01 June 2010
Honourable senators, I know this item is less controversial,
so I am
happy to be standing here. I want to make some observation about the state of our utilization of
communication. That may not be the right word to cover what I am talking
If I were under 25, I would know what word to use. However, to me,
refers to use of websites, television, podcasts and electronic devices
assist us. I know that podcasting is being worked on under another
We are past the verge of a digital communications breakthrough that
politicians and houses like the Senate with outstanding opportunities,
communicate at the public, but to embrace and engage the public. We
that young Canadians especially are not engaged in the political
emphasize the problem of young people who choose not to vote; we discuss
that means to the future of community involvement, involvement in our
to our political process and how important it is to nurture and engender
kind of involvement.
For any of us who have children older than age four, we know how
they are with electronic communications. Teresa and I have three sons,
whom live away. One has a television, not because he watches it but
wants a bigger screen for his computer. They do not use the kinds of
communications we do.
They see the world differently and they communicate with that world
differently. It has all kinds of implications for how they will relate
society and their peers, develop relationships and networks, develop
and push issues. We saw the issue of prorogation and how that was
almost exclusively, through Facebook. That will happen no matter what we
I have considered this issue, as have many of us. I want to give
senators some idea of my frustration. I am not frustrated with the staff
works on this. There is good leadership there and they are struggling
getting the direction they need to gain the resources, et cetera, to do
need to do.
Going to the Senate website is an experience in and of itself. If one
type in "Senate of Canada," one would expect to get to the Senate
However, one does not get routed to the Senate website. You go to a
lists the websites and biographies of senators.
Senator Stratton: We know that.
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, when we look at that
today, it includes biographies of senators who are no longer senators;
website is not updated and no one looks at it. We do not find the guts
Senate where one can learn about committee hearings and so on. One
We must navigate out of that website and try to find, one way or
website of sorts for Senate committees. Do honourable senators know how
young person will bother to pursue that information? Their interest
two pages and two seconds before they are gone.
Upon arriving at that committee page, what do we see? First, we
any way, shape or form, search the Debates of the Senate. We
Senator Plett's name, for example, to find out all the things on which
spoken, which would be a long list. We cannot type a committee name to
committee. We cannot type a topic to find the topic. In the 21st
century, in the
Senate of the Government of Canada, we cannot find someone's name in Debates
of the Senate.
If honourable senators eventually find someone or a topic in the
portion of the website, they are not linked to any recorded or video
It is incomprehensible that we cannot go to a website and click on a
link to see
more text or video. This is the 21st century; it is not 1950. The
tried and true; it has been used over and over again, but the Senate
If honourable senators want to find a report, we can look at the
Session of Parliament, but what is the Fortieth Session of Parliament?
anyone know when the Thirty-seventh Session of Parliament occurred?
Senator Banks: It was a good session.
Senator Mitchell: All of us were here, so it was good.
Honourable senators cannot even find the dates for a session because
not listed. If we are looking for a report — this may have changed, but I
think it has — the report is listed only as report No. 1. What is report
How does it compare to report No. 1 in the Thirty-ninth Parliament, the
Thirty-eighth Parliament or the Thirty-seventh Parliament? It makes me
that the Senate is so backward. The potential is great and an online
does not have to be particularly expensive.
The Senate of Canada does not have an independent presence. If
senators want to go to the Senate website to find a committee, we must
"committees" first and then committees for both houses are shown.
ask, what is the difference? I will not dwell on that.
A young man set up a website called openparliament.ca because
not conduct the type of searches he wanted on the House of Commons
created that website for the House of Commons, but he cannot do it for
Senate because our architecture is so archaic he cannot set up an
for that purpose.
I talked about the importance of a search tool. It may seem like a
issue, but the Senate uses black and white pictures on its websites. No
black and white pictures. That does not interest young people. There is a
marketing sense that the Senate must understand.
I have debated television coverage of the Senate, as have many
believe in my heart of hearts that the Senate must have at least a
our proceedings. It does not have to be expensive. All of the problems
might encounter have been handled by the House of Commons. The Senate
different structure to the Order Paper, which entails a lot of
Some have indicated this may offend people. I do not think people will
offended, but we could organize our proceedings better.
Some people worry about honourable senators not behaving properly
when we are
on television. Honourable senators behave perfectly well, for the most
when we are on committee television. I think if the public saw both the
and the House of Commons, they would say, "I wish the House of Commons
behave like the Senate." If honourable senators do not behave properly,
should fix that behaviour.
Currently, the Senate broadcasts audio to Parliament Hill. We can
audio to the world for free, but we have decided not to do so. I do not
understand why. People have a right to hear what we do here.
Senator Segal: Hear, hear.
Senator Mitchell: It is not for honourable senators to decide
not like what they say or do. We stand and speak to the 105 people that
this chamber. Even if the public wanted to see what happens in this
could they? They cannot find it easily on video or search the Debates
The old question is: If a senator speaks in the Senate, does anyone
one does, but there is unbelievably good oratory in this chamber. For
honourable senator who has been here for any period of time, we know how
important this institution is. If honourable senators sit here, we must
in this institution. If we do not believe in it, then we should not be
we do believe in the institution, we should want people to hear what we
I also want a website that allows honourable senators to do virtual
meetings and receive feedback. The Standing Senate Committee on Energy,
Environment and Natural Resources is trying to do this. We will receive
and solicit input. The Liberal Senate Forum does this.
