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The The Hon. and Rev. Stanley Howard Knowles PC OC (1908–1997) was by all accounts a highly respected politician. A staunch advocate of social justice, he was a founding member of the New Democratic Party, born from a merger of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and as a parliamentarian said to be largely responsible for persuading government to increase Old Age Security benefits and introduce the Canada Pension Plan. He was a frugal man, known for his refusal to partake in many of the financial perks and entitlements available to a Member of Parliament. Throughout his career in politics, when in Ottawa he boarded with a family rather than purchasing a residence of his own.  2

Knowles was an outspoken advocate of abolishing the Senate. The Parliamentary library has a booklet under the title The abolishing of the Senate, 1964, that contains two essays on the subject, published by the Toronto Daily Star. Reproduced below is his introduction of a Private Member's Bill, "Measure to abolish the Senate," on October 17, 1974, which goes to show that showing he has been steadfast in his belief.  2B

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre) moved that Bill C-205, to amend the British North America Act 1867, (abolition of the Senate), be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.  3

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to my colleague, the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville (Mr. Nystrom), for seconding my motion for the second reading of this bill, but I had hoped the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Whelan) would do that. After all, there are few members in this House who feel as strongly as he and I do that the Senate should be abolished. At any rate, I amglad to see that the minister has returned to the House even though he is sitting in the back row.  4

A few days ago I had a conversation with a senator who is a friend of mine. Believe it or not, there are some senators who are my friends because they know that my opposition to the Senate is to it as an institution and does not involve any feelings against any of Their Honours who are over there at the present time. At any rate, I asked this senator who is a friend of mine whether he would prefer to be reformed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) or abolished by me. His answer was immediate. He said he would rather be abolished by me.  5

As we discussed the matter it became clear that one of the reasons he made that choice that he feels, as I believe other senators do, that one of the most insulting suggestions that has ever been made to Their Honors in the other place is the proposal of the Prime Minister for Senate reform alomg the lines of seven-year appointments subject to reappointment. One might ask what would happen to a senator appointed when the Conservatives were in power, if that ver happens again, whose seven-year term would expire when the Liberals were in power. Would th Liberal prime minister say to a Conservative that he has been a good boy and therefore he would be reappointed, or would he pass him by?  6

For that matter, what would happen to the fortunes of a senator belonging to the party of the prime minister if that same prime minister had some cabinet member he wished to get rid of, or if there should be too many members waiting in the wings? What chance would there be for a firm appraisal of the job done inthe other place by those who are there under this seven-year "you are in and then maybe you are out" proposal of the Prime Minister? I suggest that my argument for the outright abolition of the other place is much kinder than what is being proposed by the Prime Minister.  7

This is not the first time I have moved the second reading of this bill. It has seldom reached a vote, although on occasion it did. Even though one has not had success in persuading this House to support the abolition of the Senate, I think it is a point which should be considered very seriously. Mu basic reason, as I have already said, has nothing to do with the persons who are there, or who have been there in the past or who may be there in the future if the place continues.  8

My basic reason for being against the Senate is that I believe in democracy. To be even more precise, I believe in parliamentary democracy. I believe it is proper for the laws of the country to be made by persons elected by the people of Canada. That is what we are in this House. We are 264 individuals elected by the people of Canada. We can make mistakes, but if we make mistakes we must go back to the people during the next election and answer for our mistakes. We are responsible back to the people who sent us here.  9

The same situation does not exist in respect to the other place. Each one of them isappointed by the prime minister of the day. The actual constitutional arrangement is that the Governor General summons individuals to the Senate, but the Governor General acts on the advice of the prime minister and on the advice of no one else. Therefore, when a person goes to the other place he has not been elected by the people. He is not responsible to any group of people. He is not even responsible to the prime minister who appointed him.  10

If a senator should be appointed now, he continues until age 75. If he was appointed before the law was changed, he is there as long as he lives. I do not know how anyone can justify that arrangement in the 1970s as being consistent with the principle of democracy and with the phlosophy under which the laws of the country are made with the consent of the governed by persons who are responsible to those who sent them here.  11

I do not feel this is the time to reform the other place. It is not a time to change its rules, to change the method of appointment or to change the amount of work allotted to it. It is a time to face the fact that we are not in 1867 or in the century when the House of Lords seemed to be all right and we copied it. We are in the latter part of the twentieth century and getting close to the twenty-first century. Surely democracy has grown up and it is time for the country to be governed by the people through their elected representatives, and that means that nothing we do should be subject to veto by the other place.  12

