House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elected.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 14 petitions.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the committee, I have the honour of tabling the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

This report deals with Chapter 12 of the auditor general's report of October 1995, entitled "Systems under Development: Managing the Risks". This report contains three key recommendations.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee is asking the government to table a comprehensive response to this report.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Raymond Lavigne Liberal Verdun—Saint-Paul, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table in this House a petition signed by a number of my constituents, who are asking the government to protect their right to self-determination as a people; they want to live together in Canada and not in a sovereign Quebec.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On March 11, I placed on the Notice Paper four questions addressed to the Minister of Human Resources Development, which dealt with the advisability of relocating the regional Canada Human Resources Centre in Shawinigan rather than Trois-Rivières.

This is the second time I raise this point. According to the Standing Orders, these questions should be answered within 45 days. The 45 day period ended April 27; we are now at the end of May and I still have not received answers to my four questions, answers that would shed some light on this very nebulous matter.

I am counting on the Chair to make the necessary representations. It is a simple matter of respect for elected members, who have a right to question the executive.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Perhaps the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader could answer his colleague from Trois-Rivières.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 47 will be answered today.

Question No. 47-

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

What agreements, operating or otherwise, exist between the federal government, Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) with respect to the railways' right of first refusal in terms of any sale of the government's grain hopper car fleet, including but not limited to the agreement signed between the federal government and the railways in 1993?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of Transport

Transport Canada advises as follows: The only agreement that exists is the operating agreement between the federal government, Canadian National, CN, and Canadian Pacific, CP, dated April 1, 1993. As the railways have indicated, they share our interest in moving to a more efficient grain transportation and handling system. The government does not expect that the existing operating agreement will be an obstacle to an open bidding process for the sale of the cars. Officials are beginning discussions with the railways on possible changes to the operating agreement. Based on these

discussions, the government will determine the appropriate way of modifying or terminating the current agreement.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

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

I have heard my hon. colleague. I thank him for his patience with regard to the particular questions he has raised. The expectation is that very soon the questions concerning the issues he has raised will be addressed.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed that the remaining questions be allowed to stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members


SupplyGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC


That, given that the Senate has failed to respond to a message from this House requesting that a representative of the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration appear before the Standing Committee of Government Operations to account for $40,000,000 of taxpayers' money, this House express its dissatisfaction with the Senate for disregarding modern democratic principles of accountability and, as a consequence, notice is hereby given of opposition to Vote 1 under Parliament in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce the Reform supply day motion for debate today. I will repeat the motion.

Given that the Senate has failed to respond to a message from this House requesting that a representative of the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration appear before the Standing Committee of Government Operations to account for $40,000,000 of taxpayers' money, this House express its dissatisfaction with the Senate for disregarding modern democratic principles of accountability and, as a consequence, notice is hereby given of opposition to Vote 1 under Parliament in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997.

One of the functions of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations is to examine the main estimates of the Senate. As a member of this committee I moved a motion to send a message to the other place requesting that the chair of the Senate's board of internal economy appear before the Standing Committee on Government Operations to account for Senate expenses. My motion was approved by a majority of the committee and following unanimous consent in this House a message was delivered to the other place on May 9. However, to this date members of the House have heard nothing from the other place.

Main estimates can only be examined in committee until June 21 and the committee agenda is quickly filling up. I subsequently sent a follow-up letter on May 21, again requesting a commitment from the upper House by Monday, May 27, but I have not received a response. We must have a firm commitment immediately, yet the other House refuses to respond to this request.

Accountability in public institutions is the most basic and fundamental requirement which Canadians demand from their representatives. No body, particularly an unelected body, should be exempt from this basic requirement. Canadians are demanding greater accountability to determine how their hard earned dollars are spent and during these times of extreme fiscal restraint when Canadians are forced to make difficult financial decisions, they expect the same from their institutions.

Canadian taxpayers pay out over $40 million a year to fund the Senate. This is public money and the expenditures of these funds must be accounted for to the Canadian public. Many Canadians are concerned about how their tax dollars are spent in the upper House. According to the auditor general's report of the Senate written in 1991, it appears many of their concerns are completely justified.

