Canada coa_shield

Debate concerning Bill S-8
An Act respecting the selection of senators

Extract from the Hansard, 41th Parliament, 3rd session: March 10, 2011  2

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Brown, seconded by the Honourable Senator Runciman, for the second reading of Bill S-8, An Act respecting the selection of senators.  3

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak in second reading debate on Bill S-8.  4

I have had the privilege of sitting in Canada's Senate since June 1993. I use the word "privilege" advisedly, because those of us who serve here must not take that position of privilege for granted. I also fully understand how I got here, although this fact seems to have escaped many.  4-1

Over the years, I have seen all sides of this place: the good, the bad and sometimes the downright ridiculous. Having said that, a great deal of good and valuable work takes place in the Senate.  4-2

It is true that the Senate has a stellar reputation for correcting errors in legislative drafting or making amendments to clarify statutes before they become law. It is important to keep in mind that these functions of research and inquiry and technical revisions are not the fundamental purposes of the Senate. The Senate is supposed to stand as a co-equal body to the House of Commons in parliamentary decision making, a key part of the legislative process.  4-3

On paper, the Senate enjoys almost all the powers of the House of Commons. However, when and if the Senate chooses to exercise its power to defeat legislation coming from the house, the legitimacy of the Senate is immediately called into question and leads to the present situation of not being able to fulfill properly its intended primary role. The Senate is then put in the position of justifying its existence by work it generates on its own.  4-4

Honourable senators, the reason the Senate cannot play its intended primary role as a legislative decision making body is that, quite simply, we do not have the democratic legitimacy to do so. This is not an accident. In fact, this is one of the primary design features of the Senate. The Senate exists precisely in order to exercise what Sir John A. Macdonald called the "power of check" against the "democratic excesses" of the House of Commons. Think of that in the context of 2011. What was deemed appropriate in 1867 is foreign to our modern society in 2011.  4-5

The Senate as originally established also exists to represent particular sectional interests in society, that being to represent regions to provide a counterweight against pure representation by population in the House of Commons. This, I believe, continues to be a valuable feature, although the regions of the country are vastly different now from what they were in 1867.  4-6

The ability of the Senate to act as an effective regional voice is limited because the Senate no longer has democratic legitimacy in some regions of the country, which, as I said a moment ago, are quite different than they were 144 years ago. One only has to look at the growth of the population in the western part of the country for proof of that.  4-7

Honourable senators, the other interest the Senate is supposed to represent is minorities, which we define in modern-day terms. However, the definition of "minorities" insofar as the Senate is concerned is no longer relevant. As Sir John A. Mcdonald put it, "The rights of the minority must be protected, and the rich are always fewer in number than the poor." Therefore, it is not appropriate to argue that the protection of regions and minorities is a time-honoured tradition of the Senate.  4-8

The Senate, in other words, was designed according to a 19th century theory of mixed government in which a democratic popular element was to be balanced by an aristocratic appointed element, and what was feared as mob rule was to be avoided. The very notion of mob rule in the modern Canadian political context is unrealistic.  4-9

As I have said many times, we cannot function with a 19th century Senate in a 21st century Canada. Surely, we can all agree on that.  4-10

Honourable senators, there have been wide-ranging views on Senate reform. Some suggest a piecemeal approach starting with legislative measures and others want major constitutional change. Our government has been very clear. We would prefer to start with modest, doable incremental changes to the Senate. We have put forward reasonable and responsible legislation to take the first step toward Senate reform. This is a reasonable approach because, as many of you are aware, after attempts at comprehensive constitutional reform in the 1980s and the 1990s failed, the national debate on the future of the Senate ended right there.  4-11

Honourable senators, we all have read about, heard of and participated in decades of consultation and analysis on what needs to be done to reform the Senate. More study and analysis is not the answer. Rather, let us build upon the excellent work done in the past.  4-12

Critics of the government's two Senate reform bills can be divided into two main camps, that of the constitutional perfectionists and that of the constitutional traditionalists. The perfectionists are wary of any Senate reform that is not wholesale constitutional reform. In other words, the perfectionists want to do it all in one shot. However, past experience in Canada has taught us that the all-for-nothing Senate reform proposals of the past have inevitably yielded nothing. Roger Gibbins captured this perfectly in his comments before Senator Hays' Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform when he said, "The perfect has become the enemy of the good."  4-13

That said, honourable senators, it is my pleasure to participate in this debate and make a few comments about the bill before us.  4-14

A year ago, here in this chamber, the Governor General read the Speech from the Throne, which outlined our government's commitments to Canadians. Once again, our government committed to make every effort to modernize Canada's democratic institutions. In particular, we reaffirmed our dedication to make the Senate more democratic, effective and accountable. Of course, this was not our first attempt at Senate reform. We tabled legislation shortly after forming government in 2006. In fact, in September of 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the first sitting prime minister in Canadian history to appear as a witness before a Senate committee. As we all know, that was the special committee chaired by our former colleague Senator Dan Hays.  4-15

