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  • Farmers and the impacts of climate change

    This week I had the opportunity to question the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, about this government’s actions to address climate change and its impact on farmers.

    I asked because the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, of which I am a long-time member, has been studying the potential impact of climate change on the agriculture, agri-food and forestry sectors for more than a year. Members have heard from a variety of witnesses, including producers. They told us how changes in climate are already affecting them: quick melts, flooding, extreme weather events, having to change crop varieties to suit new local conditions better, or refining their pest management strategies.

    While Canadian farmers are perennially adaptive, they told committee members that they could benefit from government support when facing these new climate change-related challenges.

    When I asked the minister what the government was doing to address these serious problems, I was encouraged by his reply. As a farmer himself, I heard that he understands these concerns, and has been working to address them. He noted the usefulness of risk management programs, and the dollars invested in agricultural research, in agricultural clean technology, and in research into greenhouse gas mitigation.

    The importance of the agriculture and agri-food sectors to the Canadian economy is tremendous.  The federal government must continue to do its part to ensure it can continue to grow and thrive for years to come.

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  • Women in Nova Scotia and the right to vote

    This year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the expansion of the electoral franchise to women in Nova Scotia.

    The expansion of the vote to women may have been granted 100 years ago, but it was the result of many years of legislative efforts dating back to 1891.

    In his opposition to a bill in 1893 to expand the vote to women, James Wilberforce Longley, Nova Scotia’s Attorney General at the time, spoke about the “sanctity of separate spheres whereby women should be protected from the baseness of politics.”

    In response to his comments a letter to the editor of the Halifax Herald summed up perfectly the view of many women at that time. The letter stated:

    With due respect to Mr. Longley for his chivalrous desire to save us from self-destruction, we will take the risk of the strain upon our delicate “moral fibre” of depositing a ballot once in four years. Mr. Longley’s high-flown rhetoric to the contrary, it is ballots not “personal charms” that count with politicians.

    Leaders in Nova Scotia, both women and men, have worked hard to improve opportunities for women in my province. Women have come a long way since Confederation when they couldn’t vote, but there is still much to be done. It was refreshing to see after the federal election of 2015 that 50 per cent of the Federal Cabinet was comprised of women. This is a great step in the right direction.

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    Forum des sénateurs libéraux
  • Borrowing by government and Parliament’s authority

    Last week I moved second reading of Bill S-246An Act to amend the Borrowing Authority Act, which will restore Parliament’s authority over borrowing by the government.

    Parliament’s authority over the public purse is fundamental to our democracy, and has been the norm for centuries. Whenever the government believed it needed to borrow money for the upcoming year, it would come to Parliament and ask for authority to borrow the necessary funds. In 2001, the process was even enshrined in the Financial Administration Act, so that if the government wanted to borrow money, it needed to pass a bill in Parliament.

    But in 2007, centuries of tradition and practice were overturned. Slipped into the middle of a long omnibus budget bill was a small, one-sentence clause that gave away Parliament’s authority over borrowing by the government, and transferred it to cabinet.

    This tiny clause was missed at first, but over the years multiple Senate Public Bills have been introduced to fix it. The new Liberal government promised to make the necessary changes, but did not restore full Parliamentary authority and implemented reporting periods of only every three years.

    My bill is simple: it requires that the government come to Parliament annually to ask permission to borrow, if they wish to borrow, and report on it annually. This type of oversight – to hold the government to account for its management of the public purse – is a fundamental role of Parliament.

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    Forum des sénateurs libéraux
  • The practice of peremptory challenge

    On February 13, I made a Senator Statement on the news of the jury verdict in the Colten Boushie case. I offered my deepest sympathies to the family of Colten Boushie, a young man from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan. In August 2016, Colten was killed by a bullet fired into the back of his head by Gerald Stanley, a white farmer. Stanley’s lawyer argued that the gunshot was accidental through a rare phenomenon called a “hang fire.” Stanley was acquitted on Friday, February 9. The trial occurred amidst a strong undercurrent of racism against indigenous people in Saskatchewan. Questions are being raised about the fairness of having an all-white jury.

    During the jury-selection process, potential jurors who were visibly indigenous were deliberately excluded by peremptory challenge by Stanley’s lawyer. While this is legally permissible, many have questioned whether it should be, particularly when it is well known that Saskatchewan has a high level of racism towards Indigenous people.

    Decades ago, this practice of peremptory challenge was identified as a major problem for Indigenous people in Manitoba. Reconciliation is not possible as long as personal bias and racism are so obviously embedded in our jury system. Challenges to a jury selection should be for justified reasons and not for personal biases or racism against indigenous candidates.

    Enough is enough. The government must move immediately to set in motion real actions to end the current practice of peremptory challenges. We, the indigenous people of Canada, deserve better. 

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    Forum des sénateurs libéraux
  • 100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion

    On December 6th we marked the 100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. This tragic event killed 2000, injured 9000 and left thousands more homeless. We remember those who lost their lives and acknowledge the hard work of those involved in the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

    While the Explosion is remembered as a loss for all Canadians, it was the aftermath that spoke volumes. Nova Scotians, Canadians, and particularly Bostonians, joined forces and worked tirelessly to provide relief supplies and medical assistance and restore hope to Halifax.

    Every year, to thank the people of Boston, Halifax gifts a Christmas tree which is installed on the Boston Common. This year, the 53 foot white spruce tree was donated by Bob and Marlon Campbell of Blues Mills, Cape Breton.

    The Halifax Explosion is a reminder of the strength we have as Canadians. The victims touched by the blast were left with almost nothing, but they never gave up. It is because of their fighting spirit and willingness to persevere that the province of Nova Scotia would come back stronger than ever.

    Hundreds of people attended the 100th Anniversary Halifax Explosion Memorial Service at Fort Needham Memorial Park, and similar commemorative events all over the province, to pay their respects and honour the memory of those impacted. 100 years later, Nova Scotians still carry on the legacy of those lost in the Explosion. It is important that we remember what was lost and continue to say thank you to those who helped us rebuild.

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    Forum des sénateurs libéraux