Canada coa_shield

Debate concerning Bill C-10,
An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits)

Extract from the Hansard, 40th Parliament, 3rd session: April 29, 2010  2

with some comments "inked-in"

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC) moved that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), be read the second time and referred to a committee. He said:  3

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today and bring forward this historic piece of legislation. Bill C-10 deals with the Constitution Act and 2010 Senate term limits. Term limits are an important component of our government's broader objective of modernizing Canada's Senate. As the throne speech stated, “We are a country founded on democracy”. However, our democratic institutions were established in the 19th century and reflect the prevailing democratic standards of the time.  3-2

This introduction shows that here we have a cabinet minister who simply does not have the slightest notion of what is meant by "modernizing." Moreover, he presents bill C-10 as the only way to do the "modernizing." This kind of thinking is an appalling demonstration of intellectual incompetence.  n3-2

Canadians' views of democracy have evolved since 1867, and we must ensure that our institutions keep pace with those changes. An obvious example of democratic evolution is in our voting rights. Today, we take the principle of universal suffrage for granted, but that has not always been the case. At the time of Confederation, qualifications based on property and income prevented large segments of the population from voting. Women did not have complete voting rights until 1918, and only recently did we celebrate the 50th anniversary of a law that recognized the unconditional right of first nations to vote.  3-3

I use the example of voting rights to demonstrate how our democratic institutions and practices have evolved to reflect the modern principles of democracy. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Senate, which still reflects antiquated principles of the 19th century. Over the past 143 years, there has been only one change to the Senate. In 1965, mandatory retirement at age 75 was introduced for senators. Prior to that, senators had been appointed for life. There have been no meaningful Senate reforms in our country's history, bar that one.  3-4

Canadians overwhelmingly believe that reform is overdue. According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 73% of Canadians want a new approach to the Senate. Our government made Senate reform a priority in the March 3, 2010, Speech from the Throne. It said: Our shared values and experiences must be reflected in our national institutions, starting with Parliament.... Our Government...remains committed to Senate reform and will continue to pursue measures to make the upper chamber more democratic, effective and accountable.  3-5

That eloquent comment articulates why this reform is so important. Our government has been clear. Fundamental change is required to transform the Senate into a democratic and accountable institution. However, we recognize that there is insufficient support for fundamental constitutional change today. Instead, we are pursuing a practical, step-by-step approach to reform in areas where reform is possible within the federal jurisdiction. We hope this will ultimately build support for fundamental changes in the future.  3-6

Bill C-10 seeks to amend section 29 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to provide that new senators would be limited to a single term of eight years. This is an important first step to moving forward in fulfilling our commitment to Canadians to strengthen our democratic institutions. Limiting the tenure of senators is a modest but important step to making the Senate worthy of a 21st century democracy.  3-7

Our government hopes that parliamentarians will embrace this initiative and the overall reforms that are needed to modernize the Senate. In the past 30 years, there have been reports calling for major reform in the Senate. However, I am not aware of a single major study of the Senate that concluded that everything is fine and that no change is required.  3-8

Quite the contrary. While each study offered a unique alternative to Senate reform, the consensus is that the Senate suffers from a lack of credibility because its members do not have a democratic mandate from Canadians.  3-9

The undemocratic nature of the Senate is exacerbated by the fact that senators can remain in office for up to 45 years. That is right, 45 years. As the Prime Minister has pointed out on several occasions, the fact that unelected senators can keep their seats for such a lengthy period of time is at odds with the democratic ideals of Canadians.  3-10

It is not surprising that many studies have recommended limiting Senate terms. While the recommended lengths of term have varied, the general range appears to be between six and ten years.  3-11

Our government believes that a term limit of eight years strikes the right balance between ensuring that the essential character of the Senate remains intact and, at the same time, guaranteeing that renewal takes place. Fixed terms of eight years would provide senators with enough time to gain the necessary experience to carry out their important parliamentary functions while, at the same time, rejuvenating the Senate with new perspectives and ideas on a regular basis.  3-12

Our government believes that a renewed Senate would be a more effective Senate.  3-13

The vast majority of second chambers in other countries, both elected and appointed, have term limits. If Canada were to implement a Senate term of eight years, it would be the longest term of any country that currently has term limits in its second chamber.  3-14

I welcomed the recent comments of the Leader of the Opposition when he agreed that very lengthy terms are unacceptable and he favours term limits. While admitting that the Senate is “imperfect”, the Liberal leader stated he is “uncomfortable” with the idea of lengthy Senate terms. The Liberal leader has indicated he would support a 12-year limit for senators.  3-15

Let us reflect on that.  3-16

Clearly, the 15-year term recommended by the Liberal senators is too long. A 15-year term would not ensure that the Senate is refreshed with new ideas on a regular basis.  3-17

Whether a 12-year term would be sufficient is open to debate.  3-18

What is encouraging is the common belief that term limits are the right thing to do. I believe it is our duty as parliamentarians to listen to Canadians and move forward on this issue.  3-19

Now I would like to review other key aspects of the bill.  3-20

Bill C-10 makes specific reference to interrupted terms. An interrupted term could occur if a senator's seat became vacant by reason of resignation or disqualification, as set out in sections 30 and 31 of the Constitution Act, 1867, prior to the completion of an eight-year term.  3-21

The bill would provide that senators whose terms are interrupted may be summoned again to the Senate, but only for the remaining portion of their original eight-year term. For example, if a senator resigned from the Senate in order to be a candidate for the House of Commons, that senator could later be reappointed to the Senate, but only for the remaining portion of his or her term. This would eliminate any ambiguity about the length of term should such interruptions occur.  3-22

Unlike the previous version of the term limits bill, Bill C-10 contains a transitional provision, which would apply the eight-year term limit to all senators appointed after October 14, 2008. They would hold their seats for a period of eight years, once the bill received royal assent.  3-23

The Senate term limits bill was first introduced in the spring of 2006. Members may recall that the Prime Minister became the first prime minister ever to appear before a Senate committee when he appeared before the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform, which was created to study the content of that bill. The Prime Minister's appearance before the Senate committee illustrated the importance of Senate term limits for our government.  3-25

One of the important messages the Prime Minister delivered in his testimony was that our government was willing to be flexible with regard to potential improvements to the bill so long as any changes did not diminish the principles of the bill. That flexibility is evident in our response to the issue of the renewability of the terms.  3-26

As members will recall, in 2006 the bill was silent on the issue of renewability. That bill left open the possibility that a senator could receive a further eight year term if summoned again by the Governor General.  3-27

Some commentators expressed the concern that the possibility of a renewable term could compromise the independence of the Senate, since senators might adjust their behaviour in order to have their appointments renewed. The government has demonstrated its willingness to compromise by amending the bill to provide for non-renewable terms.  3-28

We are willing to listen and work together to ensure that the Senate is reformed in a respectful fashion. Our government's willingness to listen has also been demonstrated by preserving the retirement age of 75 years for all senators, whether appointed before or after this bill comes into effect. The amendment was recommended by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee following the review of our previous bill.  3-29

Our government continues to be flexible in making improvements to the bill so long as its underlying principles remain intact.  3-30

I would like to conclude by briefly addressing the issue of the constitutionality of Bill C-10. There is no question that the bill is constitutional. Senate term limits can be enacted by Parliament pursuant to section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982.  3-31

This fact was confirmed by the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform, which concluded that the bill was constitutional and no reference to the Supreme Court was required. This finding has been supported by Canada's leading constitutional experts, including Peter Hogg, Patrick Monahan and Stephen Scott.  3-32

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the bill's constitutionality, the Senate defeated the bill by refusing to allow it to proceed to third reading unless it was first referred to the Supreme Court of Canada.  3-33

I trust that members of this House will judge the bill on its merits and not attempt to derail it with procedural tricks, frivolous or unsubstantiated charges about constitutionality.  3-34

Hon. members, it is time for parliamentarians to listen to Canadians and embrace reform of the Upper Chamber. Canadians understand the need for Senate reform. Every poll over the past two decades has confirmed that Canadians support Senate reform. Canadians particularly support limited terms for senators. Canadians recognize the importance of the Senate, but they do not believe it is fulfilling its full potential as a democratic institution.  3-35

Our government has listened to Canadians. We have made Senate reform one of our key democratic priorities. We can no longer tolerate an institution that has remained unchanged since Confederation and that is neither democratic nor accountable to the people of Canada.  3-36

A Senate based on 19th century norms cannot possibly meet the needs of a modern 21st century democracy. Our government is committed to the pursuit of practical and achievable reforms that will lay the basis for more fundamental reform in the future.  3-37

Bill C-10 is an important step forward in the reform of our institutions. I would encourage all members to embrace this important bill.  3-38

Senators who have been appointed since the 2008 election have demonstrated their commitment to Senate reform by agreeing to term limits, supporting legislation from the elected chamber, and supporting the overall reforms we are trying to institute in the Senate. These senators, as I said earlier, personify what it means to be in public office. They are putting the country's interests ahead of their own.  3-39

Together, I hope we can make Parliament more accountable to Canadians. Senate reform is a critical aspect of that. Canadians support Senate term limits and this government is moving forward with that reform. I look forward to all parties supporting this historic legislation to make for a better Canada and a better Parliament.  3-40

God keep our land glorious and free.  3-41

Ms. Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits). As the Minister of State for Democratic Reform has said, this limits the tenure of senators appointed after the bill becomes law to one non-renewable eight year term, preserves the existing retirement age of 75 for current senators, and allows a senator whose term has been interrupted to return to the Senate and complete his or her term.  4

It is a privilege to speak to this because the Senate is an essential component of Canada's constitutional democracy and of course it is of interest to all members both in the House and the Senate. We are here because we have a commitment to improving our country and improving the lives of the people through the democratic institutions of which we are privileged to be a part.  4-2

I would like to also say that this issue is of great interest to constituents of my riding in Vancouver Quadra. I have the privilege to represent an area with a highly educated public and the great institution of UBC, so there are many people who are lawyers, constitutional lawyers, professors of public policy, and professors of political science who have a great deal of interest in our democratic institutions.  4-3

One of the town halls I hosted that was the most popular was called the “town hall on prorogation and democracy” where Doctors Resnick and Young came and talked about prorogation and the negative impact on democracy that they believed that the government's use of prorogation has had.  4-4

The Liberal Party has a deep, and long interest and commitment in democracy, engaging people and having an openness where people of Canada can have their say and be part of our democratic process. Winston Churchill has been know to say that “--democracy is the worst form of government - except all the other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Plato has a different view. His is that “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike”.  4-5

The Liberals have found over the last four years that it is the justice to the unequals that has been the most problematic under the current government and its undermining of democracy. But on a positive note, we just had a very good day for democracy recently. I want to refer to the minister of state's note that eight year term limits are needed to refresh and bring new ideas.  4-6

I would like to point out that I have a colleague from Scarborough–Rouge River who has been in this chamber for over 20 years and here is the result of his recent fresh new idea. It was a historic ruling by the Speaker that the Prime Minister was accountable to Parliament and not the other way around. The Speaker affirmed that Parliament has a fundamental and unlimited right to ask for Afghan records, that the Conservative Party appeared to be in breach of parliamentary privilege by failing to comply when opposition MPs, a majority in the House, voted to demand uncensored copies of the documents last September.  4-7

So we see that our democracy is alive and well; however, I think it should be an embarrassment for all the Conservative members that the opposition members had to go to so much trouble to have the basic tenets of democracy respected by the Prime Minister.  4-8

I want to talk about the important role the Senate plays in our democracy. It is an institution with a very proud history and an institution in which the members have done much good work over the years. For example, Senator Eggleton reporting on poverty, homelessness and housing, the work done by the standing committee; Senator Carstairs, the Senate report on Canada's aging population, very important work on understanding the demographics facing us and how to respond to them; Senator Fraser on children, the silent citizens; Hon. Mobina Jaffer and the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on issues such as Canada's human rights record and reports on equitable pay. The Senate serves a very important function.  4-9

The Liberals are committed to a Senate in which the members can make the maximum possible contribution to public life and the public good in Canada. The Liberals do support Senate reform but it needs to be Senate reform that constitutes sound public policy and respect for the institution. It needs to be a holistic and not a piecemeal approach. There needs to be consultation with the provinces and, above all, respect for the Constitution. Those are things we have not been seeing with the current government.  4-10

The Liberals will be sending the bill to committee where public consultation with the provinces, which the government has consistently failed to do, can finally take place.  4-11

With respect to Bill C-10, with the stated intention of enabling the Senate to better reflect the democratic values of Canadians, it is important to talk about the government's objective and its credibility with that objective, and to talk about the process that has been behind the bill coming forward. I will then say some words on the content of the bill as well.  4-12

The credibility of the government is essential in trusting the intentions of this legislation. For example, in a conflict zone, if an organization were to come forward with an idea for peace, one would want to know its record of promoting peace or perhaps of undermining peace in the past, and that would be germane to taking what it has to offer at face value.  4-13

We should listen for a moment to what the Prime Minister had to say about the Senate. In 1996, he said, “We do not support any Senate appointments. Stephen Harper will cease patronage appointments to the Senate. Only candidates--”.  4-14

The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member might not be aware but even if we are reading quotes she should refer to members by their titles or ridings. I would appreciate that.  5

Ms. Joyce Murray: “Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the upper house”, said the Prime Minister in 2004. “The upper house remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister”, complained the current Prime Minister in 2004. “A Conservative government will not appoint to the Senate anyone who does not have a mandate from the people”, again from the Conservative Party.  6

Those are some of the claims that the Prime Minister has made, along with many other statements about the Senate that, unfortunately, have undermined the credibility of the Senate in the minds of the public.  6-1

What has the Prime Minister actually done, given those very clear assertions over many years that he would not be appointing senators and that there would not be partisan appointments? The Prime Minister appointed more senators in a single year than any prime minister in history. He appointed 27 senators. He is the Senate patronage king, and these have been some of the most blatant, partisan appointments in history.  6-2

