TaxesTerrorismTradeTransportation

TAXES

Canada: Still open for business? (2018)
Taxation of the Hutterites in Canada (2018)
Simple and Competitive Taxation: The Way Forward for Canada (2017)
Income Tax Amendment Bill (film tax credits) (2007)
Income Tax Act (1990)
GST Act (1990)
Unemployment Insurance Act (1990)


Canada: Still open for business? (2018)

Date: October 2018
Committee: Banking, Trade and Commerce
Chair: Hon. Doug Black (AB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Carolyn Stewart Olsen (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

As Canada’s productivity rate has recently fallen behind that of the United States, the Banking, Trade and Commerce committee looked at numerous factors influencing Canada’s trade competitiveness in this report. Three events instigated the study: the lowering of personal and corporate taxes in the U.S., the failure of the TransMountain pipeline to move ahead with expansion due to regulatory hurdles, and the renegotiation of NAFTA. Another key concern is that a brain drain to the U.S. is occurring as a result of a more favourable tax regime there.

The report tables six recommendations, the first of which is an overhaul of Canada’s tax system by way of a new Royal Commission on Taxation (the last one was in 1962). Others include lowering the corporate income tax rate, improving the regulatory regime, expanding the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SRED)

investment tax credit program (after it was cut dramatically in 2012), improving trade infrastructure (ports, pipelines, etc.), and expanding free trade agreements to other fast-developing economies (China, India, etc.).

Impact:

The report received wide media coverage in CTV News, the Financial Post, iPolitics, the Globe and Mail, and CBC News.


Taxation of the Hutterites in Canada

Date: May 2018
Committee: Banking, Trade and Commerce
Chair: Hon. Douglas Black (AB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Carolyn Stewart Olsen (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

This report details issues of taxation concerning Hutterite communities.  The report concludes that Hutterites are being unfairly taxed because they are not able to claim certain benefits that other Canadian farmers can.

Hutterites have been taxed as communal organizations by way of a fictional trust (section 143 of the Income Tax Act). This allows the trust to then allocate income to individual members of the colony, who are then able to claim the amount as income on their personal income tax.

The report states that as of 2014, Hutterites are no longer eligible to claim the Working Income Tax Benefit refundable tax credit (WITB), which they had claimed since its introduction in 2007. The Canada Revenue Agency changed the definition of individuals’ income from “farming income” to “income from property,” which resulted in the change in eligibility. Other changes to the individual income allocation formula were also suggested by their accounting firm, MNP LLP.

The committee recommended that the Minister of Finance further review this issue to ensure that Hutterites are taxed fairly and similarly to other Canadian farmers.

The Senate committee met with the Department of Finance Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the Honourable Dan Hays, P.C., and representatives from the Kings Lake Colony Farming Co. Ltd. and MNP LLP.

Impact:

The Minister of Finance issued an official response to the report in November 2018, promising to reflect on section 143.

The committee report was also mentioned in the Western Producer.


Simple and Competitive Taxation: The Way Forward for Canada

Date: December 2017
Chair: Hon. Percy Mockler (NB)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer (BC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. André Pratte (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

This report was requested by the Senate because of the Minister of Finance’s proposed changes to the taxation of Canadian-controlled private corporations (CCPCs) in July 2017. These changes included stopping the practices of income sprinkling to family members and using retained earnings to earn passive income. It also would end the practice of converting income into capital gains to avoid paying tax on dividends. The report looked at potential impacts of the proposed legislation on small business owners, the economy, government revenues and taxation fairness regarding different types of income.

The main recommendation in the report was to withdraw the legislation entirely, or at the very least delay its implementation until January 1, 2019.  Two independent senators who were committee members did indicate they were not in favour of scrapping the legislation entirely. Other recommendations included conducting an economic impact assessment and gender analysis of this legislation and reviewing any unintended consequences to the healthcare system that this legislation might have, given its impact on professional corporations that doctors often use. The report also recommended an independent review of the entire Canadian tax system.

Impact:

The Minister of Finance amended his proposals in October 2017, while the committee was still in hearings. The Minister himself appeared as a witness before the committee on November 1, 2017, after he announced these changes. His changes included exempting the first $50,000 earned in passive income within a CCPC and clarifying which family members are eligible for income sprinkling. The capital gains revisions were scrapped.

