House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, indeed a key function of the Senate is the representation of regions and minorities. I would expect that the provinces would have the perspective that the Prime Minister and the government seem not to have in terms of representation because we have seen through its 34 senators a reduction in gender equity and a reduction in the representation of minorities in the Senate.

I fully expect that the provinces would have that at heart because at the heart of democracy and how the country is governed is that all people are represented.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments on the nature of the term limits. The member has suggested that eight years may not be long enough and that it takes time for people to learn the ropes, so to speak. I can tell the member that the people on this side of the House can learn the ropes in this place in about eight seconds.

Eight years seems to be plenty. People can do their undergrads, their Ph.D. theses and go to the moon and back within eight years. I think people can certainly represent and understand how the Senate and Parliament works within that time frame. It is the longest period of time if we look at other upper chambers.

We are open to suggestions. We have incorporated suggestions from past consultations. This has been looked at for 143 years. We want to make one step. Why is the member so critical?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to tip my hat to the member opposite, who said that he can learn the ropes in eight seconds. I would certainly not presume to claim anything similar myself. I would like to remind the minister of state that the key concern the Liberal Party has is not about the detail. It is about the process.

Special committees have looked at this over the years. There are legitimate concerns about the constitutional right of a Parliament to unilaterally make this change. Referring this to the Supreme Court of Canada is the democratic and responsible response. The government has failed to do that and has failed to have the necessary consultations.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-10, which amends the Constitution Act of 1867 and limits Senate terms.

It is not the first time that the Conservatives introduce such legislation. This is the fourth time in four years that they are proposing a bill to reform the Senate by limiting to eight years the term for which senators would serve.

This is a new attempt by the Conservative government to somehow reform the Senate. That is totally ridiculous. It shows once again the Conservatives' bad faith when the time comes to obtain the consent of the provinces—in this case Quebec—regarding the Constitution Act of 1867.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of abolishing the Senate. However, the path followed by the Conservative government ignores the negotiating process that must take place with the provinces and which requires the consent of seven provinces representing 50% of the Canadian population.

The government presents a number of arguments. It claims to want to strengthen the institutions' democratic legitimacy. At the same time, it has no scruples about continuing on a path of democratic illegitimacy for the Senate, by speeding up the appointment process with this new bill. We can therefore say that this legislation is useless, since the Conservatives are contradicting themselves. They claim that they want to increase the democratic legitimacy of this institution—which is said to be archaic—but appointed senators do not have any public legitimacy. Later on, I will refer to some polls that clearly show this to be the case.

Second, any reform of this archaic institution—and I emphasize the word “archaic”—cannot be achieved unilaterally, without the consent of Quebec and of the provinces that represent over 50% of the population, provided there are seven of them. Third, if this Conservative government were really serious about wanting to increase the institutions' democratic legitimacy, it would ensure that Quebec's weight in the House of Commons is maintained.

If I have time later on, I will explain how this government is going to change Quebec's democratic weight by adding 30 new ridings, including 20 or so in Ontario. But let us look at today's issue, namely Bill C-10, which would provide an eight year, non-renewable term for senators. That is why we are saying the Senate is archaic and, more importantly, why it lacks democratic legitimacy.

If this bill is passed, it will speed up senators' turnover and the appointment process, as current senators would retire and be replaced by others whose term would last eight years. Such a change would allow a recently elected prime minister to quickly harmonize the parties' representation in the Senate and in the House of Commons after a change of government, and thus take control of the Senate more rapidly.

We know the Conservative Prime Minister's propensity for getting his hands on information and controlling the various leaders in various key positions within the government, as well as within his own political party and in the media. We know how the Prime Minister likes to have control over everything. It is easy to imagine the current Conservative Prime Minister making his selection. This week, we saw the control he has in the House, not to mention the Senate, at least with respect to the Afghanistan documents.

Similarly, this bill would allow the Prime Minister to increase the cyclical domination of the Senate by one party. With the introduction of this bill, the Prime Minister is saying one thing—he said he would not reform the Senate—but is doing the opposite. This is not the first time this has been mentioned in the House.

