An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


In committee (House), as of Dec. 2, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act to make it easier to manufacture and export pharmaceutical products to address public health problems afflicting many developing and least-developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


March 9, 2011 Passed That Motion No. 3 be amended by deleting all the words after the words “The provisions of this Act that amend the Patent Act” and substituting the following: “shall cease to apply on the day that is the tenth anniversary of the day on which this Act comes into force unless, before that day, the application of those provisions is subject to a comprehensive review by the standing committee designated by the House of Commons for that purpose, that committee recommends that they be maintained and the House of Commons approves that recommendation.”.
Dec. 2, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Opposition Motion—Passage of Bill C-234 by the SenateBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2023 / 12:05 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we do have selective amnesia in this place. I thank the member for Courtenay—Alberni for referencing that, because we lose sight of our history in this place.

The member for Carleton has been an MP for 19 very long years. I know the Conservatives have spent millions of dollars on burnishing up his image, but he has a long history in this House of Commons. If we do some digging, there are a lot of comments, a lot of questions and a lot of speeches from the member for Carleton that will give truth to who he really is.

However, it gets better, because the Conservatives have stood in this place accusing Liberals of bullying senators and imposing their will, when the Conservative Party is the only party in this House that still has 15 senators at caucus every Wednesday. Fifteen Conservative senators join their MP counterparts for every Wednesday meeting, and they get their marching orders from the member for Carleton on how to play games in the Senate. This has been the case for several Parliaments and we have seen it in the past.

Conservative senators have taken their marching orders from former prime minister Harper and have done the very thing that Conservatives are mad about today with Bill C-234. Senators took their marching orders from the Conservative Party in the House of Commons and used their procedural shenanigans in the red chamber to block multiple bills on multiple occasions that were passed by the democratic House. Again, it is rank hypocrisy from the Conservatives.

I will outline a few notable examples.

Our former beloved leader Jack Layton, several Parliaments ago, had a bill that was passed by the House called the climate change accountability act. My God, how things would be different now if we had actually paid attention back then and passed that law. However, right now in 2023, we are dealing with the consequences of years of inaction from both Liberal and Conservative governments. That bill was held up. It died in the Senate because of procedural shenanigans instigated by Conservative senators.

We have also had other cases. Former NDP member of Parliament Paul Dewar, who represented Ottawa Centre, introduced Bill C-393. It was a bill to permit the shipment and provision of generic drugs to Africa, a worthy cause, but it died in the Senate because of Conservative senator procedural shenanigans.

Then of course, in the 42nd Parliament, there was the bill that brought us to where we are today. It was the bill introduced to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a groundbreaking piece of legislation, Bill C-262. It was ahead of its time, ahead of where the puck was going, and it directly led to the government introducing its own legislation in the subsequent Parliament to make sure Canada's federal laws were in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That bill, which was duly passed by the House of Commons in the 42nd Parliament, was held up because of procedural shenanigans and games by Conservative senators at the request of their leader.

This is the amazing thing about the Senate. We cannot do that here in the House. With the rules there, one senator can throw in a wrench and jam up the entire works for days on end, and this tactic is used again and again. Conservative senators, under orders from their leader, have been doing precisely the same thing that Conservatives are mad about today when it comes to their own legislation.

These are the things we have to highlight. They are incredibly important because we have short memories in this place.

I am coming down to my final three minutes, and I very much look forward to the questions that will come. However, it does us well to understand that, first of all, Bill C-234 would not have passed in this place if it were not for all opposition parties working together to pass it because they saw merit in the bill. That is number one. Number two, we fundamentally agree with the principle that the Senate, as an unelected body, needs to respect the will of the House. The only party that has been consistent on that position through several parliaments is the NDP. We are the only party that comes out squeaky clean in a debate about the Senate, and all members would do well to acknowledge that fact.

Consistent with our third reading vote on Bill C-234, we will be voting in favour of today's motion, because that is consistent with the approach we have always taken. Had there been motions on our own private members' bills from several previous parliaments, we would have done the same thing. It is important to remind senators that we are the ones who have to face the electorate. We are the ones conveying the wishes of the people of Canada. Every seat in this place represents a distinct geographic area of Canada. We are the ones bringing the voice of the people here, and senators need to be reminded of that fact.

I will end by again highlighting the hypocrisy. I like serving with many of my Conservative colleagues, but as a party, we cannot take any moral lessons from them on the Senate given their history with appointing failed candidates, with party bagmen and with the instructions they give to their 15 caucus members who are members of the Senate. With the entire history they have of blocking bills, Canadians who are listening to today's debate need to understand that the last place we would ever go for a moral lesson on the problems with the Senate is the Conservative Party of Canada. I just want to make that very clear.

I will end my remarks there. I thank everyone for taking the time to listen, and I look forward to any questions or comments.

Patent ActPrivate Members' Business

November 21st, 2012 / 6:50 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the bill that my colleague has brought forth. I rise with a sense of regret and shame for a country that has failed to deliver on a promise that it made nearly 10 years ago. As a result of that failure and that promise that was never kept, we have witnessed children, men and women suffer and die because we did not get a chance to provide medications.

We built the system. This is important to recognize when we go back and look at the past. Bill C-56 was the original bill. It was nicknamed Jean Chrétien's aid to Africa act. We said at that time that we would put a system in place that would be the envy of the world. It would allow generic drugs to get to those who were suffering, whether it be from HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. We promised.

When Parliament recessed Bill C-56 came back to the House as Bill C-9 in 2004. We made another promise. Experts appeared at committee a couple of times. We brought in witnesses. We had expert testimony from many people from around the world. People testified to make sure that we were WTO and TRIPS compliant, that we were within the mandate with regard to allowing the patented drugs to be generically created and distributed, and that we would follow certain rules. Basically, we wanted to create an open and accountable process. Instead we built a monster that really has only been exercised once in all of these years. It really is a monster, because it is preventing us from stopping death and suffering.

Why is it important? Lots of numbers get thrown out and there have been some improvements over the years. The reality is that many people are still suffering. I cannot understand it when I look at the problems being faced in sub-Saharan Africa. What are we doing when children are becoming the heads of households because their parents are dying? We are taking out the capacity for the family unit to be effective. These children are losing the knowledge of how to raise themselves, how to become successful, how to get an education and work co-operatively with others. We are undermining people because we are not providing the resources that are there.

There is a will out there. I want to read some comments from organizations that are in favour of the legislation, because it needs to be noted that they did their part. They did their part for many years on the Hill as we have moved this issue forward.

