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From the Hansard, December 10.  1

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Senate Liberals), pursuant to notice of December 9, 2015, moved:  2

      That a Special Committee on Senate Modernization be appointed to consider methods to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework;  2-1

      That the committee be composed of fifteen members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, and that five members constitute a quorum;  2-2

      That the committee have the power to send for persons, papers and records; to examine witnesses; and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;  2-3

      That the committee be authorized to hire outside experts;  2-4

      That, notwithstanding rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the committee have the power to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week; and  2-5

      That the committee be empowered to report from time to time and to submit its final report no later than June 1, 2016.  2-6

He said: Colleagues, in the few days since we returned to this chamber, several of our debates have quickly turned into lively discussions about how we can and should operate as the Senate of Canada. Yesterday we had interesting debates about our Question Period and about the composition of our committees.  3

These are issues that are of serious concern to all of us, so it should come as no surprise that senators returned to them, even in debates on apparently unrelated issues. Indeed, in his first statement here on Tuesday, Senator Carignan raised the need to consider ways to modernize the Senate, and I echoed those remarks when I spoke.  3-1

That only makes sense. Each of us is acutely aware of the challenges faced by the Senate as an institution, and each of us as senators. The Senate in its current form is not working as it should and as it can. We know that. Canadians know that. The Senate was established, amongst other things, to be an independent body to conduct effective legislative review.  3-2

But along the way, while the words were always spoken, and no doubt with the best of intentions, too often we simply failed to do our job. We allowed our studies to be rushed, we declined to hear important witnesses and we refused to pass amendments that we knew would have improved the legislation before us. This has been attributed by some to excessive partisanship in the Senate. They argue that we allowed partisan considerations to overwhelm this chamber's ability to conduct our mandated effective legislative review.  3-3

Meanwhile all of this, especially when combined with the actions of certain individual senators, has corroded the reputation of the Senate.  3-4

Where do we go from here? How do we reinvent this institution and our role as senators to regain the confidence of Canadians?  3-5

There have been many discussions about changes to our rules, practices and procedures to make the Senate a more open, transparent and accountable organization, and these, of course, are essential. But as I said last June before we broke for the summer recess, simply tinkering with our rules is not enough. We have to improve the way we do our job. At the end of the day we will not be judged on how efficiently we manage our budget, but rather on how effectively we operate as a legislative body. In my opinion, the time has come to take a serious, structured look at how we operate and how we approach our work.  3-6

On May 8, 2014, our late colleague and former Speaker Senator Pierre Claude Nolin proposed the establishment of a special committee on Senate modernization:  3-7

      ... to consider methods to make the Senate more effective, more transparent and more responsible, within the current constitutional framework ...  3-8

I welcomed the initiative at the time, but quickly realized that my view was not universally shared. I believe—I hope—that there may now be a broader consensus, with senators throughout the chamber now agreeing with our former Speaker that a focused examination would be beneficial to all of us and to the Senate itself.  3-9

We have an opportunity, as I said in this chamber a few days ago, to make history, to participate in finding new ways for this chamber to operate. We all agree that the Senate was intended to be an independent chamber of Parliament. That intent is absolutely clear in the Confederation debates, and was confirmed in the two Supreme Court references on the Senate.  3-10

What does this mean and how can we make that work in our Westminster parliamentary system? There has been a lot of discussion about reducing partisanship, and how that could work in what is, without question, a political institution. I am hopeful we can work together to find a new balance that still allows senators to assert political values that may align with a political party, but without those partisan ties compelling one to take a position on a matter even when it runs counter to one's best judgment, that we can create new ways for our chamber to operate to foster this greater independence, to make our Senate a more effective legislative body, as envisioned by the framers of the Constitution, and as we know Canadians want and expect from us.  3-11

As I noted earlier, this is a matter that concerns all of us, and many of us have already begun examining what can be improved. There were many excellent interventions by colleagues in the seven inquiries launched by Senator Nolin. They were initiated to foster a better understanding of the Senate's work, the principles underpinning it and the scope of the roles it plays in our parliamentary democracy.  3-12

There was also a superb symposium at the University of Ottawa organized by Senator Joyal that brought together parliamentary authorities from across Canada to discuss improvements to the Senate. Most recently, Senators Greene and Massicotte took the initiative of convening senators to propose and discuss ideas to move the Senate forward. I know, from private conversations I have had with colleagues and with parliamentary experts around the country, that there are many other good ideas for Senate renewal.  3-13

I believe now is the time to bring together all these ideas for consideration by appointing a special committee charged with this purpose. This is not a task to be carried out behind closed doors. We should be looking to reinvent how the Senate works, to make it more responsive and to respond to the concerns and expectations of Canadians, all of which can be summed up by saying that our purpose is to make it a more effective legislative body in the Canadian constitutional framework.  3-14

