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The Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization met this day at 12:02 p.m. for the consideration of a draft report on methods to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework.  1

Senator Stephen Greene (Chair) in the chair.  2

The Chair: I would like to welcome you all to the first meeting of the Modernization Committee [sic]. We have a few new members, so I would like to start by reading the mandate of our committee just so that it's well understood by the older folks around the table such as me and the newer members such as Senator Maltais.  3

The mandate is as follows:  3-1

That a special committee on Senate Modernization be appointed to consider methods to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework;  3-2

That the committee be composed of fifteen members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, and that five members constitute a quorum;  3-3

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;  3-4

That the committee be authorized to hire outside experts;  3-5

My Senate essay gives some thought to the appointing of senators pro temp, people not included in the constitutionally prescribed 105, but who would work as immediate colleagues within the Senate. In fact, they may well be a source for future Senate appointments as seats fall vacant. From their professional circles they would have on tap even finer-grained expertise like general practitioners in the medical field mat refer patients to specialists.  n3-5

That notwithstanding Rule 12-18, 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  3-6

That the committee be empowered to report from time to time and to submit its report no later than June 1, 2016.  3-7

We've exceeded that now and we've made some adjustments.  3-8

The committee has submitted two reports at this point. The main report on October 2016, which is over a year ago, and that some of the individual reports which are still in the chamber. We completed the second report, on the Speaker's bill, a small report, last March 28.  3-9

Main report: "Moving forward," and a second report, referenced as the MDRN Committee's "Report 11," and named "Bill S-213, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Parliament of Canada Act (Speakership of the Senate)."  n3-9

Since then, the bulk of our witnesses have focused on the Westminster system or Westminster model, if you prefer, and its applicability to Canada.  3-10

I don't think this is quite a true statement. Although the terms "Westminster system"—or "model"—has come up various times, I doubt it can be said that it was the focus of the discussions. From September 28, 2016 through March 17, 2017, there were 17 televised meetings of the MDRN Committee. Of these:
      • seven meetings were devoted to obtaining opinions about the following questions: Do you believe that political party caucuses have a role and a future in the Senate? Does a modern Senate need governmental representation? Does a modern Senate need an official opposition or any opposition groups? What changes do you feel are required to our rules or practices?
      • four meetings were particularly concerned with how the Senate can best complement the House of Commons without either duplicating or overpowering it. (Words, words, words ... "to duplicate" is a far cry from "to complement.")
      • four meetings revolved about Bill S-213 and appear irrelevant to the current discussion.
      • one meeting addressed a witness's core premise that, for better or for worse, the present Government of Canada was elected with a clear mandate to reduce partisan influences, control and management of the Senate, and replace them with a frame of operation that is driven by independent senators, whether self-declared or appointed as such, under the new framework established for nominee vetting by the new government.
      • one meeting was given over to listen to two members of the Scottish Parliament who had been invited during a chance encounter while visiting Ottawa. 

There does not appear to be any agreement during those meetings about whether the Westminster system strictly concerns the Commons or whether it concerns the Senate as well. Referring to the 31st meeting—in March of 2016—with Dr Gary O'Brien as witness, Senator Joyal's concern with opposition to Bills, as historically exercised primarily by senators from a political party opposed to the current government, see that session's Par. 5-2 and 5-3. The primary focus, so it appears, is how opposition to government Bills is best exercised while keeping in mind that it is the government has won the last election and the Senate should not oppose "the will of the people." The purpose of the Senate's scrutinizing legislation is to protect the people. The line between what the people want and what the people need is fuzzy because neither wants nor needs are easily discerned. In our complex society, election platforms are a smorgasboard of issues and a vote for a party does not at all mean a vote for that party's stance on all issues. This makes nonsense of the claims of a government that it represents the will of the people for that, in an ever-complexing society is likely to be so less and less. It is this conundrum the MDRN Committee should be dealing with, not "The Westminster System" however one likes to define it. (More below.) n3-10A

Steering committee has met, consisting of myself, Senator McInnis and Senator Joyal, and has recommended the following course of action. I would first like to say that Senator McInnis sends his regrets; he's very much under the weather and wishes he could be here.  3-11

The course of action that the steering committee recommends is that we extend the life of the committee to June 29, which we have now done after concurrence from the chamber. We have done this because the committee's objective of releasing a report this December cannot possibly be met. As you know, there are many weeks this fall when committees did not sit.  3-12

Also, we recommend that we continue on the path set by our former chairman, Senator McInnis, and take the evidence that we've heard to date on the Westminster system to write and release our next report in February. This will be a small report of about 10 pages or so. This report will confirm from the testimony we've heard that Canada's place in the Westminster system of government is secure. The report will demonstrate the adaptability of Westminster to local conditions and needs through an analysis of Westminster models, which include Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and, of course, the United Kingdom.  3-13

This report will act as the foundation for the succeeding report, which potentially could be the last report of this committee. This last report could be released before the end of June and will focus on the adversarial nature of Westminster and confirm the importance of debate in which you have adversarial roles. Through such debate, the truth emerges.  3-14

That "through such debate, the truth emerges" is very much a debatable assertion, even coming from such an eminent person as Rabbi Jonathan Henry Sacks (Baron Sacks), British Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author and politician. There is plenty of contrary evidence available.  n3-14

It seems evident from the above paragraph that my proposals for moving toward a guardian Senate will not be considered. Nobody ever informed me about that. Unless there is some mistake here.  n3-14A

This report will examine various ways of structuring debate in our current environment, including maintaining exactly what we do now.  3-15

During the course of our deliberations, we will invite any senator who wishes to come before this committee to provide their views and give advice on the structure of debate and the consequent need to preserve adversarial voices. We might also try a Senate-wide anonymous questionnaire on these and other modernization aspects.  3-16

I can only hope that there there is senatorial support for moving toward a guardian Senate as proposed in my essay and Briefs.  n3-16

The calendar says we have two meetings before Christmas, today and next week. It is my goal to clear everything up during this meeting today and provide the analysts with enough direction to enable us not to have a meeting next week. This would enable our first order of business when we return at the end of January to be the consideration of a draft report on the Westminster system. I would like to go through the analysis provided to you by the clerks in order to give the analysts direction to write a draft report.  3-17

I'll now open things up to the meeting as a whole to discuss the program and then move to examining the analysis that we've got to you provided by the clerk.  3-18

I open it up to the floor. Senator Wells.  3-19

Senator Wells: Thank you. This isn't a comment on the report, but it might be appropriate, given this is our first meeting since Mr. Sebastian Spano, who was a great help to this committee, left the service of the Senate, that he be given an official thank you from our committee for his great work. I know any time I reached out, he was available and went above and beyond the call of duty. I think it would be appropriate given his service.  4

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  5

The Chair: We're making a list now. We're going to check it twice because it's Christmas.  6

Senator Stewart Olsen: I was asking for a point of clarification on what you were reading. So the committee is due to be defunct in June; is that what I'm hearing?  7

The Chair: Unless there is a need to continue it, that would be my objective.  8

Senator Stewart Olsen: And in the—9

The Chair: Let's remember this is a special committee and not a standing committee.  10

Senator Stewart Olsen: I heard that, but then is the modernization of the Senate only going to be concerned with the Westminster system and not with our hours of operation and committees? Just for clarification.  11

The Chair: No. We can get into all of that if that is the committee's wish, absolutely. I think there are a lot of recommendations we can consider. Really, it's this body that has the ability to consider them. There is no other body that's currently constructed that would enable discussion of those issues, and so I would support that.  12

Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you, chair.  13

Senator Eggleton: In the Modernization Committee, previous to the reconstruction of our committees, we had a subcommittee on committees, on the structure and organization of our standing committees.  14

We had a few meetings under the chairmanship of Senator David Tkachuk. We did agree upon one thing and that one thing has come to pass. It was that the committee structure should go back to the same numbers that it was prior to the supernumerary decision on accommodating people who are independent, ISG folks, onto our committees. Now we're back to that.  14-1

There is nothing else we came to agreement on. But toward the end of the mandate of that subcommittee, I put together a questionnaire that I thought would be beneficial to send to all senators with respect to committees. How often should they meet and should they change their schedule of meetings? What about their mandate? Is their mandate suitable or should there be some adjustment in the mandate?  14-2

I'm not advocating for creating a subcommittee. We all have enough meetings to go to. I would like to be able to work with you, Mr. Chair, and the clerk with respect to this questionnaire to see if we can come up with something that would be reasonable on the question.  14-3

You did mention possible other subjects for a questionnaire. I would really prefer to keep one on the committees separate, though, and get it around to members.  14-4

We could do that sometime in the new year when people have had a little bit more experience. A lot of people have changed committees now, so maybe it's a little too early to do that. But I think it could be quite helpful and instructive, because there were complaints that we received about when committees meet. With the Monday committees, they don't generally like to meet Mondays. There was a suggestion that maybe we should rotate, that some of the committees that meet on Tuesdays or Wednesdays or Thursdays should move to Monday or take different slots.  14-5

Some committees need two meetings of two hours each a week. Other committees don't need that much time. Maybe we can get some valuable information from all members of all of our committees, all senators, as to how their committees could better function.  14-6

I would hope that would be something we could continue to pursue.  14-7

Senator Joyal, at the last major discussion we had, said that we should focus on committees, and I agree with that. I think that's a place where we can be quite useful. I think the questionnaire rather than a subcommittee at this point in time would be a good place to start.  14-8

The Chair: I agree. Any comment on that?  15

Senator Stewart Olsen: Do you need a motion to proceed?  16

The Chair: If you want to make a motion, we can. I think it's a good idea, though. As I said earlier, this body is the only body presently constituted that can consider and do work in this area at this point in time.  17

Senator Eggleton: I don't think we need a motion at this point in time. When we work with Blair, we will bring a questionnaire here and the committee should then decide on whether that's appropriate to send out.  18

The Chair: You will work, then, with myself and the clerk.  19

Senator Eggleton: Yes.  20

The Chair: Senator Joyal, do you have any opening remarks?  21

Senator Joyal: Not at this stage. I am reading some of the materials, because I have a comment to add to the Westminster model, but I was waiting for those documents to come before doing that.  22

Senator McCoy: I'm waiting for the discussion to start on the Westminster system.  23

Senator Massicotte: I would like to talk a little bit about where we're going and so on, and whether we should bring it to an end. I must admit during the last several months, I feel we're treading water quite a bit. There must be six or seven resolutions stuck in the Senate. I'm not sure we're gaining very much, and I would agree that if we're not going to get something constructive, we should not exist; I agree with that.  24

At the same time, I hear a lot of comments from colleagues saying we have a lot of things to change. People's expectations are very high. I'm not sure exactly what that means and what they want.  24-1

Also, as a principle in the Senate, when we can't achieve large consensus, we usually don't pass something, unless there is a rare exception.  24-2

Maybe it's worthwhile again, chair, to canvass every senator to restart from zero. What are the irritants? What are your expectations? What do you expect? Then our committee or the steering committee can say, "What can we reasonably expect to achieve?" If we're going to waste time not achieving anything on a subject matter where there is no large consensus, let's filter it, see what they expect from us and get real results. If we can't get real engagement from every senator and if everyone is tired of the subject, then we shouldn't exist. But it merits taking one good gulp of air and asking, "Where are we going? What can we make happen?" It's not what can we discuss, but what result can we reasonably achieve in a period of time?  24-3

The Chair: What you're suggesting is a general questionnaire on changes the committee ought to consider?  25

Senator Massicotte: Let's find out what people expect from us, but not a 20-page questionnaire because we won't get many answers. We all have a lot of dreams, but if we don't get consensus because of a difference of opinions, maybe we should say we don't agree and status quo applies. But let's not discuss things where we won't get real results.  26

Senator Lankin: I generally agree with what Senator Massicotte just said, except that it's an invitation for some people just to not agree because the status quo applies.  27

A global environment of ever accellerating change leaves little room for the kind of "status-quo" thinking as implied here. Changing one's mindset may not be easy. Such mental accomodation involves resistance and struggle. People whose mind is made up may well perceive themselves, or be viewed, as staunch, dependable types. They may also be seen as simply pigheaded.  n27

It may be of some interest here to refer to an article found in the "The Economist"'s Daily Dispatch of March 17, 2018: "Some thoughts on the open v closed divide." From the article: During the last year or so, one of the most popular interpretations of modern politics that it is increasingly defined by the difference between open and closed rather than between left and right and that this division is a generational one (Details. But things are more complex than that because individuals' stance depends on whatever issue is being considered. At any rate, political divisions as we have become accustomed to now appear to be coming to an end what with global threats, etc., that face us all.  n27A

I have felt stymied by the structure of how our committee operates. I have not found a place to have an open conversation with members opposite, for example, about the nuances of what is possible. I continue to say that I don't necessarily come saying abolish the role of the opposition. Do I think there needs to be changes? Yes, but we don't talk about that. We've narrowed it down to Westminster, and Westminster means this and it's something different to everybody, and therefore that must apply.  27-1

Mr. Chair, I would like a copy of what you read out in terms of the steering committee's recommendations going forward. When I was listening to it, my antennas heard that we're going to confirm government and opposition, and the nature of debate. There are other ways to do things. I'm not advocating for other ways, but I feel that we never have that discussion. It somehow gets buried under the attempt to maintain what is and to not lose, and the fear of what others with different ideas might be trying to impose, and what the agendas are.  27-2

It makes me think about what some speak of nostalgically, the conference where the chair and Senator Massicotte brought together with people from all around the chamber and where there was an opportunity to talk through things.  27-3

We've had a major change in the composition of the chamber. A lot of those people are new, and I include myself. I am still finding my way. I have thoughts and ideas, but I don't have a venue that's informal enough and yet structured to have representation from everywhere to have that kind of dialogue.  27-4

I think the questionnaire is a good idea. You might hear things that you've heard before from people, but there's a new group of people that would be included in the discussion in an important way. I think that's a good idea.  27-5

I would expect that, as you've defined the work going forward, it's confirm or not confirm in the kind of words you use, one direction or another. I guess what I'm making is a plea for us to think about how we could actually have a constructive dialogue that tries to find an end point respectful of the different desires that exist and to test that against what's best in terms of the institutional product for Canadians. Maybe it's another conference.  27-6

Senator Massicotte: Or maybe a working session.  28

The Chair: Maybe it is another conference. However, I would like to get to all of those issues that you're talking about in the next round, after the next report. This next report, in my view, will provide the foundation for what comes after it.  29

If what comes after it will be function then we have put the cart before the horse.  n29

Senator Lankin: It could, but in terms of the way we conducted our conversation, which was primarily through hearing from witnesses and recording all of that—it's very good information that is here—our response to those questions was to talk about what is and isn't Westminster and what the good parts of it are. We didn't have the exchange about where alternatives may actually better serve the public today, in today's Canada, and yet preserve the elements of debate that are part of an important sober second thought.  30

