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Speech in Senate Chamber: Appropriation Bill No. 4, 2015-16, Bill C-3, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016

 

Appropriation Bill No. 4, 2015-16

Second Reading

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-3, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2016.

I would like to begin by stating that I agree with those who say that these errors, whatever errors they are, respecting Senator Day's detection and discovery of them, are not administrative errors.

I suppose some could even view them as typographical errors. It depends on the imagination. But I think it is a very serious error. I would go so far as to suggest that the leaders of this house should have a meeting with the leaders of the other house because we have been very generous and very positive in how we are approaching it, but it is an extremely serious thing to the extent, too, that the other house may have been voting on the bill absent these documents. I do not know the facts enough. But I just try to say it is a serious matter and I think it should occasion a serious discussion between the leadership of both houses.

Honourable senators, this is the fourth — and I am here to praise the government, by the way — and December supply bill of our annual supply cycle for the fiscal year April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. But, first, I wish to note Senator George Furey's appointment to the high office that is the Speaker of the Senate. I congratulate him. I wish him well. I also wish him and his family the very best in this important endeavour. As public men and women, public service demands much of us, but it also demands much of our families, who give and give unstintingly. I uphold all senators' families.

Honourable senators, I also thank our outgoing Senate Speaker, Senator Leo Housakos, for his service. I note, again, that the high officer of state that is the Senate Speaker is of the nature and character of a viceregal. The Americans retained this feature in their Senate. The Vice President of the United States of America is the president of the U.S. Senate. Some falsely describe our upper house, the Senate, as the second chamber, but we are not the second chamber. We are the first. In fact, we are the house of the Parliaments in which Parliament is assembled as the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons.

Unlike the House of Commons Speaker, who is the mouth of that house, our Senate Speaker is not the mouth of this house. He may participate in all debates from his floor seat and may vote on all questions, but he must vote first. He may only speak from the Speaker's chair when senators invite him to, as in a senator's Point of Order. Unlike the Commons Speaker he has no casting or tie-breaking vote. The Senate Speaker, appointed by Her Majesty's commission and letters patent, is a wholly different constitutional being from the Commons Speaker, who is not appointed — a very important point — by Her Majesty's commission.

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He is appointed solely by the will of the House of Commons members. He is the only high officeholder of this kind. I also congratulate our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals on their stunning electoral success. I wish them well. I thank and congratulate our own Senators Cowan, Carignan, Martin and Fraser for their diligence and work. I especially thank Senator Joseph Day for his diligence.

Honourable senators, many of you may not know this, but for years I was the deputy chairman of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance. In fact, Senator Day replaced me on that. If you look through the records and annals of this committee's work and study, you will find phenomenal diligence and attention to the minutia that so many people overlook, and I think both houses are indebted to Senator Day.

Senator Day, I thank you very personally, because we have that particular tie.

If you ever have a chance, go back and read some of the great studies this committee has done.

Honourable senators, as I said, this is the third supply bill in this financial year ending March 31, 2016. In this appropriation act, Canada's government has come to the newly assembled houses of parliament for supply and appropriation of sums for the public expenditure. I am pleased that this new government has chosen wisely not to resort to Governor General's Special Warrants to finance any public service expenditures, choosing instead the proper constitutional course of action, being to come to the houses of parliament.

For long, senators on the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance have been alert and firm on the Government's improper use of Governor General's Special Warrants to draw down money on the Consolidated Revenue Fund to finance the public expenditure.

Honourable senators, back in 1989 our Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, of which I was a member, during its examination of the Main Estimates studied the government's use of Governor General's Special Warrants. I shall read from the Committee's third report, recorded in Senate Journals May 17. It said, at page 113:

In 1989 the executive government used special warrants in January, February, March and April to make payments for carrying on the public service even although the new Parliament had met and even although supply estimates had been presented to the House of Commons.

The executive government states that it relied on the written opinion of its law officers that section 30(1) of the Financial Administration Act permits a government, using special warrants, to pay out public money for any purpose set forth (a) in supply estimates or (b) that ordinarily would be included in supply estimates if there were supply estimates as well as for dealing with accidents and other genuine emergencies touching the public good provided only that Parliament is not in session and that there is no other appropriation for that purpose. The government contends that it may use special warrants in the same way when Parliament is not in session as special warrants have been used when there is no Parliament by reason of dissolution.

So you see we have come a long way on this issue and the government has amended its ways. Remember, in 1997 there was a bill that limited it all to dissolutions.

The committee was told that there is no limit either on the total amount of public money that may be paid out by means of special warrants or on the time period for which a special warrant may be used.

That was the then-President of the Treasury Board. He answered a question and said there was no limit to the quantum of the amount that could be used for special warrants.

The Committee rejects the interpretation placed on the Financial Administration Act, section 30, by the executive government. It finds that interpretation invalid.

First, that interpretation leads immediately to the proposition that it would be lawful and constitutional for the executive government to govern Canada without meeting Parliament to obtain supply, a proposition manifestly contrary to the principles of responsible government and parliamentary democracy.

Honourable senators, maybe the process was flawed, but this government has chosen to meet Parliament to obtain its supply, and I think we should all commend and uphold that.