The Senate proposes to spend over $28 million on personnel, $4.5 million on transportation and communication, over $5 million on professional and special services and another $3 million on miscellaneous expenses. This is an enormous sum of money and it is little wonder that Canadians are concerned. It is time for the upper House to come clean and justify these expenses.

Although the total budget for the other place is listed as $40 million in the main estimates, in fact it will be spending more. The auditor general estimated that on top of the $40 million in the main estimates another $11.5 million will be spent on government entities to supply services for the Senate. These additional funds are not separately identified in the estimates or in the public accounts.

This public institution spends over $51 million a year and no accountability is attached to these funds. The Senate makes and enforces its own rules and is not subject to the same laws as government. The Financial Administration Act and the usual accountability mechanisms simply do not apply to the Senate. Perhaps this made sense in the 1890s, but it sure does not make any sense in the 1990s.

The auditor general reported that Senate accountability is inadequate. He stated the upper House does not adequately report on its administrative, financial or human resource management perfor-

mance and does not possess sufficient information to enable it to do so systematically.

How can Canadians be satisfied that Senate expenses are managed with sufficient concern for economics and efficiency when none of the usual accountability mechanisms apply? When it comes to accountability I wholeheartedly agree with the auditor general that there is nothing to hold that place accountable to the public as it presently stands.

In the event we find something terribly wrong or something is way out of whack, the members do not face re-election. They are not subject even to minimal reporting requirements and this is completely wrong. Accountability in public institutions is not only vital, it is clearly essential. It assures those who provide the institution with authority and funds either directly or through their representatives in Parliament that the goals required are achieved and that funds are well spent with due regard to economy and efficiency.

There are many reasons Canadians are concerned about accountability in the upper House and concerns of the auditor general make it absolutely necessary that the other place hold itself accountable. The fact that members in the other place are taking liberties with tax dollars should be of great concern to Canadians, in particular when the auditor general has brought into question the use of the non-taxable allowance by members of the Senate.

According to the auditor general, Senate administrators cannot distinguish operating expenses from personal expenses and there is no way to determine that amounts received for such expenses are expended in the manner they were expected to be.

Fiscal accountability is clearly a problem when according to the auditor general there seems to be no limit on personal non-Senate expenses particularly for travel and telecommunications incurred either by senators or by members of their families.

In addition the auditor general also noted that there is no assurance that travel expenses are incurred for the service of the Senate. To make matters worse, restrictions on Canadian destinations or origins of trips either for senators or their families were eliminated and researchers were added to the list of permitted travellers. Rather than tightening up on restrictions, the other House is relaxing restrictions and allowing more junkets.

For example, last year the upper House spent almost $3 million in travel expenses and the year before that, it spent a similar amount. What is absolutely astounding is that there are some outlandish travel bills from members of the other place who represent and reside in Ontario. For example, one member from the other place who represents Markham, Ontario spent over $74,000 in the past two years on travel. A senator from Toronto Centre, a one hour plane ride from Ottawa, spent over $71,000. Another senator who represents Rideau here in Ottawa spent over $64,000 over the past two years.

There is simply no excuse that members in the other House whose ridings are right here in Ontario should have travel bills over $70,000. Furthermore, travel points given to members in the other place do not include travel on behalf of committees, parliamentary associations or parliamentary exchanges. The utter waste of taxpayers' money in this area is unbelievable and unforgivable.

The auditor general found many discrepancies within the system and noted that one senator travelled three times to the third world, twice to Europe, once to the U.S. and three times to various locations within Canada for a total of 55 days. Clearly, more accountability is required on travel expenditures in the other place. I agree with the auditor general's recommendation that the upper House periodically publish information on all Senate funded travel for each senator.

The auditor general also noted that members in the other place have insufficient incentives to manage their office expenses with due regard for economy and efficiency particularly with respect to secretarial services and telecommunications. He recommended that details of senators' office expenses be publicly reported.

Office expenses in the other place have jumped from over $2.5 million to $3 million in the past two years. The member for Terrebonne here in this House referred to one senator who had his office remodelled for $100,000.

