Plan for a Digital (2010)
A Science Policy for Canada: Report of the Senate Special Committee on Science Policy (The Lamontagne Report) (1973)

Plan for a Digital 

Date: June 2010
Committee: Transportation and Communications
Chair: Hon. Dennis Dawson (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Leo Housakos (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


Although over twenty countries in the world have comprehensive digital strategies, Canada is not one of them notwithstanding that the telephone was originally invented in this country.  The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications concluded that this country would be well served if it developed a plan to become a digital society as soon as possible.  It cited Estonia as a role model because that country inaugurated its ‘Tiger Leap’ program in 1998 and has already implemented “paperless cabinet meetings, e-voting, digital IDs, and online and secure citizen access to government files.”

The committee calls for a comprehensive digital capability which “will bring together technology, citizens and the providers of digital goods and services (Government, Private Sector and the Charitable Sector).”

Two main recommendations were proposed to move a ‘Digital’ plan forward:

  • develop a strategy for an inclusive digital society; and
  • appoint a Minister for Digital Policy to focus exclusively on oversight of the strategy, including annual reports from each government department reporting on progress in opening online access to government documents.

The committee also emphasized the importance of extending fully modern digital services to rural and remote areas so that all Canadians can participate equally.


The Public Interest Advocacy Centre referenced the Senate report to bolster its arguments in favour of establishing a digital strategy for Canada.  Various media outlets such as the CBC, the Hill Times and the Toronto Sun covered release of the report.

The government responded by noting it had, in Budget 2010, committed to a digital economic strategy for Canada that aims to build a competitive Canadian digital economy by 2020.

In April 2014, the government outlined its action plan regarding Canada’s digital economy in its Digital Canada 150 report. The Hill Times called the government’s new report ‘unimaginative’, arguing that Digital Canada 150 fails to anticipate the next big ideas in the future of Canada’s digital economy.

A Science Policy for Canada: Report of the Senate Special Committee on Science Policy (The Lamontagne Report) 

Date: 1973
Committee: Special Committee on Science Policy
Chair: Hon. Maurice Lamontagne (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Donald Cameron (AB)
Downloads: Read the Report


“The standard and quality of life in this country will be largely determined by the way in which [we] respond to the prospects and perils … of science and technology,” declared the Senate’s Science Policy Committee in its final report.  “Yet in November 1967, when [we started], there was no appropriate basis for formulating government policy in this important area, nor any framework in the public or private sectors for discussing it.”

Six years later, the Committee had amassed an extensive research base, gathered the views of more than 300 Canadian and international practitioners, and made 70 recommendations. One of its main recommendations called for a national R&D expenditure effort pegged at 2.5% of GDP, with 10 per cent of the total to be devoted to basic research. The Committee also urged the government to create independent councils to fund original research in three separate fields – physical sciences, social sciences and humanities, and life sciences – while many of its recommendations aimed to broaden the government’s research efforts beyond the confines of the National Research Council (NRC).  The Ministry of State (Science and Technology), newly created in 1971, featured in a number of the Committee’s recommendations.


Two of Canada’s primary granting agencies for academic research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research (NSERC) and Social Sciences and Humanities Research (SSHRC) Councils, owe their existence to the Senate’s Science Policy Committee.  Created in 1976, they now oversee budgets of $1 billion and $300 million respectively.

The Lamontagne Report held sway for many years.  As D.J.C. Phillipson commented almost twenty years later, it was “still used in 1992 by government officials as the essential source on the NRC and the general historical background on Canadian science.”  Nevertheless, Canada’s R&D effort still lags behind Lamontagne’s recommended expenditure target.  Statistics Canada estimates that Canada’s national R&D effort for 2005 totaled only $26 billion (about 2% of GDP).


