this has been vital. There is usually only one francophone MP and rarely are there two. There is usually one francophone MP serving all of western Canada. At present, we also have Senator Chaput from Manitoba and Senator Tardif from Edmonton. These additional representatives are of extraordinary assistance in supporting the efforts of francophone communities and francophone MPs from the west, who are attempting to support all their fellow citizens but who nevertheless have large francophone communities in their ridings.

I am thinking of Gildas Molgat, former Speaker of the Senate. He was one of the longest-serving Speakers of the Senate, and an extraordinary person. His term was renewed. I think he was the only person who served two terms, but I am not positive. He was well respected by all his colleague in both Houses. Mr. Molgat came from the small town of Sainte-Rose-du-Lac. With a small francophone minority, it would have been very surprising for him to have been elected. We believe that we would lose out on having people like Gildas Molgat.

I would like to come back to Claudette Tardif, former rector of Campus Saint-Jean and a invaluable asset to the Senate. If the Senate wants to really fulfil its mission and represent all regions of the country and all communities, all Canadians and official language minority communities must be represented in the Senate. The situation is not exclusive to the country's francophones. It would also be the case for the Métis, aboriginals and representatives of cultural communities, not to mention people from rural areas, who, statistically speaking, have fewer candidates in elections.

Senators from the Northwest Territories and Yukon sit on our northern and western caucus. They represent their region and represent, for example, the interests of Inuit, aboriginal, first nations and Métis people. If we had an elected Senate, these elements could disappear, and this is very worrisome. I think going from the current Senate—which is regional and representative of Canada's cultural diversity—to a more or less male and homogenous Senate, as the House of Commons now is unfortunately, would not necessarily be a step forward.

As for limits to senators' terms, I support maximum non-renewable terms. This would still enable the Senate to benefit from the wisdom and experience of seasoned senators while ensuring a good flow of new ideas and vision from newly elected senators.

There are many flaws in the bill and important items completely left out from Bill C-43. In some, the question we must address today is how to reform the Senate.

The Conservatives are proposing a piecemeal deal that will actually aggravate the problem of potential deadlock between the two houses of Parliament while increasing partisanship in the Senate. I really do not think they thought this scenario through.

On our side of the House in my party what we want and what we stand for is real Senate reform that would consider a wide number of critical issues: first, selection process and term; second, mandate; and third, fair distribution. We support Senate reform that would actually resolve problems instead of creating new ones. We support a reform that would better Canadian politics, not create deadlock between the House and the Senate.

This Prime Minister thrives on division and discord, not unity and harmony. This is but another example of that. Once again, the government is standing up for a partisan perception and image, rather than for a fairer and better Canada for all its citizens.

Unfortunately, Bill C-43 is just one more example of the government spending months taking its right-wing base of support for granted, and then trying to please it to keep it on its side.

Before tabling an act to provide for consultation with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate, I suggest the government consult with the provinces on their preferences for Senate reforms. Perhaps this way we could see the Conservatives introduce real, concrete and complete Senate reform, rather than the piecemeal bill we have before us with Bill C-43.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague. That was a very good speech, informative with some very good points.

I agree with him on the general thrust, which may come as a surprise to some, that the government is one that likes to bash the Senate, that likes to say the Senate does not have any role, and it brings back and forth into the House things that the Conservatives think brings the Senate into disrepute, yet are quite happy to use the Senate when they want to.

The appointment of Mr. Fortier to the Senate just after the last election being obviously a case in point. The Conservatives said they needed this guy. He did not run. He did not want to inconvenience himself to run, but wanted to be in the Senate and take that position, so they did that.

The government leader in the Senate, Senator LeBreton, is one of the chief attack dogs on issues. She is often out in the media talking about issues and occasionally making up stuff. That is how the Conservatives use the Senate on occasion. I think that is kind of wrong.

One of the things I found out when I came here, and I will be very honest, was that most Canadians do not know that actually there is some very good work done at the Senate. Anybody who has seen the Kirby report on health care or more recently on mental health, that is incredibly valuable work. The work the Senate has done on defence, for example, and the report on CIDA about international assistance is some great work.

I may be a little partial. I have a great senator, Senator Cordy, who comes from my community of Dartmouth.

I have had a lot of discussions with people about the Senate. Like my colleague, I am very open to reforms to the Senate that make sense, that take into account consultations.

The province of New Brunswick has also indicated that it does not want to go along with this kind of piecemeal, ad hoc approach to Senate reform.