We have seen well-connected party partisans throughout the Senate appointments, including fundraising chairs, national fundraising chairs, top strategists, Conservative staffers, Conservative communications advisers, failed candidates, Conservative-leaning journalists and so on. Essentially, we have an entire national election team for the Conservatives now on the Senate payroll. That is not even speaking to some of the questionable histories of senators, such as the one who is facing a sexual harassment complaint before a Human Rights Tribunal and who was president of an organization under investigation for financial impropriety.  6-3

How does this speak to the credibility of the Prime Minister's claims about improving democracy through his changes to the Senate? Not well, I would contend.  6-4

The objective claimed is to modernize democracy, which is a laudable objective.  6-5

I would like to talk a bit about some of the context that the government has on its record in terms of democracy. If we are to take improving democracy at face value, we would expect to see that as having been an objective with the government and the Prime Minister. I would contend that the facts do not suggest that is the case.  6-6

What about the fundamental underpinnings of democracy, such as openness, accountability and integrity? How has the Prime Minister fared?  6-7

In terms of openness, is the Prime Minister willing to hear from Canadians? I think a number of organizations would contest that willingness. In fact, organizations that disagree with the government are finding themselves punished. A member of one organization in civil society told me yesterday that there was a chill right across civil society because many organizations, such as the Canadian Council on Learning, KAIROS and Rights & Democracy, are seeing their funding cut for ideological reasons or because they are speaking up, which is what their organizations are designed to do.  6-8

In terms of openness, we have an Information Commissioner calling the government the most secretive in history. I have an example of that in a freedom of information request that I put forward around the disaster in a Canadian pavilion at the Olympics. I received two blanked out pages. Maybe that information was a state secret or a military secret but I do not think so.  6-9

In terms of openness, the government is preventing debate on critical issues by slipping key public policy changes into budget implementation bills, so that it does not have to debate on their merit. These are key issues, such as pay equity, the Canada Environmental Assessment Act and the protection of our environment. One must conclude that openness, that fundamental tenet of democracy, is not something that the government has promoted. In fact, it has seriously undermined it.  6-10

The same argument, unfortunately, needs to be made for accountability. The ruling by the Speaker the other day was an example. There are numerous other examples of accountability breaches by the Conservative government.  6-11

One of the key democratic mechanisms that we have as parliamentarians is the oversight officers of Parliament. The list of those oversight officers, or independent officers, whose job it is to ensure the integrity of government, who have been fired, sidelined, “resigned” early in their term or not reappointed, is very long. It includes the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Linda Keen; the environment commissioner, the president of the Law Commission of Canada, the head of the Canada Emission Reduction Incentives Agency, the Military Police Complaints Commissioner, the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner; and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.  6-12

The Liberal Party of Canada hosted a round table on that very issue during prorogation here in Ottawa. We heard from a range of constitutional experts and others as to the weakening of the fabric of democracy that takes place when the oversight officers are not able to speak their minds and are not able to speak the truth without fear of retribution. How does that illustrate the government's commitment to democracy? It actually illustrates the opposite.  6-13

I would remind all members of the words of Aristotle:  6-14

If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.  6-14A

That is not what we have been seeing under the Conservative government. unfortunately.  6-15

This is relevant to Bill C-10 because there is a claim here that the government is trying to strengthen democracy.  6-16

The process by which Bill C-10 has come about is one that raises great questions. I will just provide a quick summary of the timeline.  6-17

Bill C-10 has several predecessors. In May 2006, Bill C-4 was introduced. It was recommended by the Senate to go to the Supreme Court of Canada on the constitutionality issues. The bill died when Parliament was prorogued in September 2007. This was followed by Bill C-19, which was tabled but never brought back for debate. It died in 2008 when an election was called just after the government passed a fixed election date law.  6-18

In May 2009, Bill S-7 came back to the House with the same eight year term limits. It was debated for three days only and then it died when the Prime Minister prorogued the House in January 2010 to avoid accountability with respect to questions on the Afghan detainee issue.  6-19

The bill has come back a fourth time as Bill C-10, with some minor modifications. One must question whether this is actually a serious attempt to improve democracy or whether it is posturing by the government. Whatever it might be, one must conclude that this process does not create confidence in the government's intentions with respect to this bill.  6-20

Let us look at the content of the bill itself. The Minister of State for Democratic Reform spoke to this issue briefly. A key legal issue to this is whether it is constitutional. The minister of state claims that there is a consensus that it is. The reading that I have done shows that the very serious question of constitutionality has not been resolved and unilateral action by Parliament to amend the Senate in this type of case should be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada.  6-21

The legal issue is around the upper house reference case of 1980 in which the Supreme Court of Canada decided that amendments affecting the essential characteristics or fundamental features of the Senate must have provincial involvement. Despite the amending procedures in the Constitution Act of 1982, this judgment continues to have relevance, according to many constitutional authorities.  6-22

Then the question is, does this bill affect the essential characteristics or fundamental features of the Senate. Of the two principles, one is experienced oversight, that is, both of legislation and complex societal issues, and two, independence. Let us consider how this bill might affect these essential characteristics.  6-23

I ask members to think back to eight years ago in their own lives and ask themselves whether they have mastered something to the point where they would be capable of sober, credible oversight for all Canadians on the issue. Eight years may seem like a long time, but it does not enable a person to provide the kind of input that our senators, whom I am very proud of, are able to provide. Aboriginal elders, for example, are the wisdom of their communities. Are they cut off after eight years as no longer being relevant? No.  6-24

Independence is clearly impacted by an eight-year term because in two terms a prime minister can turn over the entire membership of the Senate, which would clearly impact its independence. We could have a Senate consisting of one party or another. As Benjamin Franklin said, democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. That seems to be what Mr. Harper is aiming for in the Senate with this bill.  6-25

The Deputy Speaker: I would once again remind the hon. member that we do not use proper names, only titles or ridings. As it is, the time allotted for her speech has expired, so we will move on to questions and comments.  7

The hon. member for Elgin–Middlesex–London.  7-1

Mr. Joe Preston (Elgin–Middlesex–London, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in the hon. member's dissertation, she asked a question of us, so I will try to provide an answer. She asked if we could look back some years ago, whether it is eight, six, five or nine years, and say that we were able to master something in that period of time. I am here to say yes, through life experiences we come prepared to take on new roles and handle new pieces of information. Quality people are appointed to the Senate.  8

She would agree the average length of time served by senators since 1965 when we last changed the tenure of senators is about 9.25 years. This bill asks for it to be eight years. I do not see a significant difference between the two. I would ask her to tell me how that extra year and a quarter would magically add an infinite amount of wisdom to the Senate when people go to the Senate with the ability to do the job properly and can learn the job as they go along in that eight-year period of time.  8-1

I would like her opinion as to what difference the year and a quarter would make.  8-2

Ms. Joyce Murray: Mr. Speaker, the issue is not my opinion. The issue is that it is a time period that risks making the Senate more partisan. This has not been referred to the Supreme Court of Canada. There are many who believe it is unconstitutional. There have been no consultations with the provinces, which is not surprising in light of the fact that at least five provinces and territories came out squarely against this proposal in one of its earlier iterations.  9

Mr. Christian Ouellet (Brome–Missisquoi, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the fact that my colleague from Vancouver Quadra wondered whether this would improve democracy. That is a very good question, and that is why I would ask her whether, now that the government has recognized the existence of the Quebec nation, but is refusing to act accordingly, she believes that Bill C-10 could lead to greater democracy and full recognition of Quebec as a nation.  10

She could perhaps talk about the famous peace march in Quebec. In her opinion, is this openness to the Quebec nation?  10-1

Ms. Joyce Murray: Mr. Speaker, indeed the member's province is one of the ones that has made it very clear that it does not support this reform.  11

The minister of state said that his government would like to modernize our institutions and make the Senate more accountable. The key challenge is that the government continually, and I think I have made a few points on that score, has undermined democracy and our institutions and has made government less accountable.  11-1

I would say this is not the priority. The priority is to clean up the government's own act.  11-2

The Liberal Party of Canada requests, as we have requested before, that this issue be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the constitutionality of it and that there be consultations with the provinces, as any responsible government would do.  11-3

Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood–Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I realize how difficult it must be for the member to defend the 143 years, mainly Liberal years of government and having done absolutely nothing to make changes that we are talking about right now.  12

The Minister of State for Democratic Reform pointed out that in 143 years, there was a change limiting the retirement age of senators to 75 years back in 1965.  12-1

The fact of the matter is the NDP have been in favour of abolition of the Senate for many years. However, I think we have to recognize that incrementalism in this case is perhaps something we have to deal with. We are not looking at abolition so we may have to take this one piece at a time.  12-2

The Conservative minister who is proposing the bill is actually coming out of a process where the previous party wanted many more changes. It wanted elected senators and many more changes but it was unable to get them because of the constitutional aspects.  12-3

We have to give the minister credit for at least making a little bit of a step. This is not a big step. I do not see why the Liberals should have a big problem with this and would want to delay it another 10 years by sending it to the Supreme Court.  12-4

Ms. Joyce Murray: Mr. Speaker, I would just reaffirm that the Liberal Party is committed to a healthy democracy, democratic institutions and renewal of the Senate.  13

We will be supporting sending the bill to committee where it will get the consultations that it should have had in the first place. We will be able to hear from the public and from the provinces.  13-1

I will end with a quote of what Thomas Jefferson said: I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough...the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.  13-2

That is what I hope to see happen.  13-3

Hon. Shawn Murphy (Charlottetown, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is good that we are having this debate. It is an issue that should be debated, but I would suggest that we have an obligation to look at the debates that were held by the delegates in conjunction with the establishment of the Senate and when the colonies came together. Basically the Senate was a chip that was put on the table that made the country work. Its formation was to protect minorities. The minority they were speaking of at the time, since females and aboriginals did not have the franchise, was French Catholic males.  14

The concern I have is that this matter is before Parliament without the consultation that I would have thought should have taken place. Does the member have any real concerns regarding this lack of consultation with the provinces, which are of course the successors to the colonies?  14-1

Ms. Joyce Murray: Mr. Speaker, indeed a key function of the Senate is the representation of regions and minorities. I would expect that the provinces would have the perspective that the Prime Minister and the government seem not to have in terms of representation because we have seen through its 34 senators a reduction in gender equity and a reduction in the representation of minorities in the Senate.  15

I fully expect that the provinces would have that at heart because at the heart of democracy and how the country is governed is that all people are represented.  15-1

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments on the nature of the term limits. The member has suggested that eight years may not be long enough and that it takes time for people to learn the ropes, so to speak. I can tell the member that the people on this side of the House can learn the ropes in this place in about eight seconds.  16

Eight years seems to be plenty. People can do their undergrads, their Ph.D. theses and go to the moon and back within eight years. I think people can certainly represent and understand how the Senate and Parliament works within that time frame. It is the longest period of time if we look at other upper chambers.  16-1

We are open to suggestions. We have incorporated suggestions from past consultations. This has been looked at for 143 years. We want to make one step. Why is the member so critical?  16-2

Ms. Joyce Murray: Mr. Speaker, I want to tip my hat to the member opposite, who said that he can learn the ropes in eight seconds. I would certainly not presume to claim anything similar myself. I would like to remind the minister of state that the key concern the Liberal Party has is not about the detail. It is about the process.  17

Special committees have looked at this over the years. There are legitimate concerns about the constitutional right of a Parliament to unilaterally make this change. Referring this to the Supreme Court of Canada is the democratic and responsible response. The government has failed to do that and has failed to have the necessary consultations.  17-1

Ms. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-10, which amends the Constitution Act of 1867 and limits Senate terms.  18

It is not the first time that the Conservatives introduce such legislation. This is the fourth time in four years that they are proposing a bill to reform the Senate by limiting to eight years the term for which senators would serve.  18-1

This is a new attempt by the Conservative government to somehow reform the Senate. That is totally ridiculous. It shows once again the Conservatives' bad faith when the time comes to obtain the consent of the provinces—in this case Quebec—regarding the Constitution Act of 1867.  18-2

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of abolishing the Senate. However, the path followed by the Conservative government ignores the negotiating process that must take place with the provinces and which requires the consent of seven provinces representing 50% of the Canadian population.  18-3

The government presents a number of arguments. It claims to want to strengthen the institutions' democratic legitimacy. At the same time, it has no scruples about continuing on a path of democratic illegitimacy for the Senate, by speeding up the appointment process with this new bill. We can therefore say that this legislation is useless, since the Conservatives are contradicting themselves. They claim that they want to increase the democratic legitimacy of this institution—which is said to be archaic—but appointed senators do not have any public legitimacy. Later on, I will refer to some polls that clearly show this to be the case.  18-4

Second, any reform of this archaic institution—and I emphasize the word “archaic”—cannot be achieved unilaterally, without the consent of Quebec and of the provinces that represent over 50% of the population, provided there are seven of them. Third, if this Conservative government were really serious about wanting to increase the institutions' democratic legitimacy, it would ensure that Quebec's weight in the House of Commons is maintained.  18-5

If I have time later on, I will explain how this government is going to change Quebec's democratic weight by adding 30 new ridings, including 20 or so in Ontario. But let us look at today's issue, namely Bill C-10, which would provide an eight year, non-renewable term for senators. That is why we are saying the Senate is archaic and, more importantly, why it lacks democratic legitimacy.  18-6

If this bill is passed, it will speed up senators' turnover and the appointment process, as current senators would retire and be replaced by others whose term would last eight years. Such a change would allow a recently elected prime minister to quickly harmonize the parties' representation in the Senate and in the House of Commons after a change of government, and thus take control of the Senate more rapidly.  18-7

We know the Conservative Prime Minister's propensity for getting his hands on information and controlling the various leaders in various key positions within the government, as well as within his own political party and in the media. We know how the Prime Minister likes to have control over everything. It is easy to imagine the current Conservative Prime Minister making his selection. This week, we saw the control he has in the House, not to mention the Senate, at least with respect to the Afghanistan documents.  18-8