When we moved Bill C-393, the previous legislation, it ended up dying in the Senate. Unfortunately, we are back here today. It is important to move this legislation again to committee because it does have a few changes, some improvements and some compromise. It is not like we did not compromise along the way. At one point I submitted over 100 amendments to the original bill at industry committee because we knew the legislation was so badly constructed. The Canadian access to medicines regime was built to defeat itself.

The organizations that did their part include the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Grandmothers Advocacy Network, Results Canada, the Federation of Medical Women of Canada, the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Ontario Nurses' Association, UNICEF, Bracelet of Hope, World Vision, the United Church of Canada. A whole coalition, a rainbow of organizations have come together and worked together.

There have been some important changes and there is some hope. We were fighting with the brand name drug companies along the way. We have gone through a whole range of issues about certain countries being listed and certain drugs being listed, and fought back and forth on all of those things.

However, now there has been a shift in their position. In a letter dated November 19 from research-based pharmaceutical companies to my leader, the hon. member for Outremont, it says they are open to looking at a more constructive approach. They list a series of concerns. Some I do not think are as valid as others, but there are important ones to note. They talk about transparency, amount and term, anti-diversion, eligible countries, eligible medicines and safety appeal mechanisms.

The good news is that there is no reason for any member now to vote against the bill. If a member is voting against the bill, he or she is voting directly against the pharmaceutical companies, the generics, and all the organizations I mentioned, that want to see this move forward. I thank them for coming to the table this time. In the past, we have witnessed a relationship that has been rocky at best. However, at this moment in time there has been a change in position. We are going to hopefully see this legislation move to committee so we can start to deal with some of the issues they raised to improve the legislation.

It is important. We have set an example internationally with this legislation. If we can get the changes here, other countries can also get some changes. We have a situation where some of the global funds are diminishing, so we have an issue with supply and management right now, and the costs.

I will conclude that I have come here today speaking out of frustration and disappointment, but there is a glimmer of hope this time. I am hoping all the members understand that there is nobody else out there against moving forward, so let us do it together with all members' support.

Access to MedicinesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 19th, 2012 / 3:10 p.m.
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Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition on behalf of hundreds of Canadians, many of them from Ottawa but also from the western provinces, B.C. and Manitoba in particular. The petition is by the Grandmothers Advocacy Network encouraging members of this House and the government in particular to support Bill C-398, a bill to amend Canada's access to medicine regime to allow people in Africa, principally but not only there, who suffer from treatable diseases such as HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis to receive medicines that are not priced exorbitantly. The petition also encourages those members who voted in the past for Bill C-393, which passed the House but did not get through the Senate, to consider supporting Bill C-398.

Patent ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 7th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.
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Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from constituents concerning Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. The petitioners are in support of Bill C-393.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

October 16th, 2012 / 7:15 p.m.
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Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, from time to time we have an opportunity to discuss an issue that is so fundamentally important that the question of action is not if, but how.

Before us today is a bill that will address the ongoing and terribly destructive crisis with access to medicines in developing and least developed countries across the world. While this bill is not perfect, there is a balance to be struck between maintaining our country's commitment to intellectual property protection while ensuring that we do not build unnecessary barriers limiting access to the medicines that are much needed in developing countries. That is why it is important to get this legislation to committee for closer examination.

We have no excuse for inaction. The House already passed a version of this bill in the last Parliament and the problem is not going away. It has been eight years since the Liberal government of the day put forward a bill that established a legal framework for Canada's access to medicine regime. The bill, otherwise known as Jean Chrétien's pledge to Africa act, was meant to create a balance between addressing our commitment to combat HIV and AIDS and simultaneously honouring intellectual property rights and trade obligations. The bill passed unanimously. Through that legislation, parliamentarians of all stripes signalled that it was a priority that there be timely access to affordable generic versions of patented drugs meant to fight HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases that are killing thousands of vulnerable men, women and children every day. As an international leader, we could not stand idly by and watch others suffer without trying to help.

It has since become clear that the bill, well-intentioned as it was, proved ineffective in accomplishing its main role. Whether it has been overly complex or onerous or unresponsive to the urgent needs of countries in need, Canada's access to medicines regime has simply not lived up to its intended purpose. That is not to say that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are solutions and we must move forward to implement them and reach these noble goals.

The bill before us today contains workable solutions to the administrative burdens that have made CAMR frustratingly inaccessible. In fact, we saw this legislation before the last Parliament as Bill C-393, and the House of Commons passed it before it died in the Senate when Parliament was dissolved for a general election.

I remember its passage from the House as one of the proudest moments in my time here, standing with a majority of fellow members, Liberals, NDP, the Bloc and several Conservatives alike saying to the world that we would help. At that time I argued that we could, and I still firmly believe that we can, pass this legislation and prolong lives while preventing the transmission of insidious diseases like HIV-AIDS. We can renew a lease on life for ailing parents, confident in the knowledge that they can live to provide for their loved ones, secure in knowing that they will not transmit the disease to their children. It is not enough to wish it were so, and words certainly will not make it true. Action is necessary. We can act now and finally address this head on.

Mr. Speaker, I will defer to you, understanding that I will have six minutes remaining when called upon again.

Patent ActPrivate Members’ Business

October 16th, 2012 / 6:45 p.m.
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Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for bringing this matter before us again by introducing this bill.

I thank the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie for bringing forward Bill C-398, which would amend the Canadian access to medicines regime. It is my pleasure to speak today in support of the bill and to move it to committee stage by voting for it at second reading. It is time to move the bill to committee and move on the legislative process, which was interrupted in the last election after it passed this House with support from all parties.

We are very fortunate in Canada that we live in a country where we are able to benefit from medication and as a country we have the infrastructure and the know-how to produce medicines. As Canadians, we also feel that we have an obligation to help those around the planet who are less fortunate, who are sick or dying and could be helped if they had access to medicines that exist today.

That was the motivation for Bill C-9, the original Canada access to medicines regime, also known as the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa Act.

Some medicines are expensive and the point of CAMR is to make available to developing countries safe, generic versions of medicines manufactured in Canada and to do it within international rules on trade and on intellectual property rights. It is intended to provide the competitive pressure to reduce the cost barrier to those countries that would never be able to afford the medicine but would greatly benefit from it and where people are in dire need of the medicine. We know that other countries can produce generic drugs but the Canadian product is produced with higher standards in quality control and it will provide competition on that basis.

