Canada coa_shield

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

Extract from the Hansard, 40th Parliament, 3rd session: June 2, 2010  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. Pierre Claude Nolin: Honourable senators, as indicated in the summary, Bill S-8 invites us to establish a framework to provide guidance to provinces and territories for the text of legislation governing senatorial elections. The bill, if adopted, formally establishes that, henceforth, persons recommended to Privy Council as Senate nominees shall be selected by a democratic election by the people.  4

Before commenting on the bill, I would like to point out that the Prime Minister is well aware of my opinion of the bill. The conversation I had with him predates —  4-1

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, Senator Nolin is speaking. I would ask the honourable senators who wish to have discussions to do so outside this chamber in the area provided for that purpose.  5

I take this opportunity to remind senators that, since this is a government bill, it is customary to provide 45 minutes for the speech.  5-1

Senator Nolin: I do not intend to speak for 45 minutes. I will try to not to exceed 15 minutes.  6

The Prime Minister is well aware of my views. In fact, we had that conversation several years ago. I have informed the members of my caucus of the remarks I will be making.  6-1

I think it is inappropriate to require the Prime Minister — because this would actually be an obligation on him as senior advisor to the Governor General — to consider, in recommending Senate nominees to the Governor General, individuals selected through such an election. That would be an inappropriate approach.  6-2

An election identifies the people's choice. It is the culmination of a competition that produces the most popular candidate. This house should be made up, if possible, of popular people, but more importantly, of competent people. That is why the Fathers of Confederation devised a system in which the Prime Minister retains full responsibility for recommending to the Governor General the nominees best qualified to serve as senators.  6-3

Under the guise of bowing to popular democracy, Bill S-8 is contrary to what the Fathers of Confederation had in mind.  6-4

The popularity shown by an election is certainly something appropriate, but it should not be viewed as a fundamental consideration for determining whether or not an individual Canadian should be nominated to this place.  6-5

In recent history, this chamber has seen its work influenced by a number of senators. Senator Keon retired just a little while ago; a few years ago, it was Senator Beaudoin. I will name only these two, given the time I am allotted. I know Senator Beaudoin very well and I got to know Senator Keon. Senator Keon told us that he would never have run in an election because he did not feel the need to be popular in order to be efficient. He would have opposed the passage of Bill S-8.  6-6

We have here several French-speaking senators from outside Quebec, including Senator Mockler from New Brunswick. Do you think that the people of New Brunswick, most of whom are English-speaking, would have voted for Senator Mockler, an Acadian?  6-7

Senator Segal: Undoubtedly.  7

Some Hon. Senators: And overwhelmingly.  8

Senator Nolin: Do you think that the people of Alberta would have voted for Senator Tardif?  9

Senator Angus: Same answer.  10

Senator Nolin: My second point is this: How many Aboriginal senators are there in this chamber?  11

Senator Segal: Not enough.  12

Senator Nolin: Exactly, not enough. Why are there more Aboriginal senators than Aboriginal members of the other place? Because they are in the minority. All across Canada, except in the territories, Aboriginal Canadians from various reserves and of various origins are in the minority. Do you think that, in a popularity contest, people would be willing to put the names of Aboriginal candidates and then vote for them? The answer is no. Should we have Aboriginal senators in this chamber? Yes!  13

The third point I want to make concerns women. More than one third of senators are women. I think we should thank the prime ministers who made a point of ensuring that women would be represented in this chamber. Today, the fact that one third of all senators are women — it should be a half — does credit to those prime ministers and is in the best interests of Canadians.  13-1

Let us draw a comparison with the other place. What is the proportion of women in the other place?  13-2

Senator Segal: Not enough.  14

Senator Nolin: Not enough, exactly, Senator Segal. Eighteen per cent. The women who ran for office were not popular enough. Were they competent? I think so, but they were not popular, so they did not win. What is as true for women is also true for francophones in the other provinces and minority Aboriginal people. They have a place in this chamber because we have a system that gives a prime minister the chance to fill vacancies with competent candidates.  15

Finally, the proponents of Senate reform — our colleague Senator Brown is one of the best-known advocates — have talked for a long time about a Triple-E Senate. What Bill S-8 proposes is one of those "Es": elected. Personally, I feel that what counts is the third "E": effective. That is the real "E."  15-1

I do not agree with giving up the "E" for effective for the sake of the "E" for elected. That is not what we are here for. We are not here to replace the House of Commons, but to complement it, to add effective second thought to the legislative process initiated in the other place. We are not here to replace the work of the members of Parliament, but to complete it.  15-2

Honourable senators, this much-sought-after effectiveness takes aim at the so-called legitimacy that being elected could provide us, because electing senators does not guarantee effectiveness. The only thing "E" for elected will get us is popularity. Popularity is what they have in the House of Commons. We are not the House of Commons. The Senate of Canada offers Canadians effective work.  15-3

This effectiveness results from our individual and collective expression of the independence that the current process allows us. Any honourable senator may act in good conscience in the interest of Canadians, independently of pressure exerted by the House of Commons and of his or her political affiliations. Any independence resulting from electing candidates to the Senate is certainly not going to make the Senate more effective.  15-4

Honourable senators, it is up to us to exercise this independence and use it carefully, sparingly, and in the interest of Canadians.  15-5

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!  16

Hon. Bert Brown: Will Senator Nolin take a question?  17

Senator Nolin: Yes.  18

Senator Brown: Does the honourable senator know why the Canadian media unanimously have called this place illegitimate for over 100 years?  19