The motion before us today is virtually identical to that proposed by our esteemed late colleague more than a year and a half ago.  3-15

The Supreme Court of Canada has provided an excellent roadmap for Senate renewal in their decision on the Senate reform reference, issued on April 25, 2014. The next steps are up to us.  3-16

We have an opportunity, colleagues, to work together across party and regional lines to create a better way forward for this institution. It is an opportunity, but it is also our responsibility. We owe it to our predecessors here, we owe it to our successors and, frankly, we owe it to ourselves. Above all, we owe it to Canadians.  3-17

I invite you to join with me to pass this motion before we rise for the holiday break.  3-18

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!  4

Hon. George Baker: I congratulate the mover of this motion.  5

However, during his address the mover referenced certain bills that we passed that were deficient and faulty in the last session. That is correct, but wouldn't the honourable senator moving the motion agree that it wasn't because of the Rules of the Senate or the actions of the Senate, but it was because of the rules of the House of Commons? Committee chairs here—and I reference Senator Runciman sitting in his place—moved motions and wrote letters to the Clerk of the House of Commons asking for the clerk's assistance, and to the leaders in the other place to correct their rules because we had bills which were supported by senators on the government side. They were introduced by the senators—good legislation. But if they were deficient, as they were, four of them, if we amended the bill, it would kill the legislation. Why? Because of the rules of the House of Commons. The decision was made, and I think it was correct, to allow these matters to go through in the hopes and with the guarantee that this would be corrected down the road. And that's what we did.  5-1

So the mistakes we made, yes, we made errors in passing legislation, but it was not the fault of the rules of this place or the actions of senators in this place. It was because of the rules of the House of Commons.  5-2

I therefore ask the mover of the motion: In moving this motion is he also hopeful that the committee will have a look at the rules of the House of Commons that are to the detriment of the passage of legislation in this chamber that are put forward by private members and require an amendment, and to ask the House of Commons to change their rules to allow the Senate to do the job that it wants to do?  5-3

Senator Cowan: Thank you for the question, Senator Baker. My own view is that we would be well advised to stick to our knitting and to look at our own rules, our own practices, our own procedures, and let the House of Commons handle theirs. It seems to me that there's a great danger if we start providing directions to the House of Commons as to what their rules ought to provide. It wouldn't be very long before they'd be back here telling us how we should do our business. I think that would be unfortunate.  6

We are an independent house. You've heard Minister LeBlanc on a number of occasions in the last month or so say that the Senate is independent, it ought to be independent, and it ought to manage its own affairs. They said they would welcome reasoned amendments proposed by this institution, and I think we should hold them to that and see how we get along. But I think there's a lot for us to do here without worrying what happens down the hall.  6-1

I think the particular point you refer to had to do with a peculiarity dealing with how the bill had been introduced over there. You will recall as well there were several occasions in the last Parliament where we identified problems, but because of the pressure to get business done with the anticipated election, we ignored them. In hindsight, I think most of us now would think we shouldn't have proceeded in that way.  6-2

I'm not suggesting for a moment that this was a practice that began only under the last government. You've been here a lot longer than I have, and I'm sure that you will admit perhaps when you were a member of the other place and a minister in the other place you were impatient to see the Senate pass legislation that came from your department. That is a fact with which we have to deal.  6-3

The House of Commons needs to understand that we are an independent institution and will do our work in the way that we see fit. The ultimate test is whether we are doing our job, as I think we all agree we need to do. When we fail to do that, as has happened, then all it seems to do is provide further ammunition to the critics of this place, and God knows we don't need more critics.  6-4

Senator Baker: I understand the argument of jurisdiction, of course. There are two separate jurisdictions. Senator Tannas knows exactly what I'm talking about. The whip of the official opposition knows exactly what I'm talking about because on two of the bills he supported, he was the mover. Senator Tannas was another mover of bills. These bills were passed in the House of Commons, referred to the Senate, but they were private members' bills. The rules of the House of Commons are that if you amend a private member's bill in the Senate, it will then go back to the House of Commons and go to the bottom of a very deep list of bills. It takes up to two years for that bill to recirculate. So Senator Tannas and Senator Plett and other senators on the then government side explained to us, "Look, there's a deficiency in that bill. The Senate has a job to amend that bill, but if it is amended, it will be dead.  7

The intent of the legislation is good. It amends the Criminal Code to support things we want to support. So the deficiency here in the Senate of allowing faulty bills to go through rests with a procedure in the House of Commons that deals with going to the bottom of the list once a bill is amended in this place that is introduced by a private member. That's what I'm referring to. I think this committee should take notice of that in its reports, because if we don't do that, and if the House of Commons does not change its rules, then every private member's bill that's passed in the House of Commons midway through a session cannot be amended in the Senate. They can't be amended unless that House of Commons rules are changed.  7-1

