House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. President of the Treasury Board.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, that is a fair question.

I alluded to it initially in my remarks and I will just touch on it again. Being really honest here across the floor, the public chafe at the thought of senators being appointed because they understand that the senators have legislative authority.

Let us be honest, whether it was the Liberals doing the appointing or whether it is the Conservatives doing the appointing, when we are in the opposition we say that we do not like that. Now that the Liberals are there, they are saying that they do not like the appointment process. The people of Canada do not like it.

That is why the Prime Minister has proposed, and we have proposed, this ability. We have encouraged provinces. We have not even been all that prescriptive. We have allowed some room and imagination. We have said, “Please, come up with a way then that you, as provinces, would elect the people you want to see in the Senate”.

Then we have to have a prime minister who will make the commitment to appoint them, as our Prime Minister has. In this way, it would avoid a constitutional battle. It simply makes a provision.

Just using Alberta as a case, there would be a municipal election, the names would get added on, there is some cost to it, of course, and then Albertans would be saying to the prime minister of day, whoever it is, “Here, this is our choice, not your choice, Mr. Prime Minister, here is our democratically-elected choice”.

I think that would go a long way. It is one of a number of steps that would go a long way to bringing some public confidence back into that process.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the very intelligent minister on this issue, but when this issue of abolishing the Senate is raised, the complaint that I hear from over there is that it would involve constitutional change. How can we do what the member suggests without getting into that quagmire?

We have Alberta with six Senate seats compared to 10 in New Brunswick. The whole thing is a mess. To even try to get any sense of it would require the most agonizing amount of constitutional bargaining, disagreement, and unhappiness that one could imagine.

The simplest thing to do, what the minister's leader said to do, is to abolish the thing. I do not think it can be fixed.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, our leader said that if Canadians clearly are showing that they do not want it, then that may be the only thing that is left. I would add, that would have to be demonstrated. Let citizens know what they are giving away. They would potentially be giving away protection from highly-populated areas always out-voting them. By going with a senatorial election act, there would be no constitutional change requirement.

I do agree with my friend, but eventually we will get to the question: Should there be an equal number from every province? We will then get into some good debate, but let us improve the thing before. That would be the perfect system in some people's eyes, but do not let perfection be the enemy of getting something better. Allow it at least to move where we are electing those people.

To look at the formation of this process in the United States, the Americans had the exact same arguments. We can look at other countries that have bicameral institutions, they had the same arguments, and they worked toward improving the system.

So it is not going to be perfect, but it will be an improvement, and we can do it with a senatorial election act without having to go through that constitutional morass that my friend is talking about.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the great member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

I stand to speak today in favour of the New Democrat motion calling for a referendum to abolish the Senate and for proportional representation.

The Senate was created in 1867 to mirror the British House of Lords, to serve as a chamber of sober second though, to provide regional representation and to act as a check on Parliament. It was made an appointed body so that it could not stop legislation from the House of Commons. It was there to revise and renew legislation. It was also created to recognize the social and economic elite. It was, in part, created to protect the property interests of the wealthy.

There was some concern from our founding fathers that an elected body, or the House of Commons, would not do so. Today we know that is not the case.

The Senate is broken and no longer works in the public interest. This House knows it and so do the Canadian people.

I became convinced of the need to abolish the Senate following the controversial Senate vote on November 16, 2010, that killed Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act.

Bill C-311 would require the federal government to set regulations to establish targets to bring greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and to set long-term targets to bring emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The government must take action on climate change and Bill C-311 would have been the first step to set hard targets to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

However, it has become abundantly clear that the government does not want to deal with one of the most pressing issues of our time, so it got the Senate to do its dirty work.

Bill C-311 passed the House of Commons and passed the committee. The majority of members in this House, who were sent here to represent their constituents, passed the bill and yet et it was killed by the Senate. I will repeat for clarity that the unelected and unaccountable Senate shut off debate and called a snap election to vote down and kill this important legislation that passed through the House of Commons.

That was an outrageous move and Canadians were outraged by the move. It was the first time since the second world war that the Senate had voted down a bill that had won support of the majority of members in the House of Commons. This move did not get the attention it deserved. It was a fundamental change in the way our democracy operates.