This underscored the importance our government places on the issue of Senate reform. At his appearance, the Prime Minister interestingly quoted from Robert MacKay's book, The Unreformed Senate of Canada, as follows:  4-16

    Probably on no other public question in Canada has there been such unanimity of opinion as on that of the necessity for Senate reform.  4-17

Mr. MacKay wrote that in 1926, 85 years ago.  4-18

Honourable senators, obviously change is long overdue. I am proud to report that our government is moving forward on that commitment with the introduction of the bill before us, the senatorial selection act, and with the Senate term limits bill in the other place. These steps are the important first steps to enhance the public legitimacy of the Senate.  4-19

Honourable senators, with regard to Bill S-8, our government wants to give Canadians a say in who represents them in the Senate, and judging from the most recent public opinion polls, this desire of Canadians is stronger than ever. The senatorial selection act would provide Canadians with this very opportunity by encouraging provinces and territories to establish a democratic process where Senate nominees are chosen directly by the voters of the relevant province or territory.  4-20

This bill contains a voluntary framework for provinces and territories to use as a foundation for implementing a process to consult voters on Senate appointments.  4-21

To be clear, this bill does not require provinces to establish a consultation process. Rather, it strongly encourages them to do so. Following a democratic selection process, a province or territory would submit a list of Senate nominees to the Prime Minister who, under the act, would be required to consider the names of the nominees put forward when making recommendations to the Governor General on Senate appointments.  4-22

This bill does not bind the Prime Minister or the Governor General when making Senate appointments, nor does it change how senators are selected. It simply proposes a method to give voters a say about who should be selected to hold a position in the Senate of Canada. It should be noted, however, that the Prime Minister is on record as saying that he would appoint from the list of recommendations submitted by the relevant province or territory.  4-23

Honourable senators, let me explain some of the details in the voluntary framework we have suggested in the bill. The bill provides a framework for the provinces. The provinces would be free to create their own selection process as long as it adheres to a democratic process. This framework is based on Alberta's Senatorial Selection Act, which has been in place for more than 20 years. The precedent is there, and it is solid. As stated earlier, it provides the senators to be appointed for a province or a territory from a list of Senate nominees chosen by the voters.  4-24

Under this framework, the provinces will determine when to hold their consultation process. For example, it could be at the same time as a provincial general election or held in conjunction with municipal elections, or it could be a stand-alone process.  4-25

While Senate nominee elections could be managed by provincial electoral agencies, a number of details concerning the administration of selection processes are also set out in the framework. These details include the requirements people must meet to be eligible to be a Senate nominee, and the procedure to become nominated to be a candidate in the selection process.  4-26

Another important point described in the framework is the type of electoral system that may be used. The framework suggests the use of the plurality-at-large voting system, which is the first-past-the-post electoral system applied to multi-member districts. Senate nominees would be selected from a province-wide constituency and voters could vote for as many candidates as there are Senate nominees to be elected.  4-27

In preparing this bill, we did our best to provide enough details to facilitate the development of legislation. However, it must be remembered that we did not dot all the i's and cross all the t's. We were careful to ensure that the provinces have enough latitude to make the process their own.  4-28

In a number of cases, such as in the area of political financing, the framework specifically states that the laws of the province are to apply, with any modifications necessary, to the selection of Senate nominees. As mentioned earlier, it must also be kept in mind that the framework in this bill is only suggested. Provinces would be free to design the selection process that best meets their unique circumstances as long as selection is done democratically.  4-29

By suggesting a framework, we are simply offering a helping hand to provinces and territories that want to play a role in enhancing the democratic legitimacy of our Senate while, at the same time, ensuring that this assistance respects provincial autonomy.  4-30

In the end, what is important is that the selection of senators be based on a democratic process that reflects the wishes of the voters in each distinct province or territory.  4-31

For those who might suggest that this bill is a radical change, I will illustrate that this bill is anything but that. The Prime Minister has always been clear that his preference, when making recommendations to the Governor General on Senate appointments, is to recommend the names of individuals who have been chosen by Canadians through a democratic process.  4-32

As part of this objective, our government has invited provinces to develop and implement a democratic selection process of candidates for senators. The senatorial selection act would simply codify this approach.  4-33

This act is consistent with our government's incremental approach to reform and our desire to implement a process to consult voters on their choice for Senate appointments. Moreover, it reaffirms our government's preference for considering appointing senators who have been democratically selected by Canadians.  4-34

Honourable senators, we have precedents with regard to the provincial experience. To some honourable senators, the approach and outline in the senatorial selection act may sound familiar. Nearly 25 years ago, the idea of the provinces establishing a list of Senate nominees was proposed as an interim measure until further, more fundamental reforms could be achieved.  4-35