The upper House must follow the auditor general's advice and publish at least annually details of senators' research and discretionary office expenditures including names of suppliers and purchases in excess of amounts determined by the committee on internal economy.

Also the auditor general noted that one of the problems with the gross overspending in the upper House lies in the fact that staff generally accept a senator's signature as sufficient evidence that the funds are requested for the service of the Senate. The auditor general did not feel this was adequate. He came to the conclusion that given the unique nature of the upper House, such difficult decisions cannot be made appropriately by officials alone and therefore should be open to public scrutiny.

I certainly agree. It is time we opened the books to Canadians so they can see exactly what is going on. Opening the books to public scrutiny is the simplest and most efficient and cost effective way of achieving accountability.

In addition, committee expenses in the other place have also run up huge bills only to have the subsequent reports shelved or ignored. For example, the Senate Pearson airport committee ran up a $210,000 bill after failing to find anything clearly wrong with the airport bill. Last year, $153,000 was also approved for a special study by the Senate Special Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Of that, $123,000 was allocated for transportation and communications alone. On it goes, all without any accountability.

According to the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Banking and Commerce, the budget for $8,000 was "a token budget for a few lunches and some possible outside professional services". A token budget for a few lunches. I wonder what they eat for lunch that is going to run up an $8,000 tab. Try to explain that to the long suffering Canadian taxpayers.

On it goes. The committees went $100,000 over budget last year. When they ran out of money they began to look at funds that were saved from the previous years' budgets.

What concerns me is the fact that the auditor general found that amounts reported in the public accounts were incomplete and did not give sufficient information to determine whether the expenses were incurred for the service of the Senate or otherwise. Administrators could not identify what was or was not official business.

The time has come for the other place to improve reporting of expenditures and to account for the performance of their administration. The main purpose of the upper House is to provide checks and balances for the House of Commons. However, how can it function in this role when its actions are called into question because of lack of accountability?

Many Canadians view the upper House as having no more authority than to rubber stamp legislation. They have no confidence that members in the other House defend their interests. This must change.

I will turn to another facet. When job insecurity is a fact of life for many Canadians, it is difficult to justify blatant patronage appointments that last until age 75, particularly when most people are forced to retire at 65 years of age.

In the infamous red book the Liberals criticized the Conservatives for their "practice of choosing political friends when making thousands of appointments to boards, commissions and agencies that cabinet is required by law to carry out". However, the continued practice of patronage appointments and lack of accountability in the other place clearly break this promise.

On the issue of patronage, Premier Klein of Alberta stated his intention to hold an election to fill the recent vacant Senate seat. Despite the fact that Alberta has a Senate election act and that Albertans were in support of an elected Senate representative, the Prime Minister chose to appoint a senator to fill the vacant seat.

It is most apparent that as it stands, seats in the upper House are nothing more than an opportunity for the ruling party to pay off their political friends. Members in the other place are appointed for their political connections and longstanding service to the Liberal Party of Canada, nothing more, nothing less. Whatever happened to the principle of ability to do the job?

Clearly this institution lacks the credibility and accountability necessary to make it an effective body of government. Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney stacked the upper House to pass the GST. Now the present Prime Minister is doing the same thing to ram through Liberal legislation.

We clearly need a strong and effective national government to protect Canadian interests which means that both Houses need to be effective. The House of Commons is dominated by representatives from central Canada because of representation by population. The upper House is in place in order to balance representation from Atlantic and western Canada.

Canada is one of the few democratic countries that do not have an elected upper House to represent regional interests. According to a Gallup poll in 1989, majorities in all regions except Quebec support the principle of an elected upper House. Many members on the other side of this House have voiced support for Senate reform in the past. Now is the time to take the steps necessary to give Canadians the democratic accountability they have been demanding.

To illustrate, the member for Winnipeg South Centre, the present Minister of Foreign Affairs, said:

It is crucial to find a formula which would provide for a more equal representation, by region and by province. Clearly there must be Senate reform. It is the only way of correcting the imbalances, the inequities and inequalities that have existed in federalism since its inception. There is not one federal state in the world that does not have a second chamber which works effectively to represent regional interests.