I'm sure that the honourable senator moving the motion would, as his father would say, take judicial notice of a deficiency in the rules of procedure in the House of Commons.  7-2

Senator Cowan: Taken.  8

Hon. Serge Joyal: First, I apologize to honourable senators. I have a bad flu today, so my voice might be very low. I am on medication and I promise I won't speak to Senator Andreychuk today.  9

Honourable senators, I will be very quick. I know that the hour is late, but I would be remiss if I didn't offer some food for thought at this period of the year, whereby tomorrow we're going to be adjourning and coming back on January 26.  9-1

I want to remind honourable senators that when the late Senator Nolin introduced the motion to establish the special committee, I seconded it. I want to read to you the words of Senator Nolin when he introduced that motion.  9-2

      The government also recognizes that the public clearly wants our institution to be much more effective, and we must all work to fulfill this legitimate aspiration. We must pursue this goal quickly and without delay. It may be status quo in terms of the Constitution, but the Senate's institutional transformation must move forward.  9-3

That's essentially the framework I understand from the Honourable Senator Cowan and, I think, from the Honourable Senator Carignan. I have not heard Senator Carignan on the floor, but I'm sure he will take part in this debate. That is essentially the objective. The objective is not to change the Constitution. The Constitution was interpreted by the Supreme Court in April 2014 in a lengthy, unanimous ruling. Therefore, we will not be on that committee to change the Constitution or to recommend changes to the Constitution. We know that's beyond our purview.  9-4

However, there is a lot of room for transformation. There is a lot of room for improvement and there is a lot of room for initiative to adapt the operation of the Senate, the practices of the Senate, the convention that rules the governing of the Senate and the Rules of the Senate that also govern our institution. In other words, there is a whole realm of initiatives that we could take after deep sober second thought.  9-5

It is in that context that last winter, at the end of January, I took the initiative, with the support of Senator Nolin, to organize a symposium at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa with five leading Canadian scholars. There was Professor Paul Thomas from the University of Manitoba, the home province of our colleague Senator Plett. There was Professor David Smith, who is a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University in Toronto and a former emeritus professor at the University of Saskatchewan. There was Professor Stéphane Beaulac from Montreal University. There was Professor Desserud from Prince Edward Island University and Professor Mendez from Ottawa University. In other words, there was input from the various regions of Canada.  9-6

Each of them came with documents. It was not just a social gathering to just peruse over the institution. They came with documents. We had that open discussion, I would say, in an academic context.  9-7

Following that free exchange, I prepared a report on their contribution. It's 26 pages, in both official languages, entitled, "Working Together: Improving Canada's Appointed Senate." I would seek authorization to table that report. During the Christmas break, senators who still have a genuine interest can read through it. It's user-friendly, not in a language that is so arcane that anyone would feel lost. It's in a practical language, and it contains the substantial proposal from those five learned scholars from all the regions of Canada. That's the first report I would like to table.  9-8

Meanwhile, you know I have had a personal interest since joining this chamber. I published a book in 2003, Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate You Never Knew. I published that book in 2003, and I have never stopped thinking about our institution.  9-9

When the ruling of the Supreme Court was made public on April 25, 2014, more than a year ago, I contacted Professor David Smith and said, "Should we put our minds together to try to analyze the implications of that ruling?" In other words, forget the difficult judicial language used by the court. Let's try to understand the parameters of the ruling so that we can share that with senators who are interested in understanding our institution.  9-10

That's what I did last summer, and I have another report, in both official languages, signed by Professor David Smith and me. It is a compendium of all the principles that underlie that decision. It's easy reading. I offer it to you and want to share it with you, honourable senators. We don't know who will be a member of that committee, but it is available for anyone who is deeply interested in the future of this institution. We know that our institution is under stress at this point in time. I want to share that with you at this time of the year. It's not my Christmas gift—you will receive that through the mail—but I think it could be helpful for all of you. With your authorization, I would like to table that.  9-11

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted to table the reports?  10

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  11

Senator Joyal: I will conclude on that, honourable senators, before I collapse because I took so much medicine so that I could last until the late hour today. I don't think I can say it any better than what I just offered to you.  12

Hon. Diane Bellemare: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be rather brief, because I have not prepared a formal speech. I would first like to take a moment to congratulate our colleague, the Honourable Serge Joyal, on the hard work, expertise and thoughtful reflection that he has put into addressing the issue of the Senate over the years. I think this will provide us with some very timely reading over the winter break.  13

I want to address certain aspects of the motion currently before us. I think it is welcome. For several weeks and even months now, the members of this chamber have been asking for a duly formed committee to examine the question of modernizing the Senate. However, when I read this motion, a few things came to mind.  13-1

First of all, regarding modernization, I think that everyone wants it, the public wants it, and maintaining the status quo is impossible. We can talk about modernization, but we must recognize that we have in fact made some changes since the headline-grabbing scandal that affected us, for instance in the area of ethics. We have made some strides.  13-2