In 1987, through the Meech Lake Accord process, the premiers agreed that any person appointed to the Senate should be chosen from a list of names submitted by the province. Indeed, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, in the spirit of this agreement, named several senators to fill vacancies from the province of Quebec from a list submitted by Premier Robert Bourassa — Solange Chaput-Rolland, Roch Bolduc, Gérald Beaudoin and Jean-Marie Poitras — all excellent names from a list submitted by a province, and all served the Senate with great distinction.  4-36

Unfortunately, other than the efforts of Mr. Mulroney, Senate reform has not been realized, and we continue to wait. Surely, Canadians will not have to wait another 25 years before change can be achieved.  4-37

Thankfully, honourable senators, the spirit of the reform stayed strong, thanks to the province of Alberta. Alberta passed the Senatorial Selection Act in 1989 and held its first consultation with Albertans later that year. The victor in that process was Stan Waters. He became Senator Stan Waters in 1990, after his name was recommended for appointment by Prime Minister Mulroney, who respected the Alberta process.  4-38

Since the initial 1990 consultation process, Alberta has gone back to its residents on two other occasions to ask them whom they would like to represent them in the Senate. The next consultation process was held in 1998, and though I was not surprised at the time, sadly, the Liberal government of the day chose not to respect the wishes of the residents of Alberta, and the winner of that process was not appointed to the Senate.  4-39

However, even with that disappointment, the winner of the 1998 process was not discouraged. He continued with his commitment to reform the Senate, and his campaign was not diminished. Instead, in 2004, he decided to run again in Alberta's third consultation. For the second time, he was declared a winner and for the second time, the Liberal government of the day decided to ignore the wishes of the Alberta electorate.  4-40

Sadly, it looked like the person Albertans chose to represent them on two separate occasions would be shut out of the Senate, but there is a positive ending to this saga. In 2006, our government was elected — a government that had been crystal clear about our goals for Senate reform, clear about our preference for giving Canadians a say in who represents them in the Senate.  4-41

Honourable senators, at the first opportunity, when a Senate seat became vacant for the province of Alberta, Prime Minister Stephen Harper respected the wishes of Alberta and recommended the winner of the second and third Alberta consultation process, and, of course, I am speaking about our colleague the Honourable Bert Brown.  4-42

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.  5

Senator LeBreton: Today, I and, I know, my colleagues are pleased to be able to call Bert Brown our Senate colleague.  6

While Alberta is the only province that can point to having senators chosen by its voters, it is not the only province that has enacted legislation that allows consultation with its citizens. British Columbia previously enacted legislation that would have allowed voters to have a say on who should represent their province. This legislation could easily be revived by the province.  6-1

In 2009, Saskatchewan passed the Senate Nominee Election Act. When this bill was introduced, Saskatchewan's justice minister noted that their government was taking this step so that Saskatchewan senators could be chosen democratically. He also referenced the Prime Minister's commitment to recommending for appointment, democratically selected senators.  6-2

Saskatchewan has yet to hold a consultation process. While I have the utmost respect for the honourable senators from Saskatchewan and their dedication, it is my hope that the citizens of Saskatchewan will see their choices for Senate nominees reflected in the Senate. Of course, honourable senators, this opportunity will present itself within the next two years with the retirement of our colleague opposite.  6-3

There is little need to repeat all the recommendations for reform and to outline all the reasons that reform is necessary. However, there is an important reason worth mentioning again: Canadians want to see changes in our Senate. Over the years, polls have consistently shown that Canadians favour a reformed Senate. As recently as last month, a poll indicated that over two thirds of Canadians support the direct election of senators.  6-4

Senator Banks: Direct.  7

Senator LeBreton: Canadians are having difficulty accepting an institution that has not changed significantly since Confederation.  8

Honourable senators, the Senate is a valuable institution. We are a group of proud Canadians committed to doing work that makes our country a better place to live. Sadly, our many important contributions are overshadowed by the intense focus on how we got here. Unfortunately, there is little talk of our considerable contributions, drowned out as they are by criticism of our outdated system and our unwillingness to take steps to improve the institution.  8-1

Changes are crucial and necessary if we want to maintain our relevance. If we want to be seen as credible, the Senate must catch up with the times and make the changes necessary to become a modern democratic institution. Supporting the kind of change our government presents here today is an avenue to achieve this important goal.  8-2

Honourable senators, the proposed Senatorial Selection Act does not bind the Prime Minister or the Governor General in their powers to appoint senators. It does not require that provinces adopt the framework established by our government. Senators will continue to be summoned to the Senate by the Governor General, on the advice of the prime minister, pursuant to the Constitution. What this bill does, however, is to encourage provinces to conduct a democratic selection process whereby a list would be provided to the Prime Minister to consider. As I mentioned earlier, our Prime Minister is on public record as saying he would appoint from that list.  8-3