Amending the Customs Act
Conduct Becoming: Why the Royal Canadian Mounted Police must transform its Culture (2013)
Sovereignty & Security in Canada’s Arctic
Emergency Preparedness in Canada: How the Fine Art of Bafflegab and Procrastination Hobble the People who are Trying to Save you When Things get Really Bad (2008)
Canadian Security Guide Book, 2007 Edition: An Update of Security Problems in Search of Solutions – Airports (2007)
The Myth of Security at Canada’s Airports (2003)Soil at Risk: Canada’s Eroding Future (1984)

Amending the Customs Act

Date: December 2018
Bill: C-21
Committee: National Security and Defence
Chair: Hon. Gwen Boniface (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer (BC)
Bill sponsor: Hon. Mary Coyle (NS)
Downloads: Read the Report


Bill C-21 implements the final phase of the 2012 Beyond the Border joint action plan between Canada and the U.S.  This phase authorizes the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to collect basic biographic information on all travelers exiting Canada, including Canadian citizens. Travelers will not have to provide any further information to CBSA. Rather, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and airlines will share information they have collected on exiting travelers with CBSA.

Currently, CBSA does not know who leaves Canada, which can be a problem for law enforcement tracking fugitives, humans trafficked or abducted children.

The legislation will also help speed processing delays for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada when calculating immigrants’ residency requirements.

There were also concerns raised by Canadian snowbirds about the new legislation, as it more specifically tracks how long those Canadians spend winters outside of Canada. This in turn impacts residency requirements for certain benefits.


The Senate committee provided a technical amendment that provided clarity for the maximum period that records can be retained, which was accepted. They also provided observations that raised concerns about certain unique U.S.-Canada border crossings, such as on Akwesasne Mohawk land, as it spans both countries with no formal border crossing. The Senate also brought up privacy concerns during the committee hearings. The Privacy Commissioner commented he felt comfortable with the law as the information shared would be quite general and important public policy objectives were being served. Bill C-21 was passed in December 2018.

Conduct Becoming: Why the Royal Canadian Mounted Police must transform its Culture

Date: June 2013
Committee: National Security and Defence
Chair: Hon. Daniel Lang (YK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Roméo Dallaire (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


Multiple allegations of harassment in the RCMP workplace have impacted the Canadian public’s trust in the national police force.  The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence undertook a detailed examination of legislation and regulations, conducted consultations and heard from numerous witnesses to address the issue.  Highlights of the committee’s 15 recommendations include the following:

  • The RCMP must undergo a cultural transformation paying particular attention to professional staff development of civilian and regular members so that all valid complaints are dealt with through formal rather than informal processes;
  • Implement a zero tolerance policy for both words and deeds;
  • Create a system of data collection on harassment to gather statistical information and establish an accurate baseline measure of harassment organization-wide;
  • Promotion within the RCMP must take into consideration violations of the Code of Conduct, including past incidents of harassment; and
  • Consider establishing an RCMP Ombudsman.


The committee’s report was featured on iPoliticsCBCMetroNews, and independent blogging sites such as OCanada.

Sovereignty & Security in Canada’s Arctic

Date: March 2011
Committee: National Security and Defence
Chair: Hon. Pamela Wallin (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Roméo Dallaire (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report


The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence reviewed Canada’s challenges in the Arctic, both in exercising sovereignty and ensuring security.  It concluded that “no immediate military threats to Canada in the Arctic” exist and that other potential threats such as terrorism or illegal migration exhibit no “need for alarm”.  However, it noted that the long-promised procurement of search and rescue (SAR) aircraft has been delayed yet again, and that purchase of a new icebreaker has yet to be finalized.  The committee therefore recommended that the federal government always move forward expeditiously with these matters and ensure that at least one standby military craft be available for northern SAR.


The Senate’s report was referenced in an op-ed advocating development of Churchill, MB as a regional hub for search and rescue operations, as well as in an article, Rescuing Search and Rescue, published in the Canadian Military Journal.

