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

Extract from the Hansard, 40th Parliament, 3rd session: May 25, 2010

with some comments "inked-in"

The House resumed from April 30 consideration of the motion 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.  3

Mr. Serge Cardin (Sherbrooke, BQ): Mr. Speaker, allow me to first say a few words about yesterday. The House was not sitting. Some provinces were celebrating a holiday that is their own. In Quebec it was National Patriots Day. In order to justify my absence from the House, I participated in the National Patriots Day to pay tribute to our Patriots, those of yesterday—and also those of today and tomorrow—because we owe it to them to remember. We also have a duty to pursue the Patriots' democratic ideal, which is the democratic ideal of a people. It is also the right to live free and independent in one's own country, namely Quebec. It was an action-packed and sunny day, filled with festivities and events.  4

Let us now deal with senators. It would probably be more interesting to talk about the Ottawa Senators hockey team, but we must address the bill and debate it. Senators are also people at the service of the Canadian government. That is why the government appoints them. There is nothing democratic in this process. The government looks for individuals who can best promote its causes, regardless of their area of expertise. I could talk about two senators specifically.  4-1

My Senate division—we might as well talk about a dukedom—includes Sherbrooke and is called Wellington. The word Sherbrooke does not appear in the Senate division of Wellington. Since 1867, there have been exactly 10 senators representing the Senate division of Wellington: seven Liberals and three Conservatives over a period of 143 years. I should add that, for one reason or another, the position was vacant for at least seven years.  4-2

In Sherbrooke, there is a senator who is not the senator for Sherbrooke, or Wellington, but who is the senator for the Senate division of La Salle. I am talking about Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu. That individual has gone through hardships and we have a great deal of sympathy for him, but today he embodies a specific cause. We can definitely see why the Conservative government approached him to defend this cause, without worrying too much about details.  4-3

Ironically, the senator representing the Senate division of Wellington, or Sherbrooke, is Leo Housakos. Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, who lives in Sherbrooke, represents the Senate division of La Salle, while Mr. Housakos, who is the senator for Wellington—or Sherbrooke—does not live in that region. As we can see, this institution has no dynamic or democratic link with the population.  4-4

Since 1867, the government has been appointing senators and keeping them for as long as they want to remain in the Senate. As I was saying earlier, in 143 years, we have had only 10 senators.  4-5

I would like to come back to Leo Housakos, who is the senator for the Wellington division. I said earlier that the government approaches individuals it needs to render specific services. Senator Housakos, for example, has services he can render. People said of him that he could raise tens of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks, thanks to a highly developed network of business associates in Montreal.  4-6

He is the one who fills the coffers before an election campaign. He is a token senator who renders services for the Conservative government and who has almost nothing to do with advancing Quebec and Canadian society.  4-7

A Conservative source, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely, said that Senator Housakos was very effective. The source said that you are not appointed at 40 years of age if you do not keep your promises.  4-8

The source painted a certain picture of him and things that were happening in Quebec society. We hear about construction companies and the funding of political parties. We also know that Leo Housakos has close friends in engineering consulting firms and construction businesses.  4-9

He is also president of a company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the engineering firm BPR. That is another aspect that has been talked about.  4-10

People have also said that construction contractor Tony Accurso, who owns many companies and is involved in big business in Montreal and Laval, is an acquaintance of Leo Housakos.  4-11

We have also heard that Mr. Housakos and Mr. Soudas have been friends since childhood. These are people serving the government. More specifically, they are serving the Prime Minister directly.  4-12

A quick look at the internet took me to this report in the Globe and Mail and this report from the CBC. The remainder of ths speech is rehash.  n4-12

Now we simply want to limit the length of term served by senators to eight years.  4-13

The Bloc Québécois is not terribly fond of the Senate. The Bloc is against the principle of Bill C-10 because for all intents and purposes, we could very well do without such an archaic institution given that senators are only there to help the government get re-elected. These individuals are, perhaps not manipulated, but at least directed to help the government win election after election and to ram bills through. Conservative senators toe the party line.  4-14

The Bloc Québécois believes that the Conservatives want to reform the Constitution by going over the heads of the provinces and Quebec. On November 22, 2006, the Conservative government moved a motion recognizing the nation of Quebec. Since then, the Conservatives have systematically attacked the nation of Quebec and have rejected every proposal to solidify the recognition of the nation of Quebec.  4-15

The changes proposed by the Conservatives serve only to undermine Quebec and to punish it for not voting Conservative. Just look at the democratic weight of Quebec, Senate reform and the fact that they have called political party financing into question.  4-16

The Canadian Constitution is a federal constitution. 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  4-17

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.  4-18

According to the ruling it handed down in 1980 about Parliament's authority over the upper house, decisions pertaining to major changes affecting the Senate's essential characteristics cannot be made unilaterally.  4-19

This means that Quebec and the provinces must be consulted on all reforms that affect the powers of the Senate, the method of selecting senators, the number of senators to which a province is entitled and the residency requirement of senators.  4-20

In 2007, Quebec's former intergovernmental affairs minister, Benoît Pelletier, reiterated Quebec's traditional position when he said:  4-21

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.  4-22

The same day, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion:  4-23

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.  4-24

Quebec feels that the division of powers must be reformed before the government reforms central institutions such as the Senate. We need to remember the 1978–79 constitutional decisions by the Lévesque government.  4-25

In addition, the government of the Liberal Party of Quebec, a federalist party, took part in the Special Committee on Senate Reform in 2007. In its May 31, 2007 brief, it stated:  4-26

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.  4-27

The Government of Quebec, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, therefore requests the withdrawal of Bill C-43 [elected senators]. It also requests the suspension of proceedings on Bill S-4 [which became C-19, then C-10 on Senate term limits] so long as the federal government is planning to unilaterally transform the nature and role of the Senate.  4-28

This is a far cry from the position of Daniel Johnston Sr., who in Toronto in November 1967 called on the government to consider transforming the Senate into a true binational federal chamber.  4-29

Quoting from an article> by Joseph E. Magnet, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa: "Many Quebecers share a profound “rêve d’une nation”, as well as the dream of being one of the two founding people of a great Canadian state.
    "Quebec’s political leaders have consistently voiced the idea of Canada as an association of equals, as a bi-national state. For example, Premier Daniel Johnson addressed the Federal Provincial Conference in Ottawa, in 1968 in this way:
    "'The object of the Constitution must not solely be to federate territories, but also to associate as equals two linguistic and cultural communities, two founding peoples, two societies, two nations in the sociological sense of the term. A Canadian Constitution must be the product of an agreement between the two nations that make up the people of Canada, and must recognize the principle of the legal equality of the two cultural communities'."  n4-29

Do I have any time left, Mr. Speaker?  4-30

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Sherbrooke has six minutes left to finish his speech, but it being 6:13 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.  5

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Serge Cardin (BQ)
The Deputy Speaker