Although it may not be a radical change, it is an important change. It is a necessary first step. It illustrates our government's determination to listen to Canadians, to enhance the legitimacy of our democratic institutions and to improve the quality of governance in our country. Most importantly, the approach set out in the proposed Senatorial Selection Act has precedence. The only appointment to the Senate that has reflected the views of voters was as the direct result of a provincial process: the Honourable Bert Brown. He deserves a great deal of thanks for the drafting and carriage of this bill.  8-4

By introducing Bill S-8, our government is committing to uphold its end of the bargain. It is our hope that other provinces will follow in the example that has been set.  8-5

Honourable senators, Bill S-8 has been with us in the Senate for almost one year. The time has come to seek the support of honourable senators for our efforts to send Bill S-8 to committee.  8-6

Our government believes in the idea of a chamber of sober second thought. We believe in an upper house that gives a stronger voice to the regions of our great country. This is why we also believe in moving forward with Senate reform. We realize that we must take the necessary steps to make the Senate a democratically legitimate institution.  8-7

With the introduction of this bill, our government has taken the first step in following through on its commitment to Canadians to bring enhanced legitimacy to our democratic institutions. The next step, honourable senators, is in our hands.  8-8

I sincerely hope that all members of this chamber will support this bill so we can move forward to give Canadians the Senate they want and rightfully deserve.  8-9

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Will the honourable senator accept a question?  9

Senator LeBreton: Certainly.  10

Hon. Joan Fraser: Honourable senators, I have a couple of questions, but I know that the honourable leader has unlimited time, so I do not feel that I will be damaging other honourable senators' chances.  11

As an observation, when I am talking to groups of people and the subject of an elected Senate comes up, I ask them whether they would like the Senate to be more like the House of Commons and the reaction is not one of, shall I say, unbridled enthusiasm.  11-1

Upon reading this bill, I do not understand what will happen in Quebec, should it pass into law. We all know about the Quebec districts, which are in the Constitution and were a key part of winning the support of the representatives of Quebec who negotiated the British North America Act, 1867.  11-2

The bill talks about province-wide elections. It is odd to think of province-wide elections to elect people who are supposed to represent specific districts. However, if elections were held in specific districts, another democratic problem would arise. The districts were likely fairly drawn up some 140 years ago. I believe that Senator Angus' district today probably includes about 2 million people, by my rough count, whereas my own district includes about 35,000. One could argue that people in both districts might feel there was some imbalance if each of those districts had one representative. What would the situation be for Quebec under this bill?  11-3

Senator LeBreton: Senator Brown and I and others have made it clear that the proposed Senatorial Selection Act provides a vehicle for provinces to participate in the senatorial selection process, should they choose to do so.  12

The Province of Quebec is already on record as saying it does not support the bill. When the bill gets to committee, I am sure that many witnesses will be heard from who deal with the original formula used to set up the Senate.  12-1

The fact is that this bill, if passed, will not impose any requirement on any province to participate. The bill provides a framework for those provinces and territories wishing to have their senators chosen through a democratic Senate election process and encourages them to do so.  12-2

Personally speaking, if two, three or four provinces or more decide to participate, then the Senate will be all the better for it. It will be the decision of the provinces to participate or not. As we talk about small incremental steps, it is more important to start the process and have some success than to have no success at all.  12-3

Senator Fraser: As a Quebecer, I find it kind of odd to be asked to vote for a bill that would create a democratic travesty in my province. It is one thing to have a bill that sets up a system in which the provinces may choose to participate or not; but to set up a system that would be unworkable for one quarter of the country, is something else.  13

Honourable senators, my second question is by way of asking whether the leader would agree to a little elaboration and clarification on one small point of her address. She quoted Roger Gibbins in one of the earlier iterations of this process. I was at both committee hearings when Mr. Gibbins testified, first at the Hays committee, the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform, and then at the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.  13-1

Everybody knows where Mr. Gibbins' heart is on the matter of change in the Senate — he is in favour of it. He testified wholeheartedly before the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform in favour of change, for some of the reasons the leader suggested; and I believe he was preparing to do so again when he appeared before the Senate Legal Committee.  13-2

Just before he came forward, legal experts testified that the legislative package that the government was proposing — the two bills that were then before Parliament, one in each house, which were the forerunners of today's bills, one in each house — that the combination of those bills, taken together, unquestionably constituted a package that required provincial participation in formal constitutional change. Having heard that, Mr. Gibbins came forward as a witness and said, "I have had to change my mind, and I cannot support this bill."  13-3