Our Senate committee report quote was clear on the large constitutional interests and roles of the two houses of parliament in the national and public finance. During dissolution, when the houses are unavailable, a government's actions to resort to Governor General's Special Warrants is ever a thorny matter. This is so because such resort engages the constitutional problem that the government is obtaining money without the two houses' opinion and agreement; that is to say the government is acting without a parliamentary appropriation, the proper and good way to obtain supply and money. Canadian constitutional practice is that governments, anticipating an expected and imminent dissolution, as the recent dissolution was, should ask the houses prior to the dissolution to appropriate sufficient funds to avoid the thorny use of Governor General's Special Warrants to draw down on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Honourable senators, 10 years ago, on November 29, 2005, when Liberal Paul Martin was Prime Minister, the Governor General dissolved Parliament in consequence of a vote of confidence in the Martin government. The general election of January 23, 2006, yielded the minority government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. On April 4, 2006, Parliament was summoned and assembled for the Governor General's Throne Speech. A month later on May 3, 2006, the supply bill, Appropriation Act No. 1 2006-07, was adopted in the Commons, and adopted in the Senate on May 10. It was given Royal Assent May 11.

Honourable senators, in these four months both Prime Minister Martin and Prime Minister Harper used Governor General Special Warrants to withdraw monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, to a grand total of $15.6 billion.

The point I am making is that this government has indicated interest in meeting the houses in search of appropriation, and perhaps this has happened and it is very unfortunate, but I think we should greet that as a good foot forward on the part of the new government. I am very pleased because you know we would have had something to say on this.

Honourable senators, my particular interest in this appropriation act is the government's request to the houses of Parliament to appropriate monies to assist in the Syrian refugee crisis. I speak of the 25,000 Syrian refugees expected in Canada soon. This bill appropriates for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration the sum of $277.9 million to this noble cause. I laud and praise this initiative. It is a fitting and humane cause, justifiable in law, in morality and in conscience. Not to do this is unconscionable and barbaric.

Honourable senators, the situation in Syria is a tragedy of epic proportions. It is catastrophic, even cataclysmic. Syria, like Egypt, has always been an important country. In the Arab Empire, the Arabs called ancient Syria "Al-Sham." Until World War I, Syria was a part of the Ottoman Empire, and included modern Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and that part of Palestine renamed Israel. The World War I Paris Peace Conference partitioned Syria, as it partitioned most of the Ottoman Empire.

Honourable senators, Syria and Syrians were the first Christians and the first peoples to fully receive Jesus Christ and Christianity, which developed as the region accepted the huge transformation that was monotheism. In his History of Syria including Lebanon and Palestine, the great scholar, Philip Hitti, wrote at page 329:

The Syrian Christians were the first to give the world an effective world outlook. Their appraisal of the world was not that of an asset to be treasured but of a liability. Their society had no worldly ambition. Throughout, the emphasis was on the duty of unselfish devotion to God and service to man, inward spirituality instead of ritualism and ceremony.

He also wrote, at page 330:

Slowly but surely this Syrian religion worked its way into a position of spiritual predominance. Through it Syrian culture consummated its third and greatest contribution to world progress. The civilized world does not always appreciate that it was in the Christian literature of Syria that its highest idealism had its primary expression.

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He also wrote at page 335:

Organized Syrian Christianity had its first headquarters in Antioch. The church of Antioch became in a special sense the mother of the churches established in gentile lands. From it Paul and other early propagators of the Christian faith set out on their missionary campaigns; to it they returned to report. After the destruction of its rival Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, Antioch became the sole capital of Christendom.

Honourable senators, Damascus, the capital of Syria, is the oldest city in the world. It was founded by Uz. Uz was the son of Aram, who was the son of Shem. Shem was the son of Noah. The words "Semite" and "Semitic" are derived from "Shem." Abraham, the father of the Semitic peoples, was Aramean.

Colleagues, Aram was the biblical name for Syria, and Aramaic, the same language as Syriac, was the language of the Arameans who were literate and became the clerks and recorders of the empires. Aramaic was also the language of Jesus Christ and the vernacular of the time. The Old Testament book, Isaiah, tells of the Assyrian Empire's defeat of Aram and Israel. Israel was the 10 tribes in the north, and Judah was the kingdom of the two tribes, which later became the Kingdom of David. The prophet Isaiah gave us the most beautiful and sacred words about Emmanuel. These words, found in the King James Bible, were employed by Charles Jennens for George Frideric Handel's oratorio Messiah, a beloved and much performed Christmas masterpiece. These Isaiah 9:6 words say:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

The Hon. the Speaker: Excuse me, Senator Cools. Are you asking for more time?

Senator Cools: Yes.

The Hon. the Speaker: Can we have five more minutes for Senator Cools?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Senator Cools: I need less, usually.

When you hear Messiah in the next few days and you hear those words, this is where it comes from.

Peace, the Prince of Peace. Christmas and the Christ child herald rebirth, regeneration and renewal in the healing and redemptive power of love. Christianity is the promise of complete human redemption, through Jesus Christ, the new and eternal covenant.

Her Majesty's Canadian First Minister Trudeau and Her Canadian government's actions on behalf of these suffering, war-weary and war-torn displaced human beings are truly remarkable. This government's actions are outstanding and exceptional among human endeavours. I thank them. I praise them. I Praise God for this mercy to these suffering people.

To all of you, I say, Gloria in excelsis deo. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men. Merry Christmas.

Remember the Syrians. It was such a great and beautiful country. It is the greatest catastrophe that has hit the modern era, I do believe. We know that we are right on this one because churches all across this country are following the government's lead and moving to sponsor refugee families widely. I thank you.