REFLECTING ON 5 YEARS IN THE SENATE OF CANADA
Helping to strengthen Canada-Philippines relations
As I reach my fifth anniversary of being appointed to the Senate of Canada, I feel there is much to reflect on and celebrate from my time thus far in Canada’s Upper Chamber. Many milestones and achievements have been reached over these past five years, and I would like to share some of those with you all.
In the Chamber, I have been keeping very busy, sponsoring a government bill in the Senate, introducing my own private member’s legislation, inquiries, and motions, including a motion to change the Rules of the Senate. I also continue to sit on several standing committees, all of which have demanding legislative agendas which are aimed at strengthening each and every bill that passes before it. It was certainly a highly productive first five years!
I am pleased to announce that many strides have been taken to strengthen Canada-Philippines relations since I first entered the Senate Chamber. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work closely with many representatives and officials of the Philippines. This includes a 2015 state visit by former President Benigno Aquino III, which was a powerfully symbolic gesture of the close ties between our two governments. I have also had the privilege of working closely with several Philippines and Canadian Ambassadors, all of whom have worked tirelessly to help in fostering the relationship between our two great countries.
Furthermore, I have been fortunate enough to partake in several important bilateral announcements between the Canadian and Filipino government, a trade mission to the Philippines, and have also had the opportunity to visit several Canadian-funded reconstruction projects within the Philippines. Through these instances, I have personally witnessed significant government-to-government and private sector commitments being made and carried out, to the benefit of all.
I have also had the great opportunity to share and celebrate many joyous moments and events with you, the people of Canada. I cherish the time I have been able to spend celebrating this great country we call home. As the first Filipino-Canadian to be appointed to the Senate, it also fills me with great pride to see the many events that showcase the beautiful and unique heritage that Filipino-Canadians have come to embody.
My duty as a Senator is to represent the Province of Ontario and to represent Filipino-Canadians from all over the country, to give them a voice at the federal level of government. I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to have worked for you over the past five years and I cherish the many memories I have made so far. I greatly look forward to serving you for many more years to come! I am proud to represent you in the Senate of Canada.
The Hon. Tobias C. Enverga Jr., Senator
Working in the Senate
In the Senate Chamber
The Senator is very proud of his many achievements and contributions within the Chamber over his first five years. He has worked hard to introduce legislation and further debate on many important topics. One such example is when he introduced Government Bill C-40, An Act Respecting the Rouge National Urban Park. This was pioneering legislation of great importance to the nearly 7 million people living in the Greater Toronto area, as it established the first urban national park in Canada. Giving Torontonians easy access to 58 square kilometres of forests, meadows, wetlands and farmlands, this bill passed both Houses of Parliament and became law in April 2015, creating a legal framework for a new approach to urban conservation.
The Senator has also been hard at work on his own legislative initiatives, as he has introduced private member’s bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month. The Senator reintroduced this bill, as it did not come to a vote before the previous Parliament ended. Currently in Committee after passing its Second Reading vote, this bill would dedicate the month of October as Latin American Heritage Month. The Senator introduced this legislation to recognize the significant contributions made by members of the Latin American community in Canada towards the social, economic and political fabric of the nation. The Senator has also introduced a motion that would alter the Rules of the Senate. This motion, which is near and dear to the Senator’s heart, would look to formally establish the practice of singing the national anthem—“O Canada”— at the beginning of Senate sitting each Tuesday, which would normally be the first Senate sitting of the week. A practice that has been adopted by the House of Commons since 1995, Senator Enverga feels it is time that Canada’s Senators also sing, loudly and proudly, the words of our national anthem once a week as a reminder of the good work senators must continue to do and those to which we serve—the people of Canada. This motion is currently in debate before the Senate. Upholding our national anthem, Senator Enverga worked tirelessly and spoke passionately, numerous times, against Bill C-210, which attempted to alter the words of our beloved “O Canada”. Wanting to maintain both Canadian history and tradition, Senator Enverga remains opposed to this bill, which seeks to change our national anthem by inserting new, grammatically questionable lyrics.
Advocating for those with Disabilities
Senator Enverga has been a constant voice in the Senate for those with disabilities, as much of his work has been in support of a number of such groups. Notably, as Opposition Critic in 2016, Senator Enverga did much work on Bill C-11, which facilitates access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. The Senator has also recognized National Vision Health Month in the Chamber, as well as co-hosted an event in Parliament raising awareness for this cause, in correspondence with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. As well, Senator Enverga has been a vocal advocate and supporter of down syndrome awareness, speaking in the Senate on World Down Syndrome Day each of his first five years in the Upper Chamber.
