Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits)

An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Steven Fletcher  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of Nov. 19, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment alters the tenure of senators who are summoned after October 14, 2008.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10 is an act that would amend the Constitution Act. The summary states that:

This enactment alters the tenure of senators who are summoned after October 14, 2008.

More specifically, the bill states:

—a person who is summoned to the Senate after the coming into force of the Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits) shall hold a place in that House for one term of eight years.

The bill is modest in size. It seeks to impose limits on senators rather than having them appointed until age 75 or until they choose to leave.

I looked back to where we have been with this issue. This issue came up in 2006. As a result of elections and prorogations, et cetera, the bill made no progress. It came up again last April. A couple of hours of debate were held in May. Here we are again still debating the bill at second reading. As members are aware, second reading is the first opportunity for parliamentarians to give their views on a bill proposed by the government.

I went back to the original speech given by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. We all assume that the person championing the bill will give substantive reasons why the bill is a good one. We just said a prayer of good laws and wise decisions. I looked for those substantive reasons in the minister's speech but I did not find them. The arguments that were made by the minister were more pros than fact. They were some sweeping generalizations without the substance that parliamentarians would like to have.

I also notice that government members are not speaking to the bill. It has been introduced by one person and the opposition parties have spoken to the bill. If government members do not get up to defend a bill, one must ask why not? Why are they not prepared to stand in this place and take questions from the opposition about its concerns with the it?

One of the phrases that came out in the minister's speech was the “step by step approach”. There is no question that the government's plans in the longer term are to have either an elected Senate or maybe to abolish it altogether.

If we look over the history of this issue since 2006, we will see that the Senate has been maligned. It has constantly been pointed out that the Senate is composed of unelected senators. It is undemocratic. It is full of all kinds of terrible people, who just sit there and serve for 45 years. We have been hearing all the negatives about the Senate. The Senate is a Canadian institution. We know the government's record in terms of respect for the institutions of our country.

The way the government has handled this, or not handled it, demonstrates, yet again, that the government really does not care if the bill gets passed. It does not care if we move it through the system and get it dealt with because it has a political benefit if not passed. It is like a political football. It is like the cat playing with the wool. When problems come up, the government will bring back the bill and take some shots at those terrible senators.

Having been here 17 years, I know many senators. Everybody in this place knows that the Senate does better committee work and study work than the House of Commons. The reason for that is because senators do not have constituencies that take up 60% of their time.

Senators are doing the job here. They are the sober second thought. They have the time to give to the studies, to hold comprehensive hearings and to go abroad to meet with other jurisdictions that have the same or similar problems or have entertained some changes. They take the time to do it.

I also note, and the members will also know, that the camaraderie within the Senate is better than it is in the House. Those people have great meetings. I was the chair of the scrutiny and regulations committee. Anybody who has attended a Senate meeting can see how important it is to have the institutional memory of some of the key areas that went by. We have files before the scrutiny of regulations committee that go back 25 years on the Fisheries Act, and the Minister of Fisheries would know that. The senators and many of those people have been there know what the arguments are.

One reason the Conservatives use to limit the terms of the Senate is that people lose the capacity to have fresh ideas. We get stale and we have to turn it over so we get some new ideas. I reject the argument totally. The example I will use to demonstrate it is the Supreme Court of Canada.

Would the government also argue that the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada lose the capacity to have any new ideas, to learn, to do good work? Absolutely not. Will we reform the Supreme Court so we can turn them over a lot faster? Absolutely not. It is not in the public interest nor in the interests of our country.

This is a one step by one step approach, but it is an approach in which the Conservatives do not want to engage. They would rather have this issue on the table, continuing to give them the opportunity to say what an undemocratic institution it is, unelected, not accountable, et cetera. I think they tasted blood this past week, when the Senate majority of Conservatives were instructed to kill a bill on climate change even before it was sent to a Senate committee for consideration.

Now the Conservatives can deal with it here. When they finally have to be pushed to put something through to the Senate, they know they have the Senate tool. This game is being played out on so many items. Members will be aware of all of the justice bills.

