House of Commons Hansard #37 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservative.

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The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-10.

The first part of the debate started yesterday. We have had a very interesting debate. The minister was here and participated in the debate yesterday. We welcome that. It is the second time this week that we have had ministers from the government in attendance, and I think that is a very positive sign.

This is actually the fourth time that the government has tried to bring in this type of a bill to limit Senate terms, and I think this time could be the lucky time. I must tell the President of the Treasury Board that it all depends on several things, such as whether the government tries to engineer another election or whether it prorogues Parliament. That is why the bill did not make as far as it could have the last two times. Perhaps the first time around there were some other forces that scuttled his bill, but certainly the last two times it was self-inflicted.

As our critic, the member for Hamilton Centre, pointed out yesterday, we have no problem with this bill and with this concept. For many years now our party has been solidly on the record as being in favour of the abolition of the Senate. At this point in our history, I think many of us believe that incrementalism may in fact be the answer here. If we can chisel away at this structure a little bit at the time, we might get it into a better form than it is. For that reason, we think this is a positive step.

Eight years seems like a fairly long time for Senators to serve. Under an ideal structure, if we were to be electing Senators, we would more than likely want to be electing them on a five year cycle, like the members of the House, and maybe in alternate years so we did not have a total and complete transfer of political power in the country in one election cycle. We could build it like it is done in the United States over a two year cycle.

That is not what we are dealing with here because we have the constitutional requirements of the country. The government has nibbled around the problem sufficiently to be able to confidently propose this particular bill with the knowledge that this will in fact be constitutional, regardless of what the Liberals keep referring to, that they want to send it off to the Supreme Court. That would buy them another 10 or 20 years.

The fact is the government is on pretty solid grounds to make this particular incremental change to the Senate. What is exciting about the whole process at the end of the day is that some of the provinces are electing their own Senators. I believe Alberta has been electing their own Senators, but Saskatchewan and now Manitoba are planning to follow suit.

I do have the November 2009 report from the Manitoba all-party special committee on Senate reform. The President of the Treasury Board understands how Manitoba has worked in a minority government. He was there for that period. He knows that under the former Filman government and under the Doer government for the last 10 years, Manitoba's solution to many very controversial problems has been to resolve it through an all-party process.

We did that with the smoking in public places issue, which I believe was actually an issue introduced by one of the Conservative backbenchers at the time in opposition. We dealt with this issue very effectively during Meech Lake as well.

I once again encourage the government to look at a model that has worked in the past in other provinces.

What the legislative committee came up with was fairly interesting because it consulted broadly in the process. The mandate of the committee referred to the fact that the federal government would be moving forward with Senate reform and in response Manitoba would establish an all-party committee to ask Manitobans how senators should be elected.

The federal government asked the provinces to consult and asked for input on Senate selection. The all-party process on consultations reflected Manitoba legislation passed in 2006 and I will get to that fairly soon.

It is timely to move forward because the legislation to create an eight year term limit for senators was introduced recently in Parliament.

For the public who are watching, the fact that we are simply limiting Senate terms is not being done entirely in isolation. There are other things being done across the country.

The act to establish the committee was also set out in that particular mandate. The committee considered matters relating to the election of senators from Manitoba, the manner in which an election of senators should be conducted, including whether senators should be elected using proportional representation or any other type of voting. Therefore, we did not prejudge the situation and limit it to one option. We left it wide open and ensured that the election of senators would result in better representation for all the regions of Manitoba.

Once again, it was chosen by a fairly large all-party committee. There was a seven person subcommittee that was set up as well. It had public meetings all over Manitoba, in Brandon, Carman, Dauphin, Flin Flon, Norway House, Russell, St. Laurent, Steinbach and Winnipeg. It advertised these meetings on websites rather broadly actually. At the end of the day there were 51 presentations at the public hearings. There were 31 written submissions sent.

As I indicated before, on June 13, 2006, Bill 22, the election reform act was approved by all parties in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. The act stated that if it was not to be abolished, the Senate should consist of democratically elected members rather than members appointed by a process involving patronage appointments.

