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: November 19, 2010

with some comments "inked-in"

The House resumed from November 17 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, and of the amendment.  3

Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10 is an act that would amend the Constitution Act. The summary states that:  4

This enactment alters the tenure of senators who are summoned after October 14, 2008.  4-1

More specifically, the bill states:  4-2

—a person who is summoned to the Senate after the coming into force of the Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits) shall hold a place in that House for one term of eight years.  4-3

The bill is modest in size. It seeks to impose limits on senators rather than having them appointed until age 75 or until they choose to leave.  4-4

I looked back to where we have been with this issue. This issue came up in 2006. As a result of elections and prorogations, et cetera, the bill made no progress. It came up again last April. A couple of hours of debate were held in May. Here we are again still debating the bill at second reading. As members are aware, second reading is the first opportunity for parliamentarians to give their views on a bill proposed by the government.  4-5

I went back to the original speech given by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. We all assume that the person championing the bill will give substantive reasons why the bill is a good one. We just said a prayer of good laws and wise decisions. I looked for those substantive reasons in the minister's speech but I did not find them. The arguments that were made by the minister were more pros than fact. They were some sweeping generalizations without the substance that parliamentarians would like to have.  4-6

I also notice that government members are not speaking to the bill. It has been introduced by one person and the opposition parties have spoken to the bill. If government members do not get up to defend a bill, one must ask why not? Why are they not prepared to stand in this place and take questions from the opposition about its concerns with the it? One of the phrases that came out in the minister's speech was the “step by step approach”. There is no question that the government's plans in the longer term are to have either an elected Senate or maybe to abolish it altogether.  4-7

If we look over the history of this issue since 2006, we will see that the Senate has been maligned. It has constantly been pointed out that the Senate is composed of unelected senators. It is undemocratic. It is full of all kinds of terrible people, who just sit there and serve for 45 years. We have been hearing all the negatives about the Senate. The Senate is a Canadian institution. We know the government's record in terms of respect for the institutions of our country.  4-8

The way the government has handled this, or not handled it, demonstrates, yet again, that the government really does not care if the bill gets passed. It does not care if we move it through the system and get it dealt with because it has a political benefit if not passed. It is like a political football. It is like the cat playing with the wool. When problems come up, the government will bring back the bill and take some shots at those terrible senators.  4-9

Having been here 17 years, I know many senators. Everybody in this place knows that the Senate does better committee work and study work than the House of Commons. The reason for that is because senators do not have constituencies that take up 60% of their time.  4-10

The Senate is being put in a favorable light.  n4-10

Senators are doing the job here. They are the sober second thought. They have the time to give to the studies, to hold comprehensive hearings and to go abroad to meet with other jurisdictions that have the same or similar problems or have entertained some changes. They take the time to do it.  4-11

I also note, and the members will also know, that the camaraderie within the Senate is better than it is in the House. Those people have great meetings. I was the chair of the scrutiny and regulations committee. Anybody who has attended a Senate meeting can see how important it is to have the institutional memory of some of the key areas that went by. We have files before the scrutiny of regulations committee that go back 25 years on the Fisheries Act, and the Minister of Fisheries would know that. The senators and many of those people have been there know what the arguments are.  4-12

One reason the Conservatives use to limit the terms of the Senate is that people lose the capacity to have fresh ideas. We get stale and we have to turn it over so we get some new ideas. I reject the argument totally. The example I will use to demonstrate it is the Supreme Court of Canada.  4-13

Would the government also argue that the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada lose the capacity to have any new ideas, to learn, to do good work? Absolutely not. Will we reform the Supreme Court so we can turn them over a lot faster? Absolutely not. It is not in the public interest nor in the interests of our country.  4-14

This is a one step by one step approach, but it is an approach in which the Conservatives do not want to engage. They would rather have this issue on the table, continuing to give them the opportunity to say what an undemocratic institution it is, unelected, not accountable, et cetera. I think they tasted blood this past week, when the Senate majority of Conservatives were instructed to kill a bill on climate change even before it was sent to a Senate committee for consideration.  4-15

Now the Conservatives can deal with it here. When they finally have to be pushed to put something through to the Senate, they know they have the Senate tool. This game is being played out on so many items. Members will be aware of all of the justice bills.  4-16

In looking at the minister of state's speech, he seemed to think that people of age had a problem, that when they reached 75, they were really coasting, that they do not have a clue and that they cannot do this. I am not sure whether the Canadian Human Rights Commission would agree with the principle that when one reaches a certain age, somehow one has to be treated differently.  4-17

The Prime Minister appoints senators. If the Conservatives are concerned about people serving for too long a period, why would they appoint somebody who is 35 years old? If we look at the people in the Senate, these honourable senators, we will see some people of great character, of great information and knowledge, representing the cross-section of our country and every geographic corner of our country.  4-18

I was disappointed at the lack of substance in the minister's speech in justifying the bill. I agree with the other parties that the bill should go to committee so we can have others, outside of this chamber, come before the House of Commons committee and explain to the government why its presumptions on which the bill is based are faulty and not in the public interest.  4-19

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins–James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I was absolutely flabbergasted to listen to my hon. colleague's speech in the same week that the unelected and unaccountable house trashed a bill on climate change, which was voted for by the democratically elected members of the Canadian people.  5

The Liberals have never wanted to touch Senate reform because they have always used it as a place where they put the bagmen and the party hacks. However, if we looked at the Senate rules for conflict of interest, senators would not meet the most basic test that any rural town councillor, or any small town school board trustee would have to meet.  5-1

Under the Senate's conflict of interest guidelines, senators can review legislation where they have a pecuniary interest. They can sit on the boards of major corporations. They have all manner of financial interests that they do not have to disclose. Any city or town councillor in any community in the country would have to disclose those, but not the senators.  5-2

Senators sitting on boards of major corporations, etc.?  n5-2

If these representatives are supposed to do sober second thought, would the member not agree with me that we have to clean up and have clear guidelines on conflict of interest so the money, the bagmen and the oil industry cannot overrule the House?  5-3

Mr. Paul Szabo: I agree, Mr. Speaker, but the bill is not the solution when we consider some of the work that has been done, such as the work on mental health, the work on climate change in the Senate, the work on euthanasia.  6

Everybody in this place knows that the Conservative majority in the Senate did not make the decision to defeat Bill C-311 before it completed second reading. The direction came straight from the Prime Minister of Canada, who believes that Kyoto was a socialist plot.  6-1

The members know that. They should not blame the Senate for it. They should blame the Prime Minister and the Conservatives who cannot even hold on to an environment minister because they have no policy, no interest in the environment.  6-2

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP): Mr. Speaker, when it comes to my hon. colleague, I really enjoy his speeches many times, but on this occasion, he must take pause for reflection.  7

If the Prime Minister gave orders to the Senate majority to do what it did over this week, that is another nail in the Senate's coffin as far as I am concerned. This says that we have a Senate that is completely malfunctioning.  7-1

When we look at the content of the bill to shorten terms of Senators and when we look at the possibility that the actions taken this week could transfer forward into the next government, we could see the situation where the Senate could, without debate, cancel a government bill. This is totally unacceptable.  7-2