The same day the report was released, the Finance Minister announced further clarifications to his proposals, including necessary labour and financial contributions for family members to become eligible for income sprinkling. Some would be entirely exempt from the new rules, including spouses of business owners who are over the age of 65. These were detailed in Globe and Mail article that mentioned the report.


Income Tax Amendment Bill (film tax credits)

Date: October 2007
Bill: C-10
Sponsor: Hon. Marjory LeBreton (ON)
Downloads: Text of the Bill

Summary:

The bill primarily dealt with non-resident trusts and foreign investment entities.  However, buried in its 281 clauses was a provision (section 120(3)(b)) to change film tax credits so that “public financial support of the production would not be contrary to public policy”.  These 13 words, out of literally thousands in Bill C-10, caused a public outcry against censorship.

The House of Commons had passed the bill through all three stages, without debate, in less than 60 seconds on October 29, 2007.  The Senate sent the bill to committee on December 4, where hearings commenced a week later.  The initial focus was still on trusts, but rapidly shifted to film tax credits and censorship when the issue was raised by legions of concerned citizens through email and Facebook campaigns.

Impact:

Ultimately, 14 committee sessions were devoted to hearing witnesses on the censorship issue.  The who’s who of Canada’s film industry testified, as did government representatives and a prominent evangelist.  Mainstream media followed the issue closely (see, for example, the Toronto Star article of March 5), and editorials generally favoured changes to the proposed censorship clause.

Matters were left unresolved when Parliament recessed in June but surfaced again during an election called in September.  A large rally in Montreal, for example, vigorously protested against the government’s treatment of film tax credits and funding cuts.  One week prior to election day, the Prime Minister bowed to pressure and announced he would scrap the censorship provisions in Bill C-10.

Bill C-10 highlighted the way tax bills are neglected by the House of Commons.  As one op-ed stated, “the Senate’s willingness to jump in and seriously examine the rules contained in Bill C-10 is a most welcome check and balance on what heretofore has been a free ride for [the Department of] Finance.


Income Tax Act

Date: 1990
Bill: C-28
Sponsor: Hon. Jean-Maurice Simard (NB)
Downloads: Senate Debates

Summary:

The government proposed a series of new taxes in its 1989 budget to stem a dramatic increase in federal deficits and debt.  Although surtaxes on high income individuals and capital-intensive corporations were a cornerstone of the budget, so-called ‘clawbacks’ of Old Age Security pensions (and, to a lesser extent, family allowance benefits) became the focus for public outcry.

Many Senators felt that the clawbacks imposed on Old Age Security (OAS) were too severe.  Income thresholds of $50,000 were only partially indexed, for example, meaning more and more OAS pensions would be clawed back as time went on, because the real value of threshold incomes would not keep pace with inflation.  The Committee which reviewed the legislation therefore recommended three amendments to soften the effect of the clawbacks.

The Government Leader in the Senate resisted the amendments, claiming that, in law and by custom, the Senate could not amend a money bill.  Other senators cited constitutional and historical authorities to demonstrate that the Senate has the right to pass, amend or reject money bills, but not to initiate them (see Debates, May 22).

Impact:

The Speaker ruled (Debates, May 31) that one of the proposed amendments was not in order because it initiated an increase in the incidence of taxes.  However, the other two amendments were allowed, and the Senate passed Bill C-28 on June 14, 1990 with these amendments:

  • the OAS income threshold was fully indexed so it would rise each year in step with annual inflation; and
  • an OAS credit was created to reimburse seniors who had contributed to the OAS Fund prior to 1972.

Four days later, on June 18, 1990, the House of Commons flatly rejected the amendments claiming the Senate should not amend money bills.  Parliament recessed soon thereafter for the summer.

Over the summer, Senator Buckwold (SK), chair of the Senate Committee that had recommended the amendments, continued to advocate changes to the clawback provisions but the government stood firm.  On September 7, 1990, Finance Minister Michael Wilson wrote to Senator Buckwold, saying “In the interest of the country, please get this bill passed.”  Senator Buckwold replied: “Accept two relatively minor, but important, amendments and the Bill is yours.” (Debates, page 3093).