In looking at the minister of state's speech, he seemed to think that people of age had a problem, that when they reached 75, they were really coasting, that they do not have a clue and that they cannot do this. I am not sure whether the Canadian Human Rights Commission would agree with the principle that when one reaches a certain age, somehow one has to be treated differently.

The Prime Minister appoints senators. If the Conservatives are concerned about people serving for too long a period, why would they appoint somebody who is 35 years old? If we look at the people in the Senate, these honourable senators, we will see some people of great character, of great information and knowledge, representing the cross-section of our country and every geographic corner of our country.

I was disappointed at the lack of substance in the minister's speech in justifying the bill. I agree with the other parties that the bill should go to committee so we can have others, outside of this chamber, come before the House of Commons committee and explain to the government why its presumptions on which the bill is based are faulty and not in the public interest.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was absolutely flabbergasted to listen to my hon. colleague's speech in the same week that the unelected and unaccountable house trashed a bill on climate change, which was voted for by the democratically elected members of the Canadian people.

The Liberals have never wanted to touch Senate reform because they have always used it as a place where they put the bagmen and the party hacks. However, if we looked at the Senate rules for conflict of interest, senators would not meet the most basic test that any rural town councillor, or any small town school board trustee would have to meet.

Under the Senate's conflict of interest guidelines, senators can review legislation where they have a pecuniary interest. They can sit on the boards of major corporations. They have all manner of financial interests that they do not have to disclose. Any city or town councillor in any community in the country would have to disclose those, but not the senators.

If these representatives are supposed to do sober second thought, would the member not agree with me that we have to clean up and have clear guidelines on conflict of interest so the money, the bagmen and the oil industry cannot overrule the House?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

I agree, Mr. Speaker, but the bill is not the solution when we consider some of the work that has been done, such as the work on mental health, the work on climate change in the Senate, the work on euthanasia.

Everybody in this place knows that the Conservative majority in the Senate did not make the decision to defeat Bill C-311 before it completed second reading. The direction came straight from the Prime Minister of Canada, who believes that Kyoto was a socialist plot.

The members know that.They should not blame the Senate for it. They should blame the Prime Minister and the Conservatives who cannot even hold on to an environment minister because they have no policy, no interest in the environment.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to my hon. colleague, I really enjoy his speeches many times, but on this occasion, he must take pause for reflection.

If the Prime Minister gave orders to the Senate majority to do what it did over this week, that is another nail in the Senate's coffin as far as I am concerned. This says that we have a Senate that is completely malfunctioning.

When we look at the content of the bill to shorten terms of Senators and when we look at the possibility that the actions taken this week could transfer forward into the next government, we could see the situation where the Senate could, without debate, cancel a government bill. This is totally unacceptable.

We have a crisis in our Parliament and the bill before us will not solve that. It gives us the opportunity to debate it in a fashion. We need to make that—

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with everything the member has said. The bill does not deal with the real problem. The real problem is that the Prime Minister has a problem with democracy. He knows that whenever he gets in trouble, all he has to do is bring up a bill like this or bring up another justice bill, something like getting tough on crime week, so we switch the channel and take the focus off the real issues, the real problems facing the nation.

The Conservatives do not want the bill passed. They have been playing around with it like a cat with a ball of wool, and they will continue to do that. They know this has better political mileage because they can continue to use their slogans like “undemocratic, unelected, useless people”. Yet every member in this place will go to an event to say goodbye to a senator when he or she retires because they respect the work that has been done.

The Conservatives cannot deny that. We have some work to do, but the Senate did not make decision to defeat Bill C-311. It was the Prime Minister himself.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the amendment to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, regarding Senate term limits.

For the record, the amendment calls for striking out all of the words in the motion after the word “That” and substituting the following:

the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), because the term limits do not go far enough in addressing the problems with the Senate of Canada, and do not lead quickly enough to the abolition of the upper chamber, as recent events have shown to be necessary.

The New Democrats' position is clear. This bill falls far short on the changes necessary if the Senate is ever to be effective.