We have a crisis in our Parliament and the bill before us will not solve that. It gives us the opportunity to debate it in a fashion. We need to make that—  7-3

The Deputy Speaker: I have to stop the member there to give the member for Mississauga South enough time to reply.  8

Mr. Paul Szabo: Mr. Speaker, I agree with everything the member has said. The bill does not deal with the real problem. The real problem is that the Prime Minister has a problem with democracy. He knows that whenever he gets in trouble, all he has to do is bring up a bill like this or bring up another justice bill, something like getting tough on crime week, so we switch the channel and take the focus off the real issues, the real problems facing the nation.  9

The Conservatives do not want the bill passed. They have been playing around with it like a cat with a ball of wool, and they will continue to do that. They know this has better political mileage because they can continue to use their slogans like “undemocratic, unelected, useless people”. Yet every member in this place will go to an event to say goodbye to a senator when he or she retires because they respect the work that has been done.  9-1

The Conservatives cannot deny that. We have some work to do, but the Senate did not make decision to defeat Bill C-311. It was the Prime Minister himself.  9-2

Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the amendment to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, regarding Senate term limits.  10

For the record, the amendment calls for striking out all of the words in the motion after the word “That” and substituting the following:  10-1

"the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), because the term limits do not go far enough in addressing the problems with the Senate of Canada, and do not lead quickly enough to the abolition of the upper chamber, as recent events have shown to be necessary.  10-2

The New Democrats' position is clear. This bill falls far short on the changes necessary if the Senate is ever to be effective.  10-3

I wanted to rise during this debate because there are some important points that need to be made.  10-4

At the outset, I want to address the cynical workings of the government. It knows, as does every MP in this chamber, that the length of time that the senators stay in their appointed seats is not the real issue. The real issue is how they got to the Senate in the first place.  10-5

We know that the 35 unelected senators appointed by this Prime Minister were instrumental in killing, without debate, Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act by my colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North.  10-6

Bill C-311 would have committed the federal government to achieving practical, science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets.  10-7

Bill C-311 was passed by a majority of the elected members of Parliament, representing the majority of Canadians.  10-8

This Prime Minister said in 2004, “I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent”.  10-9

For the record, let me name those unelected Conservative senators who voted to kill Bill C-311. They include David Angus, unelected, unaccountable; Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, unelected, unaccountable; David Braley, unelected, unaccountable; Patrick Brazeau, unelected, unaccountable.  10-10

I would like to talk a little about Senator Brazeau. I would like to quote Don Martin in an article he wrote, from February 3, 2009:  10-11

It's hard to imagine how such a thoroughly damaged resumé could've survived the supposedly ruthless scrutiny of the Prime Minister's Office, particularly when the job is a 40-year guaranteed Senate gig with an annual salary of $130,000 plus perks....  10-12

The man described in his bio as a loving father of three is darn close to qualifying to be a deadbeat dad with the mother of one offspring telling CTV that Brazeau hasn't seen or properly supported his 14-year-old son in eight years.  10-13

He questions whether this is the calibre of individual the Prime Minister had in mind when he set out to reform the Senate.  10-14

The list continues with Bert Brown, unelected, unaccountable; Claude Carignan, unelected, unaccountable; Andrée Champagne, unelected, unaccountable; Ethel Cochrane, unelected, unaccountable; Gerald Comeau, unelected, unaccountable; Anne Cools, unelected, unaccountable; Consiglio Di Nino, unelected, unaccountable; Fred Dickson, unelected, unaccountable; Mike Duffy, unelected, unaccountable, and it must be pretty tough for this guy, carrying the party line instead of asking tough questions of politicians; Nicole Eaton, unelected, unaccountable; Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, unelected, unaccountable; and Linda Frum, unelected, unaccountable.  10-15

As well, there was Irving Gerstein, and I will expand a little on this senator.  10-16

In his 2007 book on the Prime Minister's team, subtitled Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, Tom Flanagan, a former top PM adviser, had this to say:  10-17

Under Irving Gerstein's direction, the grassroots model of fundraising has built the Conservative Party into a financial powerhouse.  10-18

What is his reward? It is $130,000 plus perks, all on the taxpayers' dime. What a slap in the face to Canadians. This is the senator who is going from community to community, province to province, raising funds for the Conservative Party.  10-19

The list continues with Stephen Greene, unelected, unaccountable; Leo Housakos, unelected, unaccountable; Janis Johnson, unelected, unaccountable; Noël Kinsella, unelected, unaccountable; Vim Kochhar, unelected, unaccountable; Daniel Lang, unelected, unaccountable; Marjory LeBreton, unelected, unaccountable; Elizabeth Marshall, unelected, unaccountable; Yonah Martin, unelected, unaccountable; Michael Meighen, unelected, unaccountable; Ruth Nancy, unelected, unaccountable; Richard Neufeld, unelected, unaccountable; Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, unelected, unaccountable; Donald Oliver, unelected, unaccountable; Dennis Glen Patterson, unelected, unaccountable to the Canadian people; Donald Neil Plett, unelected, unaccountable; Rose-May Poirier, unelected, unaccountable; Bob Runciman, unelected, unaccountable; Hugh Segal, unelected, unaccountable; Judith Seidman, unelected, unaccountable; Gerry St. Germain, unelected, unaccountable; Carolyn Stewart Olsen, unelected, unaccountable; David Tkachuk, unelected, unaccountable; John Wallace, unelected, unaccountable; and Pamela Wallin, unelected, unaccountable.  10-20

These are all the senators who killed Bill C-311.  10-21

Let me speak a bit about another senator who was not present for the vote, Senator Doug Finley.  10-22

Bill C-311 was killed by this unaccountable Senate.  10-23

How about Michael Douglas Finley, who had to be escorted by security out of the House of Commons committee because he showed up uninvited and refused to leave, displaying such utter disrespect for this great institution?  10-24

We could spend a lot of time on all the other worthy services he delivered for the Conservative Party, but we do not have time to go there.  10-25

The Conservative committee that searches for these candidates should take a lesson from DND and advertise on the Internet for candidates, on such sites as craigslist and soft porn sites, like DND did. It may end up with better candidates to appoint to the unelected, unaccountable Senate.  10-26

I notice the growing discomfort on the faces of Conservative members as I read the names of these unelected, unaccountable and unrepresentative senators into the record of this chamber.  10-27

Is it any wonder that even in the Conservative-friendly corners criticism is mounting about the Prime Minister's unbelievable record of broken promises.  10-28

Let me quote John Ivison, who wrote in the National Post this week:  10-29

All politicians are haunted by things they’ve said in the past. All governments are buffeted by events and forced to shift position.  10-30

But how many times can a politician say something and then do the precise opposite before even his strongest supporters start to doubt him? The bond of trust between Mr. Harper and Canadians is eroding, according to opinion polls by Nik Nanos.  10-31

The list of those broken promises is long.  10-32

Can members imagine how Preston Manning must feel about the actions of the Prime Minister?  10-33

The Prime Minister is betraying all those who voted for him and the Reform Party.  10-34