CAMR came into force in 2005 but, as people have noticed, since that time this regime has only been used to provide one shipment of medicine to one country so far, which is why we believe there are barriers. One of the barriers that has been identified is the cumbersome licensing process.

The core of Bill C-398 is to provide the so-called one licence solution, which would remove the need for each individual country to make a request for a compulsory licence to produce generic drugs that are needed for serious health problems in these countries. It would remove the need for individual countries to apply and, instead, a Canadian generic pharmaceutical manufacturer would apply for the licence for all countries.

This reform has been sought for several years now, and in the previous Parliament, Bill C-393, upon which Bill C-398 is based, passed this House with support from all parties and probably would have come into force had the May 2011 election not been called.

I want to expand a little bit on the remarks that my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie made and I want to talk a little bit about intellectual property issues, which were the subject of the speech by my hon. colleague from the Conservative benches.

Advocates for reforming CAMR do not wish to jeopardize pharmaceutical R and D in Canada. They have said that an I think they do believe in the importance of the knowledge economy , and one of its pillars, the value of intellectual property.

I think we all agree that Canada's future will depend very much on its participation in the knowledge economy and nobody wants our kids to be competing in the world on the basis of providing the lowest cost labour. I believe that the drafters of Bill C-398 recognize some of these concerns.

For example, Bill C-398 improves upon Bill C-393 in that respect by specifying that Canadian generic manufacturers must post online the quantities of medicine being exported to each country. They must also put online the notification that each WTO country gave to the WTO trade related aspects of intellectual property rights council, or, for a non-WTO country, the notice that country gave to the Government of Canada.

The old bill, Bill C-393 from the last Parliament, at first removed a two-year time limit on licences before a renewal was required. In the last Parliament this was amended in committee to restore that time limit. Bill C-398 keeps that two-year time limit in the current draft. Drafters of the bill have responded to concerns about an open-ended licence in time.

In the spirit of the changes that the drafters of Bill C-398 have made, compared to Bill C-393 that already passed the House in the last Parliament, we could make some amendments to emphasize that it is not the intent of the bill to negatively impact any R and D investment in Canada. It is not the intent of the bill to devalue intellectual property that is a pillar of a knowledge economy.

People have asked me, for example, why Qatar is on the list of countries in the bill. It is a country with a per capita income of $90,000 per annum. I believe that no one wants that distraction. It really is distracting from the fact that people are sick and dying and need medicines that they cannot afford. Therefore, this is something we could look at in committee, the list of countries in schedule 2 of the bill, to remove these distractions that may lead people to question some aspects of the bill.

My colleague from the Conservative Party is worrying about safety issues. Some critics have worried that the generic drugs would not be subjected to safety reviews. However, section 21.04(3)(b) in the current legislation remains unchanged under Bill C-398 and affirms that any generic product must meet the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and its regulations. Therefore, my hon. colleague is incorrect when he makes that point. It is an old point that was made in the past but this bill is slightly different and that point is covered. In fact, the advantage of importing drugs from Canada is that products are manufactured with higher standards and with better quality control.

I will be voting in favour of the bill. It is time to move toward reforming Canada's access to medicines regime, a process that was accidentally interrupted at the last election, but which had already passed the House. We must not delay in sending the bill to the next stage of the legislative process, to committee where we can examine it and related issues in detail, as we should examine every bill. We must move this bill to committee and I urge my colleagues to vote for the bill at second reading.

Motion in AmendmentFinancial System Review ActGovernment Orders

March 27th, 2012 / 1:40 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today on Bill S-5 and the amendments that the NDP has put forward with regard to creating more transparency and accountability in this bill.

We do support the bill. However, we see this as a missed opportunity because there are so many issues relating to the banking industry right now that affect Canadian consumers, and also Canadian companies. I was at committee today and so I do not know if this has been discussed a great deal here, but small and medium size businesses have been hurt exponentially by the banking system in recent years. I will get into more detail on that later, but it is important to put that as part of the equation as we talk about this missed opportunity here.

First, as my colleague from the Liberal Party noted, the bill comes from the Senate. That is a concern for us. Why would the government table a bill in the Senate and then have it come to the House of Commons? A Conservative called the Senate equally capable. That is an interesting description for the Senate coming from the Alliance/Reform Party base out there when senators are unelected, unaccountable individuals.

While there are some very good people in the Senate who do some good work, at the same time they are not elected and not accountable to the Canadian people. Therefore, I do not think the Senate is equal to the House in any sense whatsoever. I am shocked that a Conservative/Reform/Alliance person would call the Senate that, because senators are political patronage appointments made by the Prime Minister, whether that be Joe Clark at the time, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin or now our current Prime Minister.

Senators do not have to go to the electorate and earn their seat. Once again, there are some very good people there whom I have worked with on a lot of good issues and I respect them a great deal, but there is a big difference between them and having to go to the person checking out groceries and selling cars. They are our bosses. They are the ones who decide whether we get to this place or not.

Having said that, I am a little concerned that the bill is from the Senate. I say this because in the past I worked on Bill C-393, a bill on providing generic drugs to developing countries for tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria. The House of Commons passed it, but it actually died in the Senate. Thus the elected body here passed a bill, sent it to the Senate, but it never made it through, even though it should be Canadian law right now so that we could provide medicines to those who are suffering from tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS in developing countries. There was also the bill from Jack Layton, the climate change bill, that was passed in this House of Commons, but, again, did not make it out the door of the Senate.

Now we have the reverse coming back here and what we see is a very scoped bill on the banking industry. However, I am glad that the Conservatives are dealing with this. The government is actually addressing some component of it, but let us take a step back in history, which I think is very important.

It is interesting that representatives of the banking industry came into my office a year ago and said that I should be thanking them for the work they had done and the fact they had propped up the Canadian financial system because of the way banks were structured and had done business. At that point, I asked if they wanted me to go to my computer or to my filing system and pull out all of the presentation decks and summaries they had previously provided me saying that they had to become like the American banks.

It was the New Democrat members in the House of Commons who fought against that. I will admit there were some Liberals who did so too, because I have been corrected in the past on this, and quite sincerely, by some of my Liberal friends. However, it was John Manley under Paul Martin who was trying to move our banks towards the American model. We voted against that and stopped it and it did not pass the House of Common, as there were some others who supported that notion to keep our banks the way they were. However, it was certainly the Conservatives, the right wing members, who got up day after day to complain about how Canadian banks would be swallowed up by U.S. institutions if we did not act at that particular time. That took on—

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

February 27th, 2012 / 12:15 p.m.
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Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam 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.