The government is not known for its transparency and adherence to democratic principles and now it has appointed enough senators to circumvent the democratic process.

Only a few short years ago, before the Conservatives were in power, they had very real concerns about the way the Senate operated. While the Prime Minister was in opposition, he claimed that he would never appoint a senator. At that time, he considered the Senate to be undemocratic.

This is something members will rarely hear from me but the Prime Minister was correct. The Senate is undemocratic. That is why the people of New Zealand abolished their upper house, the legislative council, in 1951.

It is amazing how things change when one gains power. Now that the Conservatives are in power, they have completely changed their tune and are using this unelected, undemocratic body to push through their legislative agenda.

The Prime Minister has appointed 36 Conservative insiders to the Senate since coming to power. In 2008, he broke a record by appointing 18 people to the upper chamber in just one day. The Senate is now stacked with failed Conservative candidates, party fundraisers and political organizers. We must not forget that this was the same modus operandi for the federal Liberal Party. It, too, stacked the Senate with its friends and insiders.

A senator earns approximately $132,000 a year. The qualification to become a senator is to be loyal to the ruling party that appoints him or her.

The Senate costs approximately $90 million a year to run. Taxpayers are paying a large sum for an unaccountable and unelected group of senators that block legislation passed by their elected representatives.

I believe it is time, through a referendum, for Canadians to have a say on the future of the Senate. A referendum would open up the dialogue on systems in which far too many Canadians have lost faith. It would allow us to engage the population in an issue that is important to our very democracy.

I will now talk about the second aspect of our motion, which reads:

(c) the House appoint a Special Committee for Democratic Improvement, whose mandate is to (i) engage with Canadians, and make recommendations to the House, on how best to achieve a House of Commons that more accurately reflects the votes of Canadians by combining direct election by electoral district and proportional representation....

These two ideas, to abolish the Senate and to investigate how to best create a House of Commons that accurately reflects the votes of Canadians, fit well together.

Voter turnout continues to decline each election. In 2008, only 59.1% of Canadians went to the polls, the lowest turnout in history. The youth turnout was even worse. As parliamentarians, we should be very concerned. We need to reflect on why this is occurring and how we can turn this disturbing trend around.

Too often I hear from people who feel their vote does not matter. They tell me that they often decide to vote strategically. They feel that it does not matter who they vote for because there is no way their favourite candidate will, under our current electoral system, ever be elected. Therefore, they end up voting for a candidate, not because they support that candidate, but because they want to stop someone else from gaining power.

Proportional representation is an electoral system that allows every vote to count, whereas the first past the post system creates a winner takes all situation. I worry that sometimes people stay home from the voting booth because they feel that with our first past the post system, the person they want to vote for does not stand a chance so they do not bother voting.

This is not the way our democracy should operate. This could point to why Canadians, and particularly why the youth vote, seems to be so disengaged. It is time for an examination of democratic reform. It would show Canadians that we, as their elected House, care about their participation in the political system.

The United Kingdom, in conducting a referendum on electoral reform in May, is doing just that. The people of the United Kingdom want their voice heard, and so do Canadians.

An Environics poll conducted for the Council of Canadians last year indicated that 62% of Canadians supported moving toward a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections. This support was consistent across the country, notably 71% of youth wanted to move to a proportional representation system.

I mentioned in my speech my concern about youth voting and the voter turnout. If we can do anything to inspire our younger generation to get to the polls, we must. It is imperative to the future of our democracy.

In the motion supported by Fair Vote Canada, it states:

With people all over the world risking their lives to demand their democratic right to be heard, it's about time that Canadians had a fair voting system, so that all our votes can make a difference.

We must do all that we can to bolster our democracy and to ensure that all votes count. For that reason, I am in full support of the motion and urge all parliamentarians to vote in favour of if.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, we have heard very little from members of the Liberal Party today, other than their spokesperson, the member for St. Paul's, who provided us with a bit of revisionist history this morning when she suggested that somehow the Conservatives had stacked the Senate with partisan appointments. On the other hand, however, the Liberals had members in the Senate but they were not partisan.