This brings me to the point that the motion refers to modernization, but it fails to define the committee's mandate. On this point I very much agree with Senator Baker, who just pointed out that our work here complements the work done in the House of Commons and that, to a certain degree, it would be very hard to modernize the Senate without also thinking about modernizing the work of the House of Commons. Since we work together and our legislative work is very important, we eventually are going to have to align our rules and procedures so that we can really create some added value from a legislative standpoint.  13-3

With that in mind, without necessarily formally amending the motion, we should all agree in this chamber that if, when we are talking about modernizing the Senate, we see the limits of what we can do and we can identify changes that are needed in the House of Commons, we should not refrain from doing so, even though that goes beyond our mandate.  13-4

Incidentally, when we look at the numbers on the work we do here in the Senate—my assistant crunched the numbers this summer—it is rather astounding. Since 1960—which was the Twenty-fourth Parliament—and including the Forty-first Parliament, 709 bills have been introduced during each parliament, on average. Of course, not all of these bills were passed in the House of Commons. Of the 709 bills we received, we passed, on average, 145. Of those 145 bills we passed, we amended just six, on average. The average accurately reflects what happens in the different parliaments. There are some variations. For example, during the Forty-first Parliament, just one bill was officially amended and passed, but during the Thirty-seventh Parliament, 12 bills were amended and passed. There are variations, but on average, the number is six.  13-5

We could be more effective. In that sense, modernizing the Senate means adding greater value through our work. I think that would be a worthwhile direction to take, even though it is not written in the motion.  13-6

I am on board with inviting experts. I think that this is explicitly stated in the motion, but there are experts here in this chamber, and we must not forget that a number of problems in this chamber, in my opinion, are the result of internal rules and procedures. When I came to this chamber three years ago, I didn't really understand what was going on. I had spent 25 years at a university, where we managed ourselves, everything was collegial, and it was in no way chaotic. Since we are senators, people with experience, I thought that we would be recognized as having that experience and that we would be able to work relatively independently, although I realized we are affiliated with a political party. However, I was surprised to see that we are treated as though we are kids in school because of the rules. I was a professor for 25 years and I know the rules. I didn't treat my students as strictly as we are treated here with our rules.  13-7

In a way, with the passing of time, some processes have become institutionalized in order to foster party discipline. In fact, we are a political chamber and we must pass government legislation. However, is it necessary to institutionalize practices that force us to act without the luxury of reflection? In my opinion, that is the reason why we are unable to provide the added value that is expected of us, which is to improve legislation and foster debate.  13-8

If someone were to ask me what has struck me the most in my three years in the Senate, I would say that it is the fact that there is no debate in this chamber. There is some debate, but most of the time people don't listen to each other. They plug their ears, close their eyes or look elsewhere. They don't look at each other, so the debate doesn't exist. There is no added value.  13-9

I think those are very important elements to consider. In that regard, the services of experts are worthwhile, but we have to think about these things ourselves to set rules and an operating structure for ourselves. We don't want chaos. We want to operate in a disciplined manner.  13-10

That is why I am going to support Senator Cowan's proposal. However, I am going to say what others might be thinking. I am wondering whether we need to form another committee. Haven't we reached a point where we could discuss how to modernize the Senate in the chamber? Senator Greene and Senator Massicotte organized a meeting of senators and it went extremely well. The people who participated put a lot into it. They filled out a questionnaire, and there was a great deal of discussion.  13-11

We need to organize how we look at this issue, and I hope that the 15-person committee will come up with some fresh ideas. On that note, I would like to ask Senator Cowan if he would agree to meet half way between an ongoing debate in this chamber and a discussion in a specific committee. I would ask him if he would agree to add a short paragraph to his motion that would require the committee members to systematically report back to the chamber on their debates and deliberations.  13-12

You say, "that the committee be empowered to report from time to time." I would like regular reporting. I would like there to be a monthly report in this chamber because let's not forget, honourable senators, that we will have new recruits in this chamber who will be rather lost. My concern is that if there are 15 of us discussing this, when we report everything back here, objections will be raised and in the end all the fine proposals we make will fall by the wayside.  13-13

Thus, to help all our senators grasp what we are discussing and take ownership of the changes and proposals that are made, I would propose a monthly report.  13-14

I therefore propose that, notwithstanding usual practices, in the first five days when the Senate sits each month, the committee report to the Senate on the committee's progress on its study.  13-15

For the committee to report regularly, the first five days are important. I ask if you would agree to introduce that. If so, I will not move a motion. If not, I will move an amendment. Thank you, honourable senators.  13-16

The Hon. the Speaker: With the agreement of the house, Senator Cowan, if he wishes, can respond to Senator Bellemare without closing debate. Is it agreed?  14

