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Perspectives — October 24-26, 2018
October 30, 2018

Last week in the Senate: An Act to establish Promotion of Essential Skills Learning Week, the federal carbon tax and ending the captivity of whales and dolphins.


As we enter the fourth industrial revolution, it is particularly important to think about job transformation in Canada. That is why I introduced my very first bill in the Senate, An Act to establish Promotion of Essential Skills Learning Week (S-254).

A diploma is no longer enough to meet labour market challenges. Access to essential skills training in the workplace and in communities is critical for Canadians to remain active throughout their working lives. Today’s essential skills are not the same as yesterday’s, and will not be the same as tomorrow’s.

Artificial intelligence is just one challenge future generations face, threatening jobs and workers in manufacturing, medical, transportation, energy and other sectors. To meet this major challenge, it is vital that Canadians develop their basic skills: reading, writing, computer and digital skills, as well as thinking and working with others. And even though Canada is at the top of the list of the most highly educated countries, there is still work to be done developing these skills. On average, nearly one in two Canadians of working age do not have the minimum skills to find a decent job. This means that one in two people who lose a good job today risk ending up in a precarious job. We can and must do better.

Creating this week will provide the dialogue and collective leadership that the provinces and Canada need to implement tools and a national strategy to develop essential skills.


Recently, the Liberals claimed that their carbon tax will “cut carbon pollution across Canada by 80 to 90 million tonnes in 2022.” Internal government documents contradict this claim and estimate that the savings will be about 35% lower.

Either way, the government’s policy will have no effect on global emissions. The carbon tax will at best achieve an infinitesimal fraction of the emissions savings that would be achieved by simply phasing out large coal-fired power plants. Consider the fact that 1.5 million people would have to switch from combustion-powered cars to electric cars to equal the emissions savings of replacing a single coal plant with a nuclear plant.

And it is not Canada that needs to change its behaviour in this regard. India generates the majority of its power from coal. Japan has built eight coal-fired power plants in the last two years, with plans for 36 more over the next decade. China is currently constructing coal-fired power plants capable of generating 259 gigawatts of power, adding to their present coal-fired capacity of 993 gigawatts.

To put that in perspective, the entire portfolio of Ontario Power Generation amounts to 17 gigawatts. A carbon tax for Canada will be useless and unfair, and Canadians are speaking out about it.

Unavoidable costs for farmers and small businesses will increase. At the same time, large corporations will get exemptions from the federal government.

Independent Senate Liberals

Our caucus was pleased last week when the Senate finally passed Bill S-203, Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. It was originally introduced by our former colleague, Willie Moore, and had been languishing in the Red Chamber for nearly three years.

This bill amends Canada’s animal cruelty laws to phase out the captivity of whales and dolphins, while still allowing for their rescue and rehabilitation. Owners of currently captive whales and dolphins would be allowed to keep them, but not breed them. The bill would also prohibit the import and export of whales, dolphins, porpoises, and their reproductive materials.

During the 150 weeks the bill spent in the Senate, it drew fierce opposition from some senators, and when opinions differed, we heard some spirited debate. The Committee on Fisheries and Oceans studied it for months, holding 16 meetings with countless highly-qualified experts from Canada and abroad about the well-being of whales and dolphins in captivity. 

Thousands of Canadians from across the country voiced their support through phone calls and emails. Many believe it is no longer acceptable to keep whales and dolphins in tanks and to make them perform tricks for our amusement. In the end, most senators agreed, and the bill is on its way to the House of Commons for debate. We are optimistic that former Senator Willie Moore’s vision of ending the captivity of whales and dolphins is upon us.