The Prime Minister once promised transparency. What transparency do we have today? You might think that the Liberal Party was still in power. We are forced to track their every move, to ferret out the truth in dribs and drabs in order to get the information to the people and to see how the Prime Minister manages his own government.

Not bad coming from a Prime Minister who said, during his campaign, that he would not appoint any senators. That is what the current Conservative Prime Minister promised in his election campaign.

I believe that the Bloc Québécois' traditional position on the Senate is well known.

Given that I have just shown how archaic this institution is, its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the people and the partisan way in which senators are appointed, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of abolishing this institution after holding negotiations. There must be constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec in particular. If the government is planning on moving forward with this bill, it cannot continue to do so unilaterally, as it is preparing to do and as it wants to do.

Major reform or abolition of the Senate would require negotiated amendments to the Constitution as well as agreement from Quebec and the provinces. It would have to be decided if the general amending formula—agreement from seven provinces representing at least 50% of the population, the so-called 7/50 formula—or the formula requiring unanimous consent would be required. That remains to be seen.

I do not think that the Prime Minister has thought about that. He said that there would be consultations. It will take more than consultations; it requires agreement from seven provinces with at least 50% of Canada's population.

That said, it is most probable that unanimity from the provinces would be necessary in order to effect such a major change because it would affect matters, such as the office of the Governor General, specified in the unanimity procedure.

The Bloc's position in favour of abolishing the Senate following negotiations with Quebec and the provinces seems to be shared by the people of Quebec, as a March 2010 poll clearly shows:

The majority of Quebeckers do not see a value in the Senate as it is currently configured and a large percentage of them agree with abolishing it, according to an exclusive Canada-wide poll by Léger Marketing for QMI Agency.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage loves polls. A random national online poll of 1,510 adults showed that 35% of Canadians believe that the Senate can only be effective if senators are elected and not appointed. Furthermore, 25% of respondents believe that the Senate should be abolished and 12% are in favour of appointments based on gender and regional balance. As for Quebec respondents, 8% believe that the red chamber plays an important role and that the system for appointing senators does not work very well. Twenty-two per cent of Quebeckers would prefer to see senators elected and 43% want the Senate abolished. It is very clear. That is why we are saying that the Senate is not popular with the public.

Many participants, 20% in Quebec and 23% in the rest of Canada, chose not to respond because they did not understand the role of the Senate. This percentage increases to 31% for Canadians under 45. I think that these numbers speak for themselves. We can see there is no emotionally charged great debate on this bill. We see that here today. It just goes to show how archaic and irrelevant this institution is.

Senate reform can only be done with the agreement of Quebec and the provinces, and the Canadian Constitution is a federal constitution. I think that comes as no surprise to anyone.

Accordingly, there are reasons why changes affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally by Parliament and must instead be part of the constitutional process involving Quebec and the provinces.

I will conclude my speech after question period.

Huron—Bruce
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to recognize one of Canada's greatest tourist destinations. Huron—Bruce borders on Lake Huron and boasts over 100 kilometres of coastline with world-class beaches and breathtaking sunsets.

From the lighthouse tours stretching from Point Clark north with stops in Kincardine and Saugeen Shores to the century old Huron County Playhouse barn, minutes from Grand Bend, Huron—Bruce is the ultimate tourist destination, offering activities for all four seasons.

Tourists can hike the renowned the Bruce and Maitland Trail, dock at the picturesque marinas, experience a play at the Blyth Festival or spend a night at the historic Benmiller Inn. Also Huron—Bruce boast Canada's largest motocross at Walton TransCan and Lucknow's Music in the Fields, featuring this year, Paul Brandt. It sounds good.

I encourage all members and their constituents to visit Huron—Bruce and experience Ontario's west coast.

Dennis Vialls
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 23, Canada lost another great World War II Veteran. Dennis Vialls passed away after a courageous battle with Alzheimer's.