I want to remind the member for St. Paul's that it was in 1984, when the orgy of appointments were made by John Turner at the behest of former Prime Minister Trudeau, which led to a game-changing debate in that election, when Mulroney was able to attack Mr. Turner on the basis that he could have said no when he filled the Senate with Liberal hacks and fundraisers.

Basically, the Prime Minister is continuing that long established tradition by the Liberal Party over the last 100 years, and we want that to stop.

Does the member have any further observations about the lack of Liberal interest in changing the Senate?

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, yes, it is true that the Conservatives broke a record by appointing 18 senators in one day. However, I am not sure that is a record they want to be proud of.

The Liberals also have a record of doing a similar manoeuvre when it appointed their party loyalists and supporters. That emphasizes the need for electoral reform. We need to get rid of this unelected, unaccountable body that is now being used for purposes other than what it was initially meant for.

I think Canadians want an updated body that reflects the will of the democracy in which they believe, and that means change. This motion, which calls for a referendum, would give Canadians the choice to keep this unelected body or to get rid of it once and for all.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I will quote the December 20, 2008 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press when the Minister of State for Democratic Reform stated, “If we don't get those reforms in a reasonable amount of time we will look to abolish it”.

The Conservatives have been in power now for a little over five years. In the member's opinion, is that a reasonable amount of time and should we start looking at abolishing the Senate?

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives spoke about that being an issue when they were in opposition. They said that the Senate, an unelected, undemocratic body, needed reform and attention.

Now that the Conservatives are in power, they could have done something about that. If this were really an issue, they could have acted on it. Five years is a legitimate timeframe to have addressed this issue and, I would argue, it should have been addressed years ago when they first came to power.

This needs to be addressed but what have the Conservatives done? Let us look at the record. Once they came to power, they turned it around and started to use the Senate to kill bills and change the outcome of the democratic process that has been voted on and approved by the majority of the members of the House of Commons who represent the Canadian people.

I mentioned Bill C-311 earlier in my speech, which was of great importance to Canadians, and seeing it killed in the Senate was tragic.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Hamilton Centre for his work and his vision for our country. He was the one who proposed this motion to our caucus. I would like to thank him and offer my congratulations.

The time has come to discuss our electoral system. It is clear that major changes are needed in the Senate. For example, it is inexcusable that a group of unelected senators rejected Bill C-311 on the environment without any, yes any, discussion.

I would like to spend the rest of my time by sharing my thoughts on proportional representation.

We do not have a high voter turnout in Canada and there are many reasons for this. I would like to submit that one of them is that the representation in Parliament does not accurately reflect the percentage of votes received. For example, if we had some sort of proportional representation system in place prior to the last election, the results would have been as follows: the Conservatives would have wound up with 119 seats, Liberals 83, NDP 56, the Bloc 31 and the Green Party would have had 17 seats. Even though 941,097 people voted for the Green Party, it did not get one seat in the House of Commons.

The executive director of Fair Vote Canada says that:

Proportional voting would obviously help the NDP. Almost 80% of votes cast for the NDP don't help to elect anybody. But this is about what's good for all voters.

He goes on to say:

If you are a Conservative in Toronto or a Liberal in Calgary, the current system is not working for you. The plain fact is that most of us are 'represented' in Parliament by people we voted against. Canadians demand more viable political choices.

There are some myths floating around and Fair Vote Canada attempts to counteract those myths.

There are trade-offs between good democracy and good government. In his landmark study, “Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Democracies (1999)”, internationally renowned political scientist Arend Lijphart assessed and compared the performance of majoritarian democracies associated with winner take all voting systems and consensus democracies associated with proportional representation systems.

He concluded:

—the overall performance record of the consensus democracies is clearly superior to that of the majoritarian democracies” and “the good news is that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, there is no trade-off at all between governing effectiveness and high-quality democracy – and hence no difficult decisions to be made on giving priority to one or the other objective.