I wanted to rise during this debate because there are some important points that need to be made.

At the outset, I want to address the cynical workings of the government. It knows, as does every MP in this chamber, that the length of time that the senators stay in their appointed seats is not the real issue. The real issue is how they got to the Senate in the first place.

We know that the 35 unelected senators appointed by this Prime Minister were instrumental in killing, without debate, Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act by my colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North.

Bill C-311 would have committed the federal government to achieving practical, science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Bill C-311 was passed by a majority of the elected members of Parliament, representing the majority of Canadians.

This Prime Minister said in 2004, “I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent”.

For the record, let me name those unelected Conservative senators who voted to kill Bill C-311. They include David Angus, unelected, unaccountable; Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, unelected, unaccountable; David Braley, unelected, unaccountable; Patrick Brazeau, unelected, unaccountable.

I would like to talk a little about Senator Brazeau. I would like to quote Don Martin in an article he wrote, from February 3, 2009:

It's hard to imagine how such a thoroughly damaged resumé could've survived the supposedly ruthless scrutiny of the Prime Minister's Office, particularly when the job is a 40-year guaranteed Senate gig with an annual salary of $130,000 plus perks....

The man described in his bio as a loving father of three is darn close to qualifying to be a deadbeat dad with the mother of one offspring telling CTV that Brazeau hasn't seen or properly supported his 14-year-old son in eight years.

He questions whether this is the calibre of individual the Prime Minister had in mind when he set out to reform the Senate.

The list continues with Bert Brown, unelected, unaccountable; Claude Carignan, unelected, unaccountable; Andrée Champagne, unelected, unaccountable; Ethel Cochrane, unelected, unaccountable; Gerald Comeau, unelected, unaccountable; Anne Cools, unelected, unaccountable; Consiglio Di Nino, unelected, unaccountable; Fred Dickson, unelected, unaccountable; Mike Duffy, unelected, unaccountable, and it must be pretty tough for this guy, carrying the party line instead of asking tough questions of politicians; Nicole Eaton, unelected, unaccountable; Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, unelected, unaccountable; and Linda Frum, unelected, unaccountable.

As well, there was Irving Gerstein, and I will expand a little on this senator.

In his 2007 book on the Prime Minister's team, subtitled Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, Tom Flanagan, a former top PM adviser, had this to say:

Under Irving Gerstein's direction, the grassroots model of fundraising has built the Conservative Party into a financial powerhouse

What is his reward? It is $130,000 plus perks, all on the taxpayers' dime. What a slap in the face to Canadians. This is the senator who is going from community to community, province to province, raising funds for the Conservative Party.

The list continues with Stephen Greene, unelected, unaccountable; Leo Housakos, unelected, unaccountable; Janis Johnson, unelected, unaccountable; Noël Kinsella, unelected, unaccountable; Vim Kochhar, unelected, unaccountable; Daniel Lang, unelected, unaccountable; Marjory LeBreton, unelected, unaccountable; Elizabeth Marshall, unelected, unaccountable; Yonah Martin, unelected, unaccountable; Michael Meighen, unelected, unaccountable; Ruth Nancy, unelected, unaccountable; Richard Neufeld, unelected, unaccountable; Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie, unelected, unaccountable; Donald Oliver, unelected, unaccountable; Dennis Glen Patterson, unelected, unaccountable to the Canadian people; Donald Neil Plett, unelected, unaccountable; Rose-May Poirier, unelected, unaccountable; Bob Runciman, unelected, unaccountable; Hugh Segal, unelected, unaccountable; Judith Seidman, unelected, unaccountable; Gerry St. Germain, unelected, unaccountable; Carolyn Stewart Olsen, unelected, unaccountable; David Tkachuk, unelected, unaccountable; John Wallace, unelected, unaccountable; and Pamela Wallin, unelected, unaccountable.

These are all the senators who killed Bill C-311.

Let me speak a bit about another senator who was not present for the vote, Senator Doug Finley.

Bill C-311 was killed by this unaccountable Senate.