He is betraying all those who thought they were getting a new form of government, one that was not as morally corrupt as the previous Liberal government.  10-35

Instead, we have a hyper-partisan, morally bankrupt, anti-democratic government that is thumbing its nose at every institution that upholds democracy.  10-36

Democracy--  10-37

The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I will have to stop the member there.  11

I will open the floor to questions and comments. The hon. member for Timmins–James Bay.  11-1

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins–James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. We have seen how the Conservative Party came in. It told Canadians that it was going to be an ethical government and was going to do something different. Yet we see the pattern. As soon as the Conservatives got their hands on the Senate, they started to fill it with the bagmen and cronies, people like Leo Housakos and Doug Finley, who gets paid by the taxpayer to run the war room for the Conservative Party.  12

Then, of course, there is the Hon. Irving Gerstein. Here is a man who shows what the Senate is all about. The Liberals have accused us of using the word “bagman”, but Senator Gerstein said in a speech he gave:  12-1

Well, I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it.  12-2

I believe that the job of raising funds for the Conservative both necessary and honourable.  12-3

That is his job in the Senate, a man who the Prime Minister chose to go in, along with the other bagmen, who brags that he is there to raise money for the Conservative Party, and the taxpayer pays for these people.  12-4

My hon. colleague has seen the hypocrisy of the government and how these members stood year after year and said when they came in they would deal with the issue. What they are doing now is, of course, mere window dressing. They would put term limits, but the fact is that they are using the Senate as a dumping ground for their party hacks and the people who collect the money.  12-5

I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks it is that the government has betrayed the promises it made to people who voted for them thinking that they were going to clean up that cesspool.  12-6

Mr. Claude Gravelle: Mr. Speaker, I will answer the question this way. Democracy has become an inconvenience to the government. It has perfected the art of violating the spirit and intent of this great Parliament, and for what? It is for the government to hold on to power for as long as it can, even if it means turning more and more Canadians away from the political process, even if it means discouraging youth from becoming involved.  13

Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have some questions to ask the member opposite. I know the NDP is of the view that there should not be a Senate at all. As we know, things move incrementally in this place. Even if I strongly disagree with his point of view in respect of the removal of senators altogether, would it not make some sense to at least get on board, make the adjustment and modernize to the present, and then they can go their way and do what they think they need to do thereafter?  14

Canadians across the country, as he well knows, have shown a clear desire to change the Senate, to have Senate reform, and we are committed to modernizing the Senate to reflect a 21st century democracy. Surely we could have basic agreement to say that a senator being elected for terms up to 45 years is not right or appropriate in this modern era and that something in the order of eight years would certainly be better.  14-1

Would the member opposite not agree that rather than 45-3year terms for unelected, unaccountable senators, a term of eight years would be an improvement on that?  14-2

Mr. Claude Gravelle: Mr. Speaker, I do not think senators should be elected for eight years. I think they should be done away with, period.  15

I want to quote from someone from the media, Mr. Ivison, who may have coined a new term for the Senate. As described in the headline to his recent National Post article, the “Triple-U Senate” is “unelected, unrepresentative, [and] under [the PM's] thumb”. That is why we do not want senators.  15-1

Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, NDP): Mr. Speaker, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Quebec abolished their senates years and years ago. In the vote we just had on Bill C-311, we heard the Liberals talk about it in the House in a very defensive way. I understand that is because it was the Liberals who called for the vote in the Senate that set this situation up. Is the member aware of this?  16

Mr. Claude Gravelle: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am quite aware of that. When the hon. member from the Liberal Party was giving us his speech a while ago, he was blaming the Conservatives for what happened to Bill C-311. In reality, he should be looking in the mirror and blaming the Liberals, especially the Liberal senators. All they had to do was stand up and say, “No, we are going to debate the bill”. That would have been the democratic process. Instead, they sat in their chairs and the bill was killed.  17

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by reminding the House that the Bloc Québécois vehemently opposes Bill C-10, which would create a single eight-year term for senators appointed by the government. In fact, all the currently serving senators were appointed by the government. We will also support the NDP amendment.  18

This bill needs to be considered in connection with another proposal by the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister to hold a sort of public consultation to create lists of candidates from which the Prime Minister could choose future senators. We need to look at these two things together to see what the government is trying to do, which is to carry out a substantial reform of the Senate.  18-1

I agree completely with some of the NDP's comments that the Senate is an undemocratic institution and a remnant of Canada's colonial past. We are also in favour of abolishing the Senate.  18-2

Until recently, there was a tacit solution. The Senate as a political institution is the result of partisan appointments. We need to acknowledge that the Liberals made partisan appointments, just as the Conservative Party is doing now. Because the Senate is unelected and undemocratic, the senators were at least smart enough to respect the will of the only elected house of Parliament, the House of Commons.  18-3

We share the same disappointment. I would even say we are shocked that the Senate refused to endorse Bill C-311, which this House had passed. To my way of thinking, something that had existed for 80 years has been broken, and that is a serious problem. We should solve that major problem by abolishing the Senate, but we cannot do that unilaterally. Neither the House of Commons nor the government can decide to abolish or change the Senate, even though it does not have much public credibility.  18-4

Recently, in March 2010, Leger Marketing conducted a poll in Quebec and Canada. Overall, the results were the same, although the figures in Quebec were higher. Only 8% of Quebeckers believe that the upper chamber plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works well; 22% of Quebeckers would rather have senators elected, but 43% supported abolishing the Senate. I should point out that 20% of Quebeckers opted not to answer the question, which shows just how irrelevant they think this institution is.  18-5

I said that we would be in favour of abolishing the Senate but that constitutional negotiations were necessary. The same goes for the threat the Prime Minister has been making for a number of months now that if these two reforms are not approved by the Senate, he will abolish it.  18-6

Unfortunately for him, he does not have the right to unilaterally abolish the Senate. Neither the Prime Minister nor the House of Commons can do that because the Senate is part of a parliamentary system agreed upon a very long time ago by the provinces and the federal government. I will read a quote from Benoît Pelletier on that topic later on. Mr. Pelletier is a constitutional expert at the University of Ottawa who was once minister of intergovernmental affairs for Quebec's Liberal government.  18-7

The same goes for Bill C-10. The Prime Minister and the Conservative Party want to create a so-called list of candidates for the Senate based on consultations with the public. All of these reforms require constitutional negotiations with the provinces.  18-8

Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Canada was very clear about this in a ruling from the early 1980s entitled Re: Authority of Parliament in relation to the Upper House. It very clearly says that when seeking to change the essential character of the Senate, constitutional negotiations are required.  18-9

All of the constitutional experts who appeared before the committee that was struck prior to the election, except for maybe one who was very close to the Prime Minister's Office, told us that this entails amendments to essential characteristics of the Senate, whether we are talking about Bill C-10 or the desire to create some sort of pseudo-democratic consultation to come up with a list of senators. They also told us that, taken together, the two reforms would further alter essential characteristics of the Senate.  18-10

The Supreme Court was very clear: there would have to be constitutional negotiations. The main problem with this bill is that the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are trying to do indirectly what they have been unable to do directly. As I mentioned, we will vehemently oppose it.  18-11