I am pleased to have this opportunity today. I have a degree in political science and I am very interested in all matters pertaining to parliamentary process, especially Senate reform. It is a subject that I studied a number of times while in university. This is the third time that the Conservatives have introduced a bill dealing with either the election of senators or Senate terms. Thus, we have had a great deal of material to examine and analyze in recent years.

The purpose of the bill before us today is to reform the Senate in two main ways. The first limits the tenure of senators to a maximum of nine years for all senators appointed after October 14, 2008. The second allows the provinces and territories to hold elections, at their own expense, to decide the names to be submitted to the Prime Minister for consideration for future Senate appointments. The provinces could thus choose any system they liked for electing senators, provided that the system adhered to basic democratic principles.

The Conservatives say the measures they have introduced are intended to modernize the aging institution that is the Senate. For once, I agree with my Conservative colleagues on part of what they say: the upper chamber does in fact present major problems, and measures need to be taken to remedy the situation.

However, the solution the NDP has been proposing for several years is quite different. In fact, we are calling for the complete abolition of the Senate. The reasons why we are calling for the abolition of the upper chamber are very simple. First, the institution is not democratic, and it is composed of unelected members appointed by the Prime Minister. More often than not, those appointments are partisan and are made to reward friends of the Prime Minister. As well, he sometimes adds insult to injury by appointing candidates, and even ministers, who were rejected by the public in a general election, as we saw after the last election on May 2. The people living in the greater Quebec City region can attest to that as well.

In addition, the Senate is also used for partisan purposes by the government, whether to guarantee the speedy passage of government bills or to kill bills that have actually been approved by the House of Commons. I am thinking in particular of the Climate Change Accountability Act and the bill to provide generic drugs for Africa.

Since 1900, there have been 13 attempts to reform the Senate, and they have all failed. Bill C-7 is no different from all those other failed attempts. It does not solve the problems that already exist in the upper chamber, and on top of that it creates new problems that simply worsen the present situation. First, limiting senators’ tenure to nine years does not make them more accountable to Canadians; quite the contrary. In fact, the bill eliminates any form of accountability to the public, since senators would never have to face the public at the end of their tenure. Once senators were elected, they would never have to account for their decisions, their actions and their broken election promises, because they could never stand in another election. As well, they would be automatically entitled to a pension, regardless of their record.

I cannot see how having the Prime Minister give a senator a nine year non-renewable term increases democracy in the Senate. Nor do the measures proposed by the Conservatives in Bill C-7 prevent partisan appointments. The bill does not really change the way senators are appointed, and the Prime Minister remains entirely responsible for choosing senators. The Prime Minister is not obliged by this bill to select senators from the lists submitted by the provinces or territories, and he can continue to choose whomever he wants and ignore each and every list he receives. He can, therefore, continue to fill the Senate with senators who are loyal to the government rather than to Canadians. This is a major problem.

Canadians elect the members of the House of Commons and place their trust in them to be their voices in Parliament. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, appoints senators, as a reward, and they serve the governing party.

I shall now read a letter written by Senator Bert Brown to the members of the Conservative Senate caucus. It is dated June 15, 2001, which, in my opinion, perfectly illustrates a situation. I am going to read the first and last paragraphs, which I think are the most relevant . The letter reads,“Yesterday, in Senate caucus [the minister] was showered with complaints about Senate elections and a nine year term. ... Every Senator in this caucus needs to decide where their loyalty should be and must be. The answer is simple; our loyalty is to the man who brought us here, the man who has wanted Senate reform since he entered politics, the Rt. Hon. [Prime Minister].

The message to senators is very clear: their loyalty lies not with the regions that they represent, nor with Canadians; their loyalty is to the Prime Minister. Canadians, too, have heard this message loud and clear.

Another consequence of this bill would be the creation of a two-tiered Senate with elected and unelected senators in the same upper house, which may be worse than what we currently have.

Bill C-7, if passed in its present form, will fundamentally change the nature of Canadian politics as we know it today. We will end up with senators elected at the provincial level who believe that they are more legitimate than the unelected senators. We will then have a Senate with different degrees of legitimacy based on the method by which senators are selected.

However, the most negative effect of this bill will be evident once we have an entirely elected Senate. According to the Canadian Constitution, the Senate currently has more or less the same powers as the House of Commons. However, since senators are unelected, they cannot indefinitely block legislation with financial implications because they have no direct mandate from Canadians but are appointed by the Prime Minister.

Once we have an elected upper house, it will be a whole different story. Senators will have greater legitimacy to introduce bills and block House bills. That could result in American-style impasses pitting two houses of elected representatives with essentially the same decision-making powers against one another in legislative conflicts with no apparent solution.

Ultimately, such impasses will force us to redefine the framework of Parliament, including the rights and responsibilities of both the House of Commons and the Senate. Major changes will require nothing less than a constitutional amendment. There is no other option, because that is the existing legislative framework.

The Conservatives claim that their bill will sidestep a constitutional debate on Senate reform, but I do not see how such a debate can be avoided.

Before passing a bill that will inevitably lead to interminable constitutional debates and discussions, we have to let Canadians weigh in on the issue of the Senate's very existence. All the provinces have done quite well without their upper houses since 1968, so it is high time we thought seriously about getting rid of the federal Senate. That is why, for years, the NDP has been calling for a referendum to find out if Canadians want to get rid of the Senate. Before setting in motion any major reforms of the Senate or abolishing it entirely, we need a clear mandate from Canadians, from the people of this country, and the only way to get a clear, legitimate mandate is to hold a referendum.

The changes that the Conservatives have proposed in Bill C-7 are inadequate and will not solve the Senate-related problems. That is why I oppose this bill. If the Senate cannot be abolished outright, the status quo is better than the constitutional chaos into which the Conservatives apparently wish to lead us. Serious consideration is in order before passing Bill C-7. The government will find itself embroiled in constitutional debates that it would rather avoid. That deserves some thought.

Patent ActRoutine Proceedings

February 16th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
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Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-398, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes).

Mr. Speaker, today, I am proud to introduce my bill entitled An Act to amend the Patent Act.

This bill will modify the provisions of the current access to medicines regime, which allows Canada to export generic versions of drugs for HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other illnesses to developing countries, and it will make the regime easier to use.

This will enable Canadian manufacturers to send potentially life-saving medicines to those who desperately need them.

