Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 144, Issue 71

Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Budget Implementation Bill, 2008

Third Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Stratton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Nolin, for the third reading of Bill C-50, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on Part 6 of Bill C-50. I also rise in support of the comments made yesterday during the speech on third reading of Bill C-50 by our colleague Senator Murray.

I, too, wish the Senate’s pre-study of Bill C-50 had occurred earlier. I know the House of Commons would have benefited greatly from the Senate’s assistance with this omnibus bill, as we know that it benefited when we conducted a pre-study on the anti-terrorism bill. The last-minute receiving of legislation with little time to do the necessary work has been a problem that has plagued the Senate this parliamentary session. I cite Bill C-3 and Bill S-3 as examples of inadequate study and with no amendments. On Bill S-3, on the matter of security certificates, we are now performing that work as a study in the aftermath of the passage of this legislation, with no guarantee from the minister that he will implement any of the suggestions. I agree with Senator Murray that this situation has happened too often in this session.

Honourable senators, I also believe the Senate should indeed commence its review of important and complex legislation the minute it is given first reading in the House of Commons. The House of Commons should be able to benefit from our assistance on these complex bills. If this approach were the norm, perhaps the House of Commons would be aware of the measures involving film tax credits that arose as an issue when the Senate studied Bill C-10.

At 560 pages of complex legal and financial jargon, how can we expect the members of Parliament to catch everything? Perhaps they may have caught it if they had studied it for more than one day before sending it on to the Senate.

Senator Murray made a valid point about accommodation and compromise that occur often in minority governments. I am pleased this accommodation has occurred on Bill C-21, which provides access for First Nations people to the Canadian human rights.

I believe that the budget implementation bill is not the place to make amendments dealing with immigration policy. Immigrants are the backbone of our country, and our immigration policy should not be in the budget implementation bill.

When debate is stifled and there are no amendments possible, I believe the government has let Canadians down. I will echo Senator Murray’s statement that “we have also failed as a revising chamber.”

Canada’s immigration policy should be about more than short-term fixes to the Canadian economy. That approach is Bill C-50 in a nutshell; it is narrowly focused. With an average of 240,000 to 265,000 new immigrants making Canada their new home every year, the bill will have broad impacts. The legislation pays no attention to how immigration policy transforms a nation. Canada is a country that has been founded, built and sustained by immigrants.

This legislation gives the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the power to give priority to categories of immigrants whose job skills are demanded in Canada. At the same time, it also provides the minister with the power to refuse applications in other categories. I am greatly concerned about how these measures will affect family reunification.

Critics have questioned why Canada would abandon immigration laws that are clear and transparent in favour of the measures introduced by Bill C-50. I do not agree with giving the minister this type of discretion over immigration files. There is no question that Canada’s immigration system should be reevaluated and overhauled. I think we would be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes that it serves our country well. This being said, I do not believe these issues have been adequately addressed this spring by Parliament. Sadly, the minister did not even come to the committee to explain this legislation.

The immigration provisions should have been severed from this bill and placed in a separate, stand-alone bill. In the aftermath of this bill’s passage, I hope, honourable senators, that we will create another opportunity to address the issue of immigration because Canadians deserve better.

Honourable senators, I am saddened as I think about the reconciliation we had last week and how we brought our country together. This week, there are many people in our country who feel dejected. Last week, we all worked hard to right a wrong. We worked hard toward reconciliation. This week, we are working hard to make a wrong decision and we are dividing our communities.

As one South Asian mother said to me yesterday on the phone: “I have been waiting for five years for my parents to join me so that my children can enjoy their grandparents. Now with Bill C-50, my children may never see their grandparents in Canada.”

This is a game of government committing wrongs against our citizens. We are, again, dividing our communities.

Honourable senators, last week, we worked to create harmony in our country. Let me tell you what I understand as harmony. When I was young, my mother wanted me to learn to play the piano, and she was not very successful. In anger she would often say to me, “You have to play on both the black and white keys to create harmony.” To annoy her, sometimes I would play only on the white keys and sometimes only on the black. I encourage you to try that. There is no harmony when we divide communities. To have harmony, honourable senators, as on the piano, the whole community must work together.

Today, with the passage of this bill, we will create disharmony in our country. This, indeed, is a sad day for Canadians.