Similarly, this bill would allow the Prime Minister to increase the cyclical domination of the Senate by one party. With the introduction of this bill, the Prime Minister is saying one thing—he said he would not reform the Senate—but is doing the opposite. This is not the first time this has been mentioned in the House.  18-9

The Prime Minister once promised transparency. What transparency do we have today? You might think that the Liberal Party was still in power. We are forced to track their every move, to ferret out the truth in dribs and drabs in order to get the information to the people and to see how the Prime Minister manages his own government.  18-10

Not bad coming from a Prime Minister who said, during his campaign, that he would not appoint any senators. That is what the current Conservative Prime Minister promised in his election campaign.  18-11

I believe that the Bloc Québécois' traditional position on the Senate is well known.  18-12

Given that I have just shown how archaic this institution is, its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the people and the partisan way in which senators are appointed, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of abolishing this institution after holding negotiations. There must be constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec in particular. If the government is planning on moving forward with this bill, it cannot continue to do so unilaterally, as it is preparing to do and as it wants to do.  18-13

Major reform or abolition of the Senate would require negotiated amendments to the Constitution as well as agreement from Quebec and the provinces. It would have to be decided if the general amending formula—agreement from seven provinces representing at least 50% of the population, the so-called 7/50 formula—or the formula requiring unanimous consent would be required. That remains to be seen.  18-14

I do not think that the Prime Minister has thought about that. He said that there would be consultations. It will take more than consultations; it requires agreement from seven provinces with at least 50% of Canada's population.  18-15

That said, it is most probable that unanimity from the provinces would be necessary in order to effect such a major change because it would affect matters, such as the office of the Governor General, specified in the unanimity procedure.  18-16

The Bloc's position in favour of abolishing the Senate following negotiations with Quebec and the provinces seems to be shared by the people of Quebec, as a March 2010 poll clearly shows:  18-17

The majority of Quebeckers do not see a value in the Senate as it is currently configured and a large percentage of them agree with abolishing it, according to an exclusive Canada-wide poll by Léger Marketing for QMI Agency.  18-18

The Minister of Canadian Heritage loves polls. A random national online poll of 1,510 adults showed that 35% of Canadians believe that the Senate can only be effective if senators are elected and not appointed. Furthermore, 25% of respondents believe that the Senate should be abolished and 12% are in favour of appointments based on gender and regional balance. As for Quebec respondents, 8% believe that the red chamber plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators does not work very well. Twenty-two per cent of Quebeckers would prefer to see senators elected and 43% want the Senate abolished. It is very clear. That is why we are saying that the Senate is not popular with the public.  18-19

Many participants, 20% in Quebec and 23% in the rest of Canada, chose not to respond because they did not understand the role of the Senate. This percentage increases to 31% for Canadians under 45. I think that these numbers speak for themselves. We can see there is no emotionally charged great debate on this bill. We see that here today. It just goes to show how archaic and irrelevant this institution is.  18-20

Senate reform can only be done with the agreement of Quebec and the provinces, and the Canadian Constitution is a federal constitution. I think that comes as no surprise to anyone.  18-21

Accordingly, there are reasons why changes affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally by Parliament and must instead be part of the constitutional process involving Quebec and the provinces.  18-22

I will conclude my speech after question period.  18-23

The Speaker: Before question period, the hon. member for Québec had the floor on this bill. She has 11 minutes left.  19

Ms. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we are discussing Senate reform, which would see senators appointed for eight years. We have to ask ourselves the following question: should changes affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate be made unilaterally by Parliament or should they be part of the constitutional process involving Quebec and the provinces?  20

The Supreme Court of Canada has answered that question. In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada considered the capacity of Parliament, on its own, to amend constitutional provisions relating to the Senate. Its decision Re: Authority of Parliament in Relation to the Upper House [1980], 1 S.C.R. 54 establishes the principle that major changes, affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate, cannot be made unilaterally. As hon. members can see, the Supreme Court has ruled on this issue.  20-1

Any reform affecting the powers of the Senate, the method of selecting senators, the number of senators to which a province is entitled or the residency requirement of senators can only be made in consultation with the provinces and Quebec.  20-2

Let us see how certain political players have looked at this issue. In 2007, the former Quebec minister for Canadian intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier, not exactly a sovereignist, reiterated Quebec's traditional position as follows:  20-3

The Government of Quebec does not believe that this falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Given that the Senate is a crucial part of the Canadian federal compromise, it is clear to us that under the Constitution Act, 1982, and the Regional Veto Act, the Senate can be neither reformed nor abolished without Quebec's consent.  n20-4

That is what a Liberal government member said about the issue in 2007. That same day, the National Assembly—every single MNA, including members of the Parti Québécois, the ADQ and the Liberals—unanimously passed the following motion:  20-5

That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the Federal Government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.  20-6

This is not just about consultation. I know that Canada's Conservative Prime Minister would like to have full control over the Senate and appoint senators for eight-year terms, but for that he needs to do more than just consult with Quebec and the provinces. He needs to obtain consent from the provinces, specifically from seven provinces representing more than 50% of Canada's population.  20-7

Traditionally and historically, Quebec's position on the Senate and possible Senate reform has been very clear. Since the unilateral patriation of the Constitution, successive Quebec governments have all agreed on one basic premise: they have made it very clear that there can be no Senate reform until Quebec's status has been settled.  20-8

In 1989, Mr. Bourassa, the former Quebec premier, said that he did not want to talk about Senate reform until the Meech Lake accord was signed.  20-9

In 1992, Gil Rémillard said that Quebec would not sign an agreement on Senate reform until it was satisfied with the results of negotiations on distinct society, power sharing and federal spending power. More recently, Quebec's Liberal government—a federalist government, I should point out—participated in the Special Committee on Senate Reform in 2007. It wrote the following in its May 31, 2007, submission:  20-10

The Government of Quebec is not opposed to modernizing the Senate. But if the aim is to alter the essential features of that institution, the only avenue is the initiation of a coordinated federal-provincial constitutional process that fully associates the constitutional players, one of them being Quebec, in the exercise of constituent authority.  20-11

The Government of Quebec, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, therefore requests the withdrawal of Bill C-43 [a bill proposing an elected Senate]. It also requests the suspension of proceedings on Bill S-4...  20-12

Bill S-4 became Bill C-19 and then Bill C-10 on Senate term limits.  20-13

This is the fourth time the government has tried to bring a Senate reform bill before the House. The Liberal government spoke out against this for constitutional reasons.  20-14

And do not forget that on November 7, 2007, the National Assembly unanimously passed its motion. I think it is clear that if Ottawa wishes to reform the Senate, it must reopen the constitutional debate, sit down with Quebec and the provinces and negotiate with them in order to come to an agreement. It cannot act unilaterally. As I said before, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on this issue.  20-15

if it truly wants to recognize Quebec, the government must also make sure to take a second issue into account. We know only too well that the Conservative government does not want to recognize Quebec. If it recognized the Quebec nation, it would also recognize the various political figures that have spoke about this issue.  20-16

We also want Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons to be maintained. But the Conservative government wants to increase the number of seats by 30, including 20 in Ontario, which would reduce Quebec's political weight. We are told that we will always be guaranteed 75 members. But 75 out of 308 is not the same as 75 out of 338.  20-17

Furthermore, the entire population of Quebec opposes this. We are very surprised and very frustrated by the actions of this government, which finally decided to recognize the Quebec nation. That was a sham; it was nothing but empty rhetoric. It does not really mean anything at all. When this government can diminish Quebec's political weight and ignore Quebec's wishes to not reform the Senate for constitutional reasons, it will do so. This is nothing but smoke and mirrors.  20-18

If the government was serious about democratic legitimacy, it would ensure that Quebec maintained its current representation in the House of Commons, that is, 24.35% of the seats. If 30 more seats are added, Quebec's representation would drop to under 22%. It is crucial that Quebec be represented not only based on its demographic weight, but also based on its historical significance and its social, economic and cultural distinctiveness. That is why we want Quebec's political weight to be preserved, and do not want to be left with just 75 seats. It is also because of Quebec's historical significance and because the Conservative government recognized the Quebec nation. If it wants to show consistency, it must ensure that the Quebec nation's representation is proportionate to its historic, economic and cultural significance, proportionate to its weight and what it is.  20-19

Moreover, the Conservative government is contradicting itself. On the one hand, it claims that it wants to increase the legitimacy of institutions, but on the other hand, it is trying to muzzle Quebec by introducing bills that will reduce the political weight of the Quebec nation. Clearly, the supposed recognition, as I mentioned earlier, was nothing more than empty rhetoric, since the Conservatives are incapable of taking any concrete action that would suggest true recognition.  20-20

It must be said that since the creation of the Canadian confederation, Quebec’s weight has declined constantly. I would point out that Quebec had 36% of the seats in 1867; if this bill were adopted, that would fall to 22.4%.  20-21

That holier than thou attitude is a bit sickening for let it also be said that the percentage of anglophones in the province of Québec has been decreasing substantially, not in the least due to feeling squeezed out by linguistic nationalistic policies as especially favored by the Parti Québecois and the Bloc Québecois. And when it comes to protecting the French language, there appears to be no concern at all about Francophones living outside of Québec, notably in New Brunswick. And what about protecting the Indiand and Innuit languages? Does anybody give a hoot? Well, if anyone brings up the idea of the Mohawk or Cree nations separating from Quebec, well on that score Quebec's separatists appear to be a little inconsistent, but I am sure they do have an answer of sorts. I hope not being impolite when calling a spade a spade. To be sure, it is a general trait among peoples everywhere to look ascance at any sort of minority, be they Jews or Muslims, be they "inconvenient" Indians (to borrow a phrase from author Thomas King) or anyone else who's not considered White. More than one Québecois has complained about facilitating the migration of Haitians, much better to make Anglophones feel welcome. which kind of reminds me of that reassuring comment I frequently heard back in the 50s, along the line of "Oh, you are from Holland? Well, that is OK, better than being Polish." But funny as it goes, today, in my surroundings, around Lachute in Québec, I get along famously with my fellow Quebeckers, BQ or no BQ. And did you know that there hardly is a difference between Lachute, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and Hawkesbury on the other, Ontario side? I wrote an opinion piece about that in one of our regional media. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.  n20-21

The members of the National Assembly are also in favour of the principle of maintaining Quebec’s weight. On Thursday, April 22, all members of that body, federalist and sovereignist, voted unanimously in favour of a motion against decreasing Quebec’s weight. Similar measures were adopted when previous bills were introduced by this Conservative government, which was trying to dilute the weight of Quebec. As well, the Quebec people also reject this bill, which would diminish the weight of Quebec. In fact, an Angus Reid poll conducted on April 7 shows that 71% of the population of Quebec opposes Bill C-12, which seeks to diminish Quebec’s weight. Now, 71% is a lot of people.  20-22

So the consensus in Quebec is that it is important to maintain Quebec’s relative representation in this House. That includes all of the members of the National Assembly and the 49 members of this House, two thirds of the members for whom Quebeckers voted. We are elected representatives, and we have democratic, popular legitimacy. This government’s refusal to take Quebec’s demands into account is only the last in a long series of examples demonstrating that recognition of the Quebec nation means nothing to this government.  20-23

If it were truly serious when it talks about reforming the democratic legitimacy of institutions, the government would abolish the Senate and ensure that the weight of the Quebec nation, which has been officially recognized, is kept at 24.3%. In addition, as I said before, it would reform the democratic legitimacy of institutions by ensuring it has the support of seven provinces that together represent 50% of the Canadian population and acknowledging that a majority of Quebeckers oppose these issues.  20-24

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I found the member's comments interesting but not relevant to the bill that we are talking about, which is Senate term limits. The government is advocating for eight-year, non-renewable term limits.  21

The member raised a couple of issues. First, I want to assure the member that the bill is completely constitutional. We did this in 1965 by reducing the term limits to age 75 for senators.  21-1

I also would like to say that the eight-year term limit is based on multiple reports about what goes on in other democracies in other countries.  21-2

The member also raised the issue of the selection of senators. I have a solution for the member. I would suggest that Quebec voluntarily participate in the bill that I introduced, the senatorial selection bill, where people in the provinces could nominate the people they want in the Senate. Presumably, the people of Quebec would want to have a democratic voice.  21-3

Why does the member not accept the eight-year term limits and support the Senate selection method that is voluntary and completely within the purview of Quebec, if it so chooses? We are trying to empower the people of Quebec. I wonder why the member is not.  21-4

Ms. Christiane Gagnon: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his remarks.  22

We also rely on the Supreme Court which examined Parliament’s ability to amend the constitutional provisions concerning the Senate of its own accord. On that point, decisions relating to major changes altering the fundamental character of the Senate may not be made by unilateral action. This means all reforms affecting the powers of the Senate—the method of selecting senators, the number of senators to which a province is entitled and the residence qualification of a senator—may be brought about only with the agreement of the provinces. We are meddling with the concept on which the Supreme Court has already ruled.  22-1

There is a consensus in Quebec. Those who recognize the Quebec nation also have to recognize that 71% of the population also opposes this view of things. Another survey that was done shows that senators represent an archaic institution. A lot of people do not understand the role of Senators in Parliament.  22-2

That is not just my own perception. It has a much broader dimension than a member’s own perception. I am merely reporting the reading of it in Quebec and among members elected from Quebec.  22-3

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP): Mr. Speaker, what does my hon. colleague suppose the motive is in this bill? We need to be clear on the government's motive in bringing forward this bill. What is the point in establishing term limits for senators who are ostensibly there to provide sober and wise oversight on a bill?  23

What is the purpose that she sees in this bill that the Conservatives have brought forward today?  23-1

Ms. Christiane Gagnon: Mr. Speaker, I believe that Senate appointments are what is motivating this government. In an eight-year period, there may be a change of government. It would be very dangerous for the government in place to be able to control certain appointments.  24