The other myth that he dispels and talks about is the fact that proportional representation means coalition governments and that is bad because it requires deal-making. Let us put this idea to rest today once and for all. Here are the facts. Governments formed under any voting system are coalitions of different groups that negotiate and make deals. That is the way democracy works. The two largest big tent parties are coalitions of factions, which are generally hidden from public view except during leadership races. These internal factions compete with one another and then negotiate and compromise on the party platform.

Do people think we do not have differences of opinion in our party? Of course we do. We come together, and that is how we should be coming together in Parliament.

The primary difference between this and the formation of multi-party coalition governments under fair voting systems is transparency. Coalition negotiations among parties are generally more visible to the public and the compromises are publicly known. Majority rule under fair voting systems, the resulting coalition or governing group represents a true majority of voters.

That is what Canadians want. That is probably one of the reasons why they are not voting or coming out in large numbers to vote.

Let us look at some facts to dispel the fact that once we get proportional representation, we will have chaos and bedlam. The examples often cited are Italy and Israel. Let us apply some perspective.

With more than 80 nations using proportional systems, critics can find only two examples, which I just stated, of a system that appears to be chaotic. Opponents of fair voting do not like to talk about long-term stability and the prosperity of Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, or about most of the other 81 countries using proportional systems. In the last half of the 20th century, many of the large European countries had about the same number of elections as we had in Canada.

Coalition governments created under fair voting systems tend to be stable and productive for two reasons.

First, the parties know that a fair voting system makes it highly unlikely any party will gain a majority of seats because seldom do a majority of voters support any one party. The parties understand that the only way they can ever govern is by creating constructive partnerships with other parties. What a revolutionary idea, creating constructive partnerships so we can govern for the people of Canada.

Second, because election results reflect the way people vote, the parties have no motivation to force frequent elections, or prorogation, because of small shifts in public opinion. With Canada's first past the post system, a small shift of votes can trigger a huge swing in seats, which is something that cannot happen with a fair voting system.

Far from creating chaos, Lijphart's study on effective government demonstrated the countries using fair voting systems readily matched and often exceeded the economic and social performance of nations run by single-party governments, which are usually, as he says, false majorities. As Dr. Lijphart concluded, there is no trade-off between good democracy and good government. In fact, it is good democracy that leads to good government.

I submit that the timing is right as we discuss the reforms of the Senate, which is not working, as we discuss the House of Commons, which often is dysfunctional as we are often accused of partisanship and going against each other. Is it not time to come together and have a sensible system of voting so we can co-operate and have the actual proportion of people who voted reflected in the House of Commons?

I would like to say that proportional representation is an important step towards a healthy and very strong government.

It is imperative that we have in the House of Commons a representation that truly reflects the votes that people have cast.

I am sure our motion will be supported by all members in the House of Commons. I am sure that each and every one of us wants to ensure what is reflected here truly reflects the votes that people have cast in the last election. This could be a major breakthrough for democracy in our country.

I am ready to take questions.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Madam Speaker, as a fellow British Columbian, the member knows very well that Premier Campbell, both in the first and second mandate, consulted the people of British Columbia with regard to having some kind of electoral reform. Citizens were brought together from across the province of British Columbia and examined all kinds of voting methods.

What the NDP are proposing was one of the items that was brought forward. It has been rejected twice by British Columbians. It has been rejected by his own constituents. Now the member comes to the House of Commons and says that we have to throw out our current electoral system and bring in a proposal that his own constituents rejected in a referendum that happened less than a couple of years ago in the province of British Columbia.

What mandate does he have to come into the House of Commons on behalf of his constituents to say that we need to change everything when his own constituents, less than two years ago, rejected the very proposal that he will vote on in the NDP motion?

Second, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, a dear friend of mine, talked about the importance of elections and people not voting anymore. With proportional representation, we strengthen political parties and weaken the voices of individual Canadians to step forward to represent their constituents. Political parties become stronger, local representation becomes weaker and the ability of people to represent their constituents and not just their parties is destroyed. It is a bad idea.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, on the surface is appears logical, but I submit that it is not quite logical. It is more complicated.