In the meantime, the Senate was engaged in vigorous scrutiny of various other contentious pieces of legislation, most notably a bill proposing the goods and services tax (GST).  Prime Minister Brian Mulroney moved to forestall a defeat on the GST bill by appointing 24 additional senators to give the Progressive Conservatives a majority in the Senate.  When it reconvened on September 25, opposition to government initiatives continued.  However, three weeks later, the Senate voted 58 to 34 to pass Bill C-28 without amendment.


GST Act

Date: December 1990
Bill: C-62
Sponsor: Hon. William Kelly (ON)
Downloads: Text of the Bill

Summary:

January 24, 1990 marked the beginning of a year-long struggle to manoeuver GST (Goods and Services Tax) through Parliament. The new 7% GST was designed to replace an existing 13.5% Manufacturers Sales Tax (MST). From a political perspective, the bill generated intense debate; from a policy perspective, GST had three advantages over its predecessor:

  • Firstly, it equalized sales taxes across all goods and services sold in Canada, regardless of country of origin, method of distribution or end use;
  • Secondly, it captured a new revenue base – services – which had not been taxed previously but now represented 2/3 of total sales in Canada; and
  • Thirdly, it exempted exports, which facilitated free trade with the US and other nations.

The government argued that GST was revenue neutral with MST and offered greater visibility, making it a fairer tax.  Subsequent statistics proved government right about revenue neutrality.  Increased transparency, on the other hand, gave rise to widespread, often passionate, resistance to the new tax.  Between 75 and 85% of Canadians consistently told pollsters they opposed the GST, and editorial cartoonists had a heyday.  Nevertheless, the bill eventually passed through Parliament and became the law of the land on January 1, 1991.

Impact:

The GST saga makes for interesting reading. It spotlights the only time a Prime Minister ever appointed eight extra senators in order to forestall defeat on a government bill.  And it marked a distinct shift toward Parliamentary impotence.

On October 8, 1990, Maclean’s attempted to make sense of events in an article headlined How Much Can Canada Take?  It concluded that “the unprecedented events left the GST’s future no more certain than that of the Senate – or the country – itself.”  A year later, Senator Royce Frith (ON) was much less equivocal.  When he published his lively day by day account of GST proceedings, Hoods on the Hill, he pronounced the following verdict:

…in our system the word government now means Prime Minister….
[T]he system of parliamentary democracy we originally chose for Canada is not the system we have now.  It has been transformed by the concentration of power more and more in one person – and so is subject to terrible abuse when, for example, that person has the attitude and style of a bully and, of course, surrounds himself with people of like mind.


Unemployment Insurance Act

Date: October 1990
Bill: C-21
Sponsor: Hon. Jean Bazin (QC)
Downloads: Text of the Bill

Summary:

Bill C-21 proposed major changes to Canada’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, as it was then called. Among other things, it introduced training programs for unemployed workers and extended benefits to workers aged 65.  However, it also ended government contributions to the UI Account, raised eligibility thresholds, reduced maximum benefit periods in most regions and imposed more severe penalties for defrauding the program. The bill arrived in the Senate on November 7, 1989.

By the end of January 1990, the Senate Special Committee on Bill C-21 had held 23 hearings and heard testimony from over 90 groups and individuals ranging across the spectrum from unemployed workers to Chambers of Commerce.  Its report was adopted by the Senate on February 21,1989 and Bill C-21 was passed with nine amendments on the same day.  The most significant amendments left penalties unchanged and placed limits on new developmental uses for UI funds.  The Senate also wanted to maintain a moderate level of government contributions to the UI Account.

In an exchange of messages, the government (through the House of Commons) agreed with one of the Senate’s amendments, amended others and flatly rejected the remainder. The Senate in turn concurred with two amendments as revised by the Commons, decided it would not insist on some of its own amendments, and explained why it found several Commons amendments unacceptable. The government (again through the Commons) then agreed with another of the Senate’s amendments but continued to disagree with everything else.  In the meantime, eight new senators were appointed under an obscure provision of the constitution, giving the government a majority in the Senate.  Their votes tipped the balance on UI and GST bills.  Bill C-21 became law with no further Senate amendments on October 23, 1990.