The Manitoba Senate was abolished in 1875 and a single legislative assembly has served the province well since then. I have never heard anyone in Manitoba ever asking me to bring back the Senate. As a matter of fact, I have never heard of anyone in my constituency, over 23 years as a provincial MLA, even knowing there was a Senate in Manitoba. It disappeared in 1875. It has been long forgotten and no one is concerned about it. So we would not want to be entertaining ideas of reconstituting a Senate in Manitoba. We have to deal with the one we have right now. That is the problem.

There was a clear consensus that evolved out of this particular process. The recommendations were that if the federal government moved forward on its commitments, elections would be held in the province of Manitoba to elect nominees to the Senate and forwarded to Ottawa. Elections would be administered through Elections Canada with the cost being the responsibility of the federal government. The method of voting would be first past the post.

That is controversial even in my own caucus. There are a number of people who are very strong supporters of proportional representation and there are some valid arguments for that proposal as well, but the Manitoba all-party committee, after hearing presentations, after discussing the whole issue of PR and other methods, decided that it would prefer the first past the post.

There should be a regional representation among Manitoba's allotment of six Senate seats. The committee took the six Senate seats for Manitoba and applied three to Winnipeg, which has actually more than 50% of the population, two in southern Manitoba, and one in the north.

Elections would be held in each of the regions. The persons with the most votes in each region would be placed on the list of nominees that would be submitted to the prime minister. Once again, the current proposal of an eight year term limit by the federal government is in keeping with what was heard from the presenters.

Regardless of my views on whether eight years is enough or not enough, the committee in Manitoba certainly was endorsing the eight year option. I understand that the Liberals are looking at a 12 year or 15 year option and it seems to me that they are probably just grasping at straws in this case. I actually feel the Liberals will maybe for the wrong reasons change their minds on this bill and support it as well because they are losing influence in the Senate.

The Conservatives are now, I believe, in a majority situation, not by much, but fairly close. Even when Liberals, on their good days, look at the Senate situation, they too will recognize there are some serious problems in appointing people on a lifetime basis.

Our critic, the member for Hamilton Centre, dealt with this issue brilliantly yesterday and for those who were here to hear his speech, it was certainly one for the ages. It was an excellent speech. He had the House rocking. He looked at the preamble of the bill and read it:

WHEREAS Parliament wishes to maintain the essential characteristics of the Senate within Canada’s parliamentary democracy as a chamber of independent, sober second thought.

He went on to detail the history of the Senate and how it is such a joke, that people would view this body as a chamber of independence. He pointed out that the government has a leader in the Senate. There are caucus meetings in the Senate. The senators participate and agree on strategies in the Senate. Even so, the Senate is loaded with political operatives. It is blatantly obvious that senators do not even try to hide the fact.

When John Turner was running against Brian Mulroney, Brian Mulroney was able to change the debate and flow of the election by attacking him for going along with the final Trudeau Senate appointments, which were just blatantly patronage appointments. I do not have the list of the recent Conservative appointments, but they are not any different than the Liberal appointments. We have a senator from Manitoba who was the national president or national director of the PC Party and guess what, he is one of the appointments to the Senate.

As was pointed out by one of the speakers yesterday, basically the entire Conservative national campaign team, including fundraisers and the whole gang, have been appointed to the Senate. The only difference from Liberal days is that they are there for eight years as opposed to, as the Minister of State for Democratic Reform pointed out, a maximum of 45 years, up until age 75. So there are eight year appointments in place.

In the Senate, as we speak, there could be a campaign committee strategy session of the Conservative Party of Canada over there because the players have all moved from the party over to the Senate. So the senators are travelling around the country, totally unaccountable, as the member for Hamilton Centre pointed out yesterday. They do not have public meetings.

I remember appearing before a Senate committee a number of years ago in Manitoba. So I know the Senate is active and that it does have hearings on issues. It has bills, like we do, and it deals with the process. However, from a public point of view, rarely do we see senators in the media dealing with issues. We do not see them having public meetings on issues or leading any sort of political discourse in this country. The result is that the public becomes very cynical.