Emergency Preparedness in Canada: How the Fine Art of Bafflegab and Procrastination Hobble the People who are Trying to Save you When Things get Really Bad

Date: 2008
Committee: National Security and Defence
Chair: Hon. Colin Kenny (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. David Tkachuk (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report


In 2004, the Committee examined how well Canadian governments prepare for emergencies across the country.  Four years later, it revisited its recommendations by surveying 92 municipalities who are usually in the front lines of dealing with disasters.  The report concludes that little or no progress has been achieved:

  • “lessons learned’ and “best practices” are not routinely shared with first responders to help deal with future crises;
  • senior governments fail to consult municipal first responders to determine their actual needs;
  • municipalities get little money for maintainenance, training and more appropriate equipment once local vulnerabilities have been identified;
  • the federal government has failed to assure the protection of national “critical infrastructure” in various locations across Canada; and
  • coordinated responses to serious outbreaks of infectious diseases continue to suffer from a lack of planning.


The report received significant attention from as far away as India.  It also received an immediate response from Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day. According to the Globe and Mail, the Minister dismissed the report as “irresponsible” and then accused the committee chair “of playing fast and loose with his alleged research.”

Canadian Security Guide Book, 2007 Edition: An Update of Security Problems in Search of Solutions – Airports

Date: March 2007
Committee: National Security and Defence
Chair: Hon. Colin Kenny (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Norm Atkins (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report updates The Myth of Security at Canada’s Airports (see below).


The Committee states that “many of the gaping security holes we drew attention to in 2003 are still gaping holes more than four years later.”  The Committee was referred to in media reports over 3,000 times during 2006 and 2007. The media generally focused on government inaction regarding the Committee’s recommendations, as, for example, did CBC in this account.

Then, on April 1, 2009, Senator Kenny (ON) managed to convince the minister of the day, John Baird, to accompany him incognito to the Pearson International Airport at Toronto.  The two men managed to breach security with no trouble at all.  Finally, the government was convinced.  “I frankly didn’t believe some of the things he told me before I visited,” said Mr. Baird. “Now?  I don’t have much to challenge him on, that’s for sure. … What I saw was unacceptable. There will be changes based on what I saw.”

Two days later, the airport authority suspended four RCMP officers who accompanied Mr. Baird.  Commenting on the whole episode, one editorial stated, “the Minister has no excuse for inaction, as he clearly understands. And the Greater Toronto Airport Authority should awaken to the danger, rather than look for scapegoats.”

A similar view was adopted by Mr. Justice John Major in his landmark inquiry into the Air India disaster.   Volume 4 of his 3,926 page report, released on June 17, 2010, focused entirely on aviation security.  The committee’s recommendations from both 2003 and 2007 were attached as appendices to the Major report.

The Myth of Security at Canada’s Airports 

Date: January 2003
Committee: National Security and Defence
Chair: Hon. Colin Kenny (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. J. Michael Forrestall (NS)
Downloads: Read the Report


The report highlights inadequacies in Canadian airport security and criticizes the federal government for secrecy in spending. It confirms huge security gaps in the screening of airport workers, checked luggage, mail, and cargo.


In December 2003, the Globe and Mail ran a series called Pearson Airport: Security Alertwhich included the following four stories:

  • “Drug rings pierce airport security”, Christine Boyd and Timothy Appleby (December 18, 2003);
  • “Pearson workers corrupted by easy money, lax screening”, Timothy Appleby and Michael Den Tandt (December 19, 2003);
  • “Ground crews take security shortcuts”, Michael Den Tandt and Timothy Appleby (December 20, 2003); and
  • “‘Delays plague efforts to improve airports safety, critics say,’” Michael Den Tandt and Timothy Appleby  (December 22, 2003).

On November 9, 2005, Senator Kenny appeared on CBC’s Fifth Estate in a documentary entitled Fasten Your Seatbelts.  He said that, despite the report, many issues of concern remained.  After Fasten Your Seatbelts was broadcast, the government announced a mandatory five-year review of CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority). The CATSA Advisory Panel released its report in 2006, acknowledging the Senate’s report several times.


Reflecting the New Reality of the Senate (2018)
Diversity in the Senate: From Aspiration to Action (2018)
Audit and Oversight (2017)
Renewing the Senate of Canada: A Two-Phase Proposal (2007)
Constitution Act, 2007 (Senate tenure) (2006)

Reflecting the New Reality of the Senate

Date: December 2018
Committee: Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization
Chair: Hon. Stephen Greene (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Serge Joyal (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Thomas Johnson McInnis (NS)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report represents the final report of the special committee into Senate modernization, following its previous 2016 report, Senate Modernization: Moving Forward.

