House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Madam Speaker, a couple of days ago in the House we debated the merits of Bill C-20, which was all about rearranging the distribution within the House. The NDP very clearly said Quebec needed to be better represented with even arbitrary limits and that it could not go beneath 24% so that it would be properly recognized.

The one place that Quebec is properly recognized historically is in the Senate, where 24 senators are guaranteed to be from Quebec. It is the place in our parliamentary system where regional interests get to speak most loudly. Quebeckers, whether politicians or public opinion, have repeatedly said that they want to keep the Senate, maybe improve it a bit but keep it, not abolish it.

The fact that the member is speaking about abolition of the Senate, when over half of his caucus is from Quebec, is something I would like him to address. Does he still have the agreement of half of his caucus that abolishing something that is important for Quebeckers is a good thing?

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very proud of the team from Quebec, my NDP colleagues who were elected on May 2. I want to thank Quebeckers for electing them to this House of Commons.

I basically disagree with the premise of that question. The senators do not have a voice. It is an undemocratic, unelected institution. The Prime Minister is the one controlling everything. As we have seen in this House, bills have been rammed through. My Conservative colleagues are limited to their speaking notes, so basically the Senate is duly unelected. The true voice of Quebec is being represented by my NDP colleagues in this House.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am one of those New Democrat members from Quebec. Since the start of my term, and even during the preceding election campaigns, not a single citizen came to see me to talk about the Senate. So, to say that the Senate is an institution that Quebeckers are deeply attached to is nonsense, in my opinion.

To respond to the concerns of the hon. member for Papineau and to ask a question of my colleague from British Columbia, I would like to know what he would think of resolving the matter once and for all. Let us put the question to all Canadians and Quebeckers. Let us ask ourselves whether a referendum would be the way to resolve this issue once and for all, rather than blowing smoke.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to point out that the true voice of Quebec is being represented in this House by my colleagues who were elected on May 2.

The other house is undemocratic and unelected. The only voice that is being represented there is that of the Prime Minister.

In response to my colleague's question, the only way we can truly listen to Canadians on whether to reform or abolish the Senate is to have a referendum. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can get on with the reform or the abolition of that undemocratic, unelected institution.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I am also one of those 59 members, and I am proud to be one. The only time I heard anyone speak about Senate reform was after the election, when there were three partisan appointments of candidates who had just lost the election. Otherwise, it is of no concern to my constituents.

Many countries have abolished their senates, including Finland, Germany and Japan. Does my colleague think that these countries put themselves in difficulty by abolishing the Senate?

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, the second house has been abolished at the provincial level, and it has worked. I believe it is time to have a referendum so that Canadians can decide whether we want to keep that house or not. That would be a true democracy.

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

December 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 8th day of December, 2011 at 8:30 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

For Stephen Wallace.

The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill S-1002, An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec

The house resumed 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

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, what a passionate debate on Senate reform. When I was elected on May 2, if someone had told me that I would be starting a speech in this House by saying that I agree with the Right Hon. Prime Minister on something, I never would have believed them.

But I must admit that I agree with what the Prime Minister said when he described the Senate as, and I quote, “a relic of the 19th century”. I think that “relic” is an appropriate word choice, since we all dream of having a sacred relic for all the virtues it is supposed to represent. But it rarely has any benefits.

In light of this statement, I see two choices, since the status quo is no longer acceptable. The first choice is to simply abolish the institution of the Senate. I assure the Prime Minister that he would have my support and my party's support if that was what he wanted to do.

In addition, as all provincial senates have been abolished since 1968, we can draw the logical conclusions: the provinces manage very well without senates and there is no reason to believe that it would be otherwise for the Government of Canada.

More and more Canadians believe that we should be able to express our opinions on the matter in a national referendum. According to an Angus Reid poll conducted in July 2011, 71% of Canadians expect a referendum of that kind. That is what you call a strong mandate.

In more than a century, the 13 attempts at Senate reform have failed. Perhaps it is time to draw the logical conclusions. But, once again, the government is proposing a convoluted bill whose purpose is to make us think that the Senate is being reformed, whereas what we will see is something even more questionable.