During Senate Question Period, the Senator has held the government to account by asking many thoughtful and poignant questions to various government ministers and representatives. Knowing the hardships that our Caregivers face, Senator Enverga questioned the four-year wait period for applicants to the Caregiver Program and what the government was doing to fix this problem. The Senator also questioned the government on troubling changes made to the Express Entry Immigration Program, which unfairly gives greater weight to immigrants with strong French-language skills, but not those who possess strong English -language skills. As well, Senator Enverga questioned the government on changes made to the Family Reunification Program, which replaced the first-come first-served program for sponsorship applications with a new lottery system. Concerned with the short period of time from the announced changes to their implementation date, the Senator asked why the government failed to give more notice and greater clarification for those families already waiting in line. Finally, Senator Enverga has asked the government what it is doing to ensure that new immigrants obtain full-time employment , which greatly helps their integration into Canadian society.
Through his first five years, Senator Enverga has been a champion for many social issues. In 2016, the Senator voiced his strong opposition to Bill C-14, which would establish avenues for physician-assisted dying. Although this bill became law in June 2016, Senator Enverga was vocal in his opposition of this legislation, arguing that life should end with natural death and that no life should be taken by another person. As a strong pro-life advocate, Senator Enverga has also stood in the Senate—as the March for Life rally was taking place outside on Parliament Hill—and questioned government spending on sexual and reproductive health and rights, which funding went, in part, to supporting the procurement of abortion and post -abortion care. As well, the Senator has been a vocal supporter and proponent for adequate palliative care for our seniors and elderly. During Question Period, he asked the government representative about palliative care spending, which was part of a campaign promise which had yet to be fulfilled. Senator Enverga has also been vocal in Question Period on many other important social issues, asking questions on violence against Aboriginal peoples; Canada’s military commitment to fighting terrorism abroad; the government’s national strategy for Financial Literacy; Liberal election promises to small businesses; and navigating the Canadian-American relationship.
Senator Enverga has been a staunch defender of fiscal conservatism over his first five years in the Senate, holding the government accountable for unnecessary and questionable spending. Recently, the Senator expressed concern about the degree of spending that was taking place for Canada 150 celebrations, which totalled $500 million. Senator Enverga questioned the government’s use of these funds, as frivolous items such as a giant rubber duck received taxpayer dollars. The Senator has also questioned the Liberal government over their growing budget deficit and the vague status of their fiscal targets and commitments, as he sought to find out when the budget would be balanced.
Over his first five years in the Senate, Senator Enverga has accomplished much work through the Standing Committees on which he has been a member. It is within these Committees that much of the Senate’s work takes place. Senator Enverga has proudly served as a member of the following Standing Committees: Social Affairs, Science and Technology; Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament; Aboriginal Peoples; Agriculture and Forestry; Fisheries and Oceans; and Banking, Trade and Commerce. These Committees have tabled a number of reports and recommendations that touch on a number of different pieces of legislation.
Within these Committees, the Senator has put great effort into the study of many and varied topics, including studying the federal budget; social inclusion and cohesion in Canada; the removal of foreign criminals through the Refugee Protection Act; strengthening the Canadian Citizenship Act; and examining legislation regarding ending the captivity of whales and dolphins. These are but a few of the many topics that Senator Enverga has had the opportunity to report on through his Committee work.
One of the highlights of Senator Enverga’s Committee work was the Social Affairs, Science and Technology committee’s four-part study on prescription drugs. Beginning in 2013, the years’ long study was grouped into Clinical Trials, Post-Approval Monitoring, Off-Label Use, and Unintended Consequences, which were each discussed in separate interim reports. The Committee made a total of 79 recommendations for future action. They also held a roundtable discussion with a panel of 16 experts which addressed issues that touched several of the themes, or needed further inquiry. Some of these invaluable recommendations led to Bill C-17, Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act, also known as Vanessa’s Law, which ensures that drug side effects are clearly indicated and unsafe drugs are quickly recalled.
Other notable studies which the Senator has taken part in include the Agriculture and Forestry’s study on the importance of bee health to sustainable food production in Canada; the Aboriginal Peoples committee’s two-part study of First Nations on-reserve housing and infrastructure; and the Fisheries and Oceans committee’s study on the regulation of aquaculture in Canada.
Strengthening bonds between Canada and the Philippines
Official State Visit
Former-President Benigno S. Aquino III paid visit to Canada in May 2015, reaffirming both countries’ commitment to increase trade, continue cooperation in security and development, and nurture close people-to-people ties, namely through the high number of Filipino immigrants coming to Canada.
During the Ottawa part of the visit, President Aquino and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the launch of exploratory discussions for a free trade agreement and of discussions towards upgrading the existing 1996 Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. A five-year mutual accountability framework reaffirming transparent, effective and sustainable development cooperation between the two countries was also signed.