This bill is an improved version of Bill C-393, which the House passed by a comfortable margin last March but which, unfortunately, died on the order paper in the Senate.

When drafting this bill, I worked closely with the Grandmothers Advocacy Network and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. I would like to thank Pat Evans and Richard Elliott for their help.

The bill has already received significant support from all parties in the House. Over the coming months I will be encouraging my fellow parliamentarians to take this opportunity to support lifesaving legislation.

Together, with hope, love and optimism, we can make a difference.

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

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

December 8th, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise 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.

If only we could be so fortunate as to have the government amend the bill so that the Senate would be abolished, then this could be our last time to rise and speak about Senate reform. My NDP colleagues and I believe that the Senate needs to be abolished. Any attempt to reform the Senate would simply be window dressing to this very seriously undemocratic institution. As things currently stand, Bill C-7 introduces ineffective measures that will do nothing to fix the Senate.

What is currently wrong with the Senate? We often describe the Senate as a romantic place of sober second thought. However, we know the Senate is no such a place. Last year, rather than respecting the will of this House, as my colleagues have pointed out, the Senate killed Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act. The bill was passed in the House of Commons and voted for by elected members of this House. The Senate killed it and the government called a snap election.

In the words of our former leader, the hon. Jack Layton:

This was one of the most undemocratic acts that we have ever seen in the Parliament of Canada. To take power that doesn't rightfully belong to them to kill a bill that has been adopted by a majority of the House of Commons representing a majority of Canadians is as wrong as it gets when it comes to democracy in this country.

This spring the Senate killed another bill which was very important. Bill C-393 would have made it easier for people in developing countries to obtain more affordable life-saving medicines. It was a bill that would have saved lives. It was voted for by members of this House and killed by an unelected Senate.

To suggest amendments and return a bill to the House is one thing, but to kill a bill in this way, using sneaky tactics, is just plain wrong. It is disrespectful to the decision-making power of this democratically elected House.

Right now the Senate is basically full of political appointments, friends and failed candidates. That is what the Senate is right now. For instance, our Prime Minister appointed to the Senate three failed Conservative candidates from the last federal election. All three failed to win a seat in the election. Canadians decided on May 2 that they did not want to have these people representing them. Yet, here they are; they are in the Senate.

There are a number of things in the bill that do not fix anything at all. For example, the Conservatives make excuses for their appointments saying that they will use them to reform the Senate. This is clearly laughable.

Every day in this House the Conservatives trample on democracy. They ram bills through the House and committees without debate or examination, sometimes without even costing these bills. Then the Conservatives want members to believe that they actually want a more democratic Senate. They do not.

The reforms the Conservatives are proposing in this bill are completely inadequate.

First, under the proposed legislation, the Senate would become a two-tiered system with some elected senators and some unelected senators.

Second, the limit of one nine-year term means that senators, even elected ones, would not be held accountable for their actions in a subsequent democratic race.

Third, because the actual appointment process would not change at all, despite talk of increased democratic accountability, the bill does not actually introduce any check on the Prime Minister in the appointment process. Basically, it could be business as usual.

Fourth, because the bill would do nothing to address the distribution of seats in the Senate, the increase in power of an elected Senate would mean an unbalanced increase in the power in Quebec and Ontario. I come from British Columbia and that is not fair.

Fifth, perhaps the most important intended role of the Senate is its ability to represent women and minority interests. By making it an elected Senate and forcing any candidate that runs to do so under a party banner would only tighten the partisan stranglehold on the legislative process. Parties will drown out minority representation, like we have seen in Australia. There are examples in Australia where this has happened.

Sixth, the introduction of increased democratic legitimacy would give the Senate even more leeway to assert its own decision-making power, which could result in gridlock. We have seen that in the United States. This is counter to the productivity Canadians expect from their government.

There are solutions, and New Democrats and others have proposed them. The best solution to this democratic black hole, that is the Senate, is to basically abolish it. The Conservatives have been wishy-washy in the past and unable to decide what they want when it comes to the Senate. For instance, previous Conservative bills have called for a federally regulated electoral process while another bill called for eight year term limits. We can see clearly that what the Conservatives want is the appearance of reforming the Senate when, in reality, they stack it with their cronies and use it to kill legislation passed by democratically elected members of the House.

Unlike the Conservatives, New Democrats have unwaveringly supported the abolition of the Senate since the 1930s, and many Canadians agree that we need to abolish it and move on from this undemocratically elected institution. At the provincial level, both Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty in Ontario and NDP provincial Premier Darrell Dexter have called for the abolition of the Senate. In my province, Premier Christy Clark has said that the Senate no longer plays a role in Confederation.

We have seen from history that all provincial legislatures have abolished their provincial senates. The last one was done in 1968. Even the Prime Minister himself once said that the unelected Senate is a relic of the 19th century.

Unlike the Conservatives who have not consulted the provinces, New Democrats believe it is the responsibility of the government to consult all Canadians. To that end, New Democrats believe that the issue of Senate reform cannot be solved by this piecemeal bill. The issue of Senate reform needs to be put in a referendum, so Canadians themselves can decide how they want to deal with it.

The majority of Canadians support New Democrats in this proposal as well. There have been a number of polls done and I will mention one that was done in July 2001 by Angus Reid, which said that 71% of Canadians supported having a referendum on this issue.

In closing, I would therefore urge my Conservative colleagues to heed their small c conservative roots. We know how the House of Commons works, but we have no idea what would happen with an elected Senate. It would no doubt completely change the Canadian political system, but to what end we cannot be sure. The best solution to Senate reform is abolition.

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.
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Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Where do I begin on that, Mr. Speaker? We have conversations in the House and we debate policy on many issues that affect all Canadians and costs that are associated with that. Some of the things we have been saying is that many of the decisions that are made in the House we need to flip on their heads.

If I could go to the one bill that was defeated in the Senate, which was Bill C-393, the cost associated with providing anti-viral drugs to children and adults in Africa suffering from HIV and AIDS would have been minimal and we could have eased the suffering of people. Instead, we are spending money on, as the hon. member said, travel and everything else.

The decisions that are being made in the Senate are affecting the decisions that we have made in this House. We make these decisions in the House based on what we think is in the best interests of Canadians.

We need to ensure those best interests continue to be brought forward and we need the Senate to actually support these bills until they are no longer around.

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the bill entitled “An act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits”.

Although the bill may appear to address one of Canada's most egregious democratic deficits, I am afraid that the approach being taken leaves much to be desired.