Impact:

Bill C-21 prompted a year long process of sending amendments back and forth between the House of Commons and the Senate.  Despite some attempts to negotiate a compromise behind the scenes (Debates, pages 3158 to 3160), positions became increasingly entrenched. The Senate proposed a formal process to resolve differences through a bicameral conference (as had been the practice in past years) but its suggestion was ignored by the government of the day (Debates, page 1323).  Debates in both houses of Parliament became more and more focused on delicate interpretations of powers legally sanctioned by either statute or long-standing practice (so-called constitutional conventions – see, for example, Debates, page 1708 and following).

Public response to the Senate’s action was mixed. Senators were deluged with letters (Debates, page 1114), the Special Committee had no shortage of witnesses who advocated the type of amendments it put forward, and other citizens staged demonstrations against Bill C-21. Nevertheless, some Canadians were frustrated because the government stopped approving many UI applications after July 12, 1990. The Ottawa Citizen reported thousands of people were caught in this bind. Labour representatives, on the other hand, accused the government of holding unemployed workers hostage in a bid to pressure the Senate into passing the bill without further ado.

TERRORISM

Security, Freedom and the Complex Terrorist Threat: Positive Steps Ahead (2011)


Security, Freedom and the Complex Terrorist Threat: Positive Steps Ahead

Date: March 2011
Committee: Special Senate Committee on Anti-terrorism
Chair: Hon. Hugh Segal (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Serge Joyal (QC)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

A Special Senate Committee on Anti-Terrorism was established in May of 2010 to examine and report on matters relating to anti-terrorism. It focused on how to strike a balance between national security and protection of individual civil liberties.  The changing threat environment, challenges associated with terrorism investigations and prosecutions, and parliamentary oversight of Canada’s national security constituted the report’s main topics.

The report offers 16 recommendations.  In response to an increase in ‘home-grown terrorism’ (often referred to as ‘radicalization’), the committee urged the federal government to support additional research efforts to improve our knowledge and therefore our ability to counteract the process.  It also encouraged a commitment to cultural diversity within security agencies which would help to reduce inappropriate racial profiling practices.  Regarding investigations and prosecutions, the committee made a series of recommendations primarily designed to enhance cohesion amongst security agencies and fairness in due process.  Finally, the committee recommended that a standing joint committee of Senators and MPs be established to oversee national security agencies as is done in the United Kingdom, Australia, France, the Netherlands and the United States.  Committee members would be bound by a permanent oath of secrecy.

Impact:

FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada) referenced the report in its quarterly review, Money Laundering and Terrorist Activity Financing Watch. iPolitics covered the report in one of its articles.  Craig Forcese, Vice Dean and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, commented on the committee’s discussion of CSIS disclosure and parliamentary review on his blog. A summary of the report was also published in the Anti-Terrorism & Charity Law Alert, a newsletter by the Canadian law firm Carters.

TRADE

North American Neighbours: Canada and Mexico Cooperation in Uncertain Times (2017) 
Free Trade Agreements: A Tool for Economic Prosperity (2017)
National Corridor: Enhancing and Facilitating Commerce and Internal Trade (2017)
The Future of Canadian Air Travel: Toll Booth or Spark Plug? (2012)
Intensifying Strategic Partnerships with the New Brazil (2012)
Seizing Opportunities for Canadians: India’s Growth and Canada’s Future Prosperity (2010)
A Workplan for Canada in the New Global Economy: Responding to the Rise of Russia, India and China (2010)
Canada and Russia: building on today’s successes for tomorrow’s potential (2010)
Time for a New National Vision: Opportunities and Constraints for Canada in the Global Movement of Goods (2008)
The Rising Dollar: Explanation and Economic Impacts (Volume 2) (2003)
Our Shared Border: Facilitating the Movement of Goods and People in a Security Environment (2002)


North American Neighbours: Canada and Mexico Cooperation in Uncertain Times (2017)

Date: June 2017
Committee: Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: Hon. A. Raynell Andreychuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Percy E. Downe (PEI)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

Considering many warnings by the Trump administration of re-opening NAFTA in early 2017, the committee looked at Canada’s bilateral relationship with Mexico, and possibilities for strengthening this relationship. Because of NAFTA, there is now $38 billion in annual trade between the two countries. The report detailed the case for continued strengthening of the bilateral relationship between Canada and Mexico, especially given Mexico’s problematic bilateral relationship with the US under Trump. The report detailed possibilities for increased trade and energy cooperation between the two countries, as well as cooperation on issues beyond trade, such as governance, security and the rule of law. Cooperating with Mexico in a bilateral basis could also help in trilateral negotiations with the US. There were no recommendations coming from the report, except for a strong statement that “there is room for Canada and Mexico to engage further bilaterally.”

