Rio+20 Summit—Official Opposition Participation

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I can ask my question in French, that is not a problem, but with regard to Mr. Ferguson, that is a whole other story. It is not a problem for the opposition because we have a lot of questions. Bilingualism in Parliament is a very important issue.

Honourable senators, I was thinking of a good old time. I am sure the leader remembers those good old days when she worked for Prime Minister Mulroney and when I worked for Mr. Chrétien. Were those not wonderful days? She must have known because she was there doing what she had to do. We talked about issues dealing with opposition MPs and others travelling with the Prime Minister on big conferences.

I remember, being a reporter, sitting on a plane and seeing both opposition MPs and senators. The leader must remember when Mr. Mulroney would invite opposition MPs and senators to be on these trips. Were those not the good old days?

Last night in the House of Commons, on the other side, there was a simple question from opposition members to Minister Kent, the Environment Minister guy. He was asked if he would be permitted to have opposition members go to the Rio+20 Summit. For those who do not know, Rio is where the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will take place. I have no doubt that we will see business and industry representatives there and that oil sands producers will be among the delegates.

I am asking the leader to think back to the good old days when opposition members were allowed to get on that big airplane with the other ministers and prime ministers to go to these conferences and to have a point of view.

By saying “no” — because, amazingly, the minister said “no” last night — is this yet another attempt by the government to silence dissenting views? Is that the rationale for excluding members of the opposition from the official Canadian delegation being sent to the Rio+20 Summit? Keep thinking of those good old days.

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I do not know whether we can describe them as “good old days” because of where Mr. Chrétien’s legacy ended up and where Mr. Mulroney’s ended up. I do not know if we can describe them as “good old days.”

I do not know the circumstances about the question to Mr. Kent; I will have to find out. I do know that recently Minister Baird travelled to different places. I believe I read somewhere that there were members of the opposition travelling with him. I will have to take the honourable senator’s question as notice and find out exactly the context. I do not know if it was in the debate late last night, but I will take the honourable senator’s question as notice.