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  15

Senator Cowan: The rules talk about questions or comments, so maybe I can ask a question or make a comment and put it all together, with leave.  16

Senator Bellemare was kind enough to take me aside and mention the latter two points to me. The first part I didn't hear. Certainly, in the motion itself, I suggested that the committee be empowered to report from time to time, and I would certainly hope that they would not wait to complete the whole of their work before reporting back to us, but rather, as they came forward with a suggestion they wanted us to try, they would come and report on that in a series of interim reports. If we want to clarify that, as you suggest, I have no objection to that.  16-1

I might make another point by way of comment as this was a point that Senator Bellemare mentioned to me outside. She said, and alluded to it in her remarks, "Why don't we just do it all here instead of having a special committee?" My response to her, which I would like to put on the record, is that in my experience, when you have an important task and you make it the responsibility of everybody, it becomes the responsibility of nobody. I think this is such an important thing that I do believe we need to give this job to a select group who will be acting on our behalf and who will focus on this task, reporting, as you suggest, Senator Bellemare, on a regular basis to us by way of interim reports. If we give these people this particular responsibility, of course, any senator will be able to attend these committee meetings. They're not to be held in private. If the motion passes, I would suggest they be public. I think many senators, even those who will not be on the committee, will attend and provide the expertise that you speak about. That's my intention, and I readily agree to the suggested amendment.  16-2

(On motion of Senator Martin, for Senator Carignan, debate adjourned.)  17

* * *

From the Hansard, Friday, Dec. 11  18

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cowan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser:  19

      That a Special Committee on Senate Modernization be appointed to consider methods to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework;  19-1

      That the committee be composed of fifteen members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, and that five members constitute a quorum;  19-2

      That the committee have the power to send for persons, papers and records; to examine witnesses; and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;  19-3

      That the committee be authorized to hire outside experts;  19-4

      That, notwithstanding rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the committee have the power to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week; and  19-5

      That the committee be empowered to report from time to time and to submit its final report no later than June 1, 2016.  19-6

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I am pleased to speak today about the motion to create a Special Committee on Senate Modernization. The motion was moved yesterday by my colleague, the Honourable Senator Cowan.  20

I would like to comment on the two main elements of this motion: first, the modernization framework; and second, the pursuit of a more effective Senate.  20-1

I would like to begin by emphasizing that we agree on the need to modernize the Senate within the existing constitutional framework.  20-2

We know that, pursuant to the Constitution Act of 1982, substantial changes in the Senate would require the agreement of seven provinces, representing 50 per cent of the population of Canada.  20-3

However, important changes to the Senate can be made without resorting to constitutional amendments.  20-4

Let me quote John B. Stewart, who said that "the House is master of its own proceedings. ... what the House does while in session, and how it does ... are matters to be decided by the House itself."  20-5

In other words, honourable senators, the special committee would be an outgrowth of the Senate's power to change its own rules and conventions to reflect our modern era and enable us to adapt to it. This would not require any legislative measures, just the agreement of the Senate.  20-6

To make the Senate more effective, this special committee should consider ways to make the Senate transparent and cost- effective.  20-7

How can transparency be addressed in the 21st century?  20-8

Technological developments are proliferating, and we must find new ways to enhance our institution's presence in the digital era. We need to think about how digital technology can help us innovate.  20-9

We also have to come up with new ways to let people know about the excellent work done by senators, who are often forgotten.  20-10

I would also like to point out that, after what happened this morning, thanks to social media, CBC reported this on its website:  20-11

      Liberals' 1st money bill sent to Senate missing essential information.  20-12

In her introduction, the reporter wrote:  20-13

      For Canadians who think of the Senate as a sleepy old place where nothing gets done, today might change their minds.  20-14

      This morning, an eagle-eyed senator discovered that the House of Commons passed a key money bill yesterday that was deeply flawed.  20-15

Bravo, eagle eyes. That's good.  20-16

New technologies should be used to ensure that Canadians understand more clearly the important role the Senate plays in Parliament and in the country. Voices from the various regions of Canada must continue to be heard in the legislative process, as the Senate has always represented concerns and issues from minority groups and the far-flung regions of Canada.  20-17

Having ministers come to the Senate for Question Period to answer our questions, as set out in the motion that I moved and the Senate adopted this week, will enable senators to get more up- to-date information.  20-18

Should we incorporate this new procedure into the Rules? Should we, as Senator Joyal suggested, invite officers of Parliament to come answer our questions, particularly when they present important reports on government activities?  20-19

We should again reflect on the best way to improve transparency, which will contribute to boosting public confidence in the Senate and raising the profile of the important work done by senators.  20-20

Cost-effectiveness is also essential to sustain public confidence in our Parliament. This special committee must do its work through the lens of cost-effectiveness and the responsible use of taxpayers' money. An effective Senate must be an institution that handles money in a prudent manner.  20-21