We know that the Conservative Party, which is in power now, tends to want to control everything. This would also be a way to control the Senate. We know how important the Senate is. It gives royal assent to all the bills that are passed. If a government did not agree with the opposition, it could muzzle the Senate and prevent a bill from being passed, because the government decided to control the senators.  24-1

We see the issue as much broader. To the Bloc Québécois, the Senate is an antiquated institution. We should abolish it instead of trying to reform it in some way.  24-2

Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to one of my favourite subjects, our Senate.  25

When this bill was first brought forward, my response publicly was, “big hairy deal”, and it stands. Quite frankly, my constituents and most Canadians do not give a tinkers about how long people get to be senators once they have been appointed to the Senate. The issue is how they get into the Senate. Whether they are in there 40 years, 30 years, 8 years or 2 years, they are still free to do whatever they want and there is not one power on this planet that can hold them accountable.  25-1

We will go along with it but I want to be quite frank. One of the reasons I am pleased to support this bill is that I am hoping, if there are enough senators rotating through the door and there is publicity around each one, that ultimately the Canadian people will finally say “Enough”.  25-2

We go through these spats where there are appointments and then nothing happens for a long period of time and people forget about it, for good reason. Then all of a sudden there is another round and there is a huge increase.  25-3

If that is happening two or three times a year, that might start to get to people as they see this happening over and over again, especially when they realize that most of the people going in there are either celebrities, meant to help the government be inoculated from its appointments, or they do not know who they are but they know it sure is not them or anybody they hang around with or have a beer with or play hockey with or go to work with. They know it will be somebody well connected and, in many cases but not all, it will be for, in my opinion, partisan reasons.  25-4

Well, let us look at the news release. It says in here, right off the bat, from the minister introducing the bill, ”Our government is committed to moving ahead with reform of the upper house to--”, and get this, ”--increase the democratic legitimacy of the Senate”.  25-5

Before something can be increased, it has to be there to start with and then it can be increased. Right now there is no democratic legitimacy to be found anywhere in that other place or the appointment process that gets people in there.  25-6

Then the minister said, “This bill is a step forward and creates a solid basis for further reform”.  25-7

That is nonsense. It does no such thing.  25-8

Mr. Speaker, I will signal to the minister that we will be supporting this bill at second reading, as I have indicated to him, to get it to committee. It is just not a big deal to us. Fine, 8 years or 20 years, they should not be there by appointment anyway. Therefore, if they are there for a shorter period of time, I guess that is a little better. That is about where we are with this thing.  25-9

Now the preamble, which is the part we need to sort of swallow in order to get it to committee, reads:  25-10

WHEREAS Parliament wishes to maintain the essential characteristics of the Senate within Canada’s parliamentary democracy as a chamber of independent, sober second thought.  25-11

Now we are getting to some of my favourite parts when we talk about the Senate. I will not talk about sober second thought. I will leave that be because it is a personal matter for those who might have a problem living up to that standard. However, “independent”, give me a break. I keep hearing this over and over, “independent sober second thought”, independent this, independent that. What a lot of nonsense.  25-12

There is a government leader in the Senate. That does not sound too independent. That sounds pretty tied to the government. The person gets extra money for that job, very similar to the government House leader here. The purpose is to shepherd government bills through the chamber. It sounds partisan to me. How could it not be partisan?  25-13

On the other side of the House, and it sounds a lot like our House, there are people opposed to them. What is interesting is that every Wednesday a good number of senators do not have the morning off. I would not go so far as to say that they all work but I would go so far as to say that quite a few of them go to caucus meetings.  25-14

I do not think I am divulging any secrets on behalf of any caucus here but does everyone know what happens at caucus meetings? We talk about politics and it is partisan politics. Those members attend the Conservative and the Liberal caucuses because those are the only two caucuses they belong to.  25-15

I want to get it on the record that there are some senators who are truly independent. In fact, I respect most of them. I wish I did not. It would make it easier, but I do. I acknowledge that upfront. I am talking about the system, that house and democracy, not individuals.  25-16

However, on Wednesday morning, the senators go off to their respective caucus meetings and they participate and agree on political strategies. That is not independent by any stretch. Many of them are political operatives who use taxpayer money to go and do who knows what, because they are not accountable to anyone. We know that many of them are doing partisan work on the $131,000 a year that the Canadian taxpayers are giving them. I will not even get into their travel, their offices and everything else.  25-17

Not only that, many of them participate in our elections, which in and of itself should not be a problem except they are the ones who want to stick label on themselves and say that they are independent, that they do not have anything to do with dirty partisanship, that this is why the need to maintain that house so they can have that sober, independence, once removed from the partisan antics of the House review. That is nonsense, my fellow Canadians. It does not exist.  25-18

This is the biggest charade perpetrated on one of the most modern, mature democracies of all time. Putin only appoints governors. In Canada we appoint the whole upper house.  25-19

Then the minister rolls in with a bill, saying that it is on its way to reform, that things will change. At that moment, we would expect things would really change. Maybe we will apply proportional representation to the federal election and apply it to the House or maybe take those seats and put them here and have proportional representation as well as a mixture of first past the post, something that really addresses the issue and the deficiencies in our system  25-20

What did we get? We are going to limit the best free ride there is in the world, in my opinion, to eight years. I do not know what is so magical about eight. I know there are certain numbers in certain cultures that have great significance and I respect that, but I am not aware of what eight means to us.  25-21

I hear a member heckling that it is better than 25. It is not nearly better enough. When the government came to power, it said that it would change the Senate. Remember when it talked about that? Remember the Reform Party? That is how it got here. It said that it had to do something about the Senate, the triple E. Now the Conservatives have power and they will limit terms to only eight years. That is eight years of participating in the law-making of Canada with no accountability.  25-22

That is probably the thing that offends me the most. I want to know what senator will to step forward and say that he or she is the senator who represents Hamiltonians, that senator will be in Hamilton at all the public meetings so the people of Hamilton can tell that senator what they think. How many public meetings do senators hold? How many times does the media go to them and hold them to account in a scrum and ask them why they voted a certain way?  25-23

I will give a very small issue, but it is meaningful to my constituents. A bill was passed in the House when I first arrived here. Forgive me if it is mundane, but it matters if it concerns some people. The bill dealt with trains that idled. Measures were put forward about protecting residents so they did not live too close to trains that would idle all night long.  25-24

As a former city councillor, and for anyone else who has served on council, we are dealing with the issues that affect people where they live. I supported the bill, having had experience with railways, trying to get fences and silly things. The Senate was lobbied by the railways and it changed the law and took it out.  25-25

More than anything, I wanted to bring those senators, or at least one of them, to Hamilton to meet with my constituents and explain to them why they voted the way they did. That did not happen, and it will not happen.  25-26

Who holds them accountable? Who puts the microphone to their mouths and asks them why they did or did not do or say something? We are rightfully asked those questions because we are held accountable.  25-27

The bill proposes nothing to change any of that. This is all just window dressing so the government can get by when it is asked about what it did about the Senate when it made such lofty promises.  25-28

We would like to start at square one. Let us go to the Canadian people with a referendum and ask them straight up if they want a Senate, yes or no. If they say they want a Senate, do they want it reformed. If they do, then we have marching orders and we go about it. If they say they want to keep it the way it is, we have our marching orders.  25-29

There is no other word for this but nonsense. The government is pretending that it is making a big change when in fact there is nothing here. We have no real ability to get our arms around it. Senators are independent. They sit in the upper house. We are in the lower house. We are merely the elected people.  25-30

We should start at the beginning and get a mandate from the Canadian people about what they want to do with their Senate. There are options. Abolishing it is our first choice. However, if the Canadian people say they like it because it provides some offset for regional differences, where rep by pop is not doing the job completely because we do not have a pure rep by pop, that is quite legitimate.  25-31

There are good reasons to have representatives who get here through other means than the one we have. A lot of people believe proportional representation would give us a much better democratic system. They believe it would be more reflective and might increase voter turnout. They believe it would tell young people that their votes do matter. New Democrats believe that too.  25-32

I am the last one any member would probably expect to say this, but there ought to be a member of the Green Party in the House. That party cannot get here because of our system. It does not win in my riding, but it does get a respectable turnout. With all the votes the Green Party received across Canada, it seems reasonable to me that it would be entitled to a seat. Under our current system members of the Green Party cannot get here, never mind get into the Senate. I do not know how they would even begin that process.  25-33

Almost $100 million a year is being spent on a body that is unelected and unaccountable. All we are going to do with this legislation is limit a senator's term to eight years instead of a maximum of 30 or 40 or some other outrageous number. That is what is before us today.  25-34

We will go along with it because it would not seem to do any great harm. I am not aware of any great increase in costs, although if we were to hear that, we could change our mind. The bill would not really change anything.  25-35

Maybe if there were enough people going in and out and the revolving door was reported in the media more often, maybe people would begin to ask why we would allow this to go on, pretending there was independent sober second thought. It does not exist.  25-36

That is what frustrates us more than anything, particularly from a government that slammed the Senate in every way possible in its election platform. If I am right, that very same Prime Minister has appointed more senators than anybody else in the history of Canada. That is an Olympic flip-flop.  25-37

To try to make up some of that ground, the poor minister has been tasked with trying to make the Prime Minister look like he is honouring the pledges and promises he made. I know the minister on a personal basis. He is doing the best he can. However, let us not kid ourselves. He can only do what he is allowed to do. It is the same in every government. I am not putting him down for that. This bill is a loser. This dog will not hunt. I could use whatever cliché I wanted, but the bill does not mean much at all.  25-38

The government does itself a great disservice when it talks about laying the cornerstone to increase the democratic legitimacy. Let us try beginning with some legitimacy before we get to increasing something that is not even there.  25-39

I would like to see the media attempt to hold the senators to account. I would like to see a big deal made out of them standing on privilege, saying that they do not have to answer to the media. I would like to see senators go public, take the platform, hold a news conference and tell the country why they do not have to answer a single question, or be accountable for their voting or go into our ridings and talk to our constituents.  25-40

On the books, and to the best of knowledge it is still there, senators get to self-declare. They can declare as a partisan or not and they can declare what they represent. Are they from a province, a part of a province, a riding? We have a senator who designated himself a representative for Yonge and Bloor, one corner. That is pretty good. He receives $131,000 a year and he represents a corner and he does not even have to go there or be with people. It is beautiful. And I will not even get into the senator who was in Mexico forever and ever and nobody noticed for the longest time.  25-41

This refers to he infamous case of senator Andy Thompson who rarely showed up in the Senate, just often enough to not be expelled.  n25-41

I would like to see that happen. That would certainly change the dynamics around here. Every time there is a vote in there and it is controversial, I would like to see a scrum waiting outside the Senate, the same way there is for us. I will not tell anyone accountability is fun. No one likes to be grilled, but we get grilled. We all answer.  25-42

I am not suggesting we are perfect, but we do live by a set of rules that truly are democratic. We really are accountable. We really do have to go to public meetings and talk to people. We really do have to meet with the media and tell it what we are doing, why we are doing it, how we voted, why we did not vote differently and what we did with our time. Senators do not have to do any of that. Why do we let them get away with it? Until we can change things at the very least on a personal level let us start making them accountable. I would like to see some bills like that.  25-43

The minister has a number of bills in the House and we will be on our feet. I will have great fun with the Senate because I will get to say all these things over and over again because it makes me crazy.  25-44

Mr. James Lunney: Think of something new.  26

Mr. David Christopherson: Start heckling me and that will give me some new material.  27

I do not want to be too flip about it, although I guess I am borderline, but you will tell me when I reach the line, Mr. Speaker. I am sure there are certain senators who are not too happy about what I have said, but it is such an affront.  27-1

I have been very active. I have done six international election monitoring missions. I go as a Canadian, presumably from a mature, advanced, modern democracy. It is downright embarrassing when they look up at us as a role model of some of the ways they would like to be and then they find out about our Senate. That is when we remind them that democracy is not perfect. We all have a long way to go. However, it is embarrassing, especially when I am there, to be a monitor for an election where they are trying to build democracy. In many cases, most of the countries I have been to are in the former Soviet Union empire and they are emerging democracies so they are really looking to learn. What do we have to teach them about democracy when we look at our Senate?  27-2

We will support this going to committee. However, no one in Canada ought to think for one moment that we think this makes a hill of beans of difference. We need to completely abolish the Senate or reform it so it is reflective of the needs of Canadians.  27-3

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his very monotone and subtle presentation.  28

I want to assure the member that the constraints on the legislation I put forward are not from the Prime Minister but from a document called the Constitution. The Constitution allows for certain things to occur, and everything the government is suggesting is within the Constitution. To go beyond that would require major constitutional reform. I am disappointed the member is advocating for that when Canadians are worried about jobs, the economy and making Canada better, defending Canada, and getting tough on crime.  28-1

Let us move on to where we have common ground. I think it is safe to say that the member would agree with the government that the Senate is an imperfect institution and that there needs to be some reform. Part of that reform is the eight-year term limit. I appreciate the member's support for that.  28-2

We have also introduced a senator selection act, where provinces would voluntarily elect nominees for the Senate. This would also allow for other forms of elections, including perhaps PR.  28-3

I wonder if the member could reflect on why there is so much resistance from the opposition party to Senate reform. The Liberal Party seems to advocate for the status quo. I wonder if the member could explain from his perspective why the Liberal Party just wants the status quo in the Senate.  28-4

Mr. David Christopherson: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for staying in the House, listening and commenting. I appreciate that and I respect it.  29

With regard to jobs and the economy being more important, I just say to the minister that it is not my bill that we are debating. I did not get up this morning and say that I wanted to go to the House of Commons and speak about Senate reform today. I am here because the bill is here and the government thought the minister should put it forward, So, if the minister has problems with the fact that we are dealing with this instead of jobs and the economy, the minister should ask his House leader, he should not ask me. I can only address the issues that are put in front of me.  29-1

It was interesting to listen to the minister go on about why he could not do certain things, that there are certain limitations and this and that. Funnily enough, the minister and his colleagues were not interested in listening to anybody else defend the Senate. They said they were all just apologists for the Senate. That is what I heard.  29-2