My colleague talked about minority populations and how this might impact them. I am not sure if he mentioned Nova Scotia, but if he did, I would like to ask him what the implications might be for piecemeal Senate reform on a francophone population, a minority population. We have had francophone senators from Nova Scotia. It is very possible we might not if reform of the Senate goes on as the government might see it. I would like to ask him his view on what might happen in a province like Nova Scotia.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's remarks. I did mention Nova Scotia. What I said was that it would be virtually impossible for a person in a minority situation like Nova Scotia's or Manitoba's or anywhere in western Canada to get elected from an official languages community, a minority community. It would be extremely difficult.

What if we did not have these people representing the interests of these smaller communities? In Manitoba, for instance, the francophone community is about 4% of the population; we are not talking about 20%, 30% or 33% like we are in New Brunswick. Provinces like Nova Scotia and Manitoba are down to 3%, 4% and 5%. To have those people there--and not only representing one's interest because they are there for more than that--means that they understand the dynamics of the communities out there, and it is important to have them there.

Under this new proposal, it basically would be whoever wins the majority. I am thinking of our colleagues from Nunavut, who come to our weekly meetings and talk to us about their issues with fishing and with guns, for instance, and all the issues specific to their communities, such as poverty and housing. I think of how invaluable that is to our caucuses, not only on a minority basis but I think on a reasonable basis as well.

There are people such as Senator Dan Hays, who was phenomenal. We were very sad to lose Mr. Hays and also to lose Jack Austin, who left just lately. They were a wealth of information. They were very bright people. Whether they came from a Liberal, a Conservative or other background, I still think they contributed to all of Canada. They did not come in there with this blurred vision. We have some very good Conservative Senators as well, such as Hugh Segal, who bring some very thoughtful ideas forward with the work they do in the Senate. I think it would be very sad for Canada and it would be a bad day for Canada for us to lose the prospect of such talent.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, while I thank the hon. member from Manitoba for his intervention, unfortunately what I am hearing from over there again is more Liberal talk about reforming the Senate but no action.

Finally we have a bill before us that is going to play a critical role in changing the whole process in the Senate to one of actually having a democratized system to appoint senators. I think that is great for Canadians. They are going to have people who are finally going to be accountable for the actions they take.

The hon. member mentioned a few senators who are doing great work. He mentioned Senator Hugh Segal. Senator Segal has said that he will be the first senator to run in an upcoming Senate election. He is prepared to take that next step because he believes in having an elected Senate. I think that is just fabulous. He raises some concerns about having minority and official language representation from smaller populations in western Canada, but I know for a fact that we do have that type of representation today in an elected House of Commons. If we can get that type of representation in an elected House of Commons, I have no idea why it would not happen in an elected Senate.

I want to add my voice in support of this great legislation. I would hope that the Liberals will decide this is something they should support because it is the right thing to do.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, in regard to my colleague's comments, the first thing I would like to respond to is that the member speaks to this being a democratic process. In fact, it is not. The government is consulting with people. They can get elected, but the Prime Minister has discretion on whether or not he wants to name those people. There is a little gap there.

Second, I am not sure that the Conservatives have thought about the consequences of having two elected Houses. It is complicated already. I do not know if they have thought about this, but there is no dispute resolution mechanism here to resolve issues between the two Houses. I can see bills taking absolutely forever.

This is the problem when the government starts bringing stuff forward in a piecemeal way. Over the last several months, we have seen what happens when the government, in order to please the public, tries to rush decisions forward that have not been thought through. The income trusts decision is the best example that can be used. It is the biggest scandal in Canadian history, with $25 billion lost in one day, mostly by seniors, with 1.5 million seniors affected by this.

Third, the government brought in interest deductibility. Again it was done in a rush because the government thought this might be popular with Canadians, but it did not think about the consequences. That is what this is all about with this legislation. We know what has happened lately. We have lost $9 billion in Canadian corporations to foreign ownership because of interest deductibility and the income trust taxation. Companies from overseas are buying devalued Canadian companies. It has cost Canada $9 billion. Lately sixteen income trusts have been sold for $9 billion. That is absolutely unacceptable.

That is what happens when things are done piecemeal and when government thinks something might be attractive to the Canadian public but in fact does not think of the long term consequences. We now have BCE on the block, a Canadian company that OMERS is trying to purchase while competing with American interests. The American interests can write off the interest on their loan to purchase BCE, but OMERS cannot. The American interests then have a 37%--