Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Report: Senate passes crime bill

The Senate has voted to pass third reading of Bill C-22.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper had threatened to call an election if the Senate did not pass the legislation.

Text of Bill C-2.

The bill raises the age of consent from 14 to 16, provides for stricter mandatory minimum sentences and bail conditions for gun-related crimes, harsher penalties for driving while drug impaired, and eases the application of the dangerous offender declaration.

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Brief: Second Reading Debates

On Tuesday, Bill C-42, amending the Museums Act, received Second Reading and was referred to the Senate Committee on Human Rights.  The Bill will result in the establishment of a Museum of Human Rights.

Bill C-40, amending the Canada Labour Code and other Acts was also debated at Second Reading.  If passed, C-40 will provide leave-of-absence for active members of the Reserve Forces, and will allow for deferral of Student Loan payments.  It will also provide for members of the Reserves to return their positions in the Federal civil service after a leave of absence.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Harper Criticized for Not Appointing Senators

Speaking on a motion by Senator Tommy Banks (Lib - AB), Senator Joseph Day (Lib - NB) expressed his concerns that the current government is not appointing senators.

Citing the Constitution, Sen. Day reminded the chamber that the filling of vacant senate seats is not optional. He went further, suggesting that Harper was attempting to circumvent the constitutional amendment process and attempting to reduce the number of senators from the Atlantic provinces by leaving vacant three New Brunswick and one Prince Edward Island senate seats.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Negotiating points: Single regulator

Alberta premier Ed Stelmach's statement opposing proposals for a single national regulator is an opportunity for supporters of a "Triple E" senate.

Ontario, in particular, is leading the push for the single national regulator; however, the BNA Act allocated this responsibility to the provinces. The creation of a single national regulator would require the consent of seven provincial governments, representing more than 50% of the population. With the western provinces supporting the "passport" system (under which certification by one provincial authority is recognized by the other provincial securities commissions), such an amendment is unlikely.

Meanwhile, support for Senate reform, strong in the praries and British Columbia, remains a low priority in Ontario, and anathema in Quebec.

Supporters of Senate reform have an opportunity. They should adjust their position on the single regulator and push for such a regulator to be overseen solely by the Senate, subject to that body being elected with equal representation by province.

Tying these issues together would ensure that Ontario would focus more on the issue, and would ease concerns of premiers from the praries and British Columbia against central Canadian control of what is now a provincial responsibility.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Prime Minister Harper recommends elected senator

The Prime Minister's Office has issued a statement that the Governor General will be called upon to appoint Bert Brown, Alberta's "Senator in waiting" to the upper chamber on the pending retirement of Senator Dan Hayes (Lib-AB).


April 18, 2007
Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced that in keeping with the principles of Bill C-43, the proposed law that would enable Canadians to vote for Senators, Canada’s New Government intends to appoint Alberta Senator-in-waiting Bert Brown to replace retiring Alberta Senator Dan Hays.

“The retirement of Senator Hays, after nearly a quarter-century of service to Canada, creates the first opportunity for our government to appoint a Senator who has been endorsed by Canadian voters,” Prime Minister Harper said. “No Canadian has done as much to advance the cause of Senate reform as Bert Brown. He has been a tireless advocate for democratization of the Upper House for over two decades. He ran in three Alberta Senate elections and is the only Canadian to be elected twice as a Senator-in-waiting. In short, he is a perfect role model for elected Senators, and today’s announcement demonstrates that our Government is serious about moving forward on Senate reform.”

Mr. Brown, 69, is a Calgary-area zoning and property development consultant. Over 300,000 Albertans voted for him in the province’s 2004 Senate election, when he ran under the banner of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party.

Prime Minister Harper reiterated that his government’s long-term goal is to see all Canadian Senators elected. “I call on the Opposition parties to join us in democratizing the Red Chamber by passing Bill C-43,” the Prime Minister said. “Canadians recognize that the time is long overdue for the Senate to attain democratic legitimacy.”


Senate sittings open on sombre note

Senators opened their sitting yesterday with a moment of silence to commemorate the loss of nine Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Question Period

In question period, Leader of the Opposition, Céline Hervieux-Payette (Lib-QC), questioned the government on why senior ministers were absent
from celebrations relating to the silver anniversary of the signing of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and cited that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, had once written about the "ill-effects" of the charter. Government leader Marjorie LeBreton (Cons-ON) responded that the Minister of Justice was, in fact, involved in the day's celebrations.

Later, Senator Marilyn Trenholme Counsell (Lib-NB) suggested that the government had been deceptive in its Health Care Wait Times Guarantee. In response, Sen. LeBreton reminded the chamber that health care is a provincial responsibility, and that the government is delivering additional funding to the provinces. Sen. Counsell was not satisfied, suggesting that provinces were "bribed" with federal funding
to sign on to the agreement. Sen. LeBreton called the "bribe" comment "irresponsible."


The Senate resumed debate on the "Murray-Austin" motion, to increase western represenation in the Senate. The original motion proposed to increase
British Columbia's representation from six to 12; Alberta from six to ten; Saskatchewan and
Manitoba each from six to seven. An amendment to the motion, make by Senator David Tkachuk (Cons-SK) would increase British Columbia's representation to 24.

On the amendment to the motion, Senator Pierrette Ringuette (Lib-NB) spoke against it. She argued that the confederation negotiations provided that balance would be regional, that regionalism was an
integral part of the negotiation for the then Lower Canada as a counterweight to representation
by population, and that Senatorial Divisions have, by precedent, only been added with the
addition of territory - not by the increase of population as is the case with the motion to amend.

Sen. Tkachuk closed debate on the amendment, pointing out that, as Prime Minister, Jean Chretien's government recognized British Columbia as a region,
and that it was unfair that the province be represented by only six senators while the Atlantic
provinces are represented by 30, with a lower population.

Debate on the main motion was put on the order paper.

Other bills debated included amendments to the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security Act, the Public Service Employment Act, and the Divorce Act.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Senate of Canada resumes April 17, 2007

The Honourable Noel Kinsella will resume his place in the Speaker's throne in the Senate on April 17, 2007.

The first order of business will be resumption of second reading debate on Bill C-36 (amendments to the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security. Summary of the bill is here.

Other items being considered include Bill C-18 (omnibus bill amending certain acts in relation to DNA identification), and the federal budget.

Senate Government Bill S-4, limiting senate tenure to eight years, was referred to committe on February 20, 2007.

A private member's bill to watch, introduced in the Commons by Pablo Rodriguez (Lib - Honoré-Mercier), is bill C-288, calling on the government to "meet the obligations of the Kyoto treaty. The Conservative government opposes the legislation, but the Liberals have a majority in the Senate.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Our Mission

Canadian Senate Digest blog reports and comments on the activities of the Senate of Canada, its committees, members, its past and future.

In particular, it has been created, as information and comment solely on the Senate of Canada is difficult to obtain.

We believe that this is important, as Senators remain near the centre of our nation's decision making process, and, in our system of responsible government, need to be held accountable for their decisions and actions.