How about Michael Douglas Finley, who had to be escorted by security out of the House of Commons committee because he showed up uninvited and refused to leave, displaying such utter disrespect for this great institution?

We could spend a lot of time on all the other worthy services he delivered for the Conservative Party, but we do not have time to go there.

The Conservative committee that searches for these candidates should take a lesson from DND and advertise on the Internet for candidates, on such sites as craigslist and soft porn sites, like DND did. It may end up with better candidates to appoint to the unelected, unaccountable Senate.

I notice the growing discomfort on the faces of Conservative members as I read the names of these unelected, unaccountable and unrepresentative senators into the record of this chamber.

Is it any wonder that even in the Conservative-friendly corners criticism is mounting about the Prime Minister's unbelievable record of broken promises.

Let me quote John Ivison, who wrote in the National Post this week:

All politicians are haunted by things they’ve said in the past. All governments are buffeted by events and forced to shift position.

But how many times can a politician say something and then do the precise opposite before even his strongest supporters start to doubt him? The bond of trust between Mr. Harper and Canadians is eroding, according to opinion polls by Nik Nanos.

The list of those broken promises is long.

Can members imagine how Preston Manning must feel about the actions of the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister is betraying all those who voted for him and the Reform Party.

He is betraying all those who thought they were getting a new form of government, one that was not as morally corrupt as the previous Liberal government.

Instead, we have a hyper-partisan, morally bankrupt, anti-democratic government that is thumbing its nose at every institution that upholds democracy.

Democracy--

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. We have seen how the Conservative Party came in. It told Canadians that it was going to be an ethical government and was going to do something different. Yet we see the pattern. As soon as the Conservatives got their hands on the Senate, they started to fill it with the bagmen and cronies, people like Leo Housakos and Doug Finley, who gets paid by the taxpayer to run the war room for the Conservative Party.

Then, of course, there is the Hon. Irving Gerstein. Here is a man who shows what the Senate is all about. The Liberals have accused us of using the word “bagman”, but Senator Gerstein said in a speech he gave:

Well, I want to tell you that I do not admit to being a bagman; I proclaim it.

I believe that the job of raising funds for the Conservative Party...is both necessary and honourable.

That is his job in the Senate, a man who the Prime Minister chose to go in, along with the other bagmen, who brags that he is there to raise money for the Conservative Party, and the taxpayer pays for these people.

My hon. colleague has seen the hypocrisy of the government and how these members stood year after year and said when they came in they would deal with the issue. What they are doing now is, of course, mere window dressing. They would put term limits, but the fact is that they are using the Senate as a dumping ground for their party hacks and the people who collect the money.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague why he thinks it is that the government has betrayed the promises it made to people who voted for them thinking that they were going to clean up that cesspool.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the question this way. Democracy has become an inconvenience to the government. It has perfected the art of violating the spirit and intent of this great Parliament, and for what? It is for the government to hold on to power for as long as it can, even if it means turning more and more Canadians away from the political process, even if it means discouraging youth from becoming involved.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have some questions to ask the member opposite. I know the NDP is of the view that there should not be a Senate at all. As we know, things move incrementally in this place. Even if I strongly disagree with his point of view in respect of the removal of senators altogether, would it not make some sense to at least get on board, make the adjustment and modernize to the present, and then they can go their way and do what they think they need to do thereafter?

Canadians across the country, as he well knows, have shown a clear desire to change the Senate, to have Senate reform, and we are committed to modernizing the Senate to reflect a 21st century democracy. Surely we could have basic agreement to say that a senator being elected for terms up to 45 years is not right or appropriate in this modern era and that something in the order of eight years would certainly be better.

Would the member opposite not agree that rather than 45-year terms for unelected, unaccountable senators, a term of eight years would be an improvement on that?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think senators should be elected for eight years. I think they should be done away with, period.