Canadians would be well served by a Senate staunchly looking out for their interests at a time we are under such severe global threats as nuclear war, cyber war (it appears that Russia is in a position to so severely damage the internet of those they consider adversaries, whereas China's digital capability has already steamed ahead of that of the U.S.A.), robotization, independently "thinking" artificial intelligence devices devoid of human consciousness, etc.  n30

The Chair: That's exactly right. Maybe we're using different words, but we mean the same thing. The first part is to confirm that we do have a Westminster system. It's not a republican system nor is it a system of dictatorship. It is a Westminster system and we all know where the mother of all parliaments is.  31

It's also very adaptable, and that result will provide us with the foundation to talk about how we can adapt it. Do we need to adapt it? Under our circumstances, given the way the Senate is constituted at the moment, in my view, yes, but how do we adapt it and make it work?  31-1

Senator Lankin: That gives me comfort. It's slightly different than what I thought I heard the words saying, so I appreciate that. Thank you.  32

Senator Eggleton: I think one of the difficulties is that we're stuck, in many respects, in transition. Obviously, the new kinds of appointments are changing the nature of the place and we're trying to figure out how to adapt to those changes.  33

We're coming out of a parliament that was a very clear duopoly. There was government and opposition, and parliaments before that, as well, were adversarial in nature and very similar to the House of Commons, whereas now we're headed down a different path with the less partisan, independent appointments that are being made.  33-1

There are a lot of people who are comfortable with the old system and don't want to let too much of it go, while there are new people who want to see a continuing evolution. We're not sure where this path is taking us at the moment. There is a lot of uncharted territory, but nevertheless, let's see where we can go down this new path. I think that's part of the difficulty.  33-2

In terms of Westminster, sure, upper houses in the Westminster system are all different, including ours. It's the lower houses that are more the traditional Westminster system of the duopoly, or at least different parties on different sides of the aisle and the adversarial system.  33-3

How we mould ourselves differently is really the difficulty. We're stuck to some extent because we still have reports on the agenda in the Senate and we can't seem to get those through.  33-4

I agree with Paul and Frances. I think we have to find some way of unsticking this stuff and see if we can move the yardsticks along. If we can't, we're going to be stuck for some period of time.  33-5

The Chair: I think one of our tasks is to remove the worry or fear that change somehow attacks a Westminster system. If we can confirm its adaptability and move along those lines, we'll be successful in the end with respect to producing something of value. If we can't do that, we won't be able to produce anything of value, but that's the role of the committee.  34

Senator Massicotte: I just want to add that, as you know, the word "Westminster" connotes different things to different people. In fact, we have heard two experts say the Senate doesn't operate on a Westminster system. We're getting caught in this argument about definitions. Maybe we should try to use words to describe what we want, because we all have an opinion about the Westminster system. We spend so much trying to define it. It's like the word "partisan"; everyone has a different definition and we argue about it, but let's talk about where we want to go.  35

Senator McCoy: This is probably a place where I might pick up on the conversation.  36

I would very much welcome a conversation about this, because I think we've framed the question in a way that has led us into a cul-de-sac. That happened by focusing on that Westminster system, as opposed to a parliamentary system of government and as opposed to a presidential—or whatever they call the alternative—democratic system, at least, and certainly as opposed to a dictatorship.  36-1

I think there is some evidence we have heard that is valuable and has not been highlighted, nor has it been properly captured, either. I think there are some more practical things we could look at, which I think we were going to do. We were starting to talk about free conferences and how that might help. All of those are really valuable things.  36-2

The difficulty I have with where we are on what has been prepared in terms of a draft report—which was a discussion paper dated May 22 and talks about a Westminster system of governance—is that it, in my view, misrepresents the evidence we heard and certainly misrepresents the evidence that is available, some of which we don't have in front of us. I can document that because we have done a critique of the paper.  36-3

The difficulty is we haven't given ourselves room to point out those changes at this table. We always say it's hard to write a report by committee. What was it that was designed by a committee? Was it the elephant? Well, this is the elephant in the room.  36-4

If we could recast a discussion paper about the parliamentary system and recast that preliminary question that we ask—what are we seeking?—we could go back to the essence of seeking a viable and sustainable way of having a critical review of government and other legislation in the upper chamber of Canada and what it takes to produce that. If we could do that, I think we might open up some areas of useful discussion. At least we might open up a place where people would start to think about what would be useful in that.  36-5

I don't know whether I want to go through chapter and verse of actual statements that contradict what we heard or could have heard, but I have them listed here.  36-6

I want to point out that it's another urban myth, in a way. One of the things we like to say is that the Senate has always been a partisan chamber; look at the first appointments. Well, we all know the first appointments were people who were sitting in the upper chamber of Upper Canada, so we took those 24 for Ontario. With the upper chamber in Quebec, we took those 24, all of whom said yes. It was a really easy way to do it.  36-7

Then we went to the other two provinces and their upper chambers—all of the upper chambers being elected—and we said, "Would you sit as well so the transition is easy?" Two or three said "No way," so they had to find someone who sat in their lower chamber..That was down in your neck of the woods, Mr. Chair. That was for no other reason than just because. It was a continuity question.  36-8

That was in 1867. In 1894, one of the most insightful observers of the Canadian parliament, Alpheus Todd—he was the first Parliamentary Librarian—wrote his book about parliamentary government in the British colonies. He wrote:  36-9

Under parliamentary government, an upper Chamber derives peculiar efficacy and importance from the fact of its independent position. Free from the trammels of party, it is able to deliberate upon all public questions on their merits, unrestrained by political considerations ...  36-10

He goes on in that vein, and I can quote at length. We can find quotes in Hansard, over and over, in the archives and papers of former senators, all of whom said they didn't have a caucus. They never went to caucus until approximately World War II.  36-11

None of that has been brought out and put on this table, or at least we're labouring under an assumption that we're keeping historical precedent alive. We're keeping modern precedent alive and that's not opening up our minds to possibilities, and it's not opening up our minds to the essence of how the Senate can, in the 21st century, best serve Canadians. Is there something we can do, in addition to what we already do, which receives a high mark among Canadians when they are seeing us do what we have been doing lately? What we can do that will help Canadians or make their lives better in the coming years?  36-12

The Chair: I quite agree. What we're doing, certainly in the report that we'll hopefully release before the end of June, will answer that question. How can we become a Senate that Canadians can be proud of and which can serve the needs of Canadians? We have a lot of history. We have what we are. We are a Senate in the Westminster system, and the confirmation of that is the first report, which is the foundation for what comes later.  37

Senator McCoy: If that is the case, I would be more than open to seeing a new discussion paper put on the table for our consideration.  38

The Chair: That's exactly where we're headed.  39

Senator McCoy: If that's the case and we frame the question, we have a lot of valuable evidence in front of us. It's not all from one perspective, which is healthy.  40

The Chair: Yes, it is.  41

Senator McCoy: Let's see what we've got when we have a properly documented and analytical paper in front of us. Then we can see where the gaps are, we can fill in some of the gaps, and then we might have a product that's worthwhile by June.  42

The Chair: That's exactly where I would like to head.  43

Senator McCoy: We have that on record.  44

Senator Massicotte: You referred to an April report, as well as your comments. Has that been circulated? Can we get a copy?  45

April report? It strikes me as a mistake to broadcast Senate proceedings without the audience having such background documentation available to them.  n45

It came to light during the MDRN Committee meeting of March 21 that the discussions of the draft report about the Westminster system should not have been broadcast! Well, mistakes do happen.  n45A