I would like to come back to a quotation from Quebec's former intergovernmental affairs minister, Benoît Pelletier, who is also a professor at the University of Ottawa. He reiterated Quebec's traditional position when he said:  18-12

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.  18-13

At the time, Mr. Pelletier gave an excellent summary of Quebec's traditional position, which is shared by both the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly. I would also remind the House that in 2007, when we were debating a similar bill, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion:  18-14

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.  18-15

The Supreme Court, the Government of Quebec, the National Assembly and the constitutional experts who appeared before the legislative committee that was studying the bill before the 2008 election have all been clear regarding the fact that the amendments proposed in Bill C-10 and in the previous bill are changes affecting the Senate's essential characteristics and therefore require constitutional negotiations.  18-16

Furthermore, it is quite clear to us that, taken together, the bills introduced by the Conservative government clearly illustrate, for the first time, its desire to reduce Quebec's political weight within federal institutions. While that desire has always been a reality, the Conservatives are now being very open about it. This is obvious not only in their attempts to unilaterally impose these two bills, which is unconstitutional, but also in their desire to increase the representation of the Canadian nation by adding another 30 seats to the House, to the detriment of the Quebec nation's representation.  18-17

If ever this bill introduced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform—how is that for an oxymoron?—were to pass, Quebec's political weight in the House would be less than its demographic weight. Rest assured that we will do everything in our power to make sure that never happens. For example, Prince Edward Island has four MPs and that is just fine. The Magdalen Islands have only one MNA, and we have no problem with that either. Mathematically, it cannot be proportionate. Other factors have to be taken into account, as was done for Prince Edward Island. In Quebec's case, we have to recognize, as the House has, that it is a nation within the Canadian nation and that this nation has to have at least 25% of the seats in the House in order to express the voice of Quebec.  18-18

In light of these circumstances, not only are we going to vote against Bill C-10 if it ends up in committee, at report stage or third reading, but for now, we are also unequivocally going to support the NDP amendment.  18-19

Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, NDP): Mr. Speaker, what is really outrageous about this situation that we saw with Bill C-311 is that it was almost as if the Prime Minister had a lever in his office that he pulled and Bill C-311 dropped through the floor.  19

The intent of the Senate originally was as a place of sober second thought. Now we have a situation, and we have had it with previous governments, where the government in power stacks the Senate so it has control of that lever, whichever way it wants a bill or a motion to go.  19-1

This was an offence to the Parliament of this country. We have not taken Bill C-311 forward just once; we took it forward twice. It was passed twice in this House, and we still saw the Prime Minister's office pull that lever and dump that bill.  19-2

If there has ever been a case for the abolition of the Senate in this country, this is it. If we have to go to constitutional negotiations to do so, so be it. It is time to put an end to the Senate of Canada.  19-3

Mr. Pierre Paquette: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and comments.  20

I basically agree with the hon. member in that this week, the Senate breached a tacit agreement between the House of Commons and the Senate whereby the House of Commons makes a decision and the Senate takes a second look. There have been times when the Senate has made amendments that have improved bills and that is great.  20-1

However, it is not up to the Senate to make decisions on behalf of the Canadian nation or the Quebec nation. It is not representative. It is not elected. It is an archaic institution, a legacy of the colonial period. I think what happened this week with Bill C-311 is extremely serious and makes the case for abolishing the Senate. I am glad to hear that the hon. member would agree to abolishing the Senate through constitutional negotiations, which is the only way that is possible under the Canadian Constitution. The Supreme Court has reiterated that, as have the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly.  20-2

I will close by saying that, in recent months, the Senate has been extremely partisan both in terms of the bills before us and the appointments made by the Prime Minister. In fact, he had said that he would not make appointments until there was Senate reform. When there was a threat to his partisan interests, he again broke his promise and appointed senators to ensure that the Senate would be a conduit for the will of the Prime Minister's Office and the government. That is deplorable. This strengthens the case for abolishing the Senate. Once again, we will be voting against Bill C-10.  20-3

Mr. Steven Blaney (Lévis–Bellechasse, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this week we saw how useful the Senate is when it prevented the passage of a bill that was rammed through the House, a real example of foolishness that would have had disastrous consequences for the Canadian economy and also for Quebec.  21

My question for the member from Joliette is quite simple. We know that the Constitution has reserved a number of seats in the Senate for Quebec. Why does he wish to weaken the position of Quebec within federal institutions—we know that he wants to destroy the country—given that the Senate is a place where Quebec has security in terms of seats and entitlements?  21-1

Why does he wish to maintain the anti-democratic nature of the upper chamber? He has the opportunity, as a democrat, to call for an elected Senate. He has an opportunity to do something for Quebec. What is he waiting for to do something concrete for Quebec?  21-2

Mr. Pierre Paquette: Mr. Speaker, I would first like to share with the House what I read in the newspaper this morning. Apparently, after a long search, scientists have finally found antimatter. And we happen to have some right here, as evidenced in the statement made by the member for Lévis—Bellechasse—  22

The Deputy Speaker: Is the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse rising on a point of order?  23

Mr. Steven Blaney: Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the floor. I understand that the member for Joliette may not share my point of view. I respect the member for Joliette and his opinion. Regardless of parliamentary immunity, I expect all members of the House to show respect for one another both inside and outside the House. I am therefore rising on a point of order. I ask the member for Joliette to show respect for the members of the House as he engages in this debate.  24

The Deputy Speaker: This is not a point of order. The hon. member for Joliette has 20 seconds to reply.  25

Mr. Pierre Paquette: Mr. Speaker, I was just about to respond to his question when the member for Lévis—Bellechasse interrupted me.  26

We are defending the position of Quebec, the position of the Government of Quebec. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse is defending the position of the Conservative Party, the position of the Conservative government, and the interests of the Canadian nation as opposed to the interests of the Quebec nation. That is the reality.  26-1

Mr. Mario Silva (Davenport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act of 1867.  27

The purpose of this bill, as we all know, is to limit the tenure of the Senate appointments to one, non-renewable eight-year term. I have to say that I support the bill going to committee for possible amendments and to allow all stakeholders, including the provinces as well as constitutional experts, to testify on the changes that the Conservative government wants to make to the Senate of Canada.  27-1

I believe strongly in reform, but this type of reform must be in the best interests of Canadians, reflect sound public policy and respect the Constitution.  27-2

While the Constitution Act of 1867 does not say anything specific to exclude the authority of Parliament to make amendments to Senate term limits, the Supreme Court commented, in a reference case on the upper house, that alterations that would affect the fundamental features or essential characteristics given to the Senate, as a means of ensuring regional and provincial representation in the federal legislation process, would require provincial consultation. The role and tenure of a senator was determined by the provinces initially, in order to meet the requirement of a federal system.  27-3

For there to be meaningful reform, there must be meaningful consultation. Few Senate reform proposals throughout the years have looked at the role and function of the Senate, they were always on the political image. The Supreme Court reference concluded that the constitutionality test for reform would be best fit if it met the requirements for independence; the ability to provide sober second thought; and the means to ensure provincial and regional representation.  27-4