I have not spoken to Mr. Gibbins with regard to his view about this bill; I am talking only about what happened then. Would the honourable senator accept that clarification of how events unrolled in that context, at that time?  13-4

Senator LeBreton: What the honourable senator says concerning comments that Roger Gibbins made is interesting. I thought that the quote of his that I chose applies to many of the things that the government tries to do, in that the perfect has become the enemy of the good.  14

However, we are not talking about bills that were before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs at the time of which the honourable senator speaks. We are talking about the Senatorial Selection Act.  14-1

With regard to this bill and the Senate term limits bill that is in the other place, we went back to the drawing board and indicated in the Speech from the Throne that we would pursue this legislation again. Thanks to the hard work of Bert Brown and the experience of Alberta, we have now brought before Parliament a bill that involves incremental first steps, and in no way requires opening up the Constitution.  14-2

This process is voluntary. The honourable senator talks about how she, as a senator from Quebec, participated in this process. If Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and a couple of the Atlantic provinces decide to enter into this kind of agreement and have their senators elected, that agreement in no way takes away from whatever the position of the Province of Quebec may be at the time. This bill would mean simply that there would be a certain number of senators in this place that were, in fact, appointed to the Senate as a result of a Senate selection process in the various provinces.  14-3

I will not comment on what Roger Gibbins may have said. Let us bring this bill to committee, call him as a witness, and hear what he has to say.  14-4

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, in my home province, a democratic election process is not needed to confirm a senator's legitimacy and to allow him or her to sit in the Senate in good faith.  15

On the leader's side, the Senate will be made up of elected and appointed senators. Would the Leader of the Government in the Senate look on these senators differently, depending on how they came to office?  15-1

Senator LeBreton: Of course not. There are other examples, including in the United Kingdom, where there is now a mix of both. Whether a person is named to the Senate through a Senate selection process or under the existing set of circumstances means absolutely nothing, other than that your seatmate might have arrived through the appointment route and the person two seats down might have been selected. However, in no way would that route diminish the individual's work here in the Senate, their role as a senator, or their participation in committees; of course not.  16

Senator Dallaire: Then why do it? If we trust in the Prime Minister's ability to make good choices in appointing senators, then why not allow him to continue to do so? Why not just maintain this system of trust in the Prime Minister? Has he not demonstrated to the other provinces that seem to be interested in an election process that he is worthy of that trust? Why create such an uproar? Why not carry on with the good people we have here representing Canadians in the Senate?  17

Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is saying: Trust the Prime Minister. We are saying: Trust the people to make the right choices.  18

Senator Dallaire: Honourable senators, unless I am mistaken, is it not the people of Canada who elected the Prime Minister? Unless we lost our democracy somewhere along the way, why would the Prime Minister we elected all of a sudden become less democratic just because he is making appointments? I would need a more detailed explanation to understand this. Is the honourable senator saying that the Prime Minister does not have Canadians' interests at heart when he makes choices and decisions?  19

Senator LeBreton: I must have missed something in my history class. Prime ministers are elected. Throughout most of the years I have been around this place, prime ministers have not been from my party but from another party. Prime ministers are the leaders of the party that win the most seats in the election. I do not understand the point of Senator Dallaire's question.  20

The Prime Minister here is offering the provinces, through this bill, an opportunity to participate directly in the selection of senators, and is therefore giving up the power of appointment for those seats.  20-1

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore: One of the hard-earned principles of responsible government is that those who are elected by the public also have access to, and accountability for, the public purse. In the scheme that the honourable senator suggests here today, would she agree that those elected would have that same responsibility and authority?  21

Senator LeBreton: The honourable senator is asking about a technicality here, but I would say that whether one is elected or appointed, we all have responsibility for the public purse.  22

Senator Moore: Whether it is a school board, a municipality or a provincial government, those who are elected also have access to, and responsibility and accountability for, the public purse. Does the honourable senator see that happening in the scheme that she suggests here today?  23

Senator LeBreton: Is the honourable senator suggesting that because we are appointed, we do not have to be accountable for the public purse? Is that the genesis of his question?  24

With regard to this bill, which is an easily read and understood bill, I think the intent of the government — in the other place with Senate term limits, and in this place with Senate selection — is to make the first few incremental steps in reforming the Senate.  24-1

Many people will have questions and concerns, and perhaps will want to consult constitutional experts. I would encourage that consultation. I hope we can have agreement to move this government bill through the Senate and into committee so that some of these technicalities and arguments can be debated on both sides.  24-2

Senator Moore: I would like an answer to my question. Does the honourable senator agree that those who are elected under this scheme will have access to the public purse, as is consistent with responsible government, which is hard-earned and which began in my province of Nova Scotia?  25

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I do not understand the meaning of the honourable senator's question. Obviously, anyone who is elected has a certain responsibility, as does the person who is appointed. He or she has certain responsibilities for the public purse, too.  26