The government is moving forward with fake Senate reform since holding a constitutional debate and dealing with the provinces and territories on the form, the function, the representative nature and even the legitimacy of that chamber are out of the question. So, welcome, everyone, to the world of mystery and illusion. Let me give you some examples of how comical, or how ridiculous, the situation really is.

First of all, the Senate would be made up of elected representatives. Those who want to keep the institution may find that principle appealing. But it becomes at the very least questionable when we realize that the provinces could choose to hold Senate elections—of course, at their own expense. I draw your attention to those words: once again, financial responsibility is being transferred to the provinces. The federal government is going to download that responsibility onto the provinces without consulting them beforehand.

But the best of it is that the provinces could choose to hold elections using whichever method seems best to them. Perhaps the method would be the cheapest, the most politically expedient; who knows what considerations could go into choosing a method of holding an election. They could also choose not to hold one. On that point alone, it is difficult to imagine anything more nonsensical.

The incoherence of the proposal seems clear to me already. But if that were not enough, after all is said and done, the Prime Minister of Canada would have no obligation to appoint a person who had been previously elected by a province or territory. Heaven knows that, since this session opened, we have lost count of the times when we have realized that the government is not listening to Canadians. So why should the provinces and territories invest time and money in a process that may ultimately serve no purpose?

I also smiled rather broadly when I read in Bill C-7 that candidates for election to the Senate must be nominated by a political party that is registered in the province.

It was amusing to imagine for a few moments the list of potential candidates elected by a Parti Québécois government or the list that would be drawn up by Québec solidaire. It seems to me that here as well, we have obvious proof of the impossibility of reconciling eventual senatorial election results in Quebec with appointments by a Canadian Prime Minister, whoever that might be.

Now, I need to underscore the unilateral process in this bill. Consultations with the provinces and territories are also glaringly absent from this bill. This government is making it a habit to act entirely on its own. The strong mandate pretext cannot possibly justify making such major changes without consulting the main partners, and—why not—the whole population, as I was saying earlier.

I feel as though I am watching an old episode of Father Knows Best. The cartoonists back home chose that image for their caricatures of the government and the Prime Minister, and I think they are on to something.

The Canadian public was deeply affected by the NDP message that they were going to do politics differently and wanted all of the elected members of this House to work together in a manner marked by attentiveness, openness to others and respect. It is not enough to say “Vote as we do so that we can work together”.

If the government goes forward with this bill, it already knows that there are going to be challenges, since Quebec has already said that it considers Bill C-7 unconstitutional and intends to prove that if necessary.

There is another incongruity in this bill, and it concerns accountability. After an election, elected members are generally held accountable to the electorate. Well, think again. Once again, we are dealing with smoke and mirrors. With a single nine-year, non-renewable term—by the way, nine years is equivalent to two terms in the House of Commons, and even a bit more—the pseudo-elected members of the Senate would go directly from election promises to retirement, in recognition of their good and faithful services to Her Majesty. The only way of trying to lengthen your political career would be to temporarily leave the comfort of the Senate to try to get elected to the House of Commons, knowing that if you lost, you could return and finish your term in the comfort of the red chamber. And I could also say a few words about that retirement. One term, followed by a pension. Now there is an approach that is rather difficult to support in an economy where Canadians are having trouble making ends meet.

Now, what of the potential conflicts between the two chambers? It also makes sense that a Senate that has practically the same powers as the House, filled with the false sense of legitimacy that sham elections would bring, could end up bringing us one step closer to the same kind of impasse that is seen in the United States, where the two chambers paralyze one another.

In this House, we have already seen bills passed at third reading be blocked in the Senate by a partisan onslaught. Imagine the power that a Senate could wield if it deemed itself elected and representative.

In closing, the problems with this Senate reform are so great in number that we are automatically brought back to option A—the NDP proposal that the Prime Minister has already toyed with, I might add—namely the out-and-out abolition of the Senate.

I should say in passing that all my attacks are directed against the institution and not its sitting senators. In many cases, I have tremendous respect for their service to the nation.

While some premiers openly favour abolishing the Senate and others find it pointless, why not have the political gumption to ask Canadians, who foot the bill, to decide? It could end up being an extremely positive decision. In one fell swoop, there could potentially be a rapid return to a balanced budget without the need for cuts to services for Canadians.