Dennis Vialls was born in Taunton, England, on March 29, 1925. He served in the Royal Army Service Corps and fought alongside Canadian soldiers on the beaches of Normandy.

After coming to Canada, Dennis Vialls went on to a career in the aviation industry, working for Air Canada and Rolls Royce Canada. In 1967, the year of Canada's Centennial, he formalized his bond with our great nation by becoming a Canadian citizen.

Dennis Vialls leaves his loving and lovely wife, Sharyn Cadot, and his children, Debbie, Pam, David, Peter and Douglas. They truly honoured their husband and father by displaying the same courage and determination in their efforts on his behalf as he did standing up for our rights some sixty-five years ago.

Let Dennis Vialls be a reminder that there is no freedom without sacrifice and that it is incumbent on our government to reward sacrifice by honouring it, not only in symbols and ceremonies, but in actions as well.

Montreal Canadiens
Statements By Members

April 29th, 2010 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Pascal-Pierre Paillé Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were treated to a great game of hockey last night. The Montreal Canadiens beat the Washington Capitals in game seven, the final game of the series, with a score of 2 to 1. The suspense did not let up for a moment until the very last second.

The Habs' goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, gave an absolutely amazing performance, making it nearly impossible to get anything by him.

We must recognize the talent, tenacity and passion displayed by these athletes. While very few analysts thought they had any chance of winning the series, the Canadiens managed to overcome a 1-3 deficit and beat the top ranked team—the first time an eighth place team has pulled this off in the NHL since 1994.

On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to congratulate the Montreal Canadiens. We wish them the best of luck in their quest for their 25th Stanley Cup.

YWCA's Women of Distinction Awards
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past Saturday I had the honour to attend the Sudbury YWCA's Women of Distinction Awards Gala. These awards honour women who have made substantial contributions to the social fabric of our great community.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the award recipients and thank them on behalf of all Sudburians for their hard work in our community. Congratulations go out to Janna-Marie Doni, Gladys Beange, France Bélanger-Houle, Harriet Conroy, Maureen Lacroix and the women members of Waabishki Mkwaa Singers.

For the first time in the history of the Sudbury YWCA, one of these awards was given posthumously to Elizabeth Freelandt, known as Betty. Ms. Freelandt was a VP at my alma mater, Cambrian College, and a well-known community leader. She made a difference to those around her and her loss has left a void in my community.

To her family and friends, her legacy can be seen in the hearts and minds of these remarkable women.

Motorcycle Ride for Dad
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House of Commons today to congratulate the organizers of the Motorcycle Ride for Dad event on its upcoming 10th anniversary.

Motorcycle Ride for Dad is Canada's largest annual event in which an army of chrome and leather fights against prostate cancer. On Saturday, May 29, engines will roar across Canada and I encourage Canadians to take part.

This will be the second consecutive year that I will be participating in this event to collect as many donations as possible.

Donations are disbursed locally to raise awareness and encourage men to be checked for prostate cancer. Funds also go to research and development in the prostate cancer area.

This year, as I proudly ride my motorcycle in this event, I would like to dedicate my ride to my colleague, the member for Toronto—Danforth. I continue to pray for his health and well-being.

On behalf of myself and the residents of Saint Boniface, I would like to congratulate all participants of Motorcycle Ride for Dad and I wish them safety on the ride on May 29.

Health Care
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, this week flags have been lowered, wreaths have been laid, and we have stood in silence to remember those who have been injured or killed on the job.

On March 19 Labrador lost Eldon Perry in a workplace accident at the Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador City. He was a devoted husband, a loving father and grandfather, and a long-respected employee. His life was filled with giving and in offering a helping hand. He lived following the simple yet profound ideal of providing for the wellness of his family and community. His legacy is one of action and he has left an incredibly positive mark.

Working in the north is not easy. It has its great rewards and challenges. Tragically, on the day of Mr. Perry's accident, he was rushed to a hospital without even the basics, such as a CT scan. Needing emergency help, he waited 10 long hours for an air ambulance. This is not good enough.