Former senator Michael Pitfield said:  27-5

The Senate should not be a duplicate of the House of Commons, but a complement: a somewhat less partisan, more technical forum with a longer-term perspective. Appropriately designed Senate reform could provide greater countervalence against the executive, more useful national debate and sharper administrative supervision - not only within the Senate itself, but in Parliament as a whole.  27-6

The role of the Canadian Senate is often undervalued. It is an integral part of the Canadian system of checks and balances.  27-7

Canada's founders were well educated and read The Federalist Papers. They wanted to avoid as many of the mistakes that were made in the United States as possible, but also could see what worked. They knew well that a counterbalance to a tyranny of the majority was vital.  27-8

Sir John A. Macdonald said, “We will enjoy here that which is the great test of constitutional freedom — we will have the rights of the minority respected.”  27-9

Political pressures, partisanship and overall workload can cause bills to be passed through the House of Commons without proper consideration. The sober second thought provided by the Senate allows for careful legislative review in the best interests of Canadians and public policy.  27-10

The Senate has a wealth of institutional knowledge and has issued some of the most comprehensive reports on issues that are important to Canadians. The Senate committee on national security has engaged in several in-depth examinations of Canadian security, especially in the wake of 9/11, including a recent report on airport security.  27-11

Senator Carstairs issued an important report on Canadian seniors and our aging population. As we determine now how we will go forward with jobs and health care, and the economy as a whole, as the largest portion of our population begins their golden years, no issue is timelier.  27-12

The Senate subcommittee on cities recently issued a very important report on poverty, homelessness and affordable housing in Canada.  27-13

The Senate is able, in its current form, to engage in long-term, in-depth studies of these vital issues. Our current Senate is a vital element of liberal democracy, which values the necessity of opposition. Absolute democracy turns into majoritarianism. The Senate of Canada is an important institution and deserves proper consideration and adequate consultation.  27-14

There are dozens of experts to be heard from as well as provinces that are equally affected by any changes we make to this austere chamber.  27-15

It is imperative that we ensure this bill is constitutional and that reforms that are suggested are in the best interests of Canadians and Canadian institutions.  27-16

The Senate is not one of many political tools in a legislative arsenal. It is an independent, important legislative body in its own right. The government must respect the Constitution and Canadian institutions.  27-17

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that the suggestions brought forward by the government on Senate term limits are constitutional.  28

The member will recall that in the sixties this chamber brought the term limits down from life to the age of 75. Canadians feel overwhelmingly that a 45-year term, which is possible today, is not consistent with their values. They feel that 45 years without accountability or the ability to refresh the Senate is just too long.  28-1

Other proposals on the eight-year limit may be brought up in committee and we will hear them, because that is part of the democratic process. Non-renewable term limits would not only allow for a refreshing of the Senate, but would provide an opportunity for people to get more involved in the democratic process.  28-2

Would the member not agree--  28-3

The Deputy Speaker: I will ask the member for Davenport to keep his remarks very short because we are about to start statements.  29

Mr. Mario Silva: Mr. Speaker, I do agree. I do appreciate the minister's effort on this very important file.  30

I strongly believe in term limits for senators. It is in the best interests of all Canadians and our institutions.  30-1

I would just ask the minister to make sure that we do consult with all appropriate stakeholders and the provinces. We should have a discussion at committee about whether eight years is the right amount of time or not. I will support whatever comes out of committee. But we should have something that is balanced, respectful and in keeping with our traditions.  30-2

The House resumed 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, and of the amendment.  31

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby–Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity. It is good to have a chance to speak to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits). This bill actually seeks to establish a term limit of eight years for senators in Canada. That is the key part of this legislation.  32

What we are actually debating today is an amendment to the main motion that was moved by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. The amendment motion reads:  32-1

“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), because the term limits do not go far enough in addressing the problems with the Senate of Canada, and do not lead quickly enough to the abolition of the upper chamber, as recent events have shown to be necessary”.  32-2

It is an unusual step for us to move that kind of motion in debate on a bill like this, especially a bill that we had indicated we would support to get to committee for further discussion and for improvement. We were already saying that, even though we have very serious problems with the Senate and even though we have called for the abolition of the Senate, we were prepared to see this bill debated further and hopefully improved at committee.  32-3

The events of the past week have certainly changed our opinion about what should be done about the Senate at the present time and the government's attitude towards Canada's democracy and how this Parliament functions.  32-4

What I am referring to there is the decision by the government and by the Prime Minister to call on his senators to defeat the climate change accountability act, a private member's bill that moved all the way through the House of Commons. It was debated here in the House. It went to committee and had lengthy hearings.  32-5

It was a lengthy process on that bill by the elected representatives of the Canadian people here in the House of Commons. It passed all stages here in the House and was sent to the Senate, where it languished for months.  32-6

It was finally passed back in the spring of this year and sat in the Senate without any action until earlier this week when, out of the blue, the bill was called and defeated. It was without a hearing, without reference to a committee, nothing. There was no activity and no debate whatsoever at the Senate.  32-7

This is clearly an action by the government to defeat the only possibility of Canadian action on climate change that was in the works. This bill was something that New Democrats had put forward. It was put forward in the last Parliament.  32-8

Our earlier attempt at the climate change accountability act in the last Parliament, the 39th Parliament, was Bill C-377. After a great deal of hard work on the part of many members of the House of Commons with input from environmental leaders and other leaders from across Canada, that actually passed through the House of Commons in 2008. That was a cause for celebration among Canadians who are concerned about climate change and the environment.  32-9

That was the first time any legislature in the world had actually passed legislation that would deal with the post-Kyoto greenhouse gas reduction targets.  32-10

Canada, this Parliament, this House of Commons took an extremely important step in the last Parliament, in 2008, with the passage of the climate change accountability act. Unfortunately the election was called and interrupted that progress. It stopped the bill in its tracks, and that meant it had to start all over again when we returned after the election in 2008.  32-11

New Democrats did put it back on the agenda. Our member from Thunder Bay put that bill back on the agenda and had it debated here in the House. It went through the same long, laborious process and was again passed in May 2010.  32-12

On two occasions, the elected representatives of the Canadian people, the members of the House of Commons, have dealt with this important piece of legislation and have passed it. When it was finally sent off to the Senate, where in our process it needs to be dealt with further, going through the same kind of process, the unelected and unaccountable members of the Senate, presumably under marching orders from the Prime Minister, killed the bill without so much as a debate, without so much as a referral to committee for further study.  32-13

It is an absolutely outrageous affront to our democracy and an unconscionable use of the power of the Senate, of the unelected and unaccountable appointed Senate.  32-14

This bill, the climate change accountability act, would have established greenhouse gas reduction targets 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. It was hailed as important legislation by many respected people.  32-15

I have to point out that Mark Jaccard and Associates, an independent environmental assessment firm, did a survey of this bill. Mr. Jaccard is an important environment scientist from Simon Fraser University. Its conclusion about Bill C-311, the NDP's climate change accountability act, was that the targets it established would also encourage growing economy, increasing jobs and improving the quality of life for Canadians. It said there was a positive impact of this bill, an analysis that flies in the face of the government's blanket denunciation and rejection of the proposals in the NDP's climate change accountability act.  32-16