Then the minister tried the cute trick of throwing in the Liberals to see if we would take part in bashing the Liberals. I will always do that. I like doing that too, just like they like bashing us. That is fine. At the end of the day the status quo is that the Conservatives have more members' votes they can count on than the Liberals. Whatever happened to independent members doing sober second thinking?  29-3

The Prime Minister's own actions put the lie to that when he appointed all those senators for the sole purpose of getting majority control of committees. That sounds like the dynamics we have. What happened to the non-partisan aspect of what is supposed to go on over there?  29-4

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the spirited discussion he had on a bill that he does not like, but it will move forward to committee.  30

I have been here for four and a half years and I really cannot say that I have found that the Senate accomplishes anything. It is a body that should be exposed for its uselessness to the Canadian public.  30-1

In provinces right across the country where they had senates, it is quite clear to them. Probably they have better money managers than we do. They were closer to the people and they said, “Look, we cannot afford to have these things. These things are not working. It is not worthwhile to have a bunch of people sitting in these chambers doing nothing on the public dole”. So, they got rid of them. I agree completely.  30-2

The member mentioned something about international affairs. We send all these senators out on these parliamentary tours to all these countries. Do other countries do the same thing? I have not noticed that. When I visit with other parliamentarians I have not noticed any people there who were not elected.  30-3

What do we do in Canada? We ship out the appointed senators all over the world to show what? That we are still half-colonial in our nature? That we have not really discovered the true nature of democracy, which means that a person is elected as a representative of the country?  30-4

What does my colleague think about sending senators out on the road when they do not really represent the people of this country?  30-5

Mr. David Christopherson: Mr. Speaker, most senators have the time to do it because nobody is asking them what they are doing with their time, quite frankly. I have overheard some of them talking to other people. We are always on the brink of an election and when asked if they were worried about an election, the response was, “Oh, no, we don't worry about that”.  31

What happens when there is an election? Most of the international trips are backfilled by them because they are not in an election and the argument is that there have to be Canadians present and off they go.  31-1

We do it. I do not begrudge them going off and representing Canada. We all do it. What I begrudge is that they come back and nobody holds them accountable. Nobody asks why they were there, whom they talked to, what they did, what they did not do, what they did not say, why they did something. Nobody asks them. That is the part that I do not understand.  31-2

My colleague also asked what good they have done. I am going to assume we cannot use senators' names, the same as we cannot use members' names. I do not want to risk it or give offence. I will check the rules later. There is a certain senator from Newfoundland who likes to use the argument that we need the Senate because the House makes mistakes and it catches them. Quelle surprise, we make mistakes. We have 10 provinces and 3 territories and they make mistakes, too. They fix them.  31-3

I can remember one time during the Mike Harris years in Ontario when he rushed a bill through and it took six follow-up amendment bills to correct the original mistakes. The amendments were done so quickly that other amendments had to be introduced to fix the amendments that were brought in to fix the original bill. There were six amendments. It sounds funny and silly, but my point is that is what the Harris government did. It worked. It did not need a Senate. It had the rules and could fix its own problems.  31-4

My last point is this. There are individual senators who do a phenomenal job for Canada and for the issues that Canadians care about. My only gripe is that I wish they would enter into the public arena so they would have legitimacy behind their actions. It would give a voice to those actions so when they stood up, it actually meant something. First of all, they would be standing up, which would be new, and second, it would mean something, which would also be new.  31-5

Mr. James Lunney (Nanaimo–Alberni, CPC): Mr. Speaker, like my colleague from Western Arctic, I would like to thank the member for his spirited contribution to the debate today.  32

I find it interesting that he called for a referendum on the Senate. He is starting to sound like a Reformer. I am glad to see the NDP adopting some former Reform policies.  32-1

Speaking of senators, he mentioned senators having a town hall meeting. I want to tell him about one senator, now retired, who did make a huge difference, Senator Pat Carney from British Columbia. Talk about town hall meetings. Senator Carney helped organize a coastal community network with coastal parliamentarians. She got people from all three levels of government together, municipal and first nations, to discuss coastal concerns. They were able to deal with some very practical problems that fell between jurisdictions. She connected people and did work that the offices of members of Parliament were too busy to do.  32-2

The member knows that the Senate exists as a creation of the Constitution of Canada. As the Minister of State for Democratic Reform correctly pointed out, getting constitutional change is very difficult in our country and very divisive. Some senators last as long as 25 years. This bill would limit terms to eight years. We want senators to be elected by their provinces so they can be appointed to this place. What is wrong with doing what we can to bring reform to the Senate?  32-3

Mr. David Christopherson: Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned a referendum. Let me start at the top. We do not have a problem with a referendum for certain things. We supported it for the Charlottetown accord. The difference is that the Reform Party wanted to have referendums on pretty much everything. It pretty much wanted to replace this place and do everything by referendum. We do not agree with that. We do not believe that is the best way to run a mature democracy.  33

I asked for an example and the member gave me one. I accept that. I would point out two things. One, there is always two sides to every argument. I do not know whether there was another senator leading another group that was arguing the point or was this all just motherhood? I do not want to put it down, but I would raise the question, did they enter into the full political fray and take on both pro and con, or was it just facilitating an argument?  33-1

The last thing I want to say is that I asked if there were any public meetings. I have been in public life for almost 25 years in all three orders of government. It took all that time before I heard about even one senatorial meeting. What about the rest of them and what about the rest of the time?  33-2

Mr. Joe Preston (Elgin–Middlesex–London, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.  34

I am pleased to stand and debate Bill C-10, the Senate term limits bill. I will attempt to be a little less angry than the last member who spoke.  34-1

Bill C-10 proposes to amend the Constitution to establish term limits for senators. Specifically, the bill proposes that senators serve a single term of eight years.  34-2

Parliamentarians already had the opportunity to study the bill in some detail since it was first introduced in the last Parliament. In fact, two separate committees undertook studies of Bill S-4 which was similar to the bill before us today.  34-3

The call for change is certainly not new. Over the years there have been numerous proposals for term limits for senators and I believe there is now a general consensus that term limits are a good idea.  34-4

There remain a few skeptics. For example, concerns have been raised that term limits will somehow undermine the fundamental nature of the Senate, in particular, its capacity to provide sober second thought in the review of legislation. It is argued that an eight-year term is not long enough to allow senators to gain the experience to effectively carry out their functions in reviewing legislation. I would like to use my time today to address this concern.  34-5

I believe that if we look at previous proposals for term limits in the Senate and we examine the term limits in other jurisdictions, we can be confident that an eight-year term is more than sufficient for senators to exercise their constitutional responsibility.  34-6

Bill C-10 is far from being the first proposal to limit the tenure of senators. In fact, the only significant constitutional amendment relating to the Senate in our history was when Parliament amended the Constitution in 1965 to reduce the tenure of senators from that of life to a mandatory retirement age of 75.  34-7

However, the 1965 amendment still allows senators to serve as long as 45 years. That is why there have been so many proposals to implement additional limits on Senate tenure since 1965.  34-8

In 1980, the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee proposed that senators serve fixed terms of 10 years which would be renewable for a further term of five years. In 1981, the Canada West Foundation recommended senators serve limited terms that would coincide with the life of two parliamentary terms. Similarly, the Alberta Select Special Committee on Upper House Reform recommended in 1985 that senators should serve the life of two provincial legislatures. In 1984, the Special Joint Committee on Senate Reform recommended that senators would serve non-renewable nine-year terms. In 1992, the Special Joint Committee on a Renewed Canada recommended that senators should serve terms of no more than six years.  34-9

The recommendations for Senate term limits over the past 30 years have ranged from six-year terms to ten-year terms. The authors of these reports, including some former and distinguished parliamentarians of different partisan persuasions believe a term ranging from six to ten years would be sufficient to maintain the Senate's ability to effectively scrutinize legislation.  34-10

An eight-year term limit proposed in Bill C-10 squarely falls within the range of the term limits that previously have been proposed for the Senate. Bill C-10 is not a radical or revolutionary proposition. It is consistent with other proposals for Senate reform that have been made over the years.  34-11

Let us contrast the eight-year term limit in Bill C-10 with the term limits of the upper houses in other jurisdictions.  34-12

Based on data compiled by the French Senate on 66 second chambers, the average term limit for members is 5.2 years.  34-13

In Australia, a country with similar characteristics to Canada, senators serve six-year terms.  34-14

Similarly, senators in the United States also serve six-year terms. I doubt anyone would consider an American senator in his or her fifth or sixth year of office to be unable to perform his or her legislative capacities effectively. As we all know, Barak Obama was elected President of the United States after less than four years in the United States Senate.  34-15

The proposal in Bill C-10 for an eight-year term limit for senators is well within the norm internationally. In fact, it is above the average term limit for upper houses in foreign jurisdictions.  34-16

Many members may point to the previous proposals by the British government for the members of the House of Lords to serve for the equivalent of three parliamentary terms, or 12 to 15 years. However, there are three considerations that should lessen the significance of the British proposal on Senate reform in Canada.  34-17

First, Britain is looking at lords reform at a different departure point than is the case in Canada. Currently, lords are appointed for life. In contrast, life appointments to the Senate were replaced here in 1965, with a mandatory retirement age of 75. Therefore, a move to 12 year to 15 year terms would be a much more significant change in the United Kingdom than it would be in the Canadian setting.  34-18

Second, while proposing 12 year to 15 year terms, the British government recognized that terms of this length would raise accountability concerns. To address this, the British government suggested that a recall mechanism may be appropriate for the House of Lords. In the 2008 white paper on lords reform, the British government stated:  34-19

Further consideration would need to be given to the accountability arrangements for members of a reformed second chamber, particularly in light of proposals that they serve long, single, fixed terms.The Cross-Party Group discussed the possibility of introducing recall ballots for elected members of a reformed second chamber, along the lines of those that exist in some states of the USA.  34-20

Unlike the 12 year to 15 year term, the eight-year term proposed by Bill C-10 does not create the same accountability concerns raised in the British white paper. Even if Britain were to create a 12 year to 15 year term limit, a term of that length would be the exception, not the rule. In short, I do not believe the British example to be a comparable model when evaluating the appropriate term limits for our Canadian Senate.  34-21

The proposed eight year term was studied extensively by two Senate committees during the last Parliament. The report of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform supported term limits, in principle, and validated the government's position that an eight year term limit would not undermine the essential characteristics of the Senate.  34-22

For example, the committee's report concluded:  34-23

While a variety of views were expressed about the desirable length of a senatorial term, virtually none of our witnesses dismissed the creation of a term limit per se and, indeed, most strongly supported it. These witnesses pointed out that limited terms would dispel the image, so harmful to the Senate, of “jobs for life”, and re-invigorate the Senate with a constant influx of fresh ideas. Most members of the Committee found these assertions to be persuasive.  34-24

The Committee also notes that, in previous deliberations on the Constitution of Canada, various committees of the Senate have unanimously favoured the creation of limited terms for service in the upper house of Canada’s Parliament. In the view of most Committee members, the arguments made in these reports remain sound.  34-25

Accordingly, following careful deliberation on the subject-matter of Bill S-4 and finding no reasonable grounds to withhold approval in principle, most Committee members endorse the underlying principle of the bill: that a defined limit to the terms of senators would be an improvement to Canada’s Senate  34-26

Previous recommendations for term limits ranged from 6 to 10 years. None have proposed term limits greater than 10 years. Yet, the Liberals have proposed a 15 year term limit.  34-27

Term limits for second chambers in other jurisdictions are, on average, 5.2 years, which is well below the 15 years proposed by the legal and constitutional affairs committee. Let us be clear. By proposing a 15 year term limit in committee, Liberal senators killed the term limits bill on a party line vote.  34-28

Furthermore, we should compare the 15 year term limit proposed by the committee with the actual tenure of senators. Since Confederation, the average term of a senator has been about 14 years. Since 1965, the average tenure of senators has been 9.25 years.  34-29

The 15 year term limit proposed by Liberal senators at the legal and constitutional affairs committee would not effect any meaningful change to the Canadian Senate. Rather, it would simply reinforce the status quo.  34-30

Before concluding, I would like to note that while the Canadian government believes that a 15 year term limit is too long, the government has expressed willingness to consider other points of view, within reason. For example, when he made the unprecedented appearance before the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform, the Prime Minister stated:  34-31

A government can be flexible on accepting amendment to the details of Bill S-4 to adopt a six-year term or an eight- year term or a nine-year term. The key point is this: We are seeking limited, fixed terms of office, not decades based on antiquated criteria of age.  34-32

Nevertheless, I believe the eight year term limit proposed in Bill C-10 is reasonable. Eight years is sufficient time for senators to build up the necessary experience and expertise to perform their duties effectively. It is also consistent with previous Senate reform proposals and the term limits of second chambers internationally.  34-33

Bill C-10 would not alter the essential characteristics of our Senate. I encourage all members of this House to please support this initiative.  34-34

Hon. Shawn Murphy (Charlottetown, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member across for his comments. The last part of his speech dealt with a term, and I just want to get his opinion on this point. This is a point that has been raised before. The concept is to have two legislative bodies. A bicameral system is one that we certainly will continue in Canada, regardless of whether we invoke term limits.  35

However, with an eight year term, does the member not think that we could get into a very unpleasant situation where 100% of the senators would be appointed by one prime minister? I will give an example to the member. The last Liberal government came into power in 1993. By the year 2001, following the draft legislation, 100% of those senators would have been not only from that party but appointed by that one individual. I do not think it would create a deliberative body, so I would look for, and again this will be discussed at committee, perhaps a better mechanism.  35-1

I would appreciate member's comments.  35-2

Mr. Joe Preston: Mr. Speaker, the member's remarks are very relevant. We are talking about term limits for senators. We have talked, through other debate here today, about how much experience a senator can gain over an eight year period of time.  36