Our Senate is not an elected body. It does not have the credibility or the legitimacy of being democratically elected by the people. Therefore its ability to provide a check and balance upon the role of the executive which is dictated by the majority of members from the heavily populated provinces is constantly undermined. We see it repeated time and time again in many decisions.

The member for Davenport surveyed his constituency and found that 85 per cent of his constituents were in favour of an elected Senate. The member for St. Boniface surveyed his constituents and found 87 per cent support for a triple E Senate. The member went on to say that he hoped all provinces and territories would decide to elect their senators. Obviously the support is there.

The Reform Party proposal for a triple E Senate, a Senate which is elected by the people with equal representation from each province and which is fully effective in safeguarding regional interests would make the upper House accountable to Canadians. Implementing changes to the Constitution to provide for a triple E Senate, an extension of Alberta's Senatorial Selection Act into other provinces, is the best means to proceed in permitting Canada's regions to have a greater say in Ottawa and bring democratic accountability to government.

Accountability is obviously the key to good government. As elected representatives, members in the House of Commons must take seriously their responsibility of holding public institutions accountable. Ultimately members of the House of Commons will be held accountable to the public by the public. As a member of Parliament I regard this responsibility as one of my key functions.

Reform members cannot and will not approve spending for the other House unless members of the other place can account for their spending. To do otherwise would simply be irresponsible. Any member in this House who approves this budget without representation from the other House to account for its spending is doing Canadians and this House a great disservice.

The other House must respect the modern democratic principle of accountability and justify its spending. Vote 1 in the main estimates must be rejected by this House until such time as the upper House takes the necessary steps to hold itself accountable to the taxpaying public.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have in hand the Senate Debates for May 9, 1996. There is a rather interesting exchange. It relates to the $50,000 and $20,000, the so-called accountability of its Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration.

Senator Lynch-Staunton, the leader of the opposition, is asking questions. He asked: "As I understand it, the amounts that can be allocated to research run up to $50,000. Is that correct? There are also guidelines for office expenses, what used to be called the discretionary budget which was $20,000, where are the guidelines for those?" He asked questions back and forth about this $50,000 and $20,000, which was rather interesting.

Senator Kenny said: "Hon. senators we have before us the only guidelines that the Senate has dealt with or approved of. There are no further guidelines that have ever come to this Chamber for approval".

The leader of the opposition returned to the $20,000 and $50,000 and Kenny replied: "You really are confused. That is true hon. senators, the limit for sharing would still be $20,000. If you are of the view that it should be raised to $50,000-". Then Senator Lynch-Staunton said: "No, contrary to what people might expect, I am trying to be helpful to the chairman of the committee. I would like to know if the senators are still allowed up to $20,000 for office expenses".

Mr. Kenny said: "No, sir. As the report read, there would be full flexibility in the two previous budgets". Senator Doyle asked: "What are the guidelines".

The leader of the opposition said: "Just when I thought I had it, I fall back into confusion. Does that mean there is a complete discretion to spend the $50,000 exclusively of office expenses?" Then Mr. Kenny tried to explain it. This keeps on going. It would be laughable if it were not Canadian taxpayer money.

The leader of the opposition said: "Hon. Senators, I thought the question period had ended. I find this whole thing extraordinary. We are being told by the chairman of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy Budgets and Administration that because a report is before the Senate regarding research expenditures, the system that has been in place for years has now been abandoned".

Mr. Kenny said: "No, on the contrary". The leader said: "Yes, we are being told we cannot use our research fund to pay our researchers and that we must use our discretionary funds".

Mr. Kenny said: "No, that is not so". Then the other guy said: "That is exactly what we just heard". This one really caps it. Another senators said: "No, that is not what you just heard". The leader said: "That is exactly what we have been told". The first guy said: "Have you been sleeping?"

Senator Lynch-Staunton said: "We have just been told that every senator can dip into his or her $20,000". It goes on and on.

This must be exactly the kind of thing being talked about where $20,000 or $50,000 is taxpayer money.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his interjection. This points out particularly well why we would like to get the Senate in front of the operations committee. The guidelines, the rules, appear to be extremely flexible. Why should an unelected, unaccountable body not account for its spending?