Essentially, Bill C-7 restricts all senators appointed to the Senate after October 14, 2008, to a single nine-year term. Provinces and territories would then be given the opportunity to hold elections at their own expense to determine which names would be submitted to the Prime Minister for consideration, and only consideration.

While on the surface this approach might appear to bring heightened accountability to an unelected institution of the Crown, restricting Senate term limits while holding non-binding Senate elections fails to consider the most logical option for improving Canadian democracy, namely the abolishment of Canada's Senate.

I recall one of my constituents, Craig, telling me that he did not support a triple-E Senate. He supported a single-E Senate, and that single E stands for empty.

Before I get into why New Democrats believe that the Senate has outlived its raison d'être, I would like to highlight some specific criticisms of the bill as it currently has been presented to Parliament.

First, it appears that, as it is currently written, Bill C-7 contains a glaring loophole which would completely undermine the spirit of what the government is proposing. This is because the government is clearly attempting to pass legislation which should require a constitutional amendment and making unclear how much force the bill would actually carry.

For instance, by taking an approach which fails to crystallize the changes in Canada's Constitution, the Prime Minister would not be constitutionally required to appoint anyone elected by the provinces. Therefore, the bill does not actually change the way senators are currently appointed as the Prime Minister would still be free to appoint whomever he or she chooses.

We have seen previous examples of the Prime Minister acting in contravention of existing democratic reform legislation which has passed through the House. Specifically, I can point to the fixed election date legislation. Why then should Canadians trust that the government would actually abide by the legislation that we have in front of us today? Call me a pessimist, but this is certainly one concern that I have with Bill C-7.

Let me make this clear. We know how the House of Commons works, but we have no idea what would happen with an elected Senate. That brings me to another major concern arising from Bill C-7, which is the inevitable gridlock which would arise from having two separately duly elected Houses of Parliament.

Since the Senate would have virtually the same powers as the House under Bill C-7, an elected Senate would have greater legitimacy to introduce legislation or oppose bills sent to it from the House of Commons. On the surface this seems like a good idea. However, when we dig deeper into those proposals, it would illicit the real fear that we could end up with the kind of gridlock we see in the U.S., something which no Canadian wants to see our Parliament descend into.

This brings me to my final point that the best approach to take in order to reduce Canada's democratic deficit is the complete abolishment of the Senate. Personally, I am of the belief that when it comes to the Senate, Canadians do not need it. It is expensive. It has been packed with party insiders and we cannot trust what the leaders are going to do with the Senate.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly used the unaccountable and undemocratic Senate to kill legislation that had been passed in the House of Commons, twice killing Bill C-311, the climate change accountability act and, this spring, killing Bill C-393, a very important bill which would have facilitated the movement of generic antiviral drugs to Africa to help people living with HIV-AIDS.

These pieces of legislation, supported by wide swaths of the Canadian public, were killed by the Prime Minister's appointed senators in the Senate with no sober second thought. How can we have sober second thought when we have a bunch of Conservative Party organizers and fundraisers with obvious conflicts of interest? It makes a mockery of our democratic system.

As I noted earlier, even should the bill pass during the 41st Parliament, there is no guarantee that the government would actually abide by the rules it has put in place. Thus, we could end up with a patchwork Senate filled with a mix of elected and unelected senators.

I will put forward a hypothetical situation. What if the government refuses to appoint a senator who has been elected by residents of a province because it disagrees with the party banner under which that senator was elected? After all, the prime minister would not be constitutionally obliged to actually appoint them to the Senate. That is why I firmly believe the safest and most obviously beneficial approach to the Senate is to abolish it.

I will conclude my statement today by drawing attention to what the provinces, our partners in Confederation, have been saying about the Senate, both in terms of the status quo and the proposals in front of us. Both the Ontario premier, Dalton McGuinty, and the Nova Scotia premier, Darrel Dexter, have openly called for the abolition of the Senate. The B.C. premier, Christy Clark, has said that the Senate no longer plays a useful role in Confederation, while Manitoba maintains its position of eliminating the Senate. Even more worrisome is that Quebec has called this legislation unconstitutional and has said that it will launch a provincial court appeal if this bill proceeds without the consultation of the provinces.

Why, then, is the government moving ahead with a plan that is not supported by the federal government's partners in Confederation? It seems that without the full support of the provinces this proposal will merely be a paper tiger dressed up as a solution to bring Canada's democracy into the 21st century.

What happens if certain provinces refuse to participate in the system? Citizens of those provinces would certainly be shortchanged. Even more dire is the thought that this bill would lead to a constitutional crisis with multiple provinces taking action at the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of this legislation. Without proper provincial consultation, which I fear has not taken place, this is an inevitability and something that should be avoided at all costs.

Therefore, I ask that the government reconsider its position on the bill until such a time as the provinces are properly consulted and sign on to these proposals.

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

November 22nd, 2011 / 11:20 a.m.
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Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleagues, as elected members, have a duty to be accountable, but members of the archaic Senate do not have this moral duty.

This relic is a home for numerous defeated politicians who are appointed for partisan purposes, which was the case for some Conservatives who lost the election and were still rewarded by the Prime Minister. I am not the first person to use the word “relic”. In fact, the Prime Minister himself described the Senate as a relic of the 19th century. Now that he is no longer talking about abolishing it, as he used to do, he wants to reform it based on equally outdated values. Why not donate this relic to the Museum of Civilization?

You do not have to be able to predict the future to know that this bill will fail, as did the 13 other attempts at reform before it. The NDP's long-standing belief in abolishing the Senate dates back to the 1930s, and it has constantly been reaffirmed by the party. Yes, the New Democratic Party will vote against the bill and will voice its desire to abolish the Senate, pure and simple. If the government is wondering about the public's opinion on this, we invite it to ask Canadians to voice their opinion through a referendum.

Here is why this bill is going to end up in the dustbin of history. It is undemocratic. The government wants to limit the tenure of all senators summoned after October 14, 2008 to a maximum of nine years. Considering that these individuals are accountable only to the Prime Minister, this is an invitation to hit and run. Moreover, they are entitled to a pension when they leave the Senate. While elected members must face voters at each election to get their verdict, senators are free to completely reject the opinion of Canadians.