I want to thank Senator Cowan for moving this motion to modernize the Senate. I also want to acknowledge the work of our previous speakers, Senator Nolin and Senator Housakos, who undertook the challenge of reforming the Senate.  20-22

Let's live up to the legacy we've inherited from them.  20-23

Let me conclude by quoting John B. Stewart, when he said:  20-24

      ... a body's procedures—how it works—are means; no matter how old and hallowed, they need reviewing and evaluation from time to time to ascertain that they are fostering, not deterring, the performance of the body's function."  20-25

In other words, procedures must sometimes be reviewed and evaluated in order to strengthen the performance of the institution they serve.  20-26

Honourable senators, I would like all of us to support this motion so that we can transform the Senate into a modern, effective 21st century institution that will restore Canadians' confidence in this legislative body.  20-27

Hon. John D. Wallace: Will Senator Carignan accept a question?  28

Senator Carignan: Yes.  29

Senator Wallace: Thank you for your comments, Senator Carignan. As with you, I want to congratulate Senators Massicotte and Greene for the initiative they took to bring forward these ideas, which we'll see more of in the near future, about modernization. But there is one particular aspect of Senator Cowan's motion that you support that is of particular interest to me: that the special committee would consist of 15 members.  30

As you may recall—you weren't in the chamber; maybe you wouldn't recall—I brought a motion earlier this week dealing with the representation of all members of this chamber on committees and, in particular, independent members.  30-1

This is a 15-member committee, and I am concerned about what representation will be provided to independents to serve on that committee. The majority control in this chamber, of course, resides with the Conservatives members and, as a result, you're able to have considerable influence, if not total influence, over who is able to sit on committees and chair committees and so on. That's a reality.  30-2

It's sort of ironic the way this happened, but I presented my motion on Wednesday dealing with the motion to consider how members of this chamber would be represented on committees, and not an hour before I made that motion the Committee of Selection presented its list of suggested appointees to the various committees.  30-3

"Interesting" probably don't describe it, but I was interested and then some to see that, of independents—the most recent independents—other than Senator McCoy and Senator Cools, none were represented on any committees, including me.  30-4

Again, I realize that the control over these issues, where all of that resides, is a major concern.  30-5

In my own situation, I had sent a letter to all the members of the Selection Committee this Monday indicating my preference. I realize that, just because you have your preference, doesn't mean you necessarily are accepted, but I indicated my preference to be a member of the Legal Committee and the Energy Committee. Perhaps my qualifications and professional background didn't match up to what was needed.  30-6

In any event, what was pretty clear from all of that is that the most recent independents, if I can call them that, were not given representation on any committee.  30-7

Having said that, I think the warning signs are out there to be concerned about how the independents are going to be represented on this special committee.  30-8

Maybe I will just, very quickly, give you these facts. I think they're quite relevant to what I'm talking about. At present, there are 45 Conservative senators in this chamber—not present today, but there are 45—29 Liberals and 9 independents. By June 30 of this year, when you consider additional retirements that will occur and the new appointments for the 22 vacancies that exist, it will then be 44 Conservatives, 27 Liberals, and 34 independents. Potentially that could happen. So the number of independents would exceed even the number of Liberals. When you extend that out and look to a little bit over a year down the road, 2017, potentially the number of independents in this chamber will exceed even the number of Conservatives. The number of independents could well represent the majority in this chamber.  30-9

So my question for you, Senator Carignan, is: faced with those realities, what would your thoughts be as to how the independents should be represented on this special committee that Senator Cowan has proposed?  30-10

Senator Carignan: I would like to thank the senator for his question. Perhaps we should remember that senators don't get their first choice just because they belong to a parliamentary group. I remember very well that when you were part of our group, you didn't necessarily get placed where you wanted. That is the case in this situation.  31

Senators make their wishes known, but obviously there are only a certain number of spots on each committee. If we chose committee members based exclusively on senators' wishes, then we would have too many people on some committees and not enough people or none at all on others. Establishing and creating committees requires a certain amount of coordination.  31-1

With regard to the Selection Committee, you saw the motion that gives the Selection Committee the mandate to nominate 15 people. I could see independent senators sitting on the special committee, particularly independent senators who have been in that position for many years and who have had the opportunity to actually experience being independent. They know some of the obstacles that go along with that, and they have had experiences that will allow them to identify areas for improvement.  31-2

I realize that you have been through a difficult situation, but I am certain that the independent senators have experienced many difficulties.  31-3

I must nevertheless point out that, unlike the other place, the Senate attributes much more importance to the role of independent senators in committees and in this chamber. In the other place, as we saw from the newspaper headlines, 10 Bloc Québécois members were elected. They are considered to be independents, like the elected members of the Green Party, and they don't have the right to sit on a committee. Those are their rules. Things are different here.  31-4