The Chair: It was circulated to the whole committee last week.  46

Senator Massicotte: It has?  47

The Chair: Yes.  48

Senator Massicotte: Can we get another copy? Oh, one that came last week from yourself?  49

Senator McCoy: This was put forward to steering before we broke.  50

Senator Lankin: It was sent to us.  51

Senator McCoy: This new steering has just recirculated it, and you have it in French.  52

Senator Massicotte: That's the one I read. But it includes your comments, your rebuttal?  53

Senator McCoy: No, it certainly does not.  54

Senator Massicotte: Can I get a copy?  55

Senator McCoy: I would be more than happy to, and I tell you—56

The Chair: Would you like the clerk—  57

Senator McCoy: I feel this strongly about it. If this is the report we contemplate, I want to have a dissenting opinion.  58

The Chair: It's not a report. It's an analysis of some of what we heard.  59

Senator McCoy: I still want to have a dissenting report. I don't think it summarizes the testimony properly.  60

The Chair: Would you like the clerk to distribute your comments that you have prepared?  61

Senator McCoy: Yes. We would need to have them translated, but you could do that. Could you have them translated at the library or somewhere? You can double-check the French for us, because we're not quite sure these days. We don't want to offend anybody's sensibilities on that front.  62

Senator Joyal: I tried to figure out in my mind where we are at and where we could be heading on the basis of what you proposed.  63

I think to try to summarize the way the situation has evolved, when we're talking about the Westminster model, we're trying to figure out the sense of what would characterize our parliament. When I say parliament, I include the Senate.  63-1

I would start with the first element that differentiates our Westminster model from the mother of parliament by the fact that we were no more the Westminster model in its purity because parliamentary supremacy, as you know, has been curtailed with the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are constitutional democracy; we are not a parliamentary supremacy model of parliament. The powers we have, which the Parliament of Canada detains, are limited by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is a major distinction with the mother of parliament. As you know, Britain is still a parliament whereby the parliament is supreme. We're no more supreme. We exercise our legislative power and the government exercises its executive power within the confines of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  63-2

As we all know, the Supreme Court has rendered hundreds of decisions under the Charter. I wrote a paper last summer. More than 23,000 cases in Canadian court refer to the Charter since its adoption. It's an astounding number of times that the Charter has been quoted or referred to in court decisions at all levels—the Criminal Code, civil code, common law code. There have been more than 800 decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada through those years referring to the Charter.  63-3

This is a situation we have to take into account when we talk about the Westminster model. At the beginning, we're in a different context than the Westminster model. We can't touch that. This is the Constitution. So we are living. Not only are we adjusting to it, but I think we're benefiting from it. This is one of the distinctions of our system.  63-4

Then we have an upper chamber, a bicameral parliament, and we have equal power with the other place, except in financial bills to raise taxes. We all know this. We had a discussion last June with the division of the budget bill. This is not what we want to tackle. We don't want to touch the power of the Senate, unless peripherally. As Senator McCoy has said, if we have a conflict of position on a bill with the other place, how will we resolve that issue?  63-5

That is an issue we can address in the context of the exercise of the powers that we detain, the Senate detains, versus the ones of the House of Commons. We're not touching that at this stage, except maybe to reflect on how we can address the situation of a Senate that is more affirmative of its capacity to amend or oppose government legislation. This is not what we had decided to focus on.  63-6

We know that it is a situation we can refer. So far we have not had a clash, that is, a situation that amounts to a crisis. We may want to reflect upon this at a point in time, but it's not what we have to address immediately.  63-7

What we wanted to address immediately, the way I understood our work, is the composition of the Senate. We are in the situation, in our Westminster model, whereby our composition is different than the one in the Lords. We were different at the beginning, on the appointments, because we were divided on a regional basis, which they don't have in Britain. We have a limited number of senators, which they don't have in Britain. Any government can appoint 200 lords, if they want, to swamp the majority in the Lords in order to have its government legislation passed. The lords, of course, also have limited power on financial bills. They can only delay, and the government reasserts its supremacy in terms of budgetary measures.  63-8

So we are in a different context in terms of composition. As far as I understood it from the witnesses we had through video, in the Lords they have political parties. In fact, they have four political parties, plus the cross-bench, which more or less serves as a go-between for all those parties.  63-9

We realize that in Canada we are in a different setting. We still have parties in the Senate. We have the official opposition in the Senate; we have the independent Liberals, another group, even though it's not affiliated with a national party; and we have an increasing number of independents, to the point where the balance is going to be tilted. We all know that. We see the appointments. We have a different dynamic of composition inside the chamber.  63-10

Again, the approach we have wanted to focus on is to make sure these changes of composition in terms of the day-to-day work of the Senate—within the confines I have described, very roughly—are effective and that in fact the Senate benefits from that change in the context of the independence of the institution, as the Supreme Court has ruled in its reference in 2014.  63-11

It seems to me that, as Senator Eggleton appropriately mentioned, the first deadline we have to address is how to integrate those groups within the daily workings of the Senate. We have been able, through discussion and negotiation, to reshape the committee's work, to reduce the number, and so on, and to have the committee system restarted on the rail; and, so far, the committees work.  63-12

Then the question is how we could structure the work in terms of making sure that one of the essential features of the Westminster model, which is that the government proposes and then somebody opposes, scrutinizes and makes alternative proposals, if need be, or if it's seen to be wanted. That's what we wanted to address in revisiting the Westminster model in this paper.  63-13

I reread it very quickly. It was produced in May. Six months is a good period to reflect upon. I'm happy to add the point I have made, namely, that we are parliamentary. I quote the Supreme Court of Canada:  63-14

      ... the Canadian system ... was transformed to a significant extent from a system of Parliamentary supremacy to one of constitutional supremacy.  63-15

That's the Supreme Court in a decision by Justice Dickson, which has been restated in 2015 in the Supreme Court reference, so the Supreme Court is still of that view.  63-16

It is, to me, an important element of our job, because if we have limits to our power, then we need to understand those limits and we might want to make sure that we embody those limits in our daily debate, discussion, analysis, reflection and whatnot.  63-17

To come back to this paper, it essentially focuses on how we should structure our work in a more efficient way if we feel we can adjust it to the present composition. The present composition is what it is. There is an official opposition that has been recognized for 150 years; there is another party that is still there, which might fade into the air at a point in time because the numbers might be depleted; and there's a larger number of independents. How can we structure our work in the context, as I say, of the independents and the efficiency we want to achieve within the powers we have? This seems to me to be the conundrum that we have to address.  63-18

As far a I know the paper Senator Joyal refers to is not (yet) publicly available.  n63-18

As I repeatedly stated, I have the French mentality and I was educated in the French system of law, but I support the pragmatic approach of the British system. We have had it since 1791 in this country. It's a long time. We had the Constitution before Confederation in 1867. We have been able to adjust to the needs and diversity of Canada. We see it daily in our debates and in government legislation.  63-19

It seems to me that we can reflect on what might happen in three or four years, but let's look at what we have now and how we can adjust our way of thinking and the structuring of our work such that we take into account the changes and incrementally benefit from what we already have. I'm not at all in a position to say that, one day, in the year 2030, parties will have disappeared in the Senate. We can do our actuarial calculation—Senator Massicotte is good at that—and predict when all the parties will have disappeared in the chamber, provided that this scenario will happen and that election will produce that turnover and whatnot. However, I think that at the end we will not have achieved any more progress in terms of the deadlines that confront us now.  63-20