If we were to ask people in Manitoba to name their senators, I do not think they could, other than Senator Carstairs who they know because she was the Liberal leader who took the party from obscurity to prominence in 1988 for a two-year period and then took it back to non-prominence. However, she is in the Senate and she might register on a poll asking people who their Manitoba senators are. However, I guarantee members that without mentioning the names of the senators, literally nobody will know who their senators are. Clearly, that is not even healthy for the senators. I can imagine how desolate it must be for them to be appointed to a body for 20 or 30 years and find out that nobody knows who they are and nobody cares and they do not really do anything. I have not talked to any senators about it but they must have some questions about this role themselves.

I know there have been initiatives in the Senate in the past to make themselves more relevant in the process but I do not think the public will ever agree that the Senate is in a position to reform itself. As dedicated as some of the senators might be to cause reforms to occur to their own structure, there is a believability gap there. The public will not believe that the Senate, at the end of the day, will make any fundamental break with the past. That is what the hunger is for out there in the population.

I draw members attention back to what some members of the Conservative backbench members might refer to as the “good old days” when Preston Manning was leading the charge about 20 years ago. I refer members to the triple-E Senate where the Reform Party wanted an elected Senate, an equal Senate and an effective Senate. It did make a lot of waves and had a lot of support right across the country, but particularly in western Canada where the concept started, for the idea.

I think it was during that period of time when people started to think that the idea of abolition was not the only answer. Up until that period, I think it was either a choice of living with what was there or, if we did not like it, to simply change the party in power so it would appoint a new brand of senator. However, they were either red ones or they were blue ones. Abolition was the only option at that time for people who wanted to do something with the Senate.

It was only when the triple-E people came in with their idea that a number of people who were only interested in opposition at that point started to change their attention to the triple-E idea as a different option. However, then they found that would not fly either because of the constitutional implications in the concept.

That is where we sit with this. I recognize that the government is moving ahead in a tentative fashion because it cannot push those constitutional bounds. It is also trying to do this because it has been frustrated for four years. It has not been able to get its legislative agenda through the Senate and this is one way for the government to try to clear the roadblock and enable it to function. The problem is that if the government does not get these reforms now it may get comfortable with the system the way it is and then change will stop.

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10:20 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, it is a little ironic that a member of the NDP would criticize the people who supported the triple-E Senate for being in opposition in perpetuity.

The fact is that the NDP is well established in saying that it would like the abolition of the Senate, which is fine, but that will not happen any time soon because of the obvious constitutional obligations and so on.

The government is taking a step by step approach that is within the purview of Parliament. The eight-year non-renewable limit is one of those things, and I appreciate the NDP supporting that.

The senatorial selection act, which was introduced in the other place, would allow people to have a direct say in who the nominees for the Senate would be. The NDP provincial government said that it would look into this, which it has with a bipartisan committee. This would give even the NDP the opportunity to run candidates for the Senate within eight years if both pieces of legislation go through as planned.

Why would the member not support Senate selection when he does support the eight-year term limit?

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will ignore the member's first criticism.

The member is part of the government that chooses the pieces of legislation that it sees fit to put before the House. We are the opposition and we will decide whether we like legislation or whether we will amend it.

Our critic and I have said that we are willing to support the legislation and get it to committee. I am not certain whether there will be amendments at that point but, on the surface, I do not have a problem with the bill. As a long-term abolitionist of the Senate, I still hold that view but I am prepared to see incrementalism take its course here and see what comes out of this particular bill.

It is just a fact of life that in 2006 the Manitoba government moved ahead in anticipation of this and set up an all party committee, which has worked well on a number of issues. It has passed its set of rules, which first past the post will be the way it will do it. It will have three seats in Manitoba, two in southern Manitoba and one up north.