I want to quote from someone from the media, Mr. Ivison, who may have coined a new term for the Senate. As described in the headline to his recent National Post article, the “Triple-U Senate” is “unelected, unrepresentative, [and] under [the PM's] thumb”. That is why we do not want senators.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Quebec abolished their senates years and years ago. In the vote we just had on Bill C-311, we heard the Liberals talk about it in the House in a very defensive way. I understand that is because it was the Liberals who called for the vote in the Senate that set this situation up. Is the member aware of this?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am quite aware of that. When the hon. member from the Liberal Party was giving us his speech a while ago, he was blaming the Conservatives for what happened to Bill C-311. In reality, he should be looking in the mirror and blaming the Liberals, especially the Liberal senators. All they had to do was stand up and say, “No, we are going to debate the bill”. That would have been the democratic process. Instead, they sat in their chairs and the bill was killed.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by reminding the House that the Bloc Québécois vehemently opposes Bill C-10, which would create a single eight-year term for senators appointed by the government. In fact, all the currently serving senators were appointed by the government. We will also support the NDP amendment.

This bill needs to be considered in connection with another proposal by the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister to hold a sort of public consultation to create lists of candidates from which the Prime Minister could choose future senators. We need to look at these two things together to see what the government is trying to do, which is to carry out a substantial reform of the Senate.

I agree completely with some of the NDP's comments that the Senate is an undemocratic institution and a remnant of Canada's colonial past. We are also in favour of abolishing the Senate.

Until recently, there was a tacit solution. The Senate as a political institution is the result of partisan appointments. We need to acknowledge that the Liberals made partisan appointments, just as the Conservative Party is doing now. Because the Senate is unelected and undemocratic, the senators were at least smart enough to respect the will of the only elected house of Parliament, the House of Commons.

We share the same disappointment. I would even say we are shocked that the Senate refused to endorse Bill C-311, which this House had passed. To my way of thinking, something that had existed for 80 years has been broken, and that is a serious problem. We should solve that major problem by abolishing the Senate, but we cannot do that unilaterally. Neither the House of Commons nor the government can decide to abolish or change the Senate, even though it does not have much public credibility.

Recently, in March 2010, Leger Marketing conducted a poll in Quebec and Canada. Overall, the results were the same, although the figures in Quebec were higher. Only 8% of Quebeckers believe that the upper chamber plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators works well; 22% of Quebeckers would rather have senators elected, but 43% supported abolishing the Senate. I should point out that 20% of Quebeckers opted not to answer the question, which shows just how irrelevant they think this institution is.

I said that we would be in favour of abolishing the Senate but that constitutional negotiations were necessary. The same goes for the threat the Prime Minister has been making for a number of months now that if these two reforms are not approved by the Senate, he will abolish it.

Unfortunately for him, he does not have the right to unilaterally abolish the Senate. Neither the Prime Minister nor the House of Commons can do that because the Senate is part of a parliamentary system agreed upon a very long time ago by the provinces and the federal government. I will read a quote from Benoît Pelletier on that topic later on. Mr. Pelletier is a constitutional expert at the University of Ottawa who was once minister of intergovernmental affairs for Quebec's Liberal government.

The same goes for Bill C-10. The Prime Minister and the Conservative Party want to create a so-called list of candidates for the Senate based on consultations with the public. All of these reforms require constitutional negotiations with the provinces.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court of Canada was very clear about this in a ruling from the early 1980s entitled Re: Authority of Parliament in relation to the Upper House. It very clearly says that when seeking to change the essential character of the Senate, constitutional negotiations are required.

All of the constitutional experts who appeared before the committee that was struck prior to the election, except for maybe one who was very close to the Prime Minister's Office, told us that this entails amendments to essential characteristics of the Senate, whether we are talking about Bill C-10 or the desire to create some sort of pseudo-democratic consultation to come up with a list of senators. They also told us that, taken together, the two reforms would further alter essential characteristics of the Senate.

The Supreme Court was very clear: there would have to be constitutional negotiations. The main problem with this bill is that the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are trying to do indirectly what they have been unable to do directly. As I mentioned, we will vehemently oppose it.