My wish today, on behalf of all those who work in the north, is simple: good quality health care that treats all Canadians equally, regardless of where they live. Our workforce and their families are the backbone of our nation, and they have earned it.

Republic of Korea
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, today marks a solemn occasion for the Republic of Korea, which honoured the 46 sailors who perished with the sinking of the warship Cheonan on March 26.

On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the 46 sailors.

I understand the government of the Republic of Korea continues to work with experts from various countries in investigating the cause of the sinking of the Cheonan. The results of that investigation are expected to be made known within the coming weeks. Canada is monitoring the situation closely and awaits the results of the investigation.

We stand with our friend and ally, the Republic of Korea, in mourning its loss. Canada stands for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

40th Anniversary of the Brink's Caravan
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, three days before the Quebec election on April 29, 1970, we saw the biggest hoax and greatest manipulation of the media in the history of Quebec, by none other than Pierre Elliott Trudeau, then prime minister of Canada.

Polls showed that the Liberals and the Parti Québécois were neck and neck. Mr. Trudeau and the federal Liberals decided to interfere in the election campaign, by provoking fears and raising the spectre of an economic exodus. Mr. Trudeau and his henchmen orchestrated a fake exodus of capital. On April 25, a caravan of nine Brink's trucks, insured for $450 million, left Montreal and headed for Toronto, witnessed by a single journalist from The Gazette, who had been tipped off by an anonymous caller. The newspaper, in cahoots with Mr. Trudeau, never published the photos taken by this journalist, but was happy to spread the story.

Robert Bourassa and his team eventually won the election.

Mr. Trudeau claimed to be a defender of rights and democracy. But we would say he showed contempt for democracy, both in staging the Brink's caravan and in locking up activists during the October crisis of 1970.

The Economy
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader has not bothered to ask a question about Canada's economy for a month now, and the last time he did, he proposed to increase the tax burden on Canadians and Quebeckers.

Since March 29, the Liberal leader has focused his attention on so-called scandals, on forcing his members to support the long gun registry and on promoting his book, instead of on the most important issue to Canadians: the economy.

The Liberal leader is deliberately not talking about the economy, because Canadians know that his plan is to raise taxes. With phase two of our economic action plan, our government is acting to improve our economy, and we are getting results.

We are working hard to stimulate Canada's economy by promoting job creation and growth across the country.

Status of Women
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is a government trying to export its own ideology to the world, flying in the face of 25 years of clear, consistent Canadian foreign policy.

However, it is doing it at home, too, by continuing the systematic hollowing out of women's rights and women's advocacy groups across Canada.

CRIAW, the Coalition for Pay Equity and the Womanspace Resource Centre were among those shocked to lose their funding; in some cases, after 25 years. This House should be gravely concerned.

Research and advocacy are no longer funded by Status of Women Canada, the court challenges program has been scrapped, and real pay equity has been denied. Now, reputable organizations are losing their funding.

In January the former minister of state for the status of women boldly stated that she had the final say on funding, regardless of the formal recommendations of her staff.

In a democratic society, project funding cannot be allocated on the whim of a minister. The Conservative government must end this culture of deceit.

Taxation
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the tax filing deadline nears, Canadian families are reaping the rewards of our Conservative government's commitment to lower taxes.

Our government believes that low taxes fuel job creation and economic growth. That is why since taking office we have cut taxes for families, seniors, students and individuals, and reducing the overall tax burden to its lowest level in nearly 50 years. Total savings now exceed, for a typical family, $3,000 a year.

Tax and spend Liberals are not happy. Canadian families, according to them, are not paying enough taxes. In fact, the Liberal finance critic said, “The era of tax cuts is over”.

His leader promises a GST increase, a new carbon tax and higher job-killing business taxes. Under the Liberal leader's tax and spend plan, Canadians will suffer and see their tax bills dramatically increase.

Not us. We will ensure Canadians keep all their money—