In my speech I talked about the President of the United States who spent less than his six year term in the U.S. Senate before he became President. So we can certainly remove the thoughts of experience building. People come here with altruistic reasons and life experiences will help them become senators.  36-1

To the member's point of appointing new senators after an eight year term and the government of the day perhaps even over time making a full turnover in the Senate, I certainly find it refreshing that our Senate would turn over that often and bring in individuals with new, fresh ideas. That would be very refreshing to Canadians.  36-2

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his kind reflections on how to improve our democratic institutions. The eight year term in context with our Senatorial Selection Act will empower people to select the nominees for the Senate. I wonder if that would address the previous member's concerns. I also wonder if the member could reflect on the integrity of newly appointed senators as they are putting their country's interests ahead of their own self-interest by agreeing to the term limits upon royal assent.  37

Mr. Joe Preston: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for bringing the bill forward and for his good question on it today. The true answer is that it is a series of Senate reforms. If we take it in isolation, I suppose we could always poke little holes in it.  38

We are here today talking about the change to Senate term limits. I recognize that the minister has also put forward another piece of legislation that gives the provinces the ability, if they choose, to hold provincial-wide elections for Senate candidates. So that certainly would address the previous question of would they all be appointed.  38-1

Yes, I would expect that the Prime Minister would need to appoint the people who are successful in those provincial elections by putting people into the upper chamber. We have very few examples of it now. There is a senator from Alberta who was chosen by the people, but we need senators who really want to come here for altruistic reasons and for really good fresh reasons to try to help Canada be a better country.  38-2

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to participate in this debate on Bill C-10, the Senate term limits bill.  39

Bill C-10 proposes a non-renewable term limit of eight years for senators. This proposal will be familiar to members as it is not the first time it has been considered by this House.  39-1

Bill C-10 would amend the Constitution using the amending procedures set out in section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which authorizes Parliament to “--make laws amending the Constitution of Canada in relation to the executive government of Canada or the Senate and House of Commons”.  39-2

Opponents of this bill have argued that section 44 is not the appropriate amending formula to affect change of this kind. They have suggested that term limits would affect an “essential characteristic of the Senate and its ability to give independent sober second thought in the parliamentary process”. I wish to refute those objections today as there can be little doubt that this bill is constitutional.  39-3

During the last Parliament the constitutionality of term limits was studied by two separate Senate committees. The Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform concluded that Parliament could change the tenure of senators to an eight year term. In reaching the conclusion the special committee heard from some of Canada's most respected constitutional scholars, including Peter Hogg, Patrick Monahan and Stephen Scott. The opinion of these eminent legal experts was unanimous: the eight year term limit proposal is within Parliament's jurisdiction.  39-4

The bill was then approved by the Senate at second reading and referred to the legal and constitutional affairs committee. That committee ignored the aforementioned scholars and did not come to any definitive conclusion regarding the bill's constitutionality. Let us be clear. The committee did not conclude that the bill was unconstitutional. It simply said it was not sure.  39-5

To resolve the question the committee proposed to have the Supreme Court of Canada decide the matter. I believe that it is the responsibility of parliamentarians to use our best judgment on the constitutionality of proposed legislation and not hide behind the Supreme Court. That is why I wish to outline my rationale for concluding that the bill now before us is constitutional.  39-6

What is the relevant test for evaluating the constitutionality of the proposed term limits bill? On one hand, opponents argue that any change affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be enacted by Parliament acting alone. On the other hand, supporters maintain that only essential characteristics requiring more than Parliament's unilateral authority are those explicitly referred to in the 1982 Constitution Act namely, the powers of the Senate, the method of selecting senators, the residence qualification of senators, and the number of senators by which a province is represented in the Senate.  39-7

This debate essentially turns on a single question. Does the Supreme Court of Canada opinion in the upper house reference remain relevant today? Members may be familiar with that opinion.  39-8

In 1978 the Government of Canada referred a number of questions to the Supreme Court relating to the authority of Parliament to abolish or reform the Senate. A year later the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that it would be beyond the legislative authority of Parliament to abolish the Senate or to otherwise alter its fundamental features or essential characteristics. However, the court noted that by limiting tenure from life to 75 years of age, as Parliament had done in 1965, it “did not change the essential character of the Senate”.  39-9

I reference the Constitution Act, 1982. It provides for various formulae to amend the Constitution, including specific references to the Senate. While opponents of reform argue that these formulae override the Supreme Court's opinion, the court's opinion remains relevant for interpreting the various amending formulae.  39-10

Some maintain that the upper house reference remains a guide to understanding the scope of Parliament's power to make constitutional amendments with respect to the Senate. Others, including Canada's best constitutional lawyers, contend that the upper house reference was a guide for amending our Constitution only before patriation in 1982. Since 1982, the Constitution itself, not the Supreme Court, outlines the procedures for amendment.  39-11

For example, when Peter Hogg testified before the special Senate committee, he said:  39-12

It seems to me that the best interpretation of what happened in 1982 was that it overtook the ruling in the Upper House Reference. In other words, the 1982 amending procedures now say explicitly which changes to the Senate cannot be accomplished unilaterally by the Parliament of Canada;  39-13

This leaves other aspects, including tenure, within Parliament's jurisdiction.  39-14

In turn, when Patrick Monahan was before the same committee, he expressed the same view, that maintaining that patriation in 1982 “has superseded the Senate reference or indeed attempted to codify, to identify those matters that were found to be fundamental or essential...”. As for other matters, he went on to say, “The Parliament of Canada...may enact changes to the Senate, including the tenure of senators”.  39-15

Although this debate is of crucial importance to understanding our constitutional amendment procedures, it is not one that needs to be resolved in the context of our present debate. Not only does the bill before us today comply with the constitutional amending procedure authorizing Parliament to make certain amendments to the Senate, but it also proposes term limits of sufficient length to maintain the Senate's essential characteristics.  39-16

In other words, Bill C-10 passes both the Supreme Court test of 1979 by not affecting the Senate's essential characteristics and the Constitution Act of 1982 by not tackling any of the senatorial changes in section 42.  39-17

The proposal before us is for an eight-year term. Some have asked if this term is long enough to maintain the essential characteristics of the Senate. The simple answer is, yes. An eight-year term is within the range of terms for Senate chambers internationally and well within the range of terms contemplated by previous Senate reform proposals. Eight years is enough time to allow a new senator to acquire the necessary skills to maintain the Senate's role in providing an independent second sober thought in legislative review.  39-18

Hon. members may be familiar with the tenure of senators in the United States, which is six years. This is the same as the tenure for senators in Australia. Other upper houses have term limits as short as four years. France recently reduced its term from nine to six years. An eight-year term, which is what is being proposed in Bill C-10, would be among the longest worldwide.  39-19

Unless one is willing to suggest that the upper chambers of the United States, Australia and Europe are all ineffective due to limited terms, members must agree that eight years is long enough to maintain the essential characteristics of the Senate.  39-20

Another aspect of this bill that addresses concerns with maintaining the independence of the Senate is that the terms are non-renewable. Non-renewable terms assure Canadians that the senators will not have to curry favour with the government in order to preserve their seat.  39-21

The bill contains transitional provisions that will apply the eight-year term limit to all senators appointed after October 14, 2008. As with the rest of the bill, this transitional provision is on solid constitutional ground and can be enacted by Parliament alone pursuant to section 44 of the Constitution Act.  39-22

The bill before us today is a good one simply due to the fact that it would allow future Parliaments the opportunity to appoint, if necessary, senators for a limited term of eight years, which would certainly go far beyond the current status quo of 75 years of age. It would ensure, in my opinion, that senators being appointed in the future will bring a fresh set of eyes to all of the legislation coming through this chamber to the upper chamber.  39-23

I would also point out that, by the provisions contained in this bill of a non-renewable term limit, we would not have to worry about senators being reappointed time and time again. It would ensure that if Parliament changes, the Senate will change. I think that is in the best interest of all Canadians.  39-24

Mr. Guy André (Berthier–Maskinongé, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech by the Conservative member. A survey conducted in Quebec a few months ago indicated that only 8% of Quebeckers believe in the role of the Senate, that 22% would prefer an elected Senate, and that 43% would simply abolish the Senate.  40

During the election campaign, the Conservatives proposed real reform of the Senate. However, with this bill, it is evident that they have not consulted Quebec and the provinces about this reform, and have not questioned the very basis for the Senate.  40-1

I would like the Conservative member to explain to us how the will of Canadians is respected when the provinces and Quebec—where 43% of Quebeckers want the Senate to be abolished—have not been consulted.  40-2

Mr. Tom Lukiwski: Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons that Canadians in various regions of this country would like to see the Senate abolished is because of the abysmal record of senators in the past.  41

As we all know, senators have been appointed, in effect, almost for life. At one point in time, senators were appointed until they were 100 years of age. It was only recently changed to 75 years of age. However, because of the partisan nature of many of these appointments, we saw that many Canadians became disillusioned with the Senate as an institution, which is why we are taking steps to reform the Senate  41-1

I believe eight-year terms would ensure not only integrity, but it would ensure that senators not become complacent, and the non-renewable provision would ensure that the senators who are appointed to the Senate are there for a limited amount of time, ensuring they will absolutely be working in the best interests of Canadians.  41-2

With respect to the member's question about consultations, we are planning, through future democratic reform initiatives, that provinces will be consulted on the nature of the senators they elect. They will be providing their wish to the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister will then take their wishes into consideration when appointing senators in the future.  41-3

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP): Mr. Speaker, on the question of the nature of the Senate and how it affects the decisions that we are making here today, I think the examples that have been used are a bit inappropriate. The U.S. Senate, of course, is an elected body. Perhaps the model that we should look to by which to judge the bill is the House of Lords, where appointed gentry for hundreds of years have held those positions for a very long time.  42

I come from a party that does not believe in the institution of the Senate. It does not believe that it has usefulness left in Canada. Certainly, to try to compare this institution today to an elected body like the U.S. Senate where senators hold very important positions in the democratic process there, is completely wrong. There is no comparison between those two bodies in their function and, ultimately, even if this Senate was elected, in its purpose to Canadians.  42-1

Mr. Tom Lukiwski: Mr. Speaker, I am actually very heartened to see members of the NDP engaging in this debate since, as the member opposite stated, they do not believe in the Senate to begin with. I also find it passing strange that they would actually try to make suggestions on how to improve the upper chamber when they do not want to see an upper chamber in existence.  43

With respect to the member's comments about unfair comparisons to the U.S. because the U.S. has a system of electing senators, I am not sure if the member heard me but I will repeat what I said for his benefit. One of our further initiatives on democratic reform is on the method by which senators are appointed to the upper chamber.  43-1

We plan to introduce legislation that would allow people in individual provinces to cast their opinion on who they would like to see provincially appointed to the Senate. In effect, there is a way that we could say that senators will be elected by the members of the regions that will ensure integrity from the members' perspective to the Senate itself.  43-2

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's South-Mount Pearl, Government Advertising; the hon. member for St. John's East, Hibernia Project.  44

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Charlottetown.  44-1

Hon. Shawn Murphy (Charlottetown, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and participate in this debate.  45

This is an issue that is complicated. The whole issue of Senate reform has been discussed on many occasions since Confederation in 1867, but it is an issue that I am glad to see brought before the House and it is an issue that should be debated by Canadians. I congratulate the minister for introducing it.  45-1

I want to say at the outset that when the bill comes to a vote, I will be supporting it so that it will go to committee even though I have some very serious concerns with the whole issue of tenure, which I will get into.  45-2

I understand the gist of the legislation. We have a situation now, and it has happened, where technically a person can be appointed at the young age of 35 and can serve 40 years in the Senate. It does raise certain concerns of accountability and legitimacy. It is an issue that we should debate and perhaps correct, if it is possible constitutionally, which I believe it is. However, there is a need for discussion and, of course, it will then need to go to the Senate.  45-3

It is a good issue to have before the House but, as I indicated, I do not think there is any institution as complicated, complex and perhaps misunderstood as the Senate of Canada. The debate about the Senate cannot start today. It has to start back in 1864, at the time of the meetings when the discussion started to form this country. The original meeting was held in Charlottetown when the British colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island came together to discuss the possibility of forming a Maritime union because of their small size and other concerns, such as defence, et cetera.  45-4

Upper Canada and Lower Canada, now Ontario and Quebec, more or less invited themselves to this meeting to discuss the whole concept of a larger union and they were included to form the Dominion of Canada.  45-5

According to the historical annals, there was a lot of partying and drinking at this meeting. They did not form an agreement but they very much agreed to continue the discussions. The discussions did continue in a meeting in Quebec City and as are result of those two meetings, the country was formed in 1867. I should point out that Prince Edward Island, at that time, opted not to join the Federation.  45-6

Again, if we look at the debates, the Atlantic provinces, although they were smaller, were probably more mature because they had been settled earlier. To a certain extent, they did have a legislature. Responsible government came first to the colony of Nova Scotia. It had its own governors and its own legislature. There was a considerable degree of reluctance to get into this new union. They also had their own political issues back in their colonies because lot of time certain factions were against any kind of a larger union with Upper Canada and Lower Canada. A lot of times people did not appreciate what was going on or what the political climate was in that far off land.  45-7

Again, as we all know, the agreement was culminated and the country was formed, to its great credit, for which we are forever grateful. In the early 1900s the country expanded and in 1949 in the province of Newfoundland joined Confederation.  45-8

The point I am making is that during those discussions chips were put on the table, there were a lot of negotiations and discussions, if we read the debates of the delegates from the colonies, and one of the concerns of the smaller colonies was to be swallowed up by the larger colony of Ontario.  45-9

One of the concerns, of course, was the protection of minorities. We are not talking about the minorities as we view the concept in the House today. There was only one minority and that was French Catholic males. At that time the females and the aboriginals did not have a franchise and were not considered, or I did not see them considered too much in the debates.  45-10

The point I am making is that one of the significant chips that was put on the table, and the chip that got the country, was the Senate. The way they constructed the Senate was that each region would have 24. The Atlantic region would have 24. Quebec would have 24; that was what brought them on board. Ontario would have 24, and of course that expanded as the west was brought into the federation in subsequent years. That balanced the regions and it was also there to protect the minorities.  45-11