Madam Speaker, thank you for having given me the floor. I would like to thank my colleagues in this House for their attention.

Senate Reform Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières will have five minutes for questions and comments after oral question period.

Streetsville Rotary Club
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, the Streetsville Rotary Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011 and has been the Rotary home for many of Streetsville's leading citizens since its inception. Its motto is “Service above Self” and its nickname is “The Good Fellowship Club”.

Streetsville Rotary has about 30 dedicated members with one charter member who has a perfect attendance record, Mr. Maurice Foster. They are business, professional and community leaders who are organized for humanitarian service, encouraging high ethical standards and helping build goodwill and peace.

This club supports programs in my community such as Easter Seals kids, Dreams Take Flight, Adventure in Citizenship, the Rotary Youth Exchange and Rotary Camp Enterprise. The members are active supporters of the Streetsville Bread and Honey Festival where they hold the annual pancake breakfast. As a Rotary member myself and a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship, I know the important work service clubs do in our community.

I wish the Streetsville Rotary Club a happy 50th anniversary, and all the best for the future.

Community Centre 55
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, as Christmas fast approaches, Community Centre 55 in my riding of Beaches—East York is gearing up for its 30th Share a Christmas program. Last year, over 700 volunteers came out on winter nights to sort, pack and deliver presents and food to over 4,000 people. This year the need is expected to be greater.

These numbers point to the desperate circumstances of so many families in these economic times, and to the continuing deterioration of social and economic supports for Canadian families in need. These numbers also speak to the generosity of so many constituents and businesses in the riding, as well as to the tremendous organizational capacity of Community Centre 55 and its staff, all of whom have hearts of gold and are moved by the spirit of Christmas.

In Beaches—East York we are blessed to have Community Centre 55, its management, staff and volunteers not just at Christmas time but year round.

Employee of the Year Award
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to extend my warmest congratulations to Wilma Anderson from my riding of Peterborough for winning employee of the year at the Canadian Tourism Awards. This award is presented to a front-line employee who best exemplifies excellence in the tourism industry. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada recognized Wilma on November 24 for her stellar work at Elmhirst's Resort near Peterborough.

Wilma joined Elmhirst's Resort in 1985 as a dishwasher, later moving to housekeeping and eventually managing the department. In 1990, Wilma was promoted to guest services manager. As a single parent struggling to balance home and work, she was able to take over the department and without any formal training excel at supervision, staff motivation, budgeting and time management. Her caring attitude and willingness to provide a hug when needed has helped Elmhirst's Resort become the successful small business it is today.

I congratulate Wilma for her hard work and her perseverance. I congratulate everyone at Elmhirst's Resort for winning this prestigious award.

Experience Genie Award
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize William Breon, a young man from Grand Bank in my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's.

At 12 years of age, he has proven to be a prolific fundraiser in the fight against multiple sclerosis, a disease his father Frank has been battling for more than a decade. Over the past five years, William has raised approximately $15,000 to help combat this dreaded disease. His commitment is exemplary. At the MS walk in St. John's last year, William was the top fundraiser, collecting over $5,000. He has received the Grand Bank outstanding youth volunteer award and the MS Society non-merit award and has been nominated for an Experience Genie award.

To win the Experience Genie award, William needs our support. I encourage everyone to visit experiencegenie.com and vote for William so he can have a wish granted by the experience genie.

I ask all members of the House to join me in saluting 12-year-old William Breon who has proven that people are never too young to make a difference.

Infrastructure
Statements By Members

December 8th, 2011 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Madam Speaker, our government continues to stay focused on what is important to my constituents in Newmarket—Aurora and to all Canadians, jobs and economic growth.

Our government's actions through Canada's economic action plan have led to the creation of nearly 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

This Saturday in Newmarket I will be celebrating the completion of a major investment in our town, the Newmarket Riverwalk Commons. I am proud to be part of a government that committed more than $2 million to help revitalize Newmarket's downtown urban space, while creating local jobs in our community. Thanks to this economic action plan investment, Newmarket will enjoy accessible, modern, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, having a tremendous positive impact on the health of our community for years to come.

I congratulate everyone involved in the planning and development of this long-anticipated community asset and look forward to a wonderful opening this Saturday.