The Government of Saskatchewan, which I understand is doing roughly the same thing, may have a different take on it. It will elect its senators in the way it wishes to do it. As the member knows, Alberta was the first province to do this.

I was not criticizing the triple-E Senate people. I was just saying that up until they came around, abolition was the only option. When they came around, a number of people said that since we cannot get rid of the Senate that maybe the triple-E is a good idea. They then found out after a certain period of time that that idea would not fly because they ran up against the Constitution.

I am not precluding anything here to the minister. I am just happy he is here asking questions. All I can say is just bring on the bills and if we can support them we will and if we cannot we will tell the government why.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the NDP member's speech, and I would like to ask him a question.

Bill C-10 is moving ahead in the House of Commons. The government introduced this bill without consulting the Quebec nation or the provinces. Quebec will certainly mount a challenge, and other provinces likely will as well. This issue will wind up in the Supreme Court. Once again, we represent our supporters and the people of the provinces and Quebec at the federal level, and we are having to debate a bill the government introduced without consulting the provinces or Quebec at all.

I would like the NDP member to explain why the members of his party are going to go ahead and study this bill in committee when it should not even be before the House. Quebec and the provinces should have been consulted before Bill C-10 was introduced.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my good friend on a lot of political points but there are some on which I do not agree. I think the public is eager and hungry for change here and this could be a very popular move. I do not think that even the members of the Bloc would object to senators being elected by the people. I think their objection would be that this may run up against the Constitution. They may be right but I do not think so.

The minister pointed out that in the past 143 years there has only been one change to the Senate and that was in 1965 when the age of retirement was limited to 75 years where it had previously been unlimited. It is clear that the House can make certain decisions and the government obviously contends that this is one of them. I tend to agree with it. This should be one of the changes that the government should be allowed to make.

Where we get into the constitutional question is when there is more fundamental change to the structure. On that basis, I think the Bloc member may be right. If the government were making more fundamental changes, perhaps there would be room for a court challenge, but this is not, to my mind, a huge change that would require a challenge to the courts. The members say that may happen, and it may at the end of the day, but it also may not.

Yesterday the Liberals mentioned that they think there could be a court challenge here. On the other hand, they are saying that they might be able to go along with this bill if we were to limit it to 15-year terms. I think the Liberals are holding their cards open here and in that way they can win either way. Their argument is that if it is going to go through, they want to have a 15-year term. They are thinking that if they get it thrown over to the courts it will be another 10 or 15 year delay. However, when they lose their majority in the Senate, watch them change their view on that. Then they will be complaining that the Conservatives are dominating the Senate, ramming legislation through and being unfair to them. I think the Liberals, in particular, are in a very difficult, dicey situation here because no matter which way they turn they have a problem.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the only practical reason I can see for the NDP to support this particular motion is that perhaps when we are government in eight years we will want to see some changes in the Senate. Quite obviously, having a much more progressive legislative agenda than the House has ever seen, we would be having a lot of trouble with the people over in that house.

I will get back to the elected issue, which is the second phase of the Conservative plan. The arguments right now are regional based. We have a different system in this country than in the United States. If we had two houses elected here, we would have big trouble. We have strong provincial governments that represent themselves well and have very strong powers under our Constitution. They do not need the protection of another house here.

What the federal government needs is strength in order to provide national leadership. With an elected Senate, I am afraid that we would end up being stalemated on so many issues that are of national scope and yet regional concerns always play the biggest card. For that, I would never support an elected Senate.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-10, which would limit senators' terms to eight years. I am certain that in opposing this bill, the Bloc Québécois is like a goaltender, defending the interests and values of Quebec. I would even say we are the Halaks of this House.

To my way of thinking, the NDP member who just spoke is somewhat naive about the Conservative strategy. On its own, Bill C-10 may seem like a relatively minor change, but together with the bill currently before the Senate that would require that an election be held before a senator's name is placed on a list, it represents major changes in the nature of the Senate.

The position of the Government of Quebec, which was outlined by Benoît Pelletier when he was minister for Canadian intergovernmental affairs, is that these changes require constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec. The government cannot get around that.

