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S'enregistrer au Flux RSS Le Sénat du Canada

Post under ‘s-216’ tag

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

3 December 2021 at 15h59

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.


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