I have a Kindle; it is an electronic book. It is fantastic item for
travel. It can contain 1,000 books. I can borrow a book on Kindle from
Edmonton library. They give it to me electronically and it dissolves in
I asked staff in the Library of Parliament if they have looked at
was told it has various copyright problems. I suggested they contact the
Edmonton library for advice on how to resolve such problems. Even if
small number of people want to borrow electronic books, it is much
there are an infinite number available. It is not like the current
where the book may be unavailable because someone else is reading it. To
state-of-the-art, leading library in the country, the Library of
should consider Kindle.
The speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Ken
is a fine parliamentarian and has done unbelievably good things for the
legislature. He developed a virtual tour of the legislature where
go to the website, dress in whatever clothes they want — skater, geek or
whatever — and walk around the historic buildings. Much more can be
Someone said we cannot do that because —
Senator Mockler: Can we do the same thing for senators?
Senator Mitchell: We should.
— there is a security risk. How is there a security risk? People can
Parliament and take all the pictures they want. How can that proposal be
security risk? It is simply another excuse not to do something to bring
Parliament to people across Canada.
There is an effort to get Flickr — a photograph exchange — on our
The lawyer — a fine person, I am not being critical — indicated there is
problem; you might be Photoshopped. American President Obama uses
Prime Minister uses YouTube. People can Photoshop you from any
anywhere. The argument is ridiculous; they are simply reasons to do
we have to do is find reasons to do things and the way to do it. We need
leadership to allow us to do it.
About three weeks ago — and this is coincidental — my high school has
supported by the province and the school board where Terry Godwaldt, a
young man, is developing a system of virtual meetings and conferences
world. They linked schools in Brazil, Alaska, Mexico, Malawi, New
cetera. I called him regarding environmental legislation and he
participate in one of these activities. I told him I was not in
Edmonton, but in
Ottawa. I went to an Ottawa school where I was surrounded by high school
students looking at a screen with eight or nine different classrooms
including Brazil, Texas, Ohio, Alaska and Mexico. I was able to talk
students all over the world. They stand up and ask questions. My high
in a rough area in Edmonton where kids need a chance. They can see kids
the world and ask them questions.
Kids from all over the world can see me as a senator on that, but not
single kid in Canada can see me as a senator giving this speech right
has to stop. We can change that.
Hon. Hugh Segal: Will the honourable senator accept a
Senator Mitchell: Yes.
Senator Segal: I will defer to my colleague across the way
am a newbie by comparison to him in terms of membership in this place.
kind of like after the Socreds swept into power in British Columbia. In
shops people would ask, "Did you vote for Mr. Bennett?" Everyone would
not me, not me." No one voted for him, yet he had a massive majority.
I have not met a single member of this chamber who, when I ask about
televising, digitalizing, modernizing, stepping up to the plate,
20th and perhaps even the 21st century, does not nod their head in
saying, "Great idea; super; let's move along; it's in committee."
The proposal on televisation is in committee for the third time. I
that it will die, and it will die because people on that committee want
The officials who sit at the table are great and distinguished
work day and night on our behalf. It is their job to be supportive of
decision this place makes and to give technical and financial advice
things cost and how they might be done. I would not for one moment say
have been a force against this —
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator Mitchell's
expired. Is it agreed that he be given five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Comeau: No more than five.
Senator Segal: There seems to be a consensus across the aisle
this is a good thing. People from different political backgrounds and
regions say that broadcasting the chamber is a good thing, but it is
dead in its
tracks. It is not moving.
Could the honourable senator share any perspective on why we cannot
very simple file forward? I had the great privilege of starting this
were 70 senators on that side and 20 over here. I had the privilege of
it when there was a government that was of a different party affiliation
mine and I was sitting over there, and the same thing happened. I cannot
any evidence that whoever is in government or who holds the majority
progress of this issue. I would be interested in any advice Senator
Senator Mitchell: I thank Senator Segal for the question and
the work he has done on this file. I have asked myself that question
I do not have an easy answer, but I do speculate about a couple of
People are worried about being on TV, and they need not be. The odd
make a mistake here, no one pounces on you. I think some are confusing
issue with what it is like to be the leader, who gets pounced on all the
In fact, broadcasting is not a threatening experience. Once the cameras
here, people will forget about them. I do not agree that people
because of cameras, although I think they may sometimes misbehave
because of the
Does anyone think about the cameras being on in committees? No; you
about them and it becomes natural.
Second, there is generally a resistance to change, which is not all
is an important institution. As Senator Banks said earlier today in a
meeting, it is important that we have traditions, and I agree. There is a
for slow change rather than precipitous change. We have had Facebook for
Finally, I think that the issue is in part a question of money.
broadcasting does not have to cost nearly as much money as people think.
that some people here resist spending money. We have to get past that.
or 35 years ago, the day before we got computers, everyone was saying
cost too much money. The next day we all had computers and faxes and
else we needed electronically, which may have cost a lot of money, but
would not live without them.
If we can live without digital communication and TV in here, then we
without computers, because that is every bit as essential to the 21st
computers were in the 1990s and still are.