In terms of access, I am sure Senator Brown will speak to this issue. The honourable senator has dealt with this in much more detail than I have. However, I think people who are elected are accountable. In terms of direct access to the public purse, I actually do not know what would change or why that would be a concern.  26-1

Senator Moore: Honourable senators, it is not a concern. However, if someone stands for public election as, for example, in the other place, once elected, he or she has access to and can spend the public purse. He or she must account to the electorate for that responsibility. I am asking the leader if persons elected under this scheme would have the same access and responsibility.  27

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I do not think Senator Moore has used the correct interpretation. I do not think it changes.  28

As my colleague pointed out, this bill does not change the Constitution. I believe the honourable senator's question is not relevant to this debate.  28-1

Senator Moore: I believe it is very relevant, honourable senators. Is the leader suggesting that an elected person does not have access to the public purse? Simply answer "yes" or "no."  29

Hon. Andrée Champagne: Honourable senators, I would like to follow up on Senator Fraser's questions and return to an issue that I discussed when I participated in this debate.  30

We all know that Quebec never does things the same way as everyone else. At this time, our premier says he will leave to the Prime Minister of Canada the privilege and the duty to continue to name people to the Senate of Canada. Should there be a change of government, however, would the new premier share the same opinion?  30-1

Some people say that the Senate is becoming too partisan. Can you imagine some separatists being named to the Senate if a separatist premier became the leader of the government of Quebec? When I said that his or her name could be on the list, I was told that if the person were a separatist that the Prime Minister does not want in the Senate, then someone else on the list would be chosen. My feeling is that if we have an election, the person who has the most number of votes wins the election.  30-2

Honourable senators, how will we deal with such a problem? Will we be elected province wide, or will we have to run for election in our districts? I am quite worried about this possibility for our Senate.  30-3

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, I think we are getting ahead of ourselves. This bill is the very first step. It provides a vehicle for provinces and territories that wish to conduct a senatorial selection process in order to fill vacancies for the Senate in their province or territory. It in no way forces provinces that do not wish to participate in the Senate selection process to do so.  31

We would be getting ahead of ourselves by dealing with a hypothetical situation concerning the Province of Quebec where the Quebec government has already indicated that it is not interested in this process. I do point out, however, that the bill does not take away from the Prime Minister and the Governor General the power of appointment to the Senate.  31-1

Honourable senators, I return to my quote of Roger Gibbins that the good is lost because we are looking for perfection. Honourable senators, the intent of this bill is to provide the framework for provinces and territories. They may choose to use the framework but are not obligated to use it. As we know, and as we can probably foresee for some time, the Government of Quebec and the Province of Quebec are not interested in pursuing this proposal.  31-2

Hon. Tommy Banks: Honourable senators, I have a very mundane question for the leader.  32

When Senator Brown speaks to this, I guess he will be the only senator who actually has personal experience regarding it. I have a grazing idea of how much it costs to run an election campaign in a constituency. It varies widely.  32-1

This may not be of interest to many people in this place because there are many here, I think, who would not stand for elected office. That is not how we got here. Many of us never contemplated ever getting here by any means, and it was not in our nature to run in an election campaign. It would not be in my nature to run for elected office. However, I am curious as to whether any thought has been given to the cost of running a campaign in a province as opposed to a campaign in a constituency of a province.  32-2

In my province, there are 27 constituencies. I know about how much is spent minimally and maximally in them. What multiple of one of those would be the cost of running a campaign in the province of Alberta, or in the province of Ontario, or in the province of Quebec, if that could be worked out; or in any other province?  32-3

Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, there has been discussion in terms of the actual running of the elections in the various provinces and territories that might decide to follow that process. Senator Brown, having run twice in the provincial Senate selection process, could probably answer this question. However, these questions require both study and answers. That is why I think that if we could get the bill to committee, many of these questions could be answered after careful study.  33

I do not think there is a definitive answer because it depends, first, on the province; and, second, on those who participate. For instance, if it is a territory, it is not multiple ridings. If it is a smaller province, there are four ridings. It is intended that the selection be province wide.  33-1

Honourable senators, I think these questions should be debated in committee.  33-2

Senator Banks: Honourable senators, I hope that they will be and I hope that when we are considering these things, we will remember that, with respect to the Alberta election process by which Senator Brown won twice and worked assiduously were elections where political parties, in the normal sense of the word, did not take part. Senator Brown deserves a great amount of praise for his hard work.  34

Does the process contemplate any contribution by the public purse to the election process?  34-1

Senator LeBreton: Again, honourable senators, all the more reason to get this bill to committee so that these questions can be addressed. They are legitimate questions and they do vary from province to province. If we get the bill to committee, these questions can be fully aired and explained.  35