With regard to the procedural details of the Selection Committee insofar as they pertain to what was adopted here this week, I would remind you that there is a formality—which, in my opinion, the special committee on Senate modernization should examine—whereby an individual who is a member of a parliamentary group and is appointed to a committee can be replaced by decision of the group's leadership.  31-5

However, if an independent senator is appointed, the decision is irrevocable, and that person cannot be replaced and cannot switch to another committee.  31-6

This can result in certain inconsistencies in the management and composition of the committees, hence the decision and the practice to have the Selection Committee fill the positions and then to assign independent senators to the committees through substitution rather than appointment in due form from the outset in the motion to create committees.  31-7

That is one technical aspect that definitely needs to be modernized, and perhaps our modernization committee could examine that. As I said, I hope that some independent senators will be on that committee, especially those with a great deal of experience.  31-8

Senator Wallace: Would Senator Carignan accept one further brief question?  32

Senator Carignan: Yes.  33

Senator Wallace: Thank you. I was interested in everything you had to say, but one comment in particular caught my attention. You seem to differentiate between independent senators—and I would take from that you mean Senators McCoy and Cools, who have been here for some time—and distinguish them on some basis from others, which would include me—those who have been of a more recent vintage.  34

That's an interesting proposition, because there are 22 vacancies to be filled; there will be 22 new senators to enter this chamber. I would hope you're not suggesting that we're going to have at least three different categories of senators, and somehow all of that gets factored into it.  34-1

I wonder if you have any further comments on that.  34-2

Senator Carignan: In my view, all senators are senators. Some are affiliated with caucuses governed by rules that have existed, in some cases, since this Parliament was created. The purpose of this motion is to create a special committee whose membership would be determined by the selection committee. What I would hope for, as a senator, is that there would be a certain number of members who, I hope, would sit on this special committee to modernize the Senate rules.  35

Furthermore, I think it is worth pointing out the importance of the enormous contribution that could be made by some of our senators with the most seniority, particularly Senator McCoy and Senator Cools, who have been affected by this independence, which is not without its irritants. Their rich experience within the Senate could certainly help us improve the conditions and the rules governing independent senators.  35-1

Hon. Paul J. Massicotte: Honourable senators, first of all, I would like to congratulate our Speaker on his appointment. I truly believe that you are exactly the right person for the job, Mr. Speaker.  36

Before I address Senator Cowan's motion to create a special committee in pursuance of our continued necessary efforts for the modernization of the Senate, I would like to speak to you about our three-day meeting, the working sessions on Senate modernization, that took place in late October and that were led and organized by Senator Greene and me, assisted by Senator Tannas and Senator Campbell.  36-1

Thirty-eight senators accepted our invitation to take part in these sessions. Conservative, independent, and independent Liberal senators all shared a desire to improve the operation and the practices of this legislative body. All senators were invited to participate about four months before the event.  36-2

The purpose of our working sessions was to share different ideas and approaches to make the Senate more effective in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities and in better fulfilling the reasonable expectations of Canadians.  36-3

To prepare for these meetings, in early August we gave all senators a detailed 12-page questionnaire on the modernization of the Senate, which basically guided our discussions. The answers to these questions helped us identify 10 common threads for which non-constitutional changes could potentially be made, with the consent of a strong majority of participants.  36-4

Over the course of the three-day meeting, the participants thoroughly debated 10 topics focused on democracy and the operation of the Senate.  36-5

These discussions led to 11 recommendations supported by a strong majority of the sessions' participants. Those recommendations were then presented to our respective leadership and caucuses. I should add that the independent Senate Liberal caucus largely supported these recommendations by consensus. I understand the Conservative caucus recently met to also discuss these recommendations. I look forward to hearing about their results and their commitment to a better Senate.  36-6

Having said such, in spite of possible minority opposition, I urge our Senate leaders to seriously undertake the necessary steps to formally have the Senate approve and implement most, if not all, of those recommendations. There is no reason to further delay or to subject these recommendations to further committee study. No excuses, please. For far too long we have remained inactive and we have let down ourselves, our government and, foremost, Canadians when faced with difficult and pressing issues. Our inability to address these concerns has greatly compromised the reputation and legitimacy of this chamber.  36-7

I do recognize that it may be quite possible to take the modernization of the Senate beyond the recommendations issued from our working sessions, and indeed we will have to do so in order to improve our efficiency. It makes sense to delve into certain important issues, such as holding free votes on all bills for all senators, preventing senators from participating in their national caucuses, and addressing other structural issues that we did not discuss or on which we failed to reach the necessary consensus during our working sessions.  36-8

There is much work to be done, and we must act now. Time is of the essence. We cannot allow provisions of the Rules or supposed obstacles to delay or impede our progress. With a majority vote in this place, nothing like that can stand in our way.  36-9