As the Senate moves more towards the independence of its members, legislation needs to catch up and reflect this new reality. More and more Senators are now no longer affiliated with either the governing party or the opposition party. The concept that each Senator should be treated equally in these circumstances is a key concern as the Senate moves forward.  This report looks at three key pieces of legislation and regulation that need to be updated to reflect recent changes in the Senate: Rules of the Senate; Senate Administrative Rules; and the Parliament of Canada Act.

Changes are necessary to ensure equality as there are often no references to recognized parliamentary groups other than the Government or Opposition parties. Issues that need to be updated include time allocation for debate; ex officio status on committees; office accommodations near the Senate Chamber; additional salary allowances; and the appointment of Parliamentary officers, such as the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Senate Ethics Officer.

The committee recommended that three Senate standing committees review these issues:

  • Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament committee to review Rules of the Senate;
  • Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration committee to review Senate Administrative Rules;
  • Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament committee to review Parliament of Canada Act.


As a substantially internal and administrative report, it did not receive media coverage. However, the Senate’s ongoing efforts towards independence and the equality of its members have radically altered the make-up and role of Canada’s upper house over the past decade. Revising key pieces of legislation and procedure to reflect these changes will ensure that in the future every Senator is treated on an equal basis in an increasingly non-partisan body.

Diversity in the Senate: From Aspiration to Action

Date: September 2018
Committee: Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
Chair: Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Elizabeth Marshall (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report


This Senate report looks at the progress made in increasing the diversity of Senate employees, as well as recommendations to continue this progress. In particular, the committee examined diversity efforts focused on four under-represented employment groups: 1) women; 2) Indigenous peoples; 3) persons with disabilities; and 4) members of visible minorities.

The committee found that progress had been made since an Action Plan was initiated in 2104. In particular, percentages in all four targeted employment groups have increased since 2009. These percentages were now similar to percentages found in both the Public Service and the National Capital Commission (NCC).

A deeper dive, however, showed that many employees from these groups were not in middle or high-level positions, nor in skilled trades and crafts or professional positions. The report provided eight recommendations to further improve diversity, including exploring ways to increase the employment of veterans, creating an Aboriginal Young Interns program, exploring name-blind recruitment, finding ways to encourage recruitment from regions outside the NCC and expanding diversity efforts to all Senate employees, including those in individual Senators’ offices.


As this report was focused on internal hiring practices in the Senate, it did not receive media coverage. Its recommendations will no doubt provide further weight and authority to the efforts of increasing the hiring of diverse groups in the Senate, and will therefore help make the Senate administration more accurately reflect the face of the Canadian population in the 21st century.

Audit and Oversight

Date: October 2017
Subcommittee: Senate Estimates
Chair: Hon. David M. Wells (NL)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Mobina Jaffer (BC)
Downloads: Read the Report


This report examines the recommendations contained in the 2015 report of the Auditor General of Canada on senators’ expenses.

It considers the applicability of the 22 recommendations as part of an overall audit and oversight mechanism for the Senate.

The Auditor General called for “transformational change” in the way senators’ expenses are handled – and made recommendations on how it could be done.

The report agrees with the creation of an oversight body and an internal auditor.  It concludes that the creation of a Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, under the Rules of the Senate, would be the best option. The report outlines principles for its establishment for oversight of all Senate expenditures.


The subcommittee report was integrated into the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration presented to the Senate in November 2017.

The report recommends that the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament develop and propose amendments to the Rules of the Senate to establish a Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight.

The upper chamber’s response to the Auditor General’s Report on Senators’ Expenses has contributed to institutional change.

The Senate was addressing the fallout from the Report of the Auditor General in the lead-up to Autumn 2015. Invaluable work had already been accomplished by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, to make the Senate more accountable and transparent.

The Senate now has an online attendance register, as well as a new expense disclosure model which provides more information on travel expenses, service contracts and hospitality expenses.

The establishment of an independent oversight body has been deferred.