Unfortunately, this action has stopped. Any reasonable, effective or appropriate Canadian response to climate change was stopped dead in its tracks. It was our best opportunity and it is gone. It was done by unaccountable, unelected senators appointed by a Prime Minister who at one time did not seem to have much regard for the unelected, accountable Senate.  32-17

On a number of occasions, we have seen the Prime Minister and his Reform predecessors have had great criticism for the Senate. In December 2005, the Prime Minister said, “An appointed Senate is a relic of the 19th century”. I have to agree with the Prime Minister. It is not often that I do, but on that I certainly do. An unelected, appointed body is a relic of another era. It is an anti-democratic relic of a colonial era.  32-18

Some of the requirements to be a senator are relics of that era as well, such as the fact that senators have to be 30 years old before being appointed and that people have to own property outright in Canada before becoming a senator. Even though the threshold is now really low, the intention years ago was to make sure that senators were from the moneyed classes. They had the expectation that they would represent that class in Canada.  32-19

Today the threshold is low, but the requirement is still there. We have even seen in the past an interesting example when a nun was appointed to the Senate and, because of vows of poverty, did not have any property. Her order had to actually transfer some land into her name so she could take her seat in the Senate.  32-20

It points out the ridiculousness of that requirement. If it were a legitimate body, any Canadian of voting age, no matter what the individual's personal economic circumstances, should be able to serve in a body in the Canadian Parliament. However, not in Canada and not with the Senate. The Prime Minister was right. This unelected, unaccountable body is a relic of another era and of the 19th century.  32-21

In March 2004, the Prime Minister also said, “I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent”. How many times has the Prime Minister broken that promise and turned his back on that important statement of principle that came out of the convictions of the Reform Party, his predecessors? It boggles the mind the number of times he has chosen to ignore that advice.  32-22

In this corner, we are very concerned and outraged by what happened this week. It is ironic that we have this bill that would establish a term limit for senators, but that is not the issue. The issue is still that they are unelected, appointed by the Prime Minister and unaccountable to anybody. Whether they are there for 8 or 45 years, it is still an inappropriate, unelected and unaccountable body, and it should not be part of our system. It is an affront to democracy, and we need to abolish this relic of the past.  32-23

This is a very important issue. I am glad we were able to debate it this week, given that Bill C-10 was on the agenda when the inappropriate use of the Senate's power was mandated by the Prime Minister to kill the climate change accountability act. We are very lucky to have had this opportunity to draw to the attention of the House and Canadians why this body is inappropriate and why this proposed Senate reform bill does nothing to address the main problems with the Senate.  32-24

Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my colleague from B.C. mentioned the comments of the Prime Minister and I remember those comments as well. I remember when the Reform Party was starting off and people were looking to it for change and to have accountability, democracy, a new voice and a new way of doing politics, and now, as I have said before, there is nothing left. It is a corpse over there, and a stinking one at that. It is just sitting there without any principles.  33

Conservatives say now that they will appoint senators for eight years. In eight years, if there are two majority governments, they could still stuff the Senate, so it matters not that we can take it from 45 to 8. It matters whether or not the senators are elected, and the Conservatives will not deal with that.  33-1

I want underline to my colleague from B.C. that we trusted the Conservatives once on fixed-date elections. They said there would be no constitutional change. We told them that was fine and we would sign on to that. What did they do when they put that into place? They broke their promise and called an election, so why should we trust them on this one? We will not be fooled again.  33-2

Mr. Bill Siksay: Mr. Speaker, I agree completely with my colleague from Ottawa Centre, as I regularly do, which will not surprise anybody here.  34

We heard from the current Minister of State for Democratic Reform of the constant need to modernize the Senate. What do we get instead? We get the same old stuff that we used to get from the Liberals: stacking the Senate with bagmen, with party insiders and with the representatives of the upper class in Canada. We get the same old appointments to stack the Senate to get government business through, to do the bidding of the Prime Minister. These are people who have no accountability to the Canadian people. The only accountability they have is to the person who appointed them, and that is the Prime Minister. Time after time they show that is where their accountability lies.  34-1

I do not want to deny that the Senate has done good work from time to time, but it is still not a legitimate body. I have a mandate from the Canadian people. I stand at election regularly and I am accountable to the people who elect me. People in the Senate never have to do that, and that is wrong.  34-2

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is important to realize that Bill C-10 will apply to all the senators that the Prime Minister has appointed since 2008, upon royal assent.  35

The member has talked a lot about the fact, and I think we agree, that there is an undemocratic and unaccountable nature to the Senate that we would like to improve. The NDP's position is to abolish the Senate, but that will not happen, to be realistic. However, we can introduce term limits and we can also have Senate elections.  35-1

I wonder if the member could reflect on this scenario. We have term limits of eight years. We have the Senate selection act, where Canadians would be able to elect their senators to the other chamber. Canadians could end up with a scenario where Canadians elect an NDP member to the Senate, so the NDP could end up with senators. If there were problems like the ones on Tuesday night, NDP senators could stop what the member is complaining about. At least that would be an improvement. Would the member not agree?  35-2

Mr. Bill Siksay: No, Mr. Speaker, I do not agree, because an appointed Senate, whether it is for 8 years or 45 years, appointed by the Prime Minister is still wrong. That is what we will get with the bill.  36

The bill does not change the fundamental problems with the Canadian Senate. The fundamental problem is that there is still no accountability to the Canadian people, given this legislation and given the way the current Prime Minister and the current government is using that body.  36-1

That body has no legitimacy. Here in the House of Commons we stand for election. We have to have the confidence of the people in our constituencies to take up the responsibilities we have here. Senators do not do that. The bill may limit them to eight years of unaccountable representation, but that is all it does and it is not enough.  36-2

It is a pathetic attempt at modernizing the Senate. It is a pathetic attempt at dealing with the problems of the Canadian Parliament and Canadian democracy. I think people will see through that, and they will see that it is just not good enough when it comes to the kinds of promises the government and the Prime Minister made to the Canadian people before he was elected and when he was running for election. I think there will be an accountability moment there for the government and the Prime Minister.  36-3

Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil–Papineau–Mirabel, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-10 to alter senators' tenure.  37

The Bloc Québécois opposes the principle of Bill C-10. This is not the first time the Conservative Party has tried reforming the Constitution without the provinces' approval. Personally, I am not a big fan of the Canadian Constitution, but the fact remains that outside of Quebec, Canadians identify with the Constitution.  37-1

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. According to a ruling handed down in 1980 regarding that capacity, any decisions related to major changes affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally. Quebec has already informed the Conservative government that it will not accept any changes to the Senate, apart from abolishing it. That is a fact.  37-2

The Conservatives are still trying to turn a blind eye to the fact that the vast majority of Quebeckers want the Senate simply to be abolished because this political structure is outdated. I have statistics from a poll taken in 2010 to prove it.  37-3