The question put in British Columbia on the system that was chosen by the group was a complicated system. Many people did not understand that there were other systems. Many people who advocate this, many in my riding, would like to see a proportional representation system perhaps based more on the mixed model, where voters elect certain people and then there is a list from parties. That might work better than the complicated system we had.

The system that was proposed in B.C. would have taken power away from parties. That is probably why the two major parties did not support it. They thought it would take away from their power base and give more power to people in the ridings. However, it was more complicated.

This may be the finding of the committee, but in my riding it was much more complicated than a system, for example, where we elect a certain amount of MPs, as we do now, and a certain amount are taken from a list reflecting the proportion.

I think if we were to tighten it up, we would have a much stronger system that would truly reflect what Canadians have voted.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the member's speech was impressive and insightful. Notwithstanding what the minister from that province said, I am sure the member's constituents would be proud that he is standing here fighting for real democracy for Canada.

My question is directly on the issue of voter participation, particularly among the young. We know that more and more young people are saying, “a pox on all your houses”. They are not getting involved in politics or not coming out and voting. While that may serve the short-term interests of some political parties here, it is not a sustainable long-term nation-building situation.

Knowing that a recent poll showed that upwards of 71% of all young people supported moving to some version of proportional representation, my question for the member is this. Does he believe this is a positive reinforcement for Canada in terms of young people actually becoming engaged and caring about their democracy and their nation in a way that brings them to our political process? Does he believe that moving to proportional representation is a positive investment in young people's involvement in our political system going forward?

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Madam Speaker, as I had mentioned, it is inconceivable that one of the other political parties had over 900,000 votes and it is not represented here. A lot of the young people are members of that party. A lot of young people are members of the major parties. They see that they vote and work hard and not one of their MPs in their cities gets elected. There is something not quite right. We owe it to the future of Canada and our young people to improve our system and to have some kind of proportional representation system.

Opposition Motion--Representation in Parliament
Business of Supply
Government Orders

March 3rd, 2011 / 1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I wish to advise at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier.

I rise today to speak to the motion on Senate abolition, put forward by my colleague from Hamilton Centre.

The issue of Senate reform has been on Canadians' minds for a long time and is very complex. Accordingly, the motion put forward today is complex in its many subsections, the details of which I will get into. I had occasion to speak previously to Senate reform in this Parliament and the Parliament before. We have had some elections and prorogations and the aspect of Senate reform has not been touched upon in any real way by the government and this Parliament, except by the Conservatives stuffing the chamber with political hacks in order to put forward their program and to squelch democracy.

However, I think we need to start on the basics and the history of the other chamber. I would like to quote from the Bible: “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand”. That is the gospel according to St. Mark, chapter 3, verse 25.

These two houses have been working together for some time, with arguments of course on their efficacy. However, it is important to remember the origin of the houses and it is important that we not forget the history of the founding of the Senate and the history of the founding of this country. This country was born of two major influences. I would argue three, but there are two major Canadian influences, which were those coming from the United Kingdom, the British Empire, and those from our francophone or French Quebec background.

When we look at this place, this Parliament in general and this system of government, we are happy to see vestiges of our British heritage, the coats of arms, and the fact that we have a head of state who is a British sovereign. There is no doubt about that influence. What we cannot ignore is at the time there was a great negative influence from the south. Our largest neighbour was a young republic going through the throws of a civil war, one of the most bloody wars in the history of humankind, and the country that is the United States today was very much in the minds of the founding fathers, not just because of the Fenian Raids in the 1866 period, but also because the neighbour to the south had formed its government almost 100 years before that on a broken model, as was perceived by the founders of our model.

We did not want at that time to completely copy the British model. I do not make a practice of quoting Conservative politicians, but since time has passed and he was our first Prime Minister, I will quote Sir John A. Macdonald who said very clearly that the model of the House of Lords was not for Canada.

An hereditary Upper House is impracticable in this young country....An hereditary body is altogether unsuited to our state of our society, and would soon dwindle into nothing.

Let us be clear that the Senate we have is not the House of Lords. It never was intended to be. All the arguments of our good friends from the NDP fall flat on their face in that respect.