I'm open to reflecting on a different way of exercising our powers and how we can organize our work, as Senator McCoy has said. I'm open to discussing and reviewing that anytime. It's just to be sure that we understand very clearly where we are and what is possible. What is possible is the proposal of Senator Eggleton. We have been able, through negotiations, to come to a consensus whereby the committees are back and everybody has the capacity to work on it. There are still some adjustments to be made, but when we open the door of the Senate, it works. We're not in a position where everything is stuck. As Senator Dean is considering, maybe we could think of restructuring the debate on bills. It's a possibility, as I say, within the confines of what we have now.  63-21

I'm not ready to say, "Let's be in a scenario whereby the parties will have disappeared." Maybe one day the Senate will be there. Maybe the youngest senators who have been appointed will still be there at that time. I will be long gone, and so will some of you. However, on the whole, I don't think we will be making progress, especially on the basis of the reports that are still on the Order Paper.  63-22

Let's take, for instance, the appointment of the Speaker. In my opinion, that would give a larger basis for the independence of the institution. It would strengthen, in my opinion, the institution. It would not change an iota of the Constitution, which I hold dearly, if we proposed three or four names to the Prime Minister in terms of recommending a Speaker. It would not change a comma of the Constitution.  63-23

However, we seem to not be moving on this. It's an easy one, in my opinion. Do you want to maintain the executive stronghold on that position; yes or no? What limits does it impose on the Senate's work and on the capacity of the Senate to come to conclusions on bills and policy issues? We can reflect on that, but it seems to me there are some elements of proposals that are within the structure that we have had which has served us well so far that can be improved, no doubt. We are in a changing nature. There is, as I say, a larger number of senators. They are all welcome. We try to adjust and work collegially together with respect to the structure that is there and, in my opinion, it's the way to go forward.  63-24

I would really rather more, as I say, concentrate on the basis of the fact that when we want to have a debate, somebody has to have a different view than another one if we want to really have a debate.  63-25

Senator McCoy: At least one.  64

Senator Joyal: Yes. That's why I think it's important in a Westminster model where there are different views on an issue, how we can structure the expression of those different views to make sure we get to the bottom of the issue.  65

The Chair: Absolutely right.  66

Senator Joyal: That is it essentially, and somebody has to have that job somewhere. I'll use my case, if you want. Not all the bills move me. There are bills where I say let those bills be discussed by other senators. There are bills for which I feel strongly so I'm ready to put my skates on and get my hockey stick and say we're going to debate this one. On others, they are not my cup of tea and I can't be everywhere at the same time so I feel someone else will do that job. But how to be sure that's going to be done, that for each and every issue the system will provide that there will be somebody there to push the issue in the other direction to see if where we are going is really complete and should be supported unanimously.  67

That's where I feel that we have to think around and that's what I could propose on the basis of this document.  67-1

Senator McCoy: I would underline the question he is putting on the table and say that that is the question we should be addressing, and if we put that as the question for a discussion paper for June and then assemble our evidence around it, then we probably will be further down the path, but that's the essential question. Not what is the Westminster system, which was the other question asked for this paper. Some of the same evidence will be useful, but the question you just iterated, if it's caught now and forever in our recording system, if we could take that, hand it off to the analysts and say now write a paper around what the witnesses have told us that is useful, that would be very helpful.  68

Senator Eggleton: The paper we have in front of us is intended to summarize the evidence before this committee on the overall question of how we fit into the Westminster system. I realize Senator McCoy says she thinks there needs to be some changes in it and that's fair enough. However, it outlines the arguments we have and some of the arguments we're stuck on, things like the characteristics of the traditional system, the government, the opposition, adversarial system, and the question of whether we should have an official opposition. All of these different things are divisive issues for us and they're not issues that we will readily be able to settle.  69

There is one thing here in this document perhaps we should talk about that might help in the way forward and that's section D, which deals with a business organizing committee. That way if we talk about that and see if we can find a formula—it starts on page 15 and goes to page 20—if we can talk about how we can better organize our business, we might find some common ground. We're not going to find common ground on whether we have an official opposition or not, or whether a government representative or this or that, but I think that is one area we can move forward with doing something that could be quite useful.  69-1

Re "business organizating committe, quoting from MDRN Committe meeting of March 1, 2017 "However, I [Mr.Thomas Hall] think that the wise approach here would be to reduce the role of parties in controlling and directing the upper house. Here I agree with former Senators Segal and Kirby when they suggested that there be some kind of coordinating body for the work in the Senate. I'll give you an idea of how what I call the 'business organizing committee' would work. It's going to replace what the parties do now in planning how the Senate operates. The government controls what bills it will call from the Order Paper. Let's turn that all over to the business organizing committee. There is no need at all for a Government Representative in the upper house."  n69-1

I would suggest we focus on that.  69-2

The Chair: I take your comments very well, actually, and I see that issue as the heart of the second paper. I think we need a first paper to clear the air on Westminster, to establish that indeed we do have a Westminster system and that it is adaptable, because we have divisions in our chamber and we have concerns and worries. If we can get a clear statement from this committee on topics like that—  70

Senator Eggleton: I think we can easily say we are part of the Westminster system. We have a different model from the House of Lords or some of the other chambers, but that's a general characteristic of upper houses in the Westminster system. It's the lower houses that are more common. Even in this paper one of the witnesses made that point, that really it's in the lower house that the Westminster system is ensconced.  71

But to make that statement, by itself, it's ten lines on a page, maybe. If we're going to go into all the issues—opposition, no opposition, this and that—those are all divisive things. Those are things where we're not going to come to some agreement so I'm not sure of the value of doing that. If you want to make a simple statement, we're in the Westminster system, we're part of it, yes, we have Canadian characteristics to it.  71-1

The Chair: It's not that simple because we have to also show through looking at outside models, such as Australia and a few others, that the Westminster system is adaptable to local—  72

Senator Eggleton: How is that going to move the agenda forward on anything?  73

The Chair: If we can unite around that, it will be a springboard or foundation to what we do next.  74

Senator Stewart Olsen: I was happy with your presentation and I thought, great, we'll go forward, and now we're back down into the weeds again.  75

I agree with Senator Eggleton. We really do have to hive down. I think we're going to have to make adjustments. There are a couple of things that I really feel we have to come to some agreement, some terms with, on the independents. I will make the statement that the committees having changed and everything, that had really nothing to do with this committee. It was a decision of the three leaders, or the leaders of the various groups who did that.  75-1

I'm not sure the committee should be suggesting changes based on what other countries are doing. I think we're unique in this country and I think we should be the masters of our own ship.  75-2

I would like to hear from independents coming on who are new on how they think this can work. The huge problem we have is the appointments to the independents, because they come from prime ministers who have a partisan base will, of necessity, reflect that partisan base. I'm not sure how we can ever have opposition unless it's designated. I think we have to come to terms with that. We have to address legislation on both sides, in favour and against.  75-3

I think we really have to get a basic acceptance that that's how you debate legislation. I'm open to seeing other ways of doing it; I just can't see other ways of doing it and that's maybe because I've been too long in this one system. I don't see a problem with that. I don't see a problem with having an opposition and not having an opposition. Pros and cons are how we function in life.  75-4

We're getting into weeds. We're talking about things that we'll never move forward on unless we start to get some basic acceptance of the facts here. I don't know how we're going to go, but I don't want to hear from witnesses from Australia and Britain. I don't care what they do.  75-5

I want to hear from our own people. We are what we are. We are a part of this institution. We have new people and older people, and that's not age. We have to move our own ship forward. I really don't care what happens in England.  75-6