I find it rather deplorable that the government thinks Bill C-10 is acceptable, when another bill concerning the Senate is currently being examined in the other place.

Then there is Bill C-12, which would marginalize Quebec's political influence. Together, these three bills call into question the 1867 Confederation agreement. This is fundamental, and I would even say this is major. If Bill C-10 and the two other bills I mentioned are passed, it would be a clear sign to the Quebec nation that it has no future within the Canadian federation, and that it might be time to step up and move towards sovereignty, in order to take full control over its future.

We cannot consider debating Bill C-10 without considering the bill that is before the Senate and Bill C-12, which we will probably be examining next week. We are therefore not in favour of this bill, because we want such changes to be the result of constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec.

The Conservative government is trying to indirectly do what it cannot do directly by slowly bringing in its Senate reforms, in an attempt to turn it into a chamber that is more legitimate than it is right now. It wants to ensure not only that Quebec is even more marginalized in the House of Commons, but also that all senators from across Canada can speak in the Senate with much more political legitimacy. We will be oppose that fiercely. The former minister of Canadian intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier, was very clear in 2007. He appeared before the legislative committee to speak about Quebec's traditional position:

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.

That was in a press release issued by Quebec's Canadian intergovernmental affairs minister on November 7, 2007. It could not be more clear. Our position is that we want to abolish the Senate, and I believe that that was, until quite recently, the opinion of the NDP as well.

I remember that, seeing that his Senate reform would not get through, the Prime Minister started threatening the Liberals by saying that he would abolish the Senate. I do not know if he was also threatening the NDP. The problem is that if the Prime Minister wants to abolish the Senate, he will have to undertake constitutional negotiations with the provinces and Quebec.

Surely Quebec will want to ensure that in such an important reform of federal institutions, its relative political weight—and I am talking here about the 24.3%, not the 75 members—remains the same, regardless of the changes made to the Senate or to the number of seats in the House of Commons.

In fact, the same day, that is November 7, 2007, the National Assembly unanimously passed 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.”

So it is not only sovereignist members who share this opinion, but federalist members from Quebec as well. Everybody in Quebec agrees that the change to the Senate, in fact both changes proposed by the Conservative government require constitutional negotiations despite the ruse employed by the Conservatives.

When the Conservatives realized that their first bill on public consultation to create a pool of candidates from which the Prime Minister would appoint senators would not get through because the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois were opposed to it, for completely different reasons, they decided to make a small change. The Liberals wanted the rights of their senators to be grandfathered. The NDP wanted the Senate abolished and was wondering why we should change in any way an institution that it wants to see abolished. As for us, we were adamant that such changes could not be made without constitutional negotiations. We will have the opportunity to discuss this further when the Senate is done studying this bill.

The Conservatives have made it optional. The provinces that do not wish to set up an electoral process to consult the people about who should be in the pool of potential senators will have to live with the current practice, partisan appointments by the Prime Minister.

They are attempting, through the back door, to apply pressure to implement a general practice that will become a constitutional convention. Subsequent prime ministers will appoint Senate candidates chosen by popular consultation. Why pick the second, third or fourth candidate when the first garnered the most votes?

We will end up with senators elected for a term of eight years. Perhaps the Conservatives will eventually introduce another bill to reduce the term to four years. It is very possible that in 10 or 15 years we will end up with two chambers, the House of Commons and the Senate, with elected members and elected senators. It would act as a counterweight to the presence of Quebec in the House, already under attack with Bill C-12.

We are not naive. The Conservatives' game plan is obvious and we will oppose Bills C-10 and C-12 with respect to the bill being studied by the Senate.

The Conservatives' game plan is clear because, for a long time, we have been hearing the Prime Minister promise his electoral base in the west that there will be a triple E Senate, one that will be equal, elected, and effective. That is the Conservatives' project. Given that their project is not going over well, they will resort to getting it in through the back door, as is their custom. They will do indirectly what they have been unable to do directly.