What was the upper house founded for? The upper house was founded on the idea that provinces did not want to enter a union without some protection of their rights. They agreed to become part of that union including Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to protect their provincial rights because the model of the south, the American constitution which gave states sovereignty, was broken in 1867. It had broken in 1861 and led to the calumny which was the civil war. We did not want to follow that, so Canadian forefathers said they would set up a Senate which protects provincial rights.

Here is where I come to a major disagreement with the government in this respect, going back from the time of its election over five years ago. The provinces came together to form a union and the provinces have not been consulted. In 2007, the then minister of democratic reform, who was moved to a much more vaulted post now, said:

I know there are those who wish to see the Senate remain unchanged. There are many members in the Liberal Party who want to see it remain unchanged because it has served them very well over the years as an institution dominated by appointed Liberals.

My, how time has changed because the Senate now is dominated by and controlled by a Conservative majority. I wonder what that minister thinks of those words that he said in this chamber then.

I wonder what the minister thinks of the words he said in the chamber then. He must have second thoughts. He must be wondering, “What was I thinking? The Prime Minister did not give me the playbook and did not tell me, as the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, that I was going to pack the Senate with Tory hacks and control the Senate”. He should have had those notes then and I feel bad for him.

I really feel bad that he was sent out on that errand, suggesting that the Senate is just for Liberals. We see now that it is just for Conservatives. The Conservatives will not go anywhere near this motion and we know that. It is because they have the House stacked the way they want.

Let us lower the temperature and talk about what the Senate has done. The Senate is a great example of some wonderful Canadians being appointed to do good work. Who can argue with that? Even the NDP is not going to argue with the quality of the persons appointed to the Senate, the work they did before they were appointed and the work they have done since.

No one is going to argue with the naming of General Roméo Dallaire or Conservative Senator Wilbert Keon, a heart surgeon. No one is going to argue that Charlie Watt, a Liberal senator representing aboriginal interests, was a bad appointment and does bad work.

Frankly, the NDP may argue with this one. There was an appointment of a member of the NDP to the Senate. She has turned out to be a wonderful senator and a great representative of the west. I speak, of course, of Senator Lillian Dyck, a person of great accomplishment at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. She completely filled out the card with respect to a CV.

She was an appointed member of the NDP. What did New Democrats do with a wonderful person like that? They said, “You can't join our caucus. We have nothing to learn from you. How dare you try to sit in our caucus”. This woman has contributed to Canada. She brings background that is important to Canada. They stuck their heads in the sand and said that we cannot reform the Senate because we will never be in power, but we are never going to take any advice from a good senator.

Those are some of the good examples of great Canadians who have contributed to the Senate and to Canada's oversight.

The Minister of State for Democratic Reform really did not get to answer the questions in 2007 and 2008, but if he were to predict how little provincial-federal consultation there has been since the time he gave his speeches and the last time we last talked about democratic reform of the Senate in the chamber, he would be dismayed to learn there has been nothing in the way of federal-provincial negotiations on Senate reform.

As I asked in a speech back then, how bad could it be to have a real meeting with the provincial and territorial leaders, something more than just a main course of bison and a dessert of crème brulée in a two-hour meeting where they are rushed out to the airport before any real discussion takes place? That was back in 2007. Premiers and territorial leaders do not even get the bison and the crème brulée any more. There are no more conferences on this topic. This motion has nothing in it with respect to provincial consultation.

It is the underpinning of how the Senate was founded. It is in the Constitution. The only real reform that has ever taken place in the Senate was in 1965 before patriation, before there was an amending formula, and it was done unilaterally in the dark of night without any opposition because all it did was to say that at age 75 senators will have to retire.

What have the Conservatives done with the Senate? They have packed it with people like Irving Gerstein and Doug Finley who have been charged with contravening the Canada Elections Act. They have failed to enforce section 140 of the code of the Senate. People charged with criminal allegations is nothing new to the Senate. Does it not make a mockery of our system when the Conservative appointed senators do not even follow the rules of the Senate with respect to reporting a criminal charge when section 140 of their own code says they should? I say—