Impact:

The report had limited media pickup, but was reported on in the Mexican newspaper, El Universal. It was, however, another perspective for the federal government to consider as the NAFTA negotiations were formally reopened by the Trump administration in July 2017.


Free Trade Agreements: A Tool for Economic Prosperity 

Date: February 2017
Committee: Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: Hon. Raynell Andreychuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Percy E. Downe (PEI)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The report underlines the importance of trade to Canadian prosperity

It argues that the federal government should make its pursuit of international free trade agreements more transparent to the public and to parliamentarians.

It makes nine recommendations to increase public involvement and parliamentary oversight of these agreements and to establish standards by which the success of an agreement would be measured.

The report noted that not all Canadian businesses use free trade agreements to their full potential, and that some have even had the unintended consequence of displacing Canadian workers and disrupting domestic Canadian markets through providing competition.

Impact:

The Senate report was highlighted on various websites, including North America Now, OEC Group, and iPolitics.ca.

The need for increased public engagement highlighted by the report was supported by an Institute for Research and Public Policy publication, A Road Map for More Inclusive Canadian Trade Policy.

It was mentioned by the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic in a brief to the NAFTA consultations of Global Affairs Canada in July 2017.

It was mentioned in a primer in advance of the Trudeau-Trump meeting on NAFTA in February 2017 by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.


National Corridor: Enhancing and Facilitating Commerce and Internal Trade

Date: June 2017
Committee: Banking, Trade and Commerce
Chair: Hon. David Tkachuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Joseph Day (NB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

This report calls for the construction of an east-west corridor through Canada’s northern regions, which would unlock significant economic opportunities.

It examines the $100-billion corridor proposal from the University of Calgary’s School for Public Policy and Montreal’s Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations.

It concludes that a 7,000-kilometre transportation corridor across Canada’s North will have as revolutionary an impact on today’s Canadian economy as the coast-to-coast railway did in the 1800s.

The committee cautioned that it would be a decades-long project facing complex issues including relationships with Indigenous peoples, financing challenges and environmental impacts.

The report recommended granting $5 million to the University of Calgary and the Montreal research centre to continue researching this project, while ensuring Indigenous participation takes place from the beginning.

Impact:

After the report, the committee recommended the federal government strike a task force to conduct consultations across Canada with relevant communities to determine how the proposed northern corridor should be developed

It was highlighted in the Globe and Mail, Business News Network, the Hill Times, the Western Producer, Business Vancouver, Alaska Highway News, and Daily Commercial News to name a few.


The Future of Canadian Air Travel: Toll Booth or Spark Plug?

Date: June 2012
Committee: Transportation and Communications
Chair: Hon. Dennis Dawson (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Stephen Greene (NS)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

In the US, they see their airports as economic spark plugs, and we see them as toll booths,” stated one witness. The Senate Committee on Transport and Communications examined the air travel industry in Canada, focusing on issues that are holding the country back from being internationally competitive. High Canadian airfares have discouraged passengers from flying on Canadian airlines, forcing them to fly from US airports instead. Passengers departing from Canadian airports pay 60 and 75% above the airline’s fare to cover taxes and charges compared to 10 and 18% in America. According to the World Economic Forum, Canada ranked 125th out of 139 countries for ticket taxes and airport charges in 2011.

The Committee urged the Government of Canada to adopt a new National Air Travel Strategy; to reduce or eliminate the rent it charges airports as well as limiting other taxes and user fees; to grant full transit visas for non-Canadian travelers who are connecting through Canadian airports; and to provide automatic transfer of luggage for connecting flights so travellers need pass through security and customs just the once.