I will give another example to show that this is not the exception, but the rule. According to the Constitution, securities commissions are clearly the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces. What is the Conservative government doing? It says it is putting in place a single pan-Canadian organization and telling dissenting provincial securities commissions that if they do not want its system, they can keep their own.

We know very well that, with a single securities regulator, there will be a great deal of pressure to integrate dissenting provincial commissions into this process. We are not naive.

Having said that, I am convinced that Quebec will fight until the last, until the moment it decides to become sovereign, because abandoning this important lever is out of the question.

What will happen to Alberta, which is opposed to this? I think we all agree that Alberta is not its own nation. It is part of the Canadian nation. Companies in Alberta would most likely prefer one commission instead of having to register twice, once in Alberta and once in Toronto to get a licence from the minister of finance. A single Canadian securities commission would slowly be built, even though the Constitution is very clear on this subject.

They are going about this indirectly because they cannot do it directly. As I said earlier, protecting our securities commission, from now on known as the Autorité des marchés financiers, is not the problem. We will maintain it no matter what, because when Quebec is a sovereign nation, we will need this type of authority to ensure that businesses have access to Quebec's financial market. We will make agreements, as is usually the case, with this Canadian securities commission if we have to, but we will maintain our own.

We will be following the debate in Canada closely. The federal Conservative government must not, and this is exactly what we are worried about, make registration with a single Canadian commission mandatory while registration with Québec's Autorité des marchés financiers would be optional. That would put an end to this financial authority. I can assure my colleagues that it would be a fierce battle and a constant fight and that we would win in the end, in any case.

We are wary of these bills because we know what the Conservatives are up to: they always try to do indirectly what they cannot do directly. But that is not all. There is also their pathological refusal to recognize the Quebec nation. They will say that the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation in November 2006. In reality, however, since then, every time we seek concrete expression of that recognition, the Conservatives totally and completely refuse, with the complicity of the Liberals most of the time and that of the NDP some of the time.

We understand that the interests of the Canadian nation are the main focus of most of the members in the House, and we do not hold that against them. However, they must also understand that the main focus of the Bloc Québécois members is defending the interests of the Quebec nation. It should be the same for all members from Quebec. Unfortunately, that is not the case. To repeat the comparison I made at the beginning of my speech for the benefit of my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, we are the Halaks of the House. In fact, Slovakia is a good example for us to follow.

As I was saying, the Conservatives have totally and completely refused to recognize the Quebec nation. We introduced a bill to ensure that the Charter of the French Language applies to enterprises under federal jurisdiction. This would include banks, interprovincial transportation, airports and telecommunication companies.

What was the response of most members of the House, representing the Canadian nation for the most part? They completely rejected it. I would point out that a few NDP members supported us, and I encourage them to continue on that path.

When we talk about Quebec culture, and again my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert can attest to this, we are constantly told that Quebec culture is a regional culture of the broader Canadian culture.

We do not have a problem with the broader Canadian culture. However, we think that Quebec culture is the culture of the nation of Quebec and not a regional culture. Nonetheless, we are denied that at every turn and the way the arts budget is divvied up is a good example. Another example is the film industry, which is viewed as two entities in Canada: English-language film and French-language film. In fact, there are two types of films: Canadian films with a French-language minority and Quebec films with an English-language minority. This means that Quebec gets penalized in Telefilm Canada's budgets.

Culturally speaking, the government is once again refusing to recognize the nation of Quebec in the way Quebec integrates new arrivals into society. We know this is a challenge faced by all countries that welcome immigrants, such as Canada, Quebec, the United States and Great Britain. We have developed a unique approach in Quebec. It is not an Anglo-Saxon multicultural approach, which Canada has borrowed from Great Britain. Nor is it a U.S.-style melting pot approach, which does not seem to be producing the results American society had hoped for. It is not the republic adopted in France. It is a model we call inter-culturalism, where new arrivals are invited to enrich the common culture. There is only one common culture, though: it is the culture of Quebec with one official language, one common public language, and that is French.

By promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism, the Canadian nation is taking aim directly at the recognition of the Quebec nation and, in a way, interferes with our development and the harmonious integration of newcomers.

As we can see, this is very widespread. As a further example, I could talk about telecommunications, where the same thing is happening. We are prevented from having our own Quebec radio-television and telecommunications commission. Legislation to that effect is currently under consideration. Overflowing with optimism, I trust that this legislation will eventually be passed, that those members from the Quebec nation and from Quebec who just did not get it will see the light and understand that this is a necessary tool to ensure the cultural and linguistic development of Quebec.

A bill will soon be put to a vote, but the last time, it was flatly rejected. It is very interesting to note that Quebec established its radio-television and telecommunications commission before Canada created its own commission. Let us hope this will meet with approval, but again, I am not too confident.

Last I will address the refusal to give tangible expression to the recognition of the Quebec nation in the so-called economic action plan of the Conservatives, where they systematically ignored the needs of Quebec with respect to industries and regions that needed and still need help. I am thinking, of course, of the forestry sector, but the same is true of the aviation industry. A great deal of assistance was provided to the automotive industry—$10 billion—and we had no objection because it did need a shot in the arm. Why is it, however, that when it comes to industries concentrated in Quebec, we have to rely on the marketplace?

Yesterday, during question period, the Minister of State for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec again said about the forestry crisis, the problems facing the pulp and paper industry, that the issue was just markets. As if the crisis in the automotive industry was not a market issue. If we saw fit to help the automotive industry, notwithstanding the market, we should also help the forestry industry and the aviation industry. On the one hand, Canadian interests are promoted and, on the other hand, the needs and interests of Quebeckers are ignored. That is something that is widespread.

Quebec is opposed to Bills C-10 and C-12 and to the bill that is currently being studied in the Senate. A motion regarding Bill C-12 was unanimously passed in the National Assembly last week. Quebec's government is a Liberal and therefore a federalist government. Its leader, Jean Charest, once sat in the House as a member of the Conservative Party. He was part of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Reform in 2007. In a memorandum from May 31, 2007 we read:

The Government of Quebec is not opposed to modernizing the Senate. [Obviously, that is the position of Quebec Liberals.] But if the aim is to alter the essential features of that institution, the only avenue is the initiation of a coordinated federal-provincial constitutional process that fully associates the constitutional players, one of them being Quebec, in the exercise of constituent authority.

On one hand, a piecemeal approach to reform is not acceptable. On the other hand, reform would require constitutional negotiations.

I will finish by quoting another excerpt from the Government of Quebec's report:

The Government of Quebec, with the unanimous support of the National Assembly, therefore requests the withdrawal of Bill C-43 [a bill proposing an elected Senate]. It also requests the suspension of proceedings on Bill S-4 [which became Bill C-19 and then Bill C-10 on Senate term limits, the bill before us now] so long as the federal government is planning to unilaterally transform the nature and role of the Senate.

My colleagues can rest assured that the Bloc Québécois will shoulder its responsibilities, just as we hope the Canadiens and Halak will do tonight.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, in his comments the member talked about many things.

Bill C-10 is about an eight-year non-renewable term limit. The member talked about representing the interests of Quebec, but in fact he does exactly the opposite. An eight-year non-renewable term would allow the Senate to be refreshed. It would bring new perspectives. It would strengthen Quebec's voice in the Senate.

Taking that in context with the senatorial selection act, which is a voluntary suggestion on the provinces to have direct consultation with the people of the province to say who would go to the Senate, it would greatly improve the representation that Quebec has in Parliament.

Bill C-10 is one step. It is the eight-year non-renewable term. It would allow for new perspectives from Quebec. It is within the Constitution, as Canada did it in 1965 in regard to term limits.

I would ask the member to be frank with Quebeckers. We live in the greatest country in the world, and the Bloc's objective is not to improve Quebec representation in Parliament but really to do anything that would lessen Quebec's representation in Parliament. At the end of the day, the Bloc is advocating zero seats in the House of Commons and zero seats in the Senate.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for his question. I would also like to congratulate him on his article in Le Devoir this week. The article was quite profound.