I recognize that it is not very often the other place does veto anything done in this House of Commons. Many years ago Their Honours vetoed the first old-age pension bill. That alone struck me as strange, that at a time when they were on pension for life they thought that $20 a month in the form of a pension for ordinary Canadians was something which should not be accepted. There have been half a dozen cases since then on minor points when the Senate has vetoed something done in the House. There was one case during the last parliament when the Senate amended a bill sent over to it. It is true that once we rejected their amendment, they did not insist on it. The fact is, however. that they have the power. The fact they do not use it only makes the existence of the place ridiculous.  13

I know that a great deal of work is done in the committees over there. It is done by a limitednumber. Perhaps 25 or 30 of those in the other place are working senators. I pay tribute to them. I am one of those who spend a good deal of time around this building. I am here many times on weekendswhen there are not many members around, but I see some of those working senators here and I know that they apply themselves conscientiously to the jobs that are given to them. They have produced some good reports on land use, on aging, on poverty, and so on. They have participated with members of ths House in joint committees that have produced good reports. But the desirability of having 15, 20,or 30 individuals working on surveys or reports is no justification for keeping 102 individuals, not only on a rather expensive payroll but in a position where they have the right to veto over what is done in this House of Commons.  14

This is a basic philosophical approach that I take to the whole matter. I think there is just no place for a non-elected body in a democratic parliament in the latter part of the twentieth century. Some persons who are going along with me to that extent will say that perhaps the answer to that is to have an elected body as a second chamber. I have seen nothing to that effect in any of the suggestions that the Prime Miniser Mr. Trudeau) has made, but I want to register my objection to that idea. I think we have enough stresses and strains in Canada already, when you consider the pulls there are between the federal and provincial governments and the stresses that exist between the federal executive and federal parliament. If we added to that a second chamber that had moral athority, we would just slow down the process of government in this country almost to a standstill. I do not think that is the directio in which to proceed.  15

It is sometimes argued that we should not do away with the other place because it is a bulwark and a defence of the right of minorities. That is the myth. In fact, no one stated that more forcefully than my friend, Senator Forsey, in a paper he wrote on the Senate some years ago. He said that in fact it was the most undemocratic institution in the world. On te question of the minority rights he said that that was a myth. Minority rights are protected by the courts, by the House of Commons, and by the representation of the various provinces here in this House.  16

The other place is one of those institutions that we have had around and many people accept it because they cherish the thought that they might get there some day. To me that would be a fate worse than death. But just because we have had it all this time is no reason it should continue. I think what this House ought to do is to pass this bill, send it to the appropriate committee and let us study seriously the whole question of abolishing what we now call the other place or the upper house.  17

Some indviduals may ask: have we the right to do it? The Senate is provided for in the BNAAct. We have amended the provisions respecting the Senate by bills that have been put through both houses of parliament. We amended it with respect to the age at which senators must retire, and if the Prime Minister is planning reform of the Senate , he will have to do it by a bill. I know, of course, that a bill could be passed by this House and that if Their Honours did not pass it, it would not become law. However, if this House does that a couple of times and the Senate overrode the wish of the elected people, it would not be long before they would see the light.  18

Upper chambers have been abolished by a number of provinces. In my province of Manitoba it was abolished way back i te 1870s.Nova Scotia abolished its upper house, and Quebec did so not long ago. Other countries have done it as well. I think that the sensible, realistic thing to do i for us to get rid of a chamber which really is completely outside the democratic process. I repeat my expressions of respect for many of the individuals over there, for the work they do and for their consciensciousness. That is not the issue. The issue is whether there is a place in an elected parliamentary democracy for 102 individuals enjoying all the rights, privileges and authorities accorded to them, without any responsibility back to anyone at all.  19

So, despite the number of times my motions and my bills for the abolition of the Senate have been unsuccessful, I hope that this time, now that the issue of Senate reform has been raised by the Prime Minister himself, the House will agree to give this bill second eading and let it go to the appropriate standing committee for thorough consideration.  20

Mr.Francis Fox (Argeteuil–Deux-Montagnes): Mr. Speaker, I have listened most attentatively to the argument put forward by the hon. memer for Winnipeg North Center (Mr. Knowles) concerning this matter which was brought on many occasions to the attention of the House by the hon. member who certainly pleaded his case with considerable eloquence. This being said, Mr. Speaker, I am sometimes under the impression that the only way the hon. member could have his dream—which may have reached the stage of a darling dream—come true would be for him to accept at any one time or another an appointment to the Senate, in order to better convince his colleagues of the necessirty to put an end to their own institution.  21

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre): Never!  22

The debate continues without adding anything new of interest at the present.  23

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