I know what I am talking about because I have to live with the fact that a Liberal senator has decided that his son will be my opponent in the next election. I will not say his name because he does not deserve it. I have no problem with that. I had not seen him at all since 2000; I have been here for 10 years. He pushed to have his son be my opponent. I see this senator almost every weekend. He does fundraising for his son's election campaign. Senators are fundraisers for the Liberal Party, as seen by this example.  37-4

The same is probably true for the Conservatives; senators are fundraisers. I had never seen him or heard him. He is a former Liberal cabinet minister who had to step down because of a controversy he was involved in. I will have a chance to bring that up during the election campaign; I have a few more secret weapons that I am saving for the election. The fact remains that I find it completely ridiculous to have a second democratic system.  37-5

The people elect us here to the House of Commons to pass laws. This week, an environment bill was before the Senate for discussion and passage and it was supported by the majority of the House. The government needed to have its hands completely free before the Cancun summit and it decided to give orders to its unelected senators to cut short their study of this very important bill on the environment. The Conservatives are using the Senate for purely partisan purposes, as did the Liberals when they were in power.  37-6

Citizens who work extremely hard have seen their retirement savings eroded as a result of the economic crisis. Company pension funds were affected. People lost money on their RRSPs and other savings. In my opinion, this second system, which is costing the state a lot of money, should be abolished.  37-7

Quebec abolished its upper chamber a number of years ago, and Ontario did the same. We have to change with the times. This is not the first time that I have said in the House that the Conservatives are like the Liberals. They are two old parties that no longer deserve to govern Canada because they are doing things the same way they were done 100 years ago.  37-8

They have not changed. I see proof of this every weekend. There is a Liberal senator who is fundraising and trying to help set his son up as my opponent. This is the first time in the past 10 years that I have seen him. He simply decided that he was going to become involved in politics. I had never heard anything about him or read anything about him in the paper. Yet, for the past while, he has been trying to get out in the public eye to raise his political profile through his son's activities.  37-9

I do not have a problem. We will beat him; that is not a problem. It is just that it must be disappointing for the people watching these goings-on. I have heard all sorts of comments from people who have just seen him for the first time as senator. They are wondering what he is doing at certain events and so on. It is not good for him, but it is good for me. It is not good for democracy because people find it frightening that public funds are being used to finance a Liberal Party fundraiser, but that is what the Liberals used to want to do. The Conservatives want to try and change that. All this bill does is limit senators' terms to eight years. Replacing one senator with another will not change anything. We simply need to abolish this outdated institution outright since it has no virtues and only serves to raise funds for the older parties, such as the Liberal and Conservative parties.  37-10

That is the reality in an era where, every day, the people who listen to us work hard to pay their taxes. They pay taxes every day. They purchase items and pay sales tax, the GST, the QST. Some of their money is used to pay for these institutions, that is, the House of Commons and the Senate, among others.  37-11

I can provide statistics from a Léger Marketing poll carried out in Quebec in 2010. It is important. Whatever people thing, the fact remains that polls are used a lot, even in politics. We are living in the age of polls. As for Quebec respondents, only 8% believe that the red chamber—the Senate—plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works well, whereas 43% want the Senate abolished. Another 23% do not understand how the Senate works and do not see the purpose it serves. They know so little about it that they have no opinion about the Senate. It is quite telling that 23% of respondents do not even know that the Senate exists. But that is the reality, and it can easily be explained by the fact that senators are just fundraisers who we see during election campaigns.  37-12

The Conservative Party fuels this opinion, and its own position is quite archaic, as we can see when it comes to the environment. The Conservative Party is not very evolved, but it came out of the Reform Party, which was already not very evolved. The Liberals are determined to have a debate because they are likely going to vote against this bill. I commend them for that, but they have never talked about abolishing the Senate. I do not know of many Liberals who would want to abolish the Senate, because it serves them well.  37-13

The Senate will serve them in my riding, because there is a Liberal senator who is promoting and lobbying for his son and spending Senate money to attend events while fundraising and so on. He probably has the money. He is entitled to do what he is doing, but people are not fooled. People can see that a senator is ultimately just a political tool, nothing more.  37-14

Members will understand that the Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-10.  37-15

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments with interest. I find it ironic that the member talked about fundraising when the Bloc, by far, relies almost solely on a taxpayer subsidy from the Canadian taxpayer for the running of its party.  38

Bill C-10 does limit the term of senators. The member is advocating the abolition of the Senate, which is not possible without significant constitutional reform and would, by the way, reduce the number of representatives in Parliament for Quebec by 24. Therefore, the member is actually arguing to reduce the representation of Quebec.  38-1

We are arguing for Quebeckers to be represented in Parliament. We are arguing that there be some accountability and that in conjunction with the eight year term limit, there be voluntary elections by the provinces.  38-2

Why does the member not want Quebec to be promptly represented, democratically, in this chamber?  38-3

Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary knows the Bloc Québécois is fighting mainly to ensure that representation in the House is not changed. He himself introduced a bill that would give Ontario and British Columbia more seats in the House at Quebec's expense. So once again, we do not need to take any lessons from him. Maybe he would like to see Quebeckers represented in the Senate, an institution that serves no purpose. Maybe that is what he would like, but Quebeckers are smarter than that.  39

Before the Liberal Party reformed party financing, we fought election campaigns and won in Quebec. If further reforms were made, we would still win. The only problem is that government funding prevents friends of the party from corrupting governments. That is probably what the Conservative Party wants to do. It has already built up a war chest for several election campaigns, and it probably wants to surround itself with its friends, people who would give it money and whom it could be accountable to and pay back. That is not what the Bloc Québécois wants, because our party has integrity.  39-1

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins–James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, many people in Canada have had two underlying suspicions about the government. The first is that the Prime Minister has absolute contempt for democracy and will step over the bounds of democracy whenever it suits his purpose. The second thing people feel is the government is little more than a front for big oil and the tar sands. Both those suspicions came together this week when the government used an unelected, unaccountable body to crush the will of the House of Commons. This is unprecedented and a very disturbing fact, particularly given that this was a climate change bill.  40

We look at who the government has been appointing into the Senate, after promising that it would do something different. I would like to quote the Hon. Irving Gerstein. As he was brought into the Senate, he said:  40-1

I am one of the 18 new senators appointed by the Prime Minister in December...Some commentators [called us] “bagmen.”...I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it.  40-2

I believe that the job of raising funds for the Conservative both necessary and honourable.  40-3

Why does my colleague think the government shows such contempt for Canadian people by putting such lowbrow hacks and pals into that chamber to thwart the will of the democratically elected people of Canada?  40-4

Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Speaker, worst of all, it does not even benefit the Conservatives in any way. There is no way they could get a majority government, nor could the Liberals. Quebeckers in particular and many Canadians outside of Quebec are becoming increasingly fed up with the old parties that operate like they did 100 ago. The most striking example is the Senate, which is full of Liberal and Conservative Party fundraisers. I see this every day, for my opponent is the son of a Liberal senator. It is frightening. Those parties do not even realize that the public no longer supports them and will not support them in the future. But my hon. colleague can rest easy, for he will probably win his seat in the next election and I will win mine.  41

Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood–Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-10 and the amendment proposed by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley today.  42