Impact:

On June 9, 2012, the Globe and Mail agreed with the Senate Committee’s recommendation to eliminate government rents at airports, but claimed that increasing air traffic at Canadian airports would need much more effort than what was suggested in the report.  The Spec also agreed that abolishing airport rents would be useful.  However, it stressed a larger need to focus on competition in the Canadian air industry, asserting that Europe enjoys better airfares because airlines are allowed to carry passengers within each other’s borders, unlike their counterparts in North America. A similar view was taken by The Toronto Star on June 24, 2012.

In the meantime, the Committee’s report prompted a headline in The World, an American publication, that proclaimed “Small US Airports [are] Attracting Bargain-Hunting Canadians”.  The manager of Bellingham’s airport, for example, said that “we’ve expanded the terminal three times now.


Intensifying Strategic Partnerships with the New Brazil

Date: May 2012
Committee: Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: Hon. Raynell Andreychuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Percy Downe (PEI)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade observed that Brazil has come a long way from political and economic obstacles to being a dominant power and has even surpassed the United Kingdom as the sixth largest economy in the world. It concluded that Brazil’s success, coupled with its interest in exchanging knowledge in technology and science with Canada, calls for stronger ties between the two countries.

The Committee suggested taking a strategic approach based on “matching Canada’s expertise with Brazil’s immediate priorities”.  The recommendations include focusing on science & technology, building strong foundations in education and sustaining it as a key driving force, and providing support for the “Science without Borders” program.

Impact:

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada applauded the Senate Committee in recognizing the important role education, science and technology plays in building a strong relation with Brazil.


Seizing Opportunities for Canadians: India’s Growth and Canada’s Future Prosperity

Date: December 2010
Committee: Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: Hon. Raynell Andreychuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Peter A. Stollery (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The committee concluded its three-year study on the rise of China, India and Russia with this report which particularly focused on India. Among eight strategic recommendations, it urges the federal government to develop a ‘Canada Brand’ that would highlight Canada’s expertise and innovation in areas where demand and opportunities in the three countries are particularly acute. The sectors that would benefit from promoting such a brand include education, agriculture, mining and other extractive industries, energy, technology, financial services and infrastructure.

Impact:

As a long-standing supporter of bilateral trade and investment growth between Canada and India, the Canada-India Business Council featured the Senate report in its January 7, 2011 news post.  CIBC World Markets Inc. extensively cited the report in Economic Insights (June 1, 2011), noting India’s tremendous growth potential and opportunities for Canada.  In addition, Incanus Public Affairs acknowledged the report in its July 2011 newsletter.


A Workplan for Canada in the New Global Economy: Responding to the Rise of Russia, India and China

Date: June 2010
Committee: Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: Hon. Raynell Andreychuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Peter A. Stollery (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The second of three reports, the committee examined economic growth in Russia, India and China and the impact this will have on Canadian policy.  It recommends that Canada strengthen its partnerships with Russia, India and China. Specifically, the committee urged the federal government to increase high profile visits, help develop greater commercial relations and promote Canada’s profile abroad.

Impact:

The Canadian International Council cited this report in The Dragon Returns: Canada in China’s Quest for Energy Security. The High Commissioner for India in Canada publicly described how Canada’s relationship with India improved following release of this report.


Canada and Russia: building on today’s successes for tomorrow’s potential

Date: March 2010
Committee: Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Chair: Hon. Raynell Andreychuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Peter Stollery (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

While Russia faces challenges that continue to impede the growth of its economy, its economic progress since the collapse of the Soviet Union cannot be denied. The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s report concluded that there is a “positive future” in Canada’s economic relationship with Russia, in terms of both trade and investment.

A number of Canadian business sectors can be expected to succeed in Russia, including the Canadian innovation and technological businesses. In committee meetings it became clear that the natural resources sector is another particular area where Canadian trade has been and will continue to be warmly received. Other important sectors for Canada’s economic relationship with Russia include business in the green economy, infrastructure and transportation.

The Committee also discussed some of the problems that currently limit Canada’s relationship with Russia. Some of these concerns are limited to problems in the Russian economy, such as its protectionist tendencies, its frustrating bureaucratic processes and the extent of corruption. At the same time, Canada can help build this relationship in a number of ways, including making changes to Canada’s visa system to make it more professional and more efficient. The Committee also emphasized the importance of an increase in high-level Canadian federal and provincial visits to Russia. It was suggested that the current state of Canada’s visa system and the infrequency of Canadian visits to Russia sends the message that Russia does not matter to Canada; this impression needs to change in order to improve bilateral trade and investment.

