House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Auditor General
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to lay upon the table the fall 2011 report of the Auditor General of Canada.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)((g) this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association respecting three reports: first, the bilateral visit to the Caribbean, the Americas and the Atlantic Region Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; second, its participation at the parliamentary seminar for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; and third, its participation at the 35th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Regional Conference of the Caribbean and the Americas and the Atlantic.

Health
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Health entitled, “Supplementary Estimates (B), 2011-12”.

Child Care
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

November 22nd, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present to the House today.

The first petition is with respect to child care. It indicates that child care is often not accessible or affordable for Canadian families and is often of an uncertain quality for young children.

The petitioners call upon the government to legislate the right to universal access to child care and provide multi-year funding to provincial and territorial governments to build a national system of affordable, high quality public and not-for-profit early childhood education and care accessible to all children.

The petitioners point out that the federal government must establish spending criteria and reporting mechanisms that ensure accountability for how the provinces and territories use federal funding to ensure quality, accessibility, universality and accountability, and that acknowledges Quebec's right to develop social programs with adequate compensation from the federal government.

Aboriginal Affairs
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with the Sisters in Spirit.

The petitioners call upon the government to ensure that finances are available for the Sisters in Spirit and the Evidence for Action campaign that is involved with the Native Women's Association of Canada.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from November 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-7, An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits.

This bill would limit the terms of senators appointed after October 14, 2008, to a maximum of nine years. Furthermore, under this bill, the provinces and territories would have the opportunity to hold elections, at their own expense, to determine the names that would be given to the Prime Minister for consideration. The problem is that the Prime Minister would not be required to choose senators from this list. This is yet another wonderful example of a waste of public money by our friends on the other side of the House.

What is more, if a nominee is not appointed to the Senate by the sixth anniversary of that person's election, a new election would be necessary, resulting in even more public money being wasted. It is fun to spend someone else's money, is it not?

What we are proposing on this side of the House is clear. Our party wants to abolish the Senate, which is a position we have always held. We are calling on the government to hold a referendum asking the Canadian public whether they are in favour of abolishing the Senate.

In addition, when this bill was introduced for the first time in June 2011, the Conservative senators clearly said that they would oppose all attempts by the federal government to limit their terms. And they are the ones who have the last word, as always.

The Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, and the Premier of Nova Scotia have publicly expressed their support for abolishing the Senate. The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, has said that the Senate, as an institution, no longer serves any useful purpose within our Confederation. The Government of Quebec has deemed this bill to be unconstitutional. In fact, it has stated that it will go to court if the provinces are not consulted before Bill C-7 is passed. Clearly, passing this bill without consulting the provinces would once again demonstrate the federal government's willingness to impose its views on the provinces, as it has so often done in the past few months.

Now, why are we in favour of abolishing the Senate rather than reforming it? First, there has not been an upper chamber in any of the provinces since 1968 and their legislative systems have not crumbled as a result. On the contrary, all the provinces are operating very well without a senate.

Second, the idea to reform the Senate is not a new one. Since 1900, there have been no fewer than 13 attempts to reform the Canadian Senate, with a brilliant success rate of 0 out of 13. And no wonder, since the Senate always has the last word.

Third, Canadians' interest in this issue is growing. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Angus Reid in July 2011, 71% of Canadians were in favour of holding a referendum about the future of the Senate. The same survey found that 36% of Canadians are in favour of completely abolishing the Senate, which is a sharp jump of 25% as compared to 2010. We therefore feel that Canadians must be consulted on this issue since the Senate is their democratic institution and, as a result, they are the ones who have the right to decide what will happen to the upper chamber.

This bill has some serious shortcomings in terms of legitimacy. First, according to the provisions of the bill, senators will still not be accountable to Canadians.

The fact that senators will only be granted one nine-year term means that they will never have to answer to the public for decisions made during their term. In addition, they will have the right to a pension when they leave the Senate, paid for, of course, by the taxpayers.

Second, passing this bill would create a strange situation in the upper chamber. Certain senators would be elected and others not, so how would the unelected senators justify their legitimacy and actions to their elected colleagues?

Third, as I mentioned earlier in my speech, the government has not consulted the provincial governments about the provisions in this bill. Neither has it consulted the public, and only 39% of people voted for the Conservatives on May 2. Despite all this, those on the other side of the House are once again dumping the cost and responsibility on the provincial governments and taking all the credit.

Finally, since the Senate would have roughly the same powers as the House of Commons, an elected Senate would have more legitimacy in terms of tabling bills or opposing House bills. That could paralyze the political system, as is the case in the United States, where the House of Representatives and the Senate are often locked in a power struggle that completely paralyzes the American government.

That summarizes a few of the arguments proving that Senate reform, as proposed by the Conservatives, is problematic and that the solution is to abolish the Senate.

To conclude, we have seen over the course of the past few minutes how passing Bill C-7 would create a significant number of problems in our political system, and these problems could easily be eliminated by abolishing Canada's Senate.

I invite the hon. members to join with me and the members of the official opposition and vote against Bill C-7.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate my hon. colleague from Laval—Les Îles on his speech on the bill. I have a simple question for him.

The Prime Minister is under no obligation to appoint someone who has been elected by a province or territory. This bill therefore does not change how senators are appointed, since the Prime Minister is still free to choose whomever he wants to appoint to the position of senator.

In the member's opinion, if the Prime Minister can do whatever he likes when it comes to appointing senators, does this bill change anything?

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Nickel Belt for the question.

Clearly, reforming the Senate was likely one of the Conservatives' election promises. For months now, they have been harping on about how they want to keep their promises. However, as it stands, this Senate reform allows the government to change nothing. Tomorrow morning, it could choose not to appoint someone who was elected and give all the Senate appointments to its buddies, as it does now. This changes absolutely nothing, if that is what the Prime Minister wants to do.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am having some difficulty understanding what the official position is of the NDP with respect to the Senate. I believe that its position is that it wants to abolish the Senate.

Does the NDP believe that we should reopen the Constitution and that the Prime Minister and the premier should sit down and find out if there is enough will within the country to abolish the Senate? I do not believe it is the position of the Government of Quebec that the Senate be abolished.

Is that the position of the NDP, that we should reopen the Constitution and have a national debate over whether we should kill the Senate?

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

François Pilon Laval—Les Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, as I said in my speech, the first thing we need to do is hold a referendum to see what Canadians think.

If we do not want to reopen the Constitution, we can simply stop appointing senators. That way, the Senate would gradually disappear on its own, without our having to reopen the Constitution.