I would like to read the motion proposed by the member, which was:  42-

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:  42-

“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), because the term limits do not go far enough in addressing the problems with the Senate of Canada, and do not lead quickly enough to the abolition of the upper chamber, as recent events have shown to be necessary.”  42-1

As I said and as was indicated by our previous speaker in regard to Bill C-10, the New Democrats had indicated that we would be supporting that bill to get it to committee, but things have changed in the last week with regard to developments at the Senate on Bill C-311, Climate Change Accountability Act.  42-2

This bill was passed not only once in this Parliament but had also passed in a previous Parliament. Of course, because of the election, it came back and had to be reintroduced and passed a second time. It then went to the Senate.  42-3

Now the unelected, appointed, Conservative-dominated Senate killed Bill C-311 without so much as giving it the proper debate and allowing it to go to a committee of the Senate and go through the proper process. Had it gone through the proper process and had they found some problem with it, perhaps they could have amended it. There were ways to deal with the bill in a proper way as opposed to the way it was treated. It was basically killed in the dead of night.  42-4

The Senate has not done something like this for many years. If this is setting a new precedent for how the Senate is going to operate, it is not very good.  42-5

Yesterday I listened to the Liberal member for Random—Burin—St. George's give the Liberal position on this bill. She was talking about the lack of consultation, as far as the provinces were concerned. I wanted to draw her attention and the attention of the House to a consultation process that occurred in my home province of Manitoba.  42-6

By the way, Manitoba did have a Senate created in 1870. Manitobans had the good sense to abolish it in 1876. Members should also know that four other provinces had senates as well. New Brunswick abolished its in 1982. Nova Scotia abolished its in 1928. Quebec created one in 1867 and abolished it in 1968. Prince Edward Island created its in 1873 and abolished it in 1893.  42-7

So we have the experience of five of our provinces that have had senates and have gotten rid of them, not to mention other examples in the Commonwealth. I fail to see any examples where jurisdictions are actually bringing forth and introducing new senates. If anything, there seems to be a move towards getting rid of them.  42-8

What happened in Manitoba on June 13, 2006, was Bill 22 passed the legislature. Bill 22, the Elections Reform Act, was approved by all parties in the legislature, including the Liberal Party. The act stated that they preferred abolishing the Senate but if the Senate could not be abolished then it should consist of democratically elected members rather than members appointed by a process involving patronage appointments.  42-9

As I had indicated, the Manitoba Senate was abolished in 1876. The feeling of the committee was that the province had been served quite well without having the Senate around.  42-10

An all-party committee was set up. Membership included the NDP, Conservatives, and a Liberal member, Mr. Kevin Lamoureux, who is currently running for the Liberals in the byelection in Winnipeg North. He may possibly be one of our colleagues in the future. Mr. Lamoureux was part of the committee that came up with final recommendations, which I will deal with in a few minutes.  42-11

This all-party committee met in Brandon, Carman, Dauphin, Flin Flon, Norway House, Russell, St. Laurent, Steinbach and Winnipeg. This has been a tradition for the last number of years in Manitoba whenever there is a controversial issue, whether it be Meech Lake, smoking in public places, or the Charlottetown accord. We have tended to get all the parties involved in an all-party committee process. We found that works quite well.  42-12

In fact, the committee heard 51 presentations at its public hearings. It had 32 written submissions sent in via mail. In fact, one of the written submissions was sent in by Senator Terry Stratton.  42-13

In terms of the people who presented at the public meetings held across the province, I will mention names that people in the House will recognize. We had the recent former MP, Inky Mark, make a presentation at the meeting in Dauphin. Also, there was Senator Sharon Carstairs, Senator Bert Brown and Daniel Boucher from the Société franco-manitobaine. As well, there was the former Conservative MP, and a chairperson for many years, Dorothy Dobbie. There was quite a substantial group of interested parties making presentations to this committee.  42-14

The question is, what did members of this all-party committee recommend after hearing from the presenters?  42-15

In the area of the term limits they were agreeable to the federal government's proposal. They did not have strong opinions one way or the other on it, but they felt the eight-year term for senators was reasonable. They had these recommendations.  42-16

Elections should be held in the province to elect nominees to the Senate to be forwarded to Ottawa.  42-17

The elections should be administered through Elections Canada with the cost being the responsibility of the federal government.  42-18

The method of voting they decided on was first-past-the-post. They looked at proportional representation and they ruled that out as that had been ruled out by several provinces in the past.  42-19

There should be regional representation among Manitoba's allotment of six Senate seats. They decided they wanted to have three in the city of Winnipeg with two in southern Manitoba and one in the north.  42-20

In addition, the current proposal of an eight-year term by the federal government is in keeping with what was heard from the presenters, as I indicated before.  42-21

What we have here is a process that was started in 2006, four years ago, involving all parties. So for the Liberal Party to suggest that somehow there has been no consultation on this issue, that it is being rammed through the House, is absolute nonsense. In Manitoba their member was part of the all-party committee. How can they say that somehow there needs to be more consultation?  42-22

It seems to me what the Liberals are interested in doing is coming up with all sorts of delay tactics to tie this idea up in knots as long as possible so another ten years will go by and things will just carry on their merry way and nothing will substantially change as a result of it.  42-23

I would suggest that the Manitoba experience seems to me to be the sort of direction upon which we should be looking to proceed in terms of consultations and involving as many people in the process as possible.  42-24

Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Democratic Reform), CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his constructive comments. We understand that the NDP brought forward an amendment as retaliation for another event. However, assuming that amendment fails and the bill reaches second reading and goes to committee, will the NDP be as constructive as the member's comments just were? I would like to work together with the NDP.  43

Mr. Jim Maloway: Mr. Speaker, the member for Burnaby—Douglas indicated prior to my speech that we in the NDP have supported the idea of getting Bill C-10 to committee. We obviously have to deal with the member's amendment, but certainly the original intention was to support the bill going to committee to get results.  44

We are here to make the minority Parliament work in spite of the fact that the government does not seem to be overly helpful or even interested in a lot of cases.  44-1

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.  45

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Paul Szabo (Lib.)
Charlie Angus (NDP)
Paul Szabo
Dennis Bevington (NDP)
The Deputy Speaker
Paul Szabo
Claude Gravelle (NDP)
The Deputy Speaker
Charlie Angus
Claude Gravelle
Maurice Vellacott (CPC)
Claude Gravelle
Wayne Marston (NDP)
Claude Gravelle
Pierre Paquette (BQ)
Wayne Marston
Pierre Paquette
Steven Blaney (CPC)
Pierre Paquette
The Deputy Speaker
Steven Blaney
The Deputy Speaker
Pierre Paquette
Mario Silva (Lib.)
Hon. Steven Fletcher (CPC)
Te Deputy Speaker
Mario Silva
The House resumed
Bill Siksay (NDP)
Paul Dewar (NDP)
Bill Siksay
Steven Fletcher
Bill Siksay
Mario Laframboise (BQ)
Steven Fletcher
Mario Laframboise
Charlie Angus
Mario Laframboise
Jim Maloway (NDP)
Steven Fletcher
Jim Maloway
The Acting Speaker