The nine-year term set out in the bill confirms this situation, because even if senators were appointed after being elected, they would have the luxury of behaving as they please, without any obligation to go back before voters. The term “election” thus becomes devoid of any moral compass that is part of democratic duty. Since senators will not be allowed to run twice, how can they be accountable to the public? In this regard, the bill does not change anything in the undemocratic basis of the Senate, whose members are accountable only to the Prime Minister. A senator will only be accountable to the Prime Minister, as has always been the case. The bill only provides that a list be submitted to the Prime Minister. It does not in any way affect his discretionary powers.

Some may argue that the Prime Minister will never dare oppose the public's choice, but recent history has shown that the Prime Minister can violate this principle, as he did on the issue of fixed election dates.

I am going to digress a bit and talk about my thoughts while listening to hon. members and what the majority of people think of the Senate. To most people, the Senate is not a big concern. Except for the fact that it costs a lot of money, people do not wake up in the morning thinking about the Senate. For years, I too did not think about those individuals sitting over there and quietly passing the time while waiting for a well-deserved retirement. I did not think about the Senate until Ms. Verner was appointed there. To me, that was a fundamental violation of the democratic process. Someone who had lost all authority through a democratic process was promoted to the Senate with a golden pension for the rest of her life, this for services rendered to the Conservative government. There is a problem there.

There is a second problem. The Senate blocked two bills passed by a majority of members in a Parliament that required the agreement of all parties in order to make a firm decision. I am referring to Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, which the Senate killed, and Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

In addition to posing a problem of legitimacy, the people appointed to the Senate have begun to kill bills duly passed by a democratically elected assembly. This is starting to get serious. Do we want to continue down that road? The Conservative government is going down a path that is fraught with danger for the future and for democracy.

It has been said the Prime Minister will take into consideration the provincial nominees or the list submitted when elections are held. I am the first to doubt this, and I am convinced that my colleagues and my friends in the NDP and other parties also have serious doubts about that.

Let us imagine for a moment that cross-Canada elections are held for senators. The list of new senators includes Amir Khadr, a symbol of the new Quebec left. This man is a leading light. His views could lead to social progress in Canada. Would the Prime Minister agree to appoint him to the Senate? Never, that is clear.

François Saillant, a champion of Quebec's homeless people, has been involved in every fight to increase social housing in the past 25 years. Would the Prime Minister appoint him if he were on the list? Never.

If Steven Guilbeault were on the list submitted by Canadians, would he be appointed as a senator by the Prime Minister? Of course not. I am convinced that members of the Green Party share my belief. Steven Guilbeault would never be appointed, nor would Laure Waridel of the organization Équiterre. The government does not want supporters of fair trade. We know that trade is unfair in the House. We have to leave it alone.

Would David Suzuki be appointed if he were on the list? I am convinced that the Conservatives would not want to appoint David Suzuki to the Senate.

Would astrophysicist Hubert Reeves be appointed? Would the Prime Minister appoint an astrophysicist, when this party denies scientific facts and scientific actions? Never.

Vivian Labrie founded the Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté, which fights to try to get the government to take the reality facing those most in need into account when making decisions. It fights to prevent decisions that will affect the poorest one-fifth of the population. Would this government appoint Ms. Labrie to the Senate? Never.

So this shatters the illusion and the fantasy that the Prime Minister would definitely appoint all of the senators proposed. That is not true. I would like to come back to my speech, which does not necessarily address that, but this raises a question. Basically, is it not dishonest to claim such things, when we all know the political stripes of the people appointed to the Senate?

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. How can anyone believe that he will respect the democratic will of the people? He clearly does not understand the notion of democratic accountability. The Conservatives say that the provinces would be able to choose any system they like to elect senators, as long as the system complies with basic democratic principles. The facts show that this government knows very little about basic democratic rules. We cannot help but be cynical, since the government acts as though it was elected by 100% of the population when, clearly, that is not the case.

Quebec has called this bill unconstitutional. The provincial government said that it would go to court if this bill were passed without prior consultation with the provinces. What do the Conservatives want to do, reopen a constitutional debate? What a great way to be put through the wringer.

In closing, I wish I could find the words that would bring this government back to its senses and make it see that this issue must be resolved by the people.

We invite the government to hold a referendum if it is certain about the reform it wants to propose. I remain convinced that all Canadians would like to do away with this relic and relegate the Senate to the Canadian history museum.

October 27th, 2011 / 9:40 a.m.
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Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Very quickly, I was wondering also if you've heard about Bill C-393, which is intended to improve our access to medicine within the TRIPS context and improve on the law we already have, which is an established mechanism that is not used very much.

Do you think it would be useful for Canada to become a more important player in this provision of generic drugs?

Senate Reform ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.
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Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first speech in the House of Commons in the 41st Parliament, I would like to thank the people of Nickel Belt for returning me to this House of Commons. I am grateful to the people from as far west as Foleyet, to the east of Garden Village, from the south in Killarney, and to the north of Capreol and River Valley, for returning me to this House.

One of their reasons for returning me to this House of Commons is due to the fine work that my staff is doing in Nickel Belt. I would like to thank them in this House, including Carmen McMurray in Nickel Belt and Val Caron, Ghislaine Millette in Val Caron, and Mona Noël and Don Pitre in Sturgeon Falls. I would like to thank them for the fine work they are doing.

Some of the reasons why we were re-elected to this House of Commons are because the people of Nickel Belt are more concerned about unemployment, health care, education and about their mothers, fathers and grandfathers. They are not too concerned about Senate reform. They are concerned about the things that affect them and Senate reform certainly does not affect them.

I am happy to rise in the House today to speak about the important principles of democratic reform and accountability.

I know the citizens of my riding of Nickel Belt want an electoral system where people are made to feel their vote counts. They want to feel good about government again, to see it as truly representative of them, and to feel they have a choice.

Five years ago, our Prime Minister was opposition leader. He recognized how wrong the unelected Senate was. He called it unfair and undemocratic. He called an appointed Senate a relic of the 19th century. Then, as opposition leader, he clearly did not like how the Prime Minister held a virtual free hand in the selection of senators and he made a promise that, as Prime Minister he would not name appointed people to the Senate. Sadly, we have seen another broken promise. Instead of fixing the problem with the Senate, the Conservative government has made the problem worse.

Consider the evidence. The Prime Minister now holds the all-time record for appointing the largest number of senators in one day. He has appointed Conservative Party faithful, spin doctors, fundraisers and insiders, his former Conservative Party president, his former national campaign director, and several defeated Conservative candidates. What more evidence do we need than seeing the architect of the Conservative notorious in and out scheme currently sitting in the Senate? Unnecessary Conservative senators spend their time voting down laws passed by elected members of the House of Commons, while burning through taxpayers' dollars to travel the country fundraising for the Conservative Party of Canada. Talk about doing politics differently; it is more of the same old, same old as we saw with the previous Liberal government.

