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Perspectives — December 10-13, 2018
December 18, 2018
OPINION

Last week in the Senate: the historic move from Centre Block, Senate committee meetings in January and security at Canada’s borders.

Government

The Senate has adjourned for the winter break after a busy fall session that saw 10 government bills become law and 11 new independent senators appointed to the institution. For the first time in eight years, all 105 seats in the Red Chamber are filled.

Canadians can see themselves reflected in the diversity of the Senate. It’s important that the chamber of sober second thought represent voices from coast to coast to coast.

The proportion of women in the Senate has risen from 37% to 47% under the new independent, merit-based appointment process, and the proportion of senators with Indigenous roots has risen to 11%.

So far, 49 independent senators have been appointed based on recommendations from an independent advisory board.

The full chamber will return in the new year following a historic move from Centre Block to its temporary home in the former train station. Ongoing construction in the temporary chamber has delayed the Senate’s return until February 19 but Senate committees can resume meetings as soon as January 28 to study key pieces of legislation, including:

  • Bill C-69, to change the rules for the assessment of major projects,
  • Bill C-48, to formalize a crude oil tanker moratorium on the north coast of B.C.; and
  • Bill C-71, to regulate firearms in Canada.

Canadians expect us to be at work. It is important that Senate committees be able to meet as soon as January 28 to consider key pieces of government legislation.


Opposition

As this session comes to an end, many of us are more emotional than usual as we say our goodbyes.

This year, we are not only saying goodbye to one another for the holiday season, we are also saying farewell to the Chamber.

I remember the first time I walked through those doors as a new senator and the excited feeling to be part of something much bigger than myself. Sober second thought on the country’s legislative process has been conducted mainly inside these walls for the last 100 years, both in this Chamber and in the various committees, to ensure that Canadians from all regions were well represented.

It is a true honour, and one that won’t soon be forgotten, to call this historic Chamber our work place.

While the next session will be busy, I find comfort in knowing that despite being in a different venue, the former Government Conference Centre, the Senate of Canada will continue to keep the government in check from the unwanted reach of the executive branch. 

We will continue to give a voice to those who stand in opposition of the legislative agenda of the government. Our efforts in examining, debating, amending and challenging the will of the government makes for a better policy process and serves the best interest of the public.

To all colleagues and staff, enjoy the holiday season back home with your loved ones. Merry Christmas and I look forward to seeing you all in the new year!


Independent Senate Liberals

Last week, I took the opportunity of the last Senate sitting of 2018 to express a few words of thanks and appreciation to everyone who contributed to the success of our fall sitting. 

Many individuals support senators in their work, particularly senators’ staff, the clerks, the Senate pages, the Senate administration staff, the maintenance personnel and the staff of the Parliamentary Protective Service.  We are well aware of the efforts each one makes to help the Senate work so well, and we appreciate their dedication and hard work.

We have had a busy fall, and as is not uncommon at the end of a fall session, it was particularly intense in recent weeks. Now is the time for us to take a break, and savour spending some much-deserved time with our family, friends and communities. I hope that each and every one enjoys this very special season, and returns refreshed once again in the new year.

The next time senators meet, it will not be in the current Chamber in Centre Block, but in our new home at the Senate of Canada Building. I look forward to that, and I look forward in 2019 to continue to work with my Senate colleagues for the betterment of all Canadians.

On behalf of the Independent Liberal senators, I wish all Canadians happy holidays and all the best in the coming year.


Independent Senators Group

Last week, the Senate completed its study of Bill-C21, An Act to Amend the Customs Act and passed it at third reading, with one small amendment. The bill, as amended, received Royal Assent last week.

Bill C-21 amends the Customs Act to allow the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) to receive basic information on people exiting Canada either when crossing a land border with the United States or flying internationally through a Canadian airport. The information collected, such as the time and place of departure, can be found in a person’s passport.

The bill implements phase 4 of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, as established by Canada and the United States in December 2011.

Each day, more than 300,000 people cross the Canada-U.S. land border and more than 204,000 passengers fly out of Canadian airports to a variety of destinations around the world. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency collects basic information on all people entering the United States.

Bill C-21 authorizes the CBSA to receive that information from their American counterparts, thus closing the information gap that exists in our current border operations.

Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that we don’t already collect this data. Bill C-21 will improve Canada’s ability to combat cross-border crime, protect vulnerable victims of child abductions and human trafficking, and effectively administer immigration and social benefits programs. It will also support national security and continue to manage our borders in ways that contribute to the safety and prosperity of all Canadians.