I would like to come back to a quotation from Quebec's former intergovernmental affairs minister, Benoît Pelletier, who is also a professor at the University of Ottawa. He reiterated Quebec's traditional position when he said:

The Government of Quebec does not believe that this falls exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Given that the Senate is a crucial part of the Canadian federal compromise, it is clear to us that under the Constitution Act, 1982, and the Regional Veto Act, the Senate can be neither reformed nor abolished without Quebec's consent.

At the time, Mr. Pelletier gave an excellent summary of Quebec's traditional position, which is shared by both the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly. I would also remind the House that in 2007, when we were debating a similar bill, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion:

That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the Federal Government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.

The Supreme Court, the Government of Quebec, the National Assembly and the constitutional experts who appeared before the legislative committee that was studying the bill before the 2008 election have all been clear regarding the fact that the amendments proposed in Bill C-10 and in the previous bill are changes affecting the Senate's essential characteristics and therefore require constitutional negotiations.

Furthermore, it is quite clear to us that, taken together, the bills introduced by the Conservative government clearly illustrate, for the first time, its desire to reduce Quebec's political weight within federal institutions. While that desire has always been a reality, the Conservatives are now being very open about it. This is obvious not only in their attempts to unilaterally impose these two bills, which is unconstitutional, but also in their desire to increase the representation of the Canadian nation by adding another 30 seats to the House, to the detriment of the Quebec nation's representation.

If ever this bill introduced by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform—how is that for an oxymoron?—were to pass, Quebec's political weight in the House would be less than its demographic weight. Rest assured that we will do everything in our power to make sure that never happens. For example, Prince Edward Island has four MPs and that is just fine. The Magdalen Islands have only one MNA, and we have no problem with that either. Mathematically, it cannot be proportionate. Other factors have to be taken into account, as was done for Prince Edward Island. In Quebec's case, we have to recognize, as the House has, that it is a nation within the Canadian nation and that this nation has to have at least 25% of the seats in the House in order to express the voice of Quebec.

In light of these circumstances, not only are we going to vote against Bill C-10 if it ends up in committee, at report stage or third reading, but for now, we are also unequivocally going to support the NDP amendment.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is really outrageous about this situation that we saw with Bill C-311 is that it was almost as if the Prime Minister had a lever in his office that he pulled and Bill C-311 dropped through the floor.

The intent of the Senate originally was as a place of sober second thought. Now we have a situation, and we have had it with previous governments, where the government in power stacks the Senate so it has control of that lever, whichever way it wants a bill or a motion to go.

This was an offence to the Parliament of this country. We have not taken Bill C-311 forward just once; we took it forward twice. It was passed twice in this House, and we still saw the Prime Minister's office pull that lever and dump that bill.

If there has ever been a case for the abolition of the Senate in this country, this is it. If we have to go to constitutional negotiations to do so, so be it. It is time to put an end to the Senate of Canada.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

November 19th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and comments.

I basically agree with the hon. member in that this week, the Senate breached a tacit agreement between the House of Commons and the Senate whereby the House of Commons makes a decision and the Senate takes a second look. There have been times when the Senate has made amendments that have improved bills and that is great.

However, it is not up to the Senate to make decisions on behalf of the Canadian nation or the Quebec nation. It is not representative. It is not elected. It is an archaic institution, a legacy of the colonial period. I think what happened this week with Bill C-311 is extremely serious and makes the case for abolishing the Senate. I am glad to hear that the hon. member would agree to abolishing the Senate through constitutional negotiations, which is the only way that is possible under the Canadian Constitution. The Supreme Court has reiterated that, as have the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly.

I will close by saying that, in recent months, the Senate has been extremely partisan both in terms of the bills before us and the appointments made by the Prime Minister. In fact, he had said that he would not make appointments until there was Senate reform. When there was a threat to his partisan interests, he again broke his promise and appointed senators to ensure that the Senate would be a conduit for the will of the Prime Minister's Office and the government. That is deplorable. This strengthens the case for abolishing the Senate. Once again, we will be voting against Bill C-10.