As for Bill C-10, we are not naive. We understand very well that if it were only a question of Bill C-10 and there were no other bills, this reform by the Parliament of Canada would probably be acceptable, as was the reform to create an age limit of 75 for senators.

However, we know that Bill C-10 is part of a suite of other bills: the bill that is currently before the Senate, which first creates legitimacy through consulting the public and then leads to the actual election of senators. There is also Bill C-12, which aims to diminish Quebec's political weight in the House. Accordingly, Bill C-10 cannot be examined in isolation.

I would like to say to the minister quite frankly that if we were dealing only with Bill C-10 and there was nothing else on the sidelines, we would probably be willing to agree that the Canadian Parliament could carry out this reform, limiting terms to eight years. However, we must take into account the fact that Bill C-10 is not alone, that there is other legislation involved, and that the intent behind that legislation is unacceptable.

I will close by reminding my hon. colleagues that our position is the same as that of Daniel Johnson, Robert Bourassa and René Lévesque. It is the position defended by Gil Rémillard in the days of René Lévesque, as well as the position currently taken by Jean Charest: no major Senate reform—and once again I am taking both bills into account—without constitutional negotiations.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette for his excellent and very informative presentation on Bill C-10. I have a question for him.

The minister of state says he wants to refresh the Senate, and I believe that everyone takes the same basic view that the Senate as it stands is not effective.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about this: if the Senate wants to change, then why does it not change what it can before the government introduces a bill and makes a constitutional change? The Senate is the master of its own affairs, and it can change its practices as it sees fit.

The senators can be present, they can play an active role, they can be energetic, they can work hard, they can change things.

Why do the senators not start by making changes themselves? Why does the Conservative government appoint senators who are not in the Senate? Why is the government itself part of the problem?

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her question. I think she gave a good overview of the situation. Léger Marketing conducted a survey a month ago, in March 2010, and 20% of Quebeckers and 23% of Canadians opted not to respond because they did not know the role of the Senate. Roughly a quarter of the respondents said they did not know what the Senate was and could not answer the survey.

I would also point out that only 8% of Quebeckers want in-depth reform of the Senate, while 43% would prefer that the Senate be abolished. Basically, what Quebeckers want is for the Senate to be abolished, but as I said, this will require constitutional negotiations.

CONSTITUTION ACT, 2010 (SENATE TERM LIMITS)
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When the bill comes back before the House, the hon. member for Joliette will have four minutes for questions and comments.

Hockey
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for the riding of Palliser, I am proud to stand today in the House of Commons to congratulate the Notre Dame Hounds on their record-tying fourth Telus Cup.

On Sunday, the Hounds successfully defended their title as Canadian Midget AAA champions by beating the Mississauga Reps 3 to 2. They have now joined the Regina Pat Canadians as the only teams in Canada to win the Telus Cup four times.

It is a testament to the success of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League that this is the 13th time a team from the province has won the national tournament since it began in 1979. It is also the fifth time in the last six years.

I stand today to recognize the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League for its incredible success.

I ask all of my colleagues to join me as I congratulate the Notre Dame Hounds on winning their second consecutive Telus Cup.

Education
Statements By Members

April 30th, 2010 / 11 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are 75 million children who do not have access to basic education around the world. Seven out of 10 live in sub-Saharan Africa or South and West Asia. That is more than all the children in primary school across Europe, U.S.A., Canada and Australia combined.

As global citizens, we have a responsibility and an upcoming opportunity to ensure that every child has an education and the chance to get out of poverty.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is a landmark moment. It is the first ever World Cup to be held on the African continent. As the world's eyes turn to Africa in June, this opportunity can highlight the need for every child to receive an education.

1GOAL is a campaign seizing the power of soccer to ensure that education for all is a lasting impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Canada should be a global leader on this issue. The world's children cannot wait any longer.