Hon. Doug Finley: Honourable senators, it was my original intention not to speak on this bill, but to promote it in other arenas by speaking directly to voters and audiences. I knew such esteemed and practised senators such as Senator LeBreton, Senator Carignan, Senator Brown, and Senator Tkachuk, would make cohesive and well-deliberated arguments largely based in law and history. I found the presentations most edifying from all sides. I would not dream of trying to add to or bend any of these fine arguments that have been made.  36

While all of these distinguished points of view were made, I felt that something personal was missing. I will speak from a personal point of view forged largely by my upbringing and honed in the trenches of our democratic system.  36-1

I will share the part of my life that causes me to believe so passionately that every Canadian should have the right to run for any public office in this country. I will discuss the concept that the Senate will somehow be a less competent, less well-rounded, and narrower constituency than it is now.  36-2

I was born in an idyllic corner of England, Devonshire. My birth certificate discloses the exact location as Stork's Nest. After many years of pubescent confusion, I eventually discovered that Stork's Nest was, in fact, a nursing home. It was immediate post-war Britain. My mother, a fervent daughter of Albion with a major mistrust of all things English, immediately transported me north to South Lennoxshire in Scotland, a place dominated by hardscrabble farming, steel mills and coal miners.  36-3

This area, with the shipyards of close-by Glasgow, has been called the cradle of trade unionism. Since the early 1900s, it has been the home and stomping ground of great union activists like Keir Hardie. My grandfather, a brave coal miner who was later disabled in a mine collapse, participated in the famous General Strike in 1926 and walked 400 miles in a protest march from Glasgow to the London Parliament in 1927.  36-4

I was a happy recipient of an excellent Scottish education. It was rated at that time as perhaps the best public education system in the world. My mother would frequently and passionately speak of the Sunday evenings when my grandfather would take her to an open air meeting place on the banks of River Clyde. Here she absorbed the magnificent and persuasive oratory of such prominent labour leaders as Aneurin Bevan, Jennie Lee and John Robertson. She was also exposed to such prominent humanitarian leaders as the great Eric Liddell, the sprinting missionary who was featured in the Oscar-winning movie Chariots of Fire.  36-5

All of this exposure she orally injected into me. I was not always the most willing recipient. However, certain things did stick with me from the miners, the steelworkers, my grandfather, and my mother, such as a deep respect and patience — although I do not always show it — with all people, a complete abhorrence of any form of bias or bigotry, an abiding faith in the results of hard work and, most importantly, a belief that any person should be able to aspire without reasonable constraint to hold any public office in the land.  36-6

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.  37

Senator Finley: My mother, by the way, at that time, particularly included the Westminster House of Lords. Incidentally, my great-grandfather, a completely untutored miner, won the right to present a case directly to the House of Lords. My mother and father came to Canada several years before I did. My mother brought her views with her. She died a few years ago.  38

My mother thought Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a right-wing radical, Brian Mulroney was the devil incarnate and Jean Chrétien was an anarchist. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I never got to hear her opinion of my good friend, Stephen Harper.  38-1

When I was first appointed to the Senate, I chatted with my brother about this view. I opined that my mother would likely be spinning in her grave. He said to me, Doug, not as long as are you on the inside trying to change it.  38-2

She gave us both a somewhat rebellious and clandestine nature. God bless her. That is the first reason I rise to speak on this particular piece of legislation.  38-3

Honourable senators, I have an unshakable belief that this Senate should be open to any person who properly seeks and wins by election the right to stand in this august chamber. What gives anyone the absolute right in this free and democratic federation to say that this office is closed to someone because we do not know them? I have heard a number of people, both within and without this chamber, say that an unelected, appointed Senate ensures there will be a cross balance of considered opinion, and that many senators would not be in the Senate if they had to be elected. There are other variations on this argument, and I am sure that all my fellow honourable senators have heard them.  38-4

With all due respect to those who espouse those opinions, I say poppycock. For hundreds of years, elected chambers, both upper and lower, have steered and led democracies through growth, change, turbulence and difficulty. It has not always been pretty. I will not quote the words of Winston Churchill on the subject of democracy. I doubt that there is an honourable senator in this chamber who does not have them emblazoned in their psyche.  38-5

Let people run. Let others decide. There will be good; there will be bad. However, on balance, it will always work. It always has. To those who say that having an appointed Senate guarantees that minorities and other groups will be represented when they might not be in an election environment, I say balderdash.  38-6

Given the mountains of media attention that I try to avoid, I doubt that it is any secret that I have been the Director of Political Operations and National Campaign Director for the Conservative Party for a number of years. Honourable senators can imagine my delight this afternoon when I saw the latest assessment of public opinion polling from Ipsos-Reid showing the Conservatives at 39 and the Liberals at an all-time low of 23.  38-7