I might be full of it, but we're going to have to come to terms and stop talking in circles. I'm so tired of this. Please, let's move forward on a basis of acceptance of our new situation and work our way through it. If we can just get one agreement that there has to be an opposition to the presentation from the government of their bills. In the next government, it may not be the same government. We have to deal with that—an acceptance of "here you have the people who are opposed and here you have the people who are in favour."  75-7

What I'd love to see is some of the independents taking an oppositional view and perhaps presenting an oppositional view to legislation, as well—  75-8

Senator Lankin: You haven't seen that?  76

Senator Stewart Olsen: No, not in a formal way. I would like to see some of them be critics to bills. We have to test our boundaries and come forward with new ways. If we don't open our minds to the new ways, we're going to be mired in dissent and people will lose interest.  77

Anyway, I'm sorry to have unloaded, Senator Massicotte, but honestly, I do want to see a way forward. I think there are positive ways forward if we open our minds.  77-1

Senator Maltais: Since I am a new member of this committee and I only received the documents this morning, I will certainly not ask questions on the content.  78

There is much discussion about the Westminster model. If I understand correctly, Westminster is in reality a constitutional monarchy. Have we checked how things are done elsewhere in the world, in other constitutional monarchies? I ask this question because basically what we are looking for are rules that will help the Senate function more efficiently. It's that simple.  78-1

Is the House of Commons interested in modernizing the Senate?  78-2

The Chair: Those are both very good questions.  79

Next on the list is Senator Dean.  79-1

Senator Dean: Thank you, chair. I'll be very brief. I'd like to follow up on some things that I think were implicit in what Senator McCoy said—certainly Senators Joyal and Eggleton.  80

We have unearthed and heard some evidence on some big-ticket questions, including should there be an official opposition. These aren't going to be sorted out quickly. Perhaps they should be raised and discussed, though.  80-1

There will be longer-term issues—important issues for us to consider—with aspirational goals. There are aspirational goals there, but we must also focus on what we can achieve relatively quickly—the things that are doable and around which we can demonstrate forward momentum and progress.  80-2

I'm going to jump onto the emerging bandwagon of better planning and management of debates. I'm glad to see at this table that several people are there before me. That's something we can and must do. I've talked previously here about looking at the Senate from outside at the assisted medical assistance in dying debates and the way they were structured. I know that was under certain constraints, but most organizations—and we are an organization—when they find a winning proposition that works well with their clients and customers—citizens—that attracts positive attention to their organization, they look to replicate it, regardless of how they got there, time constraints imposed by courts or whatever.  80-3

When they find things that work well internally and that they are told work well externally, they look to replicate them. That's what we would be doing here in thinking about either a business management committee or the sort of approach that I've suggested for a piece of legislation in the Senate right now.  80-4

We can move quickly on this. It would benefit from the short-term support of this committee. I don't think it needs another several months' study. We have the ability to experiment. We have the ability to be innovative, albeit within a contained way, and to do some things that would give more rigour, quality, predictability and transparency to our debates, and that would invite others into the work we do in the Senate. That's all.  80-5

Whatever innovation will be attempted, it is unlikely that things go 100% smoothly right from the start. Mistakes are a good source of learning how to do better henceforth.  n80-5

You know I'm an advocate for this. I learned about this innovation from this committee and from the work that was done by some of the people at this table. I was struck by it from without. I was delighted to find that it was being discussed here. I just don't want it to be left alongside the longer-term questions—pulled down by some of the longer-term questions. I would like it to be called out and given special focus. I'd like us to put some momentum behind this one, because there are short- to medium-term benefits for us as senators and those outside the place who understand and want to participate in what we do.  80-6

I've gone on too long, but you get the point.  80-7

The Chair: Most of us around the table basically agree with what you're saying.  81

With regard to the current analysis before you, do you see that as assisting at all the launch pad and becoming the launch pad for your discussion?  81-1

Senator Dean: I do. Chair, we've heard some terrific testimony. We heard from Thomas Hall a made-in-Canada proposal. We can go to London and hear from people in London and Scotland, and we can hear from people in Finland. But what I've heard in the world of organizational reform, particularly in a public sector context—and I think it's true for most sectors—is that an idea that comes from close to home, our own backyard, is one that we can all relate to. We certainly had such an idea from Thomas Hall.  82

I think our work has been done on this one. I think this model has been practised in the medical assistance in dying debate and been seen to work. It is not theoretical; it is being done and being done well.  82-1

I don't know what the precise model is. I'm not tying this discussion to any particular piece of legislation in the Senate. I'm saying that I think most of us agree it's the right thing to do. I'm sure that, given the talent around this table, among our colleagues in the Senate Chamber and from those fantastic, thoughtful and experienced professional staff who support us, that we can get this moving and make it work. In doing so, we won't just do our work in a better way, but in a way that seems to be better by Canadian citizens.  82-2

The Chair: The next person on my list is Senator McCoy. It strikes me that perhaps that was taken care of in your response to Senator Joyal.  83

Senator McCoy: No. I particularly like the practical approach that I thought we were headed in before that I think we're being encouraged to look at again.  84

I, for one, would certainly endorse taking what Senator Dean has suggested and putting a little bit more flesh on the bones, if you like, and actually getting some input from COPO and really focusing it on the question that Senator Joyal has posed and doing a pilot project. Then, we would have two experiences. How could we extrapolate that to a more sustainable practice so that we could actually begin to manage the business?  84-1

COPO: Chamber Operations and Procedures Office.  n84-1

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't all have, at the end of June, just before St. Jean-Baptiste Day, frazzled nerves and, just before Christmas time, frazzled nerves and the family Christmas gifts still not purchased because we're still running around trying to get things out the door here? That has become such a habit and yet is surely a sign of bad management, that kind of traffic jam, if I can put it that way.  84-2

I would heartily endorse taking a practical way forward and seeing what we come up with, and let's frame it up. It seems to me you wrote an article or an op-ed to that effect. You called it "Super Scrolls." What it is is really an evolution of something we already do, but we would be indeed putting a new wrinkle on what we would consider a made-at-home solution.  84-3

Senator Lankin: I think I want to divide my comments in a couple of different parts.  85

I agree with a lot that has been said and the pragmatic approach, and I don't want to continue to talk about Westminster, opposition, government. We know that there are interested parties in preserving some things, and there are interested parties in moving some things.  85-1

In organizational change and change management, one the biggest obstacles to breaking out and trying new things is culture and, if we had a system around debate that brought forward the elements that people are enshrining and celebrating as important in the opposition-government approach, fair enough. We have it enshrined in our culture, to absolutely every part of what we do, except, perhaps, the votes at the end of the day.  85-2

For me, coming in as someone who understands that as a former partisan activist and who strives to operate in a way that I think could be of better value to Canadians and in thinking about how to be of better value to Canadians in the long-run, I think we have to move to actually experiencing some changes in how we operate, which, itself, will affect the culture and we can have those discussions down the road.  85-3

Senator Joyal has made a proposal. Senator Dean has made a proposal. Senator Eggleton has made a proposal. Senator McCoy has echoed that. I think I agree with all of that. Let's see if we can move on a practical piece.  85-4

Chair, you've asked a couple of times about the value of the report to come out of this summary of evidence. If it is to have value, as you said, we are in this system, and we have acknowledged that it's adaptable. Beyond that, I hope never to talk about it again for a year or two or three. Let's move on things.  85-5

An Hon. Senator: Promise?  86

Senator Lankin: I don't promise, but I would hope. It's my aspiration.  87

The only value in it right now is to clear the air, and that's what I hear from you. I think that that's a pragmatic consideration, which means that, perhaps, as Senator Eggleton said, we need to double-check the accuracy of what's been put together.  87-1

