I’m happy to share great news from the Senate. We recently adopted two motions that will affect our work. First, a motion was adopted allowing the Senate to move to hybrid sittings. We are setting aside our usual rules and practices to allow virtual sittings with limited Senators in the Chamber and others connected from their homes or offices. We had our first hybrid sitting on November 3rd and it went on without a hitch. The second motion granted the Selection Committee the authority to meet virtually to set out the membership of our Senate committees. The Senate has since adopted the committee’s report bringing us one step closer to having our committees organize.
Historically, our committees have been known for their thoughtful and comprehensive studies on public policy matters of national significance. I’m happy to report that I’ve been selected to sit on the National Finance Committee and the Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. I feel these committees are where I can contribute the most because of my background in finance and economics and I think I am well positioned to offer some helpful insight on Canada’s economic recovery.
Indeed, in recent months, I’ve had discussions with many business leaders and stakeholders about the government’s spending plan. The Prime Minister announced that the upcoming fall economic update won’t include a fiscal anchor to indicate to Canadians that it has put in place a ceiling on its public spending, deficit or debt level. However, there are many positives in doing so, including: encouraging fiscal discipline inside the government; ensuring that the government has the ability to respond to future economic shocks; retaining the confidence of lenders and global markets; and creating a positive investment climate for businesses, who are all going through a very difficult time. We should continue supporting Canadians when and where it is possible and required, but also include a fiscal anchor into our spending plan as a target and dynamic tool.
During question period on October 30th, I asked Senator Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate, if he could encourage his colleagues in cabinet, including the Prime Minister, to consider including a fiscal anchor in its upcoming economic update. I appreciate the uncertainty and volatility of the pandemic, but I still believe that a fiscal anchor can help better manage and monitor our resources in order to efficiently support Canadians and businesses now and in the future.
These last few months have been very difficult for many, including the 6.2 million Canadians living with a disability which is why I also asked Senator Gold what the government was doing to help this most vulnerable segment of our population during the pandemic.
The National Finance Committee has also been mandated to pre-study Bill C-9, a bill that would implement new, targeted support to help businesses, charities and not-for-profit organizations during the second wave by revising the government’s wage and commercial rent subsidies. The government has been under immense pressure to make changes to these programs.
Beyond Bill C-9, three important bills introduced by my colleague Minister Lametti may soon be sent to the Senate for its consideration. The first one, Bill C-3, proposes changes to the Judges Act by ensuring that all newly appointed provincial superior court judge undergoes training to fairly and properly decide matters related to sexual assault, without reliance on myths and stereotypes.
Secondly, through Bill C-6, the government wants to amend the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy – a practice, treatment or service designed to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to cisgender. The LGBTQ2 community welcomes this proposed change which, in my view, is long overdue.
Finally, Bill C-7 seeks to amend Canada’s medical assistance in dying legislation by repealing the eligibility criterion that requires a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable. The bill also creates new safeguards and permits the waiver of the requirement to give final consent in specific circumstances. As per a Quebec court ruling, Parliament has until December 18th to pass the bill which is why the Senate plans to pre-study the bill before it arrives from the House of Commons. Canadians have strong, personal views on the matter which is why it’s important we get this right.
In late October, I also had the opportunity to participate in a SENgage event with youth leaders from Vancouver as part of a series organized by Young Global Citizens. The kids had great questions about my role as a Senator, our country’s response to the pandemic, and more. Through the SENgage program, teachers and youth group leaders can invite a Senator to speak to their class or group to learn more about the Senate. It’s a great program and I encourage you to consider inviting a Senator to your classroom or youth organization.
Of course, I couldn’t write this column without a few words on the American election. I will refrain from commenting on the final results (or lack thereof), but I did raise the issue of the business community’s anxiety with respect to the consequence of the electoral outcome on our Canada-US trade relationship during question period with Senator Gold. He reassured me – and Canadians – that the government continues to track any measures restricting market access and will keep standing up for Canadian business interests.
November and December will be busy months for the Senate and I very much look forward to the many debates we will have on key legislative measures. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact my office if we can be of assistance. Please be well and stay safe.
The Honourable Tony Loffreda, CPA
Independent Canadian Senator (Quebec)