During my time with the Conservative Party, I and my colleagues worked assiduously to elect women, new Canadians and Canadians of all backgrounds and ages to represent us in Parliament. I have seen many fine Canadians and Aboriginals represented by Rob Clarke, Shelley Glover, Rod Bruinooge, and Leona Aglukkaq. I have seen new Canadians represented by Tim Uppal, Devinder Shory and Alice Wong, and young Canadians like Pierre Poilievre, Patrick Brown, and Andrew Scheer be elected. We worked to recruit and elect a whole host of brilliant women such as Diane Finley, Rona Ambrose, Candice Hoeppner and many others.  38-8

We are not alone in this work. Honourable Senator David Smith and his colleagues have been working equally hard to broaden the tent. My good friends on the other side have been successful in increasing the participation of women, new Canadians, Aboriginals and people of all age groups. More power to Senator David Smith and his colleagues.  38-9

The point I am trying to make is that this is Canada. We have a different political and social environment than any other country in the world. All the doors that are open should be open to everyone in a way that they never were before. Have we got to where we should be? I think Senator Smith would agree with me when I say "no," but I also feel he would agree that we are getting ever closer.  38-10

To have an appointed Senate to guarantee so-called minorities is, in my view, a fallacious and out-of-date, elitist argument. In my view, women, First Nations, new Canadians and, indeed, all Canadians are perfectly more than capable of stepping up to the plate.  38-11

I have heard it said by some opponents of an elected Senate that elections are mere popularity contests, applying elements of "Canadian Idol" and "Miss Universe." Baloney.  38-12

What is the problem with popularity? The word has its roots in the Latin term populus, as in vox populi. Again, I will address a point to Senator Smith. He, like I, has presented as candidates some very popular, media-recognizable, famous people, and they have crashed and burned. One has to be more than a pretty face with friends in the media. In my experience, Canadians overwhelmingly tend to vote for substance. To say otherwise is to denigrate the 308 members of the other place and, I might add, a number of current senators who have been elected to the other place. I repeat: The Canadian voter will always be right.  38-13

The final argument I will make is that some opponents say that an elected Senate could end up being a less powerful echo chamber of the other place. For the first time, I sense a kind of resonance. I can really understand that. As an obviously proven partisan member of this chamber, I thought on this at some length.  38-14

When I am in this chamber, I try to listen to everything that is said, from all sides. It is not always possible, but I do my best. I have been struck by many points made from across the aisle. I have often applauded a speech from the other side. It is not that I necessarily agreed with the entire content, but I appreciate a finely crafted position and the manner in which it is delivered.  38-15

Honourable senators, I believe this place can and should define itself. Elected or unelected, powers should not change. We are what we are and right now there is only one elected senator. The rest of us have been appointed.  38-16

I will allow a little leeway to the independents in what I am about to say, but where we sit and listen to arguments — and perhaps agree with them, even if they come from across the aisle — at the time of vote, the crux of this process is that we stand and inevitably vote with "those that brung us." Is this not true? Let me challenge any senator here: Has an honourable senator present ever voted for or against a bill or motion that they did not fundamentally completely agree with?  38-17

My view might be simplistic, for I believe that no candidate for Senate election should carry a party banner or party colours. In my view, coupled with a complete dislocation from the party appointment process, this will in time lead to an independent chamber of second thought, basically with the same powers it has today.  38-18

Honourable senators, I might not have provided a legal or constitutional argument today on Senate reform, but I have tried to explain my belief that every Canadian should have the right to run for public office, and whence these beliefs originated.  38-19

I believe that Canada is a very special place; we truly are the land of opportunity for all Canadians. As an immigrant myself who never imagined becoming a senator, I believe that Canadians do not vote based on race, creed, colour or gender; they vote based on who will best represent them.  38-20

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I must advise honourable senators that Senator Brown speaking now will have the effect of ending the debate.  39

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition): Unless any honourable senators have any questions for Senator Finley, I will move the adjournment of the debate.  40

(On motion of Senator Cowan, debate adjourned.)  41

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Hon. Marjory LeBreton
Some Hon. Senators
Senator LeBreton
Senator Banks
Senator LeBreton
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
Senator LeBreton
Hon. Joan Fraser
Senator LeBreton
Senator Fraser
Senator LeBreton
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire
Senator LeBreton
Senator Dallaire
Senator LeBreton
Senator Dallaire
Senator LeBreton
Hon. Wilfred P. Moore
Senator LeBreton
Senator Moore
Senator LeBreton
Senator Moore
Senator LeBreton
Senator Moore
Senator LeBreton
Senator Moore
Hon. Andrée Champagne
Senator LeBreton
Hon. Tommy Banks
Senator LeBreton
Senator Banks
Senator LeBreton
Hon. Doug Finley
Some Hon. Senators
Senator Finley
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore
Hon. James S. Cowan