Last fall, we watched in shame as the Conservative-dominated Senate was used to veto legislation that the Prime Minister simply did not like. The Climate Change Accountability Act, introduced by my colleague from northern Ontario, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North, was passed twice in a minority Parliament. Elected members representing Canadians passed the bill. A majority of elected MPs supported that legislation twice. Tragically, on November 16, 2010, the Senate, with its Conservative appointees, defeated Bill C-311 on second reading. There was no community discussion in the Senate and no witnesses. It was killed by unelected friends of the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, the government's legislation related to the Senate is not about real democratic reform or delivering on commitments of accountability. New Democrats are talking about real democratic reform. We are calling for the abolition of the Senate. Canadians have had enough. The Senate has to go. Most Canadians would not miss it. Recent polling shows that only 18% approve of the actions of the Senate. Unfortunately, today's senators are too often partisan, working for their parties while being paid with public money. No sober second thought can come from unelected appointees with such obvious conflicts of interest.

Then there is the waste of money in the unelected Senate because Canadians are paying more and more for a discredited institution that does less and less at a time when people are dealing with slow economic recovery and the Conservative government is contemplating billions in cutbacks. Maintaining the Senate costs Canadians around $19 million a year. While folks are looking for jobs, trying to make ends meet when their EI runs out and scraping by on pensions that do not even cover basic necessities, senators are earning $132,000 a year for a three-day work week. Travel and expenses for senators cost $859,000 a year for an institution that will not play any relevant role in the lives of most Canadians.

I can think of a lot of things that matter to people, like creating family-supporting jobs, improving public health care, and building a decent future for our kids. Lining the pockets of party insiders probably is not high on anyone's list. I repeat that New Democrats want the Senate abolished. That has been the position of the New Democratic Party and its predecessors since 1930, and we are not alone.

The Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, and the Premier of Nova Scotia, Darrell Dexter, have publicly called for the Senate to be abolished. The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, has said she does not think it serves a useful purpose within Confederation. Manitoba also maintains its position in favour of abolishing the Senate. Quebec has called this bill unconstitutional. The provincial government has said it would appeal the matter in court if this bill passes without prior consultation with the provinces.

We know real democratic reform is not achieved by tinkering with how senators are appointed or chosen from the provinces. We will need to introduce fair voting and proportional representation where the franchise of every voter is respected. We are calling on government to hold a referendum asking the Canadian public whether they support abolishing the Senate.

Today, I am asking the Prime Minister to start with two modest but vital first steps. First, I am asking the Prime Minister to stop appointing failed candidates and party insiders to the Senate. I am asking him to reach out to Canadians by making that a firm commitment.

Second, I am asking the Prime Minister to work with me to ensure all senators are banned from fundraising for political parties. No sober second thought can come from unelected appointees with such an august conflict of interest. It makes a joke of our democratic system, and it is not fair to Canadians.

In the long run, New Democrats remain firmly committed to following other modern democracies, as well as Canada's provinces, by abolishing the upper house and continuing to call for a pan-Canadian referendum to allow Canadians to provide a mandate on how to proceed.

We, as New Democrats, want Canadians to feel good about government again, to see it as the embodiment of their collective capacities as citizens, and to feel they have a voice. Let our elected members of Parliament, and only our elected MPs, speak on behalf of Canadians.

Second, let us stop wasting money on the undemocratic parts of our country that are not benefiting Canadians.

I want to bring out some key facts on this Senate reform. All provincial Senates were abolished by 1960, and provinces have continued to function properly. For those from the opposition who think we cannot work without a Senate, the proof is in the pudding. The provinces got rid of all Senates in 1968, and they are still functioning.

Public support for a referendum on the Senate is growing. An Angus Reid survey from July 2011 showed that 71% of Canadians were in favour of holding a referendum to decide the future of the Senate; and 36% of Canadians supported abolishing the Senate, up from 25% one year earlier.

If we really want to hear what Canadians have to say about the Senate, maybe we should have a referendum and let Canadians tell us what they want. With this Angus Reid survey, we know what Canadians want. They want the Senate abolished.

The Conservatives have said that they do not want to tear the other place down, they want to rebuild it. They are accusing us of wanting to tear the other place down. There have been 13 attempts to reform the Senate since the 1900s, 13 times Canadians wanted to remodel the Senate and failed every time. We are not going to accomplish anything this time either.

The government has been all over the map when it comes to Senate reform. A previous Conservative bill called for a federally regulated electoral process, while another bill called for eight year term limits.

The Conservatives have not properly consulted with the provinces about whether or not they agree with the content of this bill. When this bill was first introduced in June 2011, Conservative senators, even those appointed by the Prime Minister, pushed back against any plan for Senate term limits.

Senators will remain unaccountable to the Canadian people by only being allowed by law to serve one term as senators. They will never have to face the public to account for the promises they made to get elected or the decisions they made in the previous nine years, and they will get a pension when they leave office.

The safest, small c conservative approach to the Senate is to abolish it. We know how the House of Commons works, but we have no idea what will happen with an elected Senate.

The Prime Minister has called the Senate a relic of the 19th century. In 2006, the Conservative Party platform stated:

The Conservatives...believe that the current Senate must be either reformed or abolished. An unelected Senate should not be able to block the will of the elected House in the 21st century.

That is exactly what happened to Bill C-311.

The government has used the Senate as a dumping ground for party operatives and fundraisers who are using public money to campaign for the Conservatives. We are seeing that right now with the provincial elections going on across the country. We are seeing senators going from province to province and riding to riding campaigning for the Conservatives at a cost to public money.

The Prime Minister has used the unaccountable and undemocratic Senate to kill legislation that had been passed by the House of Commons twice. As I mentioned previously, Bill C-311 and, this past spring, killing Bill C-393, generic drugs to Africa.

We have Alberta senator, Bert Brown, whose name has been mentioned quite often by Conservative members today making him the god from Alberta. Bert Brown made it very clear in his letter to the Senate dated June 15, when he stated:

...our loyalty is to the man who brought us here, the man who has wanted Senate reform since he entered politics....

It was not to their regions or constituents.

What a shame that an appointed senator would say something like that. He is not there to represent the regions or his constituents. Who is he there to represent if he is not there to represent Canadians? It is a shame.