Renewing the Senate of Canada: A Two-Phase Proposal

Date: May 2007
Author: Hon. Dan Hays (AB)
Downloads: Read the Report


This is a private discussion paper authored by Senator Hays.  It was tabled in the Senate and presented to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament on May 25, 2007.

Senator Hays argues for reform in two phases.  As a prelude to more fundamental reform, the first phase would create an independent Senate Appointments Commission, introduce fixed senatorial terms, and reform the deadlock-breaking mechanism between the Senate and House of Commons, as well make other changes not requiring constitutional amendments.

The second phase would address senatorial elections, redistribution, and redefinition of Senate powers. It would begin with a Royal Commission followed by all-party discussions at both the federal and provincial levels, because “such matters clearly fall under … the Constitution Act, 1982, which requires … support from seven of the provinces with at least 50% of the population”.


Professor David Smith, University of Saskatchewan, cited Senator Hays’ proposals for reform in a paper, The Senate of Canada and the Conundrum of Reform, delivered at a conference in the fall of 2007.

Constitution Act, 2007 (Senate tenure)

Date: May 2006
Bill: S-4
Sponsor: Hon. Gerald J. Comeau (ON)
Downloads: Text of the Bill


The government introduced Bill C-4 in the Senate on May 30, 2006 to limit the tenure of Senators to an eight-year (renewable) term.  Currently, Senators may serve until they are 75 years old.  On June 21, 2006, the Senate established a Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform to study the proposal while Parliament was recessed.  It studied three issues:

  • senate tenure;
  • advisory elections for senatorial appointments; and
  • a motion to increase the number of Senators appointed from BC and the Prairie Regions.

The Special Committee heard from 37 witnesses during its September 2006 hearings and issued two reports.  The first report (October 26, 2006) deals with the first two issues.  Although it supported incremental senate reform, the Committee (like the expert witnesses who appeared before it) did not arrive at a consensus position.  Various ‘trade offs’ were identified for further consideration to achieve a balance between:

  • senatorial independence (‘sober second thought’) ~ fresh circulation of ideas;
  • citizen participation in senatorial selections ~ minority representation; and
  • a strengthened Senate ~ power deadlocks with the House of Commons.

The Special Committee’s second report addresses the issue of increasing senatorial representation from the four western provinces.  The Murray / Austin Motion, as it is known, proposed that the Constitution Act,1867 be amended to recognize BC and the Prairie provinces as separate regions, and that the number of senators be increased as follows:  BC – 12 (from 6); Alberta – 10 (from 6); Saskatchewan – 7 (from 6); and Manitoba – 7 (from 6); for a new total of 117 senators (from 105).  These changes would require ratification by both the Senate and the House of Commons, together with ratification by two-thirds of the provinces having 50% of the population of Canada (section 38, Constitution Act, 1982).

Committee members did not reach a unanimous conclusion; however, the report states that “most support the [Murray / Austin Motion] … so as to give governments and legislatures across Canada a starting point for providing the West with equitable representation in Canada’s Senate.”

In the meantime, Bill S-4 continued its progress through the Senate, moving through 2nd reading to committee stage, which concluded with a report recommending fixed non-renwable senatorial terms of 15 years.  It also recommended that the bill should not proceed to 3rd reading until the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on its constitutionality.  The Senate adopted these recommendations on June 19, 2007.


In The Top Four Myths of Senate Reform, B. Thomas Hall remarked that “fundamental Senate reform requires a far greater degree of consensus in the country than we’ve seen so far” and cautioned: “Instead of benefits, it’s more likely that fundamental reform of the Senate would give rise to a series of conflicts between the two Houses for dominance and ultimately control of the government.” He does, however, comment favourably on limiting senatorial terms although he would opt for something longer than eight years.

Rather than refer Bill S-4 to the Supreme Court for a ruling on its constitutionality, the government re-introduced it in the House of Commons on November 13, 2007, where it currently remains.  Now known as Bill C-19, the new proposal would limit senatorial terms to eight years.  Terms would be non-renewable, but could be interrupted to allow for extended absences.

The Murray / Austin Motion died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued on September 14, 2007.