These are considerations we all should bear in mind. We should all bear in mind the chips that were put on the table during these very important discussions back in 1864, 1865 and 1866, concluding in 1867. In other words, the bottom line was that if we did not have the Senate, we would not have got the country.  45-12

I point to that for contextual purposes. I do not think there is any reason why this House should not discuss the possible reform of the Senate, but as the minister would know, it is a very difficult process because of the constitutional framework that was adopted then and that was changed subsequently but not a lot, not in any major amendment to the Senate. The way the senators are appointed, their capacities and the regions they represent require the consent of at least seven provinces, representing in excess of 50% of the population of Canada.  45-13

As every politician who has ever been elected in Canada knows, that is a very difficult and murky process. We got into that in Meech Lake. We got into that in Charlottetown. We all know how difficult that process is and I believe most politicians, if questioned, would say they really do not want to go there.  45-14

However the point I do want to make is that it is unfortunate that there was not a larger consultative process. The provinces, in this case and in this discussion, are the successors to the colonies. The Senate was put there for a purpose, with certain specific capacities to protect and enhance the interests of the colonies, especially the smaller colonies, and of course the minorities, which have expanded beyond that concept of the French Catholic male.  45-15

It is unfortunate that we did not have a more consultative process. We are having situations where certain larger provinces have publicly stated that this bill should not go forward. That is unfortunate, but I still think the debate should continue. There is a larger constitutional issue and many constitutional scholars have given opinions. By my reading, certainly the preponderance of the opinion seems to be that this legislation can proceed without the consent of the provinces. However, the previous member who spoke was talking about appointments made at the request of the provinces. We are into some constitutional problems there. It is a slippery slope, and there have really been very few substantial amendments made to the Senate since Confederation.  45-16

One issue I do have, which has been talked about by the previous two speakers and which can continue before the committee, is the whole issue of tenure. The previous two speakers compared it to other countries where they have a bicameral system with two political institutions, a lower house and a Senate. One speaker said the average tenure was 5.2 years and talked about the American and Australian experiences, but again these are all elected bodies.  45-17

Even if this legislation were passed tomorrow, we are going to continue with an appointed body. I am very troubled with the possibility that after eight years, we have a legislative and deliberative body that comprises 104 members, each and every one of whom are appointed by one individual. I would think they would be very compliant. I am not so sure they would be an institution of sober second thought and I am not so sure what purpose they would really serve.  45-18

If we go back to the previous Liberal government that was elected in 1993, by the year 2001 all 104 senators would have been appointed by one individual, resulting in no opposition in committees. I am not clear how that would serve the interests of democracy in the long run.  45-19

I do not have any specific suggestions, although I think it should be a longer term and there should be staggering. However, I believe there certainly has to be some debate on creating a viable opposition because I have seen with my own eyes what happens when a democracy is overtaken by one party. We have seen it more in provincial legislatures than in the federal ones and it is my opinion that democracy suffers in the long run. It may be a happy day when a government wins all the seats, but in the long run it is the people who suffer and democracy suffers too.  45-20

The legislative bodies that operate in the House of Commons, the Senate and the provincial legislatures work best with an effective, informed and hard-working opposition. That is a real question, but again it should not in any way stop the debate from continuing.  45-21

This matter has been before the House previously and there have been some slight changes based upon the debates. It is good that the matter is being brought before the House again, but there are a lot of other issues, which I will raise briefly.  45-22

There are democratic reforms that are extremely troubling and probably more important than this issue, one of which is the issue that has been before the House over the last six months about documents. There seems to be a movement to create a new concept in Canada that I would classify as executive or prime minister or government immunity. Instead of the traditional role that Parliament, the House of Commons and committees have delegated to them, the powers to send for persons, papers and records, if we accept the logic that is being put forward, the persons, papers and records that would be sent to the committees would be determined by the executive. Whatever is in the public interest would be determined by the opinion of the executive or cabinet.  45-23

That is a very unholy trend. I am pleased the Chair ruled that is not the case in this country. I agree with that ruling and hopefully we will move on with that. I am dealing with the very same thing in the public accounts committee, which did not raise a national security issue. It was dealing with another issue that had the very same response from the government. That particular case dealt with some tapes that are not that important to anything. We met with a lot of resistance but we finally got them.  45-24

First of all, members are probably not going to believe this, but the government would not provide them because the committee did not follow the Access to Information Act. When that was explained, the government said it would not give them to the committee because that violated the Privacy Act. We finally got them, but we can see the trend that is developing. I wish the Minister of State for Democratic Reform would get engaged in that issue because it is so important to democracy in this country.  45-25

It is good that this debate is taking place. I will be supporting this legislation. I have some concerns. The two biggest concerns deal with the consultation process and tenure, which is a major concern. We have to work on some mechanism to allow the institution to operate efficiently, effectively and in the best interests of all Canadians.  45-26

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, a lot of the hon. member's comments were thoughtful and in a historical context. Of course, what we are here to talk about today is the eight-year non-renewable term.  46

My question to the member is quite simple. We know the constraints of the Constitution. We know that Canadians are demanding a more accountable institution. Will the member agree that a term limit that is non-renewable is critical? Is it the perfect solution? There are probably no perfect solutions, but is it better than what we have now? The answer is yes. I think that is what most Canadians would say.  46-1

Would the hon. member agree that non-renewable term limits are better than what we have at present?  46-2

Hon. Shawn Murphy: Mr. Speaker, it would depend on how we solve that issue. I really feel strongly that this concept of a non-renewable eight-year term would not work. I gave the example that after eight years the Prime Minister would have appointed all 104 members. There would be no opposition. They would go to a committee and it would be all one party.  47

Not only that, but there is another very important point I want to raise. I have noticed over the years that the members of the same party who were appointed by a previous leader are less compliant. I believe that the Conservative members who were appointed by Mr. Mulroney are less compliant than the ones appointed by the present Prime Minister, and I have seen that in both political parties.  47-1

We would have a situation where a democratic institution, a House, comprised 104 members from one party, all appointed by one individual. I am troubled with that. I do not think it would work. We have to work on other solutions. I am sure there are experts out there who would give us all kinds of ideas, but that particular solution would not work for democracy and it would not work for Canadians.  47-2

Hon. Steven Fletcher: Mr. Speaker, regarding the issue the member spoke about, perhaps I can strongly recommend that he encourage senators in the other place to support our Senate selection act, by which the people in the provinces would be able to select the nominees to the Senate. That would address the member's concern.  48

Can the member confirm that he will be supportive of the Senate selection act and encourage a more democratic process in the selection of the appointments to the Senate?  48-1

Hon. Shawn Murphy: Mr. Speaker, to repeat, I indicated when I first rose that I will be supporting the bill. I see the bill going to committee. I believe it will be a healthy debate. I am hoping members will come up with a better solution than the eight-year non-renewable tenure. I do not have the solution in front of me, but I am sure it can be worked out if we put enough good people in a room.  49

The minister asked me to issue some control over the senators in the other House. I want to remind him that I have absolutely no control over anyone in the other House. It is my understanding that the Conservatives have a majority there now. We will see how the debate goes in the other House, but I will not be participating. I have no control over how that debate goes.  49-1

Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question for the Liberal member is simple: does he believe that Parliament can change at will anything to do with the Senate without consulting the provinces?  50

Hon. Shawn Murphy: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, that is not a simple question. That is a question that has been debated for 143 years. I do not have the answer. I have read many of the articles.  51

Parliament cannot amend a lot of the more fundamental issues regarding the Senate without amending the Constitution, which would require consent of at least seven provinces, representing at least 50% of the people. But then when we boil it down to the issue of tenure, there are opinions on both sides of the issue. It is unfortunate that it has not gone to the Supreme Court first. It will probably end up in the Supreme Court at some point in time for a definitive opinion. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court did not opine on it when it had the opportunity several years ago, but again, I cannot answer that question. It appears that the preponderance of the legal scholars are of the view that we can.  51-1

Mr. Jean Dorion (Longueuil–Pierre–Boucher, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member who just spoke.  52

This bill does not take the Quebec nation into account at all. The Conservative government claims to have recognized the Quebec nation, but in reality, is it not disregarding the constitutional aspect of this national issue?  52-1

As other speakers have already said, in a federal system, this Senate reform cannot be passed without going through the constitutional amendment procedures.  52-2

Quebec was not consulted on this issue. The former Quebec minister for Canadian intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier, stated Quebec's position in 2007. He said:  52-3

The Government of Quebec does not believe that this falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Given that the Senate is a crucial part of the Canadian federal compromise, it is clear to us that under the Constitution Act, 1982, and the Regional Veto Act, the Senate can be neither reformed nor abolished without Quebec's consent.  52-4

That same day, the Quebec National Assembly adopted the following motion:  52-5

That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the federal government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.  52-6

Is the Canadian government not being quite arrogant by completely ignoring the will of Quebec and avoiding any consultations with it on this issue?  52-7

Hon. Shawn Murphy: Mr. Speaker, the member made one statement that I will agree with 100%. The Senate is at the heart of the Canadian federalism. I pointed that out in my speech.  53

When we go back to the original debates, the chip on the table was that 24 senators would be allocated to the region of Quebec, which we can call the Quebec nation quite appropriately. Again, if there is any change to that formula, any change to the way they are appointed, to their capacities, to where they have to live, I think it would be tremendously difficult to do that without the consent of Quebec.  53-1

However, we are dealing with a tenure issue. I do not have the final legal say in that. There are opinions going both ways. It is unfortunate that we do not have a Supreme Court ruling. There is no question in my mind that one of the aggrieved provinces will probably take this to the Supreme Court at some time. However, again, that is a situation that has to be. All I say is let us get it to committee and have a debate. There is no question that eventually it will arrive at the Supreme Court of Canada for a legal opinion at some point in time.  53-2

Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil–Papineau–Mirabel, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, which would limit senators' terms to eight years.  54

The Bloc Québécois will oppose this bill.  54-1

As my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher commented, the Conservative government has once again chosen to tamper with institutions and make changes that could offend Quebec, without consulting it. The big news today is that it has found allies. The NDP and the Liberals are prepared to go along with the Conservative proposal.  54-2

It is clear that the Conservative government is trying to be divisive. It is trying to change the Senate by introducing bills in the House of Commons and the Senate, to avoid having to abide by the 1982 Constitution.  54-3

The position of the Government of Quebec has always been clear. It was stated in 2007 by Benoît Pelletier, a minister in the Liberal Government of Quebec who was a constitutional expert and a federalist. He was not a sovereignist, far from it. Once again, the National Assembly of Quebec, through the premier, who is a federalist Liberal and the former leader of the Conservative Party, is asking that the government make no changes without consulting Quebec and the provinces.  54-4

This is very surprising. The government is trying to do everything in its power to alter the very foundation of the Canadian Constitution without Quebec's consent. I am shocked at that. We are sovereignists, and we dream of having our own country. But when we have our own country, I hope we will never make the mistakes the Conservatives are making in trying to do everything they can to prevent the country's constituent parts from having a say, because they do not want to touch the Constitution or something else.  54-5

It is amazing to see the Conservatives in action. It helps us sovereignists see why we have to leave this country, but they are not setting a very good example for everyone else.  54-6

I can understand them to a certain extent. The Senate is a problem. I say that in all kindness. I have been in federal politics since 2000. Before 2000, I never ran into any senators. In Quebec, the upper chamber was abolished in 1968. I was born in 1957. I was 11 years old when it disappeared. This is not a problem in Quebec. I took a tour of the National Assembly of Quebec and was told there was a red room and a blue room where people used to sit. It disappeared a long time ago because it simply was not needed.  54-7

What I am saying as a federal parliamentarian is that I have never run into a senator in my riding. I know that there are some and I have to be careful not to name them. As I do not want to be in a position where I have to apologize, especially to a senator, because I named him or her here, I will refrain from doing so. I would not want to lower myself to apologizing to a senator. Personally, I have only seem them during election campaigns.  54-8

In 2004 and 2006, a Liberal senator attended a few events. I have a beautiful riding that includes Mirabel and part of the aerospace industry. Accordingly, senators like to be seen there during election campaigns. I knew there was a senator there. I saw her in every election because she would drop by to support the Liberal candidate. To me the Senate has always been a partisan stronghold. It is all about politicking, as far as I can tell.  54-9

I have a new Liberal opponent who is the son of a senator. Now, his father, the senator, has begun coming around. I can honestly say that, up until 2009, I had never seen him. However, he came and attended some events and told us that he had been a Liberal member in part of my riding, in Deux-Montagnes. He discovered matters of interest there because he does not live in the riding.  54-10

That amounts to political partisanship; they are partisan appointments. Bill C-10 proposes appointing senators for eight years rather than life, to age 75. The bill proposes nothing more than partisan appointments. It is an aberration and we cannot support it.  54-11

I know that the Minister of State for Democratic Reform explained that another bill before the Senate will ensure, one day, that they are no longer appointed. However, we still cannot support this bill.  54-12

The Conservative government combed the Constitution, together with experts, to determine what it could do. Lawyers said that if the government changed the length of the term, it might be able to do through the back door what it could not through the front door. They have forgotten an obvious principle of law: you cannot do indirectly what cannot be done directly. I am a notary and not a lawyer, but all lawyers understand this principle.  54-13

When I asked him the question, the Liberal member answered that the Supreme Court should have examined this issue. When the issue was before the Supreme Court, we should have asked if we could split up. We know already that the Government of Quebec will be opposed and that the issue will go to the Supreme Court.  54-14

So why is the government doing this? To keep a partisan stronghold. That is terrible. If the government had the courage to follow through on abolishing the Senate, it could work. The deficit is going to hit close to $50 billion. We could at least cut part of this spending that serves no purpose, other than partisanship. But instead they have decided to reinvest in this part of Canada's political evolution.  54-15-