We senators who have worked in this chamber and who have seen its worst and best have the ability and are most capable of developing and implementing the necessary measures to improve its operations and procedures. We must remain vigilant and tireless in order to achieve meaningful results toward a better Senate.  36-10

We realize that change is never simple or easy. There is a strong desire to maintain the status quo, which we must overcome, and we need to examine and debate a number of opinions, options and nuances.  36-11

With that perspective, I support and I encourage you to support the motion moved by Senator Cowan to strike a special committee on Senate modernization in order to study unresolved points of discussion and what is needed for modernization. This initiative should be a priority and the committee should receive the necessary cooperation to accomplish its mandate.  36-12

In closing, now that all senators and Senate caucuses have received and been fully briefed on the working sessions and their results, and now that the sessions have been mentioned on numerous occasions in the Senate chamber, allow me, with the Senate's permission, to deposit the document of the working sessions in this chamber. It respects the Chatham House Rule of discussion as undertaken with the participants.  36-13

This report on the working sessions contains the questionnaire that was used to determine opinions and issues in advance of the sessions, an analysis in chart form of the answers to the questionnaire, a list of the 10 issues that deserved detailed discussion and debate, and finally a list of consensus resolutions that came out of the sessions as recommendations for all senators, leaders and caucuses.  36-14

As you are aware, all senators have had this information for some time; I note without any leaks to the media.  36-15

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Massicotte, did you wish leave to table the document?  37

Senator Massicotte: Yes.  38

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted?  39

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  40

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, is it your pleasure that the sitting now be suspended during pleasure to await the arrival of His Excellency the Governor General?  41

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  42

(The Senate adjourned during pleasure.)  43

* * *

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Cowan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Fraser:  44

      That a Special Committee on Senate Modernization be appointed to consider methods to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework;  44-1

      That the committee be composed of fifteen members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, and that five members constitute a quorum;  44-2

      That the committee have the power to send for persons, papers and records; to examine witnesses; and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;  44-3

      That the committee be authorized to hire outside experts;  44-4

      That, notwithstanding rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the committee have the power to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week; and  44-5

      That the committee be empowered to report from time to time and to submit its final report no later than June 1, 2016.  44-6

Hon. Stephen Greene: Honourable senators, I wish to express my congratulations to our new Speaker and also to the excellent work that Senator Housakos performed while he was here. His work here defined, in my view, short but sweet, and I appreciate his work very much.  45

I also thank Senator Massicotte for his speech in support of Senator Cowan's motion. I want to begin by saying that with regard to organizing an event like the working sessions, Senator Massicotte makes the ideal dance partner. He is a person of impeccable integrity, and he's always open to new ideas.  45-1

I want to also express my thanks to Senator Tannas and Senator Campbell.  45-2

My initial comment in response to Senator Massicotte is to praise the motion put forward by Senator Cowan, which is similar if not identical to the motion proposed by Senator Nolin. As good and welcome as the motion is, I have three pieces of advice.  45-3

My first advice about the motion is that it projects a report by June 1. I would like to see a report well in advance of that date and urge a report, if the committee can manage it, by April 1 at the latest. The problem with the June 1 date is that it lands in a typically busy month and only a few weeks before we adjourn. There probably won't be time to have much debate, much less any implementation. April, on the other hand, is not such a busy month. There is no clock that is ticking, and there would be time to debate and implement a few things. If the working sessions could do all it did in three days, then I think that we can proceed a little bit quicker on our committee.  45-4

My second bit of advice is that I hope the committee will be made up of at least one fully independent senator appointment, and I wish to thank Senator Carignan for his remarks in this regard.  45-5

My third advice is that the committee take into account the views of all senators in writing its report. Whether this is done via questionnaire, individual meetings, group meetings or all of these is not for me to say at this time, but it shouldn't be just the collected wisdom of the committee members. In other words, we shouldn't treat this as just a normal committee in which we rely on the opinions of outside experts. Senators, the people in this room, are the experts. To achieve buy-in, all of us must participate.  45-6

I was glad to hear from Senator Massicotte on the endorsement of the independent Liberal caucus for the working session. The Conservative caucus has spent one meeting so far devoted to discussion of the ideas developed by the working sessions. This caucus meeting served to separate where there was agreement from what required more discussion. We will have another caucus meeting planned for when we return in January, when we will continue with these discussions.  45-7

I am confident that much of what the working sessions have produced will inform the subject matter of the proposed committee. I am also encouraged by several of the initiatives begun in the Senate this week that would see implementation of reforms agreed to already by the working sessions.  45-8

In closing, I ask the powers that be to take note of my advice and I urge the swift passage of Senator Cowan's motion.  45-9

Merry Christmas and God bless.  45-10

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?  46

Hon. Senators: Question.  47

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?  48

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  49

(Motion agreed to.)  50

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