Impact:

The Globe and Mail published an article written by Tye W. Burt, the CEO of a Canadian mining company, who called the Committee’s report “required reading for any Canadian…official seeking inside knowledge about doing business in Russia.” The report also got a brief mention on the website Modern Russia which summarized its conclusions. The Committee’s assertion that Canada has not done all it could to encourage trade with Russia was cited  by a BC government report.


Time for a New National Vision: Opportunities and Constraints for Canada in the Global Movement of Goods

Date: June 2008
Committee: Transport and Communications
Chair: Hon. Lise Bacon (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Donald Oliver (NS)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

Containerized freight transportation is expected to be the dominant method of international trade in the future.  The Committee therefore studied Canada’s system to determine what needs to be done to attract a greater share of North America’s container traffic.

It particularly recommended establishing a National Gateway Council so private sector players and governments from across the country come together to improve regulatory efficiencies, deal with labour shortages and environmental issues, integrate more information technology into the system and market Canada’s transportation networks to the world.

Impact:

The Shipping Federation of Canada stated the Senate’s report is “broader in scope than the report on the Pacific Gateway Initiative that was presented to International Trade Minister David Emerson earlier this year.” It went on to express confidence that its recommendations “are likely to generate action from the government over the coming months.”  The Canadian Trucking Alliance was also optimistic that “with this new support from the Senate … we may begin to see more action on some of these issues.”


The Rising Dollar: Explanation and Economic Impacts (Volume 2)

Date: November 2003
Committee: Foreign Affairs
Chair: Hon. Peter Stollery (ON)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Consiglio Di Nino (ON)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

The Committee investigated observed trends in recent and historical movements of the Canadian dollar.  The report explains determinants of these currency fluctuations over time, with consideration being given to both internal and external influences on the dollar’s recent appreciation.  Economic impacts of the dollar’s rise are also assessed, with trade impacts being reviewed from both a general and a sectoral point of view.  The report concludes with a discussion of whether the existing exchange rate regime in Canada is appropriate.

Impact:

The Library of Parliament’s 2004 analysisThe Effects of a Higher Dollar on the Canadian Economy, is largely based on the Senate’s report.


Our Shared Border: Facilitating the Movement of Goods and People in a Security Environment

Date: June 2002
Committee: Banking, Trade and Commerce
Chair: Hon. E. Leo Kolber (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. David Tkachuk (SK)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

This report studies the economic effects of clogged borders on Canadian business and the economy after 9/11.  It identifies economic – as distinct from security – issues and reviews various proposed solutions, concluding with a 30-point action plan.

Impact:

The government continues to focus on improvements at border crossings.  Many action items recommended by the Committee have received attention. For example, the NEXUS pilot project, which the Committee recommended extending, is now a full-fledged program for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.

TRANSPORTATION

Driving Change: Technology and the Future of the Automated Vehicle (2018)
Motor Vehicle Safety Act (2016)
An Act respecting certain Agreements concerning the Redevelopment and Operation of Terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport (1996)


Driving Change: Technology and the Future of the Automated Vehicle

Date: January 2018
Committee: Transport and Communications
Chair: Hon. David Tkachuk (SK)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Dennis Dawson (QC)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Patricia Bovey (MB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

This report analyzes virtually every aspect of how autonomous vehicles will affect every bit of our daily life in Canada.

The committee studied the risks and rewards of this technology for almost two years and heard from 78 expert witnesses and top researchers.

The report calls for 16 recommendations to prepare Canada for the disruptive technology, which could become mainstream within 10-15 years.

It generally asks various government departments to work with innovators and other levels of government to develop safety and cybersecurity guidelines, and ways to enforce industry compliance with privacy legislation.

Impact:

This report was highlighted in many places, including on CollisionRepairmag.com, noting that concerns from the Automotive Industry Association about the aftermarket industry were taken seriously.

Driving.ca mentioned the report in complimentary terms, although noted it did not touch on the right to drive in the future.