Some Hon. Senators: No, no.  20

Senator Nolin: Senator Brown, we do not have much time so I will be brief.  21

First, I do not agree that all media and the entire population have said that. Recently, I saw numbers to indicate that the split is 50/50 between those who want an elected Senate and those who do not. The key question is not about legitimacy coming from an election. At the end of day, senators will be judged on their effectiveness, and not in terms of whether or not the media like the Senate. Effectiveness is the key word. Can senators be effective only when they are elected? I doubt it. Elected senators can be effective, but being elected should not be a prerequisite. Independence from the other place is the tool that provides efficiency and effectiveness to senators. What the media thinks, I do not really care.  21-1

Senator Brown: Honourable senators, I have a second question for Senator Nolin. Is the honourable senator saying that people in the House of Commons are not as good as the people who are appointed? I do not understand that line of thinking. Why would this chamber not be at least as well respected if we were elected, as the members of the House of Commons are? Currently, this chamber is divided into two parties and the respective party whips ensure that senators vote with the side that appointed them to this place.  22

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.  23

Senator Brown: I fail to see how that makes us independent. Most of the votes I have seen in this chamber during the last three years have been for one party or the other.  24

Senator Nolin: The honourable senator raises a good question. When former Prime Minister Mulroney phoned me to say that he was recommending me to the Governor General, I asked him about that issue. He said that I did not have to follow him and that he was recommending me for appointment to the Senate so that I could defend Canadians.  25

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!  26

Senator Nolin: May I have five more minutes?  27

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  28

Senator Nolin: The honourable senator raised the important question of whether elections in the other place ensure effectiveness. The other place is the house of the representatives of the population. That is how it was formed. It was created for that reason.  29

Honourable senators, look at British history. There was a civil war and a king lost his head because he decided to go against the will of the population. It is in the other house that confidence matters are raised, because the members in that house represent the population, which is the fundamental characteristic of their existence.  29-1

We are here to complement that work. You have heard the word "redundancy" when we talk about electronics, intellectual property and the use of computers. The same question is asked a different way, and if the result is the same, that is the answer — redundancy. We are here to ensure that the final legislative product is good for Canadians.  29-2

The members of the other house are popular because they must receive a mandate from their constituents. We do not have to be popular; we have to be effective and efficient.  29-3

Hon. Hugh Segal: I wish to ask a question of Senator Nolin.  30

Senator Nolin: With pleasure.  31

Senator Segal: Honourable senators, I am fascinated by Senator Nolin's citation of the original intent of the Fathers of Confederation. I want to get a sense from the honourable senator of how far that original intent should constrain our ability in this chamber to try to improve the legislative framework which, at the present time, has one third of our national legislators unelected, Senator Brown notwithstanding.  32

The very same Fathers of Confederation did not anticipate women sitting in this chamber. In fact, it took the Supreme Court and the Privy Council in Great Britain to make that happen. The Fathers of Confederation did not anticipate women having the right to vote, and that changed over time, thanks to Prime Minister Meighen. The Fathers of Confederation did not anticipate the vote being extended to our brothers and sisters in the First Nations, and that change was made.  32-1

We all relish Senator Nolin's ability to cite original sources and do remarkable research before he speaks in this place on a wide range of issues. Surely, one of the fundamental principles of the original British North America Act is our ability in this place to move in a democratic direction that would preserve the Prime Minister's constitutional authority to make recommendations to Her Excellency while allowing the population to express its view, but to do so in a way that protects provincial option.  32-2

Does the honourable senator think that the original intent of the Fathers of Confederation prevents us from trying to make that kind of progress as an open and democratic society?  32-3

Senator Nolin: Honourable senators, my answer will be brief. I am not saying that this is the last word or that it is the end of the world. I am only saying that it is there, and I do not think Bill S-8 adds to that.  33

The intent is sober second thought, as framed by Sir John A. Macdonald. I do not think being elected will add to the principle of sober second thought. Quite to the contrary, I think it would create havoc between this house and the other house because we would try to be more popular and more democratic.  33-1

That is not what the population in 1867 needed, and it is not what the population needs now. The population needs a second chamber that will add to the quality of the work of the first chamber by giving sober second thought to the work done by the first house, without concern for glamour, popularity or beauty contests. We have a job to do, and we are free and independent. We can do it without being pushed by the people in the other place. Let us use that. We are not using it. We must be independent; then we will be effective.  33-2

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.  34

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?  35

Hon. Senators: Question.  36

(On motion of Senator Joyal, debate adjourned.)  37

The space below serves to put any hyperlinked targets at the top of the window

Valid XHTML 1.0!     tux     mveMVE


Above space serves to put hyperlinked targets at the top of the window


Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin
The Hon. the Speaker
Senator Nolin
Senator Segal
Some Hon. Senators
Senator Nolin
Senator Angus
Senator Nolin
Senator Segal
Senator Nolin
Senator Segal
Senator Nolin
Some Hon. Senators
Hon. Bert Brown
Senator Nolin
Senator Brown
Some Hon. Senators
Senator Nolin
Senator Brown
Some Hon. Senators
Senator Brown
Senator Nolin
Some Hon. Senators
Senator Nolin
Hon. Senators
Senator Nolin
Hon. Hugh Segal
Senator Nolin
Senator Segal
Senator Nolin
Hon. Senators
The Hon. the Speaker
Hon. Senators