Senator McCoy: Senator McCoy said that. Yes, let's double-check the accuracy.  88

Senator Lankin: What I said just before, Senator Eggleton said, and you may have said it as well. But where I'm at in what I want to suggest is that we double-check the accuracy, that we take the work that Senator McCoy has done and ensure that the record of summary of evidence is correct, boiling down to the few words, with perhaps the summary of evidence as an exhibit, an appendix, boiling down to a few words that express what you have expressed—I won't go over it again—and allowing us to move to the next discussion of how we achieve, in the structure and composition that we have today. How do we name some aspirational goals from all parties about what might make things better and move on some of that?  89

The super scrolls committee idea is interesting because the reaction opposed to it surprised me. That's perhaps an expression of the lack of conversation that we've had. It doesn't seem to me to threaten any role. It doesn't threaten the role of opposition. It doesn't threaten the role of government representation of the ideas. What it tries to do is to bring the parties together beyond just announcing to each other, at a scrolls meeting, what we intend to do. We are going to delay. We are going to adjourn. We are going to say we're ready to vote. We are going to refuse adjournment, whatever. Beyond that, it actually says, "Okay, here is a piece of legislation in real time, real terms. Let's plan out how we want to address this."  89-1

About super scrolls, quoting from Senate GRO of Jan. 16, 2018: "Senator Stephen Greene said a better approach than a business committee may be 'super scroll meetings,' an expansion of scroll meetings that take place before each sitting to determine the daily agenda, which could plan the work of the Senate over a 'rolling four- to six-week period.' Super scroll meetings could be a guide to Senators, as well as to Canadians who may want to follow the debates, he said.  n89-1

Further: "'Structure would enable senators to plan their own contribution better to the progress of a bill through speaking in the chamber, raising concerns in committee or working with like-minded senators on raising issues with proposed legislation. Structure would also make Senate debate more accessible to the general public,' he said in June 2017"  n89-1A

This is not revolutionary. I come out of a legislature and played the role of house leader, as well as the role of whip and whatever. Our house leaders' meetings were very much that. Here is the business that we have. Here is the government business. By the way, private member's bills did not dominate the way they do in our chamber. They were confined to a couple of hours on one day a week, and, by lottery system, that came up. The concentration of time was on the government business and/or committee reports, because there were committee reports there that weren't about government business as well.  89-2

I don't understand why we can't take the legislative agenda that is before us, sit down and make a determination—even if it includes private member's bills as our chamber does—from all parties' interests of what we really need in time to give it the good deliberative debate.  89-3

I find it appalling that our debate has a contributor one day, and it could be two or three weeks before the next contributor, or a longer period of time or a couple of days. There is no thread of conversation in debate.  89-4

At second reading, I would love us to, on every major bill that we collectively determine is major, do the Committee of the Whole with the ministers. I would appreciate having time to consider that and then bring forward debate where we are raising the questions that we want the committee to examine from all points of view. Quite frankly, I have to say that there have been times when it has been independents who have raised the opposition on a piece of a bill. I think the issue of consumer protection in the credit union/caisse populaire issue is one, but there have been others. So raising the questions, and then the committee does it work, and then let's have a thorough discussion at third reading. But time it out, and let's prepare.  89-5

If I were preparing for Bill C-45, I wouldn't put in preparation for speaking to this inquiry or that. We would be making, collectively, different choices.  89-6

I really would urge us to see if we could get the agreement of our groups to do something, first, on the proposal that's before us that Senator Dean has made with respect to the cannabis legislation. We know we're not doing anything before Christmas. We've got the time to plan how we could proceed with this and to start this process of looking—instead of a scrolls meeting and a leaders' meeting—at what could be an organizing of our debate of bills with the direction and the instruction of what comes out of our leaders' meetings. Let's roll our sleeves up and see if we can do that on a few bills.  89-7

I think it's only by experiencing it whether we can allay the fears that this somehow takes away from the formal roles of groups or we can reinforce that people who were concerned were right. Let's try it. Otherwise, we get caught in this cycle of not doing anything.  89-8

The Chair: Thank you very much.  90

Senator Massicotte: I think a lot of people here made some very good comments and introductions to bigger issues, but I feel it's a bit like in the Senate. There has to be a change in process where we take Senator Joyal's comments and, no matter what subject decide on, we have to somehow find a way to delve into it. We not only allow a nice speech, but we say, "Good; now let's get down to the details." If you don't get down to the details and to a consensus and force a consensus by sharing ideas and thoughts—and that's good or I don't argue with that—we're going to have these discussions over and over again. We have to find a process where we get to a decision of this committee—or a decision by someone who is representative of this committee—and get down to it.  91

Right now we have a lot of great ideas, but it's not getting consensus. You have to change your process somehow.  91-1

The Chair: I agree with that.  92

Senator Wells: Thank you, chair and colleagues, for the comments.  93

I'd like to back up and ask the question: What is the problem that we're trying to fix? The Senate has worked very well over the last 150 years. I don't think it's now all of a sudden we're thinking of a better way to do things. We constantly think about that because the system under which we operate, the Westminster system or the adaptable Westminster system, has allowed us to do all the things that we've done to now. Even if when we referenced the assisted dying debate, we referenced that as something new, but it's not new. That happened under the existing rules that we have and we celebrate that. We celebrate that we were able to do that, but we've always been able to do that.  93-1

I hear classical conservatism at work. But hasn't the horse-and-buggy transportation model also worked well for a long time?  n93-1

When we think about changing the way we do things, what are we trying to fix? What is broken or not working well and needs to be fixed by a new rule? A rule, in any definition, is a restriction of some kind. I'm concerned that any rules or restrictions of some kind that are proposed, planned, desired, or hoped for, outside of our existing system that works very well, would impact negatively the rules that are in place to protect the rights of the minority voice.  93-2

The majority voice always has the ultimate rule of the vote. That's always there and that always carries, but there are rules in place that protect those that don't have the power of the majority vote.  93-3

When we consider this, it's important that we take into account that what we have is adaptable because the Senate has done its job for the last 150 years. We haven't been restricted in doing our job. I can't think of any major or minor government legislation that hasn't been passed because of some restrictive rule of the Senate. It always comes down to a vote. If there is majority support in the Senate, then it passes.  93-4

I would like colleagues to consider that when we consider rule changes because rules, as a rule, are restrictive.  93-5

The Chair: That's a good comment. I agree that no matter what we do, we have to protect minority voices. That's without question. I'm at the end of the speaker's list.  94

Senator Lankin: I think your caution about rules being restrictive and ensuring a place for minority voices is an important one. I have to facetiously say that the majority doesn't always have the right of the vote. I say that to you because of our conversations, Senator Wells.  95

You said that it's worked perfectly well for 150 years. However, I spoke just before you and I spoke about the disjointed debate that I really think doesn't work well for the deliberative second sober thought that we want to have. I don't think it brings as much value to the Canadian citizenry, the Canadian populace, as we could.  95-1

It doesn't have to have a rule that changes that. That has to be about a meeting of minds on an approach that might be a slight change in our culture, and we have to try it.  95-2

I don't want to force a structure of debate that doesn't allow for people to do the research and the work they need to do to respond intelligently to something they heard. I also don't want to be part of an institution where it takes three, or four, or five weeks until somebody who is going to play the lead oppositional role is even identified and then it can be another period of time before there is a contribution.  95-3

I don't know what has to be fixed culturally in our expectations, but it doesn't have to be a rule. I think speaking for a block of time one week and then coming back after some period of time of reflection would be helpful and knowing when that time is going to be can be helpful. That's just one example. That can happen by our working together and trying something.  95-4