Insurance Business Canada and the law firm Miller Thomson showed interest in the report.


Motor Vehicle Safety Act

Date: November 2016
Committee: Transport and Communications
Bill: S-2
Acting Chair: Hon. Terry Mercer (NS)
Deputy Chair: Hon. Michael L. MacDonald (NS)
Bill sponsor: Hon. Peter Harder (MB)
Downloads: Read the Report

Summary:

This Senate-initiated bill addressed providing small car dealers with additional protections when dealing with government-enforced automotive maker recalls. It was a continuation of Bill C-62 introduced in the House during the previous parliament and under a Conservative government called the “Safer Vehicles for Canadians Act.” Although Bill C-62 was introduced in June of 2015, it did not get past first reading in the House. The most important part of Bill C-62 was the addition of new defect and recall powers, inspection powers, as well as adding new monetary penalties. Bill S-2 continued this bill, with a few modifications. The bill gave Transport Canada new powers to enforce car makers to issue a recall on their products if it is in the interests of pubic safety and that dealers are not allowed to sell these vehicles to consumers until these repairs are completed.

The committee report on the bill added an important amendment which would align Canadian law with US law. As small car dealers do not carry large inventories of vehicles, if they are forced by this law not to sell them for months due to a recall, it could have severe monetary consequences for them. This amendment gave small dealers compensation from car dealers for delays in recalls by providing them with a monthly payment equivalent to at least one percent of the dealer price for each month the car stayed on their lot.

Impact:

The Senate amendment passed third reading in the Senate and was sent to the House of Commons. Here, the government took out the amendment, but added their own amendment dealing with the issue. During debate, it was stated that Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, which had first flagged the concern during the Senate committee stage, were in total agreement with the House amendments addressing the issue. The Senate therefore concurred with the amendments made by the House on February 13, 2018.

This is an example of the Senate raising a concern that would impact Canadians, and the House taking this under consideration in due course. The House adopted the spirit of the amendment, but revised the details, making for better legislation for Canadians.


An Act respecting certain Agreements concerning the Redevelopment and Operation of Terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport 

Date: April 1996
Bill: C-28
Sponsor: Hon. B. Alasdair Graham (NS)
Downloads: Text of the Bill

Summary:

The government introduced legislation to annul agreements for privatizing and redeveloping Terminals 1 and 2 at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and to prevent the developers from suing the government for damages.

The agreements had been signed on October 7, 1993.  However, an election intervened on October 25 and the new Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, moved to cancel the agreements.  He based his decision on a report by former Ontario provincial treasurer (Robert Nixon) that found the agreements were not in the public interest. The bill was passed in the House of Commons and forwarded to the Senate.

In the Senate, concerns were raised about the bill’s legality. It was felt that provisions barring legal action violated a fundamental rule of law because they precluded open access to the courts for a determination of rights by a fair and independent tribunal. On July 7, 1994, the Senate amended the bill and sent it back to the House of Commons where the amendments were rejected.

A Special Committee of the Senate was appointed to consider the matter further.  It met 30 times, heard from 65 witnesses, and issued a report in December 1995 that divided along party lines.  Essentially, the majority (Progressive Conservatives) did not support cancelling the contracts, whereas the minority (Liberals) were of the view that the agreements violated the rule of law.  In the meantime, the developers had sued the government and the trial commenced on February 12, 1996.

Impact:

On June 10, 1996, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs tabled its report which recommended amending Bill-28 to declare that the agreements had legal effect until repudiated by the government in December 1995, thereby upholding the rule of law.  Nine days later, the Senate voted on the bill.  Of 96 senators present, 48 voted for the bill and 48 voted against it. Under the Rules of the Senate, a tied vote is deemed to be a negative vote; therefore, Bill C-28 was defeated.  The developers’ law suit proceeded and was eventually settled out of court.

Over the course of its lengthy consideration by Parliament, Bill C-28 maintained a high profile in the media.  Academic commentaries also proliferated.  For example, Patrick J. Mohahan, a law professor at Osgoode Hall, concluded that “legislation purporting to abrogate contracts and deny compensation is invalid, since it violates the implied limits on legislative authority associated with the rule of law.”  In 2012, the Honourable Lowell Murray wrote a brief account of the event.