Several funding announcements were also made at the time for projects for the continued support to displaced people in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao and for the reconstruction efforts following Typhoon Haiyan/ Yolanda. This welcome visit was very important to strengthening the bi- lateral ties between two great friends in Canada and the Philippines.
Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda relief
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda devastated the Philippines. Shortly after then-President Benigno S. Aquino III reached out to ask for relief and assistance, Canadians across the country responded quickly and generously.
Our Government established the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund to match eligible donations of individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities responding to this crisis. $85 million was donated by Canadians and matched dollar for dollar by the Government, making the total Canadian contribution $170 million. This is a testament to how hard our Filipino- Canadian community worked to assist our sisters and brothers back home, and it is a testament to the generosity of Canadians of all backgrounds.
Senator Enverga has been selected as a delegate for a number of important parliamentary delegations to other countries with the hopes of building and strengthening Canada’s relationships abroad. In 2013, the Senator was selected to be part of a Canadian delegation to Taiwan, wherein he had a unique opportunity to experience Taiwanese culture and society, while also discussing topics of mutual interest with Taiwanese officials and citizens, working together to grow relations between the two countries.
In 2014, Senator Enverga was selected to be a delegate on a parliamentary visit to South Korea. While there, the Senator was pleased to meet with his counterparts in the South Korean government, as well as Ministers and Embassy officials. The delegation also worked to further Canada’s business ties with the host nation, meeting with both public and private officials on this matter.
In 2016, as a member of the Canadian section of the ParlAmericas association, Senator Enverga was chosen as a delegate for the 13th Plenary Assembly of ParlAmericas, held in Mexico. The focus of this delegation was to discuss strengthening the attending countries’ societies to achieve their sustainable development goals.
This past summer, 2017, the Senator was pleased to be selected as a delegate of the ParlAmericas delegation to Panama, where he took part in a timely conference on renewable energy and climate change.
Finally, the Senator has an upcoming delegation later this year to the Philippines, where he will be Canada’s sole representative at the 38th Asean Inter-parliamentary Association (AIPA) General Assembly. While there, the Senator will meet with both member and observer nations and discuss political, economic, and social issues facing the region.
Delegation to India, Hong Kong, and the Philippines
During Senator Enverga’s first year in the Senate, he was selected to be part of former Prime Minister Harper’s official delegation to India, Hong Kong and the Philippines in November 2012. This delegation was highly successful and resulted in several agreements between Canada and the destination countries. One of the Senator’s favourite moments was taking the former Prime Minister and Mrs. Laureen Harper on a memorable jeepney trip in Manila.
Trade Mission to the Philippines
On May 24-28, 2015, Senator Enverga joined the then-International Trade Minister Ed Fast for an official trade mission to the Philippines to meet with business leaders and government officials. The mission intended to build upon the important commercial links that exist between the two countries and to kick-start the Canada-Philippines Free Trade Agreement negotiations.
The aim of the mission was to raise the profile of Canadian companies in the Philippines and to increase awareness of Canadian capabilities in sectors such as agriculture and processed food, defense and security, information and communication technology, infrastructure, and sustainable technologies.
Senator Enverga met with former President of the Senate of the Philippines, the Hon. Senator Franklin M. Drilon, and then-Secretary Imelda M. Nicolas, Chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), to discuss the previous commitments made between the nations , and the reforms to the Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker program.
After the trade mission’s completion, Senator Enverga joined former Ambassador Mr. Neil Reeder to visit some of the Canadian-funded reconstruction projects on Panay Island after the devastating effects of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Canada-Philippines Inter-parliamentary Group
In 2013, during his first year in the Senate, Senator Enverga was elected by his colleagues to serve as co-chair of the Canada-Philippines Inter-parliamentary Group. It was through the hard work and dedication of the Senator and this important group of Parliamentarians that the historic first raising of the Philippines and Canadian flags was able to take place on Filipino Independence Day, June 12, 2013. The Senator, aided by the good work of the Canada-Philippines Inter-parliamentary Group, have proudly carried on this tradition, as this past June marked the fifth anniversary of the raising of the Philippines flag on Parliament Hill here in Ottawa. This year’s flag raising also featured another highlight, as Filipinos “took over” the Senate, filling up the revered Upper Chamber for a photograph for the ages. It is a truly remarkable and symbolic annual event that Senator Enverga is honoured to be a part of.
The Canada-Philippines Inter-parliamentary Group continues to be hard at work as they are currently looking at setting up a visit to the Philippines to further strengthen our two countries’ strong bonds.