Now, what it does do is potentially diminish the possibility of those kinds of gaps in time being used for purposes that are largely politically strategy. I understand sometimes that happens, but it generally would have us more focused on what it takes to do a good job of thinking about contributing to the deliberation of a bill.  95-5

I think that there are some things that haven't always worked. You're right that we were able to do it at some times, but we just don't do it regularly. We don't let it influence us as to the future, because the very first response to Senator Dean's proposal on Bill C-45 was, "No, that was a one-off because there was a court date imposed and this would be diminishing the voice of the opposition if we did it again."  95-6

It doesn't have to diminish the voice of the opposition or enhance the voice of the independent Liberal caucus or the Government Representative or the independents. It's about how we have a good, structured, deliberative discussion of a bill that leads to better questions and exploration of the bill at committee because it's been informed by multiple minds and not just focused through two or three points of the people at the table. How do we present back the views of the committee that has done the work respecting the answers to the questions that were raised in a way that ensures majority and minority voices have all been taken into consideration?  95-7

To me, that would be one huge step forward that we can take without rule changes.  95-8

One last thing, Mr. Chair, which is slightly different. With all the reports that are still in the chamber from this committee, I would appreciate the steering committee speaking among themselves—because is there full chamber representation on the steering comittee—about playing a role in speaking to each of the groups and getting these things moved. We still have to go through rules, or whatever, to get to the next step, but they will fall to the bottom of the list all the time because people appropriately on the content of committee work and/or legislative work in the chamber. I think we need an impetus and I think the Steering Committee, because it is multi-party representative, could be the appropriate group to do that.  95-9

The Chair: I share your concern and we will indeed do that.  96

Before we get to Senator Dean, I think Senator Wells has a supplementary to ask.  96-1

Senator Wells: It's not so much a supplementary but listening to Senator Lankin, she makes some important points.  97

It's also important for us to recognize that when we talk about not just the rules of the Senate but the practice of the Senate, it's more than just what happens in the chamber. It's also about what happens in committees like this.  97-1

In the chamber, we have rules about amounts of time to speak, the sequence of speaking, your ability to ask and answer questions, and the lack of an ability to get up twice on the same order to speak.  97-2

Of course, the committees are an important part of the structure of the Senate and the rules on speaking are far more relaxed. Things are permissible in committees that would not be permissible in the chamber.  97-3

I think when we look at the rules and the practices of the Senate, we should not exclude how we do things in committee, where there's a greater ability to have a back-and-forth discussion or debate that doesn't necessarily comply with the rules of the chamber.  97-4

Senator Dean: It really follows on Senator Lankin's point. The proposal I sent to the leaders for consideration, as loose as it was, was one that was fully achievable within the ambit of the current Rules of the Senate and that explicitly stated that its role was, in fact, to broaden, enhance and promote debate, rather than inhibiting it.  98

There are likely models that would assume rule changes. The fairly and purposely mildly crafted proposal that I sent to the leaders would not only be fully within the rules, but has been proven to work successfully in the recent past.  98-1

Senator Stewart Olsen: I have a question and would like some points of clarification from everyone. Regarding your business proposal, the change and things like that, do you realize that we are a political organization? You can't take the politics out of the Senate, in my opinion. We're not a business and it's not business as usual.  99

I'll just use, as an example, a bill that the opposition absolutely thinks is the worst thing for the country. If you strip the tools away, how can you oppose? You can stand up and talk forever, but what you're really doing, then, is making the Senate a tool of the government in power to move their legislation through but stripping away any way of trying to oppose or stop that legislation. That really what we're coming down to.  99-1

Finding a way around that, where the opposition still has an ability, is a huge problem. If we can get around that, certainly, I would be willing to look at whatever. But we can't take politics out because, as I say, in the next election, things may change. I just think we have to be very careful here of what we're trying to do and to consider that.  99-2

The Chair: Good comment.  100

Senator Lankin: Let's start to have honest conversations about these problems.  101

Senator Joyal: If I understand the proposal of Senator Dean, you would go a step further than what we followed on C-14, the bill on medical assistance in dying. On that bill, if I remember well—as you know, I was one of the proposers of substantial amendments to it—the grouping of subjects was made at the amendment process to avoid having a senator moving section 17, section 32 and section 49. So through discussion in the groups—and I participated in that discussion—we agreed that all amendments dealing with section 17 would be bound together for the efficiency of the exchange of arguments related to section 17.  102

What you propose is an additional step, if I understand. You would keep the one we followed during the debate on C-14, and you say we would divide the bill by subjects of concern and there would be a debate. Let me give you an example of a concern I have regarding the impact of the bill on Aboriginal people on reserve and whatnot. To me, this is a major issue to be addressed and, in the context of reconciliation, we cannot adopt the legislation without clearly measuring its impact on Aboriginal people. That's my concern.  102-1

So that concern would be part of one debate. Those days, the debate would be on that.  102-2

Then, say some others have a concern about the impact of the use of cannabis on the mental health of youngsters. This is another issue we would want to canvas so that we know what we're voting on. There would be a number of days devoted to the study of the impact.  102-3

Then, under the Criminal Code, we would look at the impact of the bill on organized crime: What would it change and how can we expect organized crime to reinvent itself in order to circumvent the legislation? They are very creative at that. There would be a certain amount of time allocated to that.  102-4

Is that the way you propose to deal with the bill?  102-5

Senator Dean: It is for the purpose of trying to put some structure into it and learning from the segmentation of amendments.  103

Senator Joyal:I'm not talking about amendments. I'm talking about debates.  104

Senator Dean: I took the concept of segmentation and applied it to the potential to look at key themes or issues that emerged from committee.  105

I will say it was only a suggestion, like everything else in the proposal. They're all just suggestions for consideration about the way we might better structure debate.  105-1

I would have no difficulty at all with emulating the Bill C-14 piece and just do that on amendments. I have no strong views, senator, on the theming. It was just an idea. That's all. It's for discussion.  105-2

The Chair: We are getting close to 2 p.m. It's time for us to wrap up, unless I hear a revolution amongst you.  106

Senator Joyal: It's dangerous for you.  107

The Chair: I know. I would propose we continue with the short report proposal to have that in your hands by the first week of February and that, in place of a meeting next week, we just have a steering committee meeting and get the report into your hands as soon as possible at the end of January. It will be a refinement of the arguments of the evidence in the report you've got. One of the keys to that is to have, as circulated, Senator McCoy's work.  108

That is my proposal. We would deal with that report in February and, in March, April and May, we would get on to the business of structure of debate and all of the attendant variables involved. Do I have your general concurrence with that?  108-1

Hon. Senators: Agreed.  109

Senator Lankin: I agree with that and I think it's agreed around the table, but I wonder if there are three or more people who want to sit down with Senator Dean and discuss what is possible to recommend to our groups on Bill C-45. It's going to be first up when we come back. We could, over the next couple of weeks, make some progress on something that takes into account the concerns that have been raised and doesn't diminish voices and maybe gives an order in terms of the nature of debate.  110

At least that would give a structure so that we know, when we come back, what kind of time we're looking at, when to be ready to speak and to try to have multiple speakers over a period of time so we have an intelligent give-and-take on the bill. If that's possible, it would be terrific.  110-1

The Chair: That issue is outside the committee at this point.  111

Senator Stewart Olsen: I would be happy to take it to caucus to see if there would be any takers on joining a group for that. Or, David, perhaps you would take it to caucus just to see if we could proceed that way.  112

The Chair: Wonderful.  113

(The committee adjourned.)  114

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