Ontario got rid of its upper chamber in 1867, and Quebec did the same. I do not understand. A number of my fellow politicians have a backwards attitude, and that will not change. I see that Parliament will be living in the past for a long time.  54-16

It is deplorable, because it is not as though this is something new. Other colleagues have already mentioned this, but I think it is worth repeating what minister Benoît Pelletier said in 2007 regarding Quebec's traditional position:  54-17

The Government of Quebec does not believe that this falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Given that the Senate is a crucial part of the Canadian federal compromise, it is clear to us that under the Constitution Act, 1982, and the Regional Veto Act, the Senate can be neither reformed nor abolished without Quebec's consent.  54-18

This press release was issued by the minister on November 7, 2007. That is a great date, since it is also my birthday. But I am sure that is not why he issued the press release; it was not just to make me happy.  54-19

That same day, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously passed the following motion:  54-20

That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the federal government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.  54-21

This stance has been known since 2007. Once again, the Conservative government probably wants to please its electors. Why else would it do this if not to show off its backwards ideology? I do not know who the government is making these amendments for. The polls are clear. In March, an exclusive Canada-wide poll of 1,510 adults by Léger Marketing for QMI Agency showed that 35% of Canadians believe that the Senate can only be effective if senators are elected and not appointed.  54-22

The bill before us today is not about electing senators, but about appointing them for eight years. Meanwhile, 25% of people, one quarter, believe that the Senate should be abolished; 12% are in favour of appointments based on gender and regional balance. In Quebec, only 8% believe that the Senate plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works well; 22% want an elected Senate and 43% want the Senate abolished. I am part of that last statistic, but I was not polled. That does not include the 31% of people who have no opinion because they do not know what the Senate does. Approximately one third of the population does not know what the Senate does.  54-23

In my experience, senators create partisan politics. The Senate is a stronghold of partisanship and political organizers. They have a nice salary, an office and staff to do that work. My senator gets around, taking his son by the hand, and participates in every event at government expense. He will be my next opponent. That has always been the Liberal way of doing things. They always find a way to take taxpayers’ money to pay for their election campaigns. It happens to me, but it does not cause me any problems. It makes me laugh, but today, I am trying to understand why we would be trying to save this partisan stronghold at the expense of the actual constituent members of the federation.  54-24

In 2007 the government of Quebec said that there would be no amendments without constitutional negotiations. That is simple. The request was made by a federalist premier of Quebec who said not to change anything without consulting the provinces. Today, the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Conservative Party are hand in glove to try to amend it piecemeal, bit by bit. We can change this but not that; there is the Supreme Court judgment, and so on. This issue is going to end up in the Supreme Court. That is what will happen.  54-25

Quebec has not agreed from the outset. I will explain again that you cannot do by the back door what you may not do by the front door. In law, you cannot do indirectly what you may not do directly. But that is how the Conservatives do things. What surprises me is that the Liberal Party and the NDP are playing the game and trying to work behind the backs of Quebec and the provinces. Some provinces may agree. In that case, we should immediately initiate constitutional negotiations on the Senate. The provinces that are for this reform will say so and those that are against it will also say so. There will be debate and negotiation.  54-26

But they want to do it all by getting confirmation that everything is fine from lawyers who are probably being paid fat fees. The Conservatives pay their constitutional lawyers. The lawyers give them reports explaining that this or that will be allowed and that you can divide it up into several bills scattered around the Senate and the House of Commons. They will try to get it all passed without having to amend the Canadian constitution, because they do not want to do that. The way the Conservatives do things is intolerable.  54-27

In Quebec, the Conservatives are at about the same level as Quebeckers’ interest in the Senate. If that is what they want, they should keep on doing this kind of thing. Only 8% of Quebeckers think the Senate is good for anything. I will refrain from mentioning the percentage of Conservatives from Quebec. I know what it is and they do too. The harder they work on it, the closer they get to the 8% of Quebeckers who are satisfied with the Senate.  54-28

The Liberals and NDP want to go in the same direction. It is a thing of beauty to see them at work, defying the wishes of Quebeckers. I know it has been tough for Quebec in the House of Commons over the last few weeks. The other parties are trying to crush it by reducing its political weight in the House. Another bill is attempting to add an additional 30 members. They are trying to crush Quebec because, with the reforms in the bill the minister has introduced, it will have fewer members than it deserves given its population, although it had more until 1976. But the Conservatives have decided otherwise. That is their way, but it cannot go on forever. Things cannot continue like this forever without provoking a strong reaction in Quebec.  54-29

In regard to the Senate, Quebec’s reaction has been known since 2007 and it is strong. There was the unanimous resolution adopted in the National Assembly, and it is clear that Quebec will go to the Supreme Court to defend its interests.  54-30

The Conservatives might like to wait for the Supreme Court decisions. That way they can please somebody or other. I am trying to understand whom they want to please. More than a third of Canadians would like to see the Senate abolished, so they are certainly not the ones the Conservatives are trying to please. Maybe there are people they are trying to please, senators whom they promised a chance to get elected, but I do not know how that will work. I really do not want want to discuss the other bill to change the law so that senators are not appointed but elected. There is even a list that could be provided by the provinces, although the Prime Minister would not be required to abide by it.  54-31

In the end, they wish to retain control of this political instrument, even though the real politics should take place here, in the House of Commons. That is understood by the people. If one third of the population does not even know what the Senate does, it is because they realize that the real politics take place in the House of Commons. We should get rid of this instrument, which is expensive and a stronghold of partisan players and political organizers.  54-32

I realize that the Conservatives and the Liberals who appointed senators over the years do not wish to deprive themselves of this political arm that they can use. However, it would be a good way to show the people, who are growing increasingly cynical about elected politicians, that they have listened and that the senators have not managed to prove their usefulness over the years. We should be talking about abolishing the Senate, and discussing it with the provinces once again. The Bloc Québécois does not intend to participate in any debate about the Senate if the Constitution is not respected. When we have our own country, we will want everyone to respect our constitution and, as long as we are part of Canada, we will respect the Canadian Constitution.  54-33

We believe that any debate on the Senate should involve constitutional negotiations and must include Canada's partners, the provinces. If they have decided that the provinces are no longer partners, they should say so. The Conservatives should have the courage to say that they do not want to hear anything more from the provinces and that they will go it alone. This might be an intelligent way of setting out their strategy but they will not do it. For that reason, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to win the approval of Canadians. In Quebec, as I was saying earlier, the Conservatives's polling numbers will soon match the 8% of Quebeckers who think the Senate is important.  54-34

Therefore, it is obvious that we will be voting against Bill C-10 because, although the bill limits senators' terms of office to eight years, they will still be appointed. As long as senators are appointed and as long as the Senate remains a partisan stronghold, the Bloc will never support it. This bill does not mention another means of Senate reform. It states that senators will be appointed for eight years. Therefore, we will be voting against this bill, especially because the Quebec National Assembly has been telling the federal government since 2007 that no changes should be made to the Senate.  54-35

I will not reread the government position drafted by Benoît Pelletier, a renowned Liberal constitutional expert who was a federalist Quebec government minister. This position was backed by a unanimous National Assembly resolution against negotiations about the Senate unless Quebec was an active participant in such negotiations. We will always stand for that because we are the only party in the House that stands up every day to defend Quebeckers' interests even when the party advocating those interests is a federalist party. We are always logical. We stand up for Quebec. That is what we have always done and will always do. That is why, no matter what happens, there will be more and more of us here in the House of Commons.  54-36

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, the member comes from a great part of the world. We all live in the greatest country in the world at the best time in human history to be alive. I think everyone in this chamber understands that.  55

We are trying to improve our Parliament, a federal institution. That is why all federalist parties support the bill. There may be differences, but everyone in this chamber, on the federalist side, wants to make our country better, and that includes improving the Senate. We have heard today that some sort of term limit, non-renewable, will make our country better.  55-1

Will the member be straight up with us and say what is really happening here, and that is Bloc members will, for ideological reasons, oppose anything that will make Canada a better place?  55-2

Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Speaker, hearing that kind of thing always makes me smile. The Bloc Québécois did support two Conservative budgets in 2006 and 2007 because the government said that it wanted to correct the fiscal imbalance. The National Assembly passed a unanimous motion in support of that approach. We have always been consistent. The National Assembly passed a unanimous motion against reforming the Senate without consulting the provinces.  56

All federalist parties have the right to join forces against Quebec. That helps me because I am the Bloc Québécois' chief organizer in Quebec. The more they do that kind of thing, the better off I am. In fact, I should just let them do their thing and keep my mouth shut. They are all working for me. I have no problem with that. What I have a hard time understanding is why they would attempt an indirect approach to changing something that cannot even be changed directly without negotiating with the provinces. If the federalists think of the provinces as a kind of ball and chain, they should say so and see what kind of reaction they get.  56-1

Mr. Guy André (Berthier–Maskinongé, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech concerning the Senate and all the issues in the bill that affect Quebec.  57

When I was first elected to the House of Commons, I saw there was a chamber next door called the Senate. I wondered what those people did in there. I soon realized it was a little like Groundhog Day, a movie I am sure we have all seen many times. The Senate carries out the same activities as the House of Commons. The same committees are duplicated there. It only slows the process of introducing and passing bills.  57-1

There is one aspect my hon. colleague did not address. The costs associated with the Senate are enormous. The cost to run the House of Commons is already considerable. Many witnesses come to testify before House committees. The same thing is repeated in the Senate, which is very costly in terms of time and money.  57-2

This money could be used to reform the employment insurance system and to help people in need, instead of being wasted. According to surveys, 43% of Quebeckers oppose the Senate. Quebec is being trampled on; the Quebec nation is not being respected. I am convinced that all the other provinces oppose this Senate reform.  57-3

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on this.  57-4

Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Berthier–Maskinongé for his excellent question. He is right. At a time when money is tight and deficits are enormous, we could be taking this opportunity to save a great deal of money. The Conservatives have gone from a $17 billion surplus, which they inherited from the Liberals, to a $50 billion deficit. Of course they will tell us there is a global crisis and so forth.  58

My colleague is doubly right when we see how the parliamentary system works. A bill is passed and sent to the Senate where senators can make amendments to it. However, if we are not happy with those amendments, we can bring the bill back to the House of Commons and reverse the Senate's decision. That is what happens. In theory, there should not even be a Senate. We should pass legislation and that is where it should end.  58-1

The Senate did a study on safety, noise, nuisances and so on in the railway system. When it looked at the bill passed by the House of Commons, the Senate only called in the railway companies because it did not want to hear from those who were reporting the problems with the railway in the first place. The Senate ended up changing our bill because the Conservatives convinced the Liberals to do so. They were already lobbying then.  58-2

When we saw the senators engaging in such partisanship and listening only to those they were interested in, we should have stood up to them and passed the bill as it was. The House of Commons has priority. In the legislative system, the Senate serves no purpose.  58-3

Hon. Steven Fletcher: Mr. Speaker, the member said that he will respect the Canadian Constitution. Therefore, he knows that this measure falls within the purview of Parliament.  59

The member talked about the representation of Quebec in the Senate. This bill would improve Quebec's representation in Parliament because it would help to renew the senators from Quebec in this great institution.  59-1

Again, I come back to my previous point with the member. The reason the Bloc is opposing this bill is that the Bloc opposes anything that would make Parliament better, including improving the representation of Quebec in Parliament through the Senate. The Bloc is just being negative because it is against the Bloc's philosophy to improve federalism and improve Quebec's representation in Parliament. It just goes against the Bloc's reason to be. It is very disappointing.  59-2

I wish the member would just be honest. The reason he is opposing this is that he does not want to strengthen Quebec's role in Parliament. He just wants his own disappointing end.  59-3

We live in the greatest country in the world. I wish the member would support that and help make Parliament better.  59-4

Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Speaker, Canada will make an excellent neighbour. I have no problem with that.  60

For the rest, I will try to explain why we are opposed to this bill. I will re-read, nice and slowly, the unanimous motion passed by the Quebec National Assembly on November 7, 2007:  60-1

That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the federal government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.  60-2

We will rise every single day to defend the interests of Quebec. That motion was adopted in 2007 by a federalist government. Its Liberal Party leader was the former leader of the Conservative Party.  60-3

The Government of Quebec adopted this motion because the Supreme Court rendered a decision in 1970 after examining Parliament's ability to unilaterally amend the constitutional provisions concerning the Senate. The Supreme Court found that Parliament could not unilaterally make any changes to the essential characteristics of the Senate. This is why the National Assembly adopted that unanimous motion, and this is why we are once again defending the interests of Quebec in this House.  60-4

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.  61

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Hon. Steven Fletcher (CPC)
Joyce Murray (Lib.)
The Deputy Speaker
Joyce Murray
The Deputy Speaker
Joe Preston (CPC)
Joyce Murray
Christian Ouellet (BQ)
Joyce Murray
Jim Maloway (NDP)
Joyce Murray
Shawn Murphy (Lib.)
Joyce Murray
Steven Fletcher
Joyce Murray
Christiane Gagnon (BQ)
The Speaker
Christiane Gagnon
Steven Fletcher
Christiane Gagnon
Dennis Bevington (NDP)
Christiane Gagnon
David Christopherson (NDP)
James Lunney (CPC)
David Christopherson
Steven Fletcher
David Christopherson
Dennis Bevington
David Christopherson
James Lunney
David Christopherson
Joe Preston
Shawn Murphy
Joe Preston
Steven Fletcher
Joe Preston
Tom Lukiwski (CPC)
Guy André (BQ)
Tom Lukiwski
Dennis Bevington
Tom Lukiwski
The Acting Speaker
Shawn Murphy
Steven Fletcher
Shawn Murphy
Steven Fletcher
Shawn Murphy
Mario Laframboise (BQ)
Shawn Murphy
Jean Dorion (BQ)
Shawn Murphy
Mario Laframboise
Steven Fletcher
Mario Laframboise
Guy André
Mario Laframboise
Steven Fletcher
Mario Laframboise
The Acting Speaker