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S'enregistrer au Flux RSS Le Sénat du Canada
Blog > Economy > When the far right hears a weaker voice: How the Conservatives are letting down Canadians and derailing democracy
Dec 03

When the far right hears a weaker voice: How the Conservatives are letting down Canadians and derailing democracy

by the Honourable Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, C.P.
Deputy-Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce

Stephen Harper has decided to make a serious attempt to undermine Canadian democracy, and you can be sure that he won’t take any half measures.

I could talk about Bill C-42, which shows a complete disregard for our own sovereignty by giving the Americans information about Canadian travelers flying over—but not touching down in—the U.S. I could talk about his manoeuvring to remove positive discrimination from the public service, which would affect First Nations representation in the federal bureaucracy in particular. I could talk about how he contemptuously forces our judges to impose minimum sentences that prevent them from ruling on the facts of each case, a pale imitation of the costly U.S. system that is filling that country’s prisons and doing nothing to improve safety. And what about his plan to kill the firearms registry and put citizens at risk, or his scheming to discredit Statistics Canada and spread his own propaganda?

Since the list is long, I’ll restrict myself to the recent decision by Conservative senators to kill Bill S‑216 by refusing to hold a vote. This precedent-setting decision is an insult to our institutions. How can parliamentarians refuse to vote on legislation? It also shows the Conservatives’ total lack of respect for the 400 former Nortel employees who are disabled and now face the loss of their rights on December 31, 2010.

What happened? Following Nortel’s bankruptcy—caused mainly by administrators who were cooking the books—disabled employees found themselves without benefits even though they had paid contributions to Sun Life. In fact, the disability benefits were self-insured by Nortel. In response to this unfair situation and the difficulties it has caused the people concerned, my colleague, Liberal Senator Art Eggleton, tabled Bill S-216 on March 25, 2021 to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and ensure that a small portion of Nortel’s $6 billion in assets would go to disability pensions and essential medical services.

On November 25, Conservative senators decided that this bill posed a risk to the economy, a fallacious argument disputed by many experts. The Conservatives have decided which side they are on: they would rather help out big business than ordinary citizens, even when those citizens are disabled.

This decision can be seen as part of a broader objective: to turn public opinion against Canada’s Senate and impose an elected Senate, under the prime minister’s thumb. But the Senate has always been the voice of minorities, of the regions and of citizens who cannot be heard in the House of Commons. It has also been a defender of our Constitution. The Conservatives recently gained a majority in the Senate and have already managed to kill Bill C-311 on climate change, an historic moment that saw the Senate kill a bill passed by the House of Commons without even studying it. The goal: to incite the public to turn against the Senate.

The Liberals have condemned this move, and the end of Bill S-216 could be part of this same process to destabilize our institutions. Make no mistake, to reform or abolish the Senate would be to fall into the Conservatives’ trap, and they serve only their own interests and ideology. And in the end, 400 disabled former Nortel employees won’t carry much weight in a federal election.


  1. Smitty le 3 décembre 2010 à 18h25

    Thank you for speaking the truth, the Nortel Disabled employee’s need Bill S-216 to survive. It is greatly appreciated that some members of the Senate understand their duty is to protect the most vulnerable in society, protect taxpayers and ensure that the Canadian government adhere to rules. Thank you for standing up for the disabled Canadians, you have the facts and truth on your side, keep fighting to see that justice prevails.

  2. Mr X le 6 décembre 2010 à 20h16

    Stephen Harper’s time is almost up. Canada has seen enough of him and the sheep that follow him like John Baird.
    Sad to turn your back on the disabled but when you have a guaranteed federal pension and all the health care you can wish for it’s hard to really care about others needs I guess. After all Stephen will be well taken care of in his golden years by our tax dollars.

  3. Lianne Bridges le 9 décembre 2010 à 05h25

    Thank you for so eloquently outlining this issue. Democracy does not seem to be the highest priority on the Conservatives agenda, but rather partisanship is the main objective.

  4. Jerry dhillon le 15 décembre 2010 à 08h56

    Thank you for your support. Ironically, the UK passed a law similar to Bill S-216 just a couple of days after the Conservatives killed it in the Senate.This law will allow Nortel employees in UK to go after Nortel assets in Canada!It was disgusting to see on CPAC (live on camera)how Conservative Senators were being told how to vote.One Conservative Senator even asked her colleague seated beside her as to which way she was supposed to vote! This makes a mockery out of Canadian democracy. 35 out of the 52 Conservative Senators have been appointed by Mr. Harper. How can they vote against his wishes? The Bills that Mr. Harper cannot kill in the Commons due to his minority government, he will kill in the Senate due to the majority of his appointees. What abuse of Democratic rules! All canadians should keep this in mind at the next federal election and hold the Conservatives to account. That is the only time we have the power to change things!

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