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."Debate
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.
Labels: Afghanistan, Charter of Rights, Fallen soldiers, Health care, Senate opening, Senate reform