Some of the interesting answers we have been getting are we really do not think Senators should appear before committee because it has never been done before. This is the first time in the history of the Canadian Parliament that a request has been sent for the Senate to justify its expenses. It is perfectly rational, perfectly normal and it is absolutely necessary.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate the motion which I will not repeat because of its verbosity. This is a motion brought forward by the Reform Party which clearly demonstrates

yet again how out of touch that party is with the issues of concern to Canadians.

Today we could be lending our collective wisdom to find a solution to the issues of concern to the women of this country, violence, economic independence for them and their children, access to work. Then I forget the Reform Party considers women to be a special interest group and not worthy of its attention.

Today when the government is meeting with groups across the country to discuss pension reform which would secure the retirement of Canadian seniors, the House could be lending its wisdom to that discussion from the perspective of our constituents, we are wasting our time with arcana.

Instead of discussing issues related to the economy and the concerns of youth and safety of homes and communities, we have before us a motion which demonstrates a profound ignorance of one of the basic principles of our Constitution, that the two Houses of Parliament are independent of one another and self-regulating within their own sphere of authority.

I intend to speak further to these issues, but I must ask why this motion and why today. Where are the priorities of the Reform Party? I suspect we could spend the day listening to speeches extolling the virtues of Senate renewal, Reform style. A worthy enough topic. Let us get our priorities straight. Why not talk of employment equity issues, especially when Canadians are still in a state of anxiety that some may have to work at the back of the shop?

Today's motion reminds me of the distinction lawyers make frequently between the law as it is and the law as it should be. Everyone in Canada agrees Senate reform would be a worthwhile undertaking. Yet when Senate reform was proposed in the Charlottetown accord years ago, that party was adamantly opposed to it. Why? It was unable to deal with multiple issues at the same time. It was unable to prioritise or find common ground. I guess this motion today shows it still has not learned.

For the present, however, we have a Senate, we have a Constitution and we have the benefit of centuries of precedents governing relations between upper and lower houses in parliamentary democracies. As we know, the parliamentary tradition has helped to build one of the best countries in the world. While there is need for reform, there are other issues which should have priority, issues that go to the heart of the social and economic union and concerns which affect all Canadians, issues which touch Canadians where they live.

Reform instead would have us focus on the academic dissertation of the relationship between the two Houses of our bicameral legislature. It almost puts me to sleep just to talk about it.

The motion has the potential to disrupt the relationship of mutual respect and co-operation which exists between our two Houses at this time, which is supported by centuries of precedents in Canada and the mother of parliaments. What is that relationship?

Today's motion is about the operation of the other place. Learned scholars of Parliament and constitutional law refer frequently to the right of each House to regulate its own internal affairs and procedures free from interference. That is one of the basic truths of our Constitution. The House of Commons and the Senate are equal within our parliamentary system. Convention and practices temper interaction between the Senate and this House. In law our two Houses are largely equal.

For example, the approval of the Senate is required to enact any bill. In the same vein, our Constitution cannot be amended without the involvement of the Senate.

Part V of the Canada Act, 1982, the amending formula, states the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting senators cannot be amended without Senate participation, not to mention the approval of the provincial legislatures.

There are exceptions to this principle, for example section 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and section 47 of the Canada Act, 1982, dealing with money bills and the suspension veto. However, I will not go into those details.

I will now turn from powers to the privileges of Parliament. We find that the privileges of the Senate correspond completely with those we enjoy. One can see this merely by examining section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which states that the privileges of the Senate and the House of Commons flow from the ancient lineage of the mother of parliaments, the British parliamentary system. The party opposite always seems to confuse the parliamentary system with that of the system to the south.

The principle of independence, equality and autonomy of each House can easily be ascertained by examining the works of the most respected students of Parliament. For example, page 141 of the 21st edition of Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice states:

Since the two Houses are wholly independent of each other, neither House can claim, much less exercise, any authority over a member or officer of the other, and thus cannot punish any breach of privilege or contempt offered to it by such member or officer.

This is not a new principle. Members opposite have been here long enough to understand the relationship. Or maybe it is beyond them.

It is therefore difficult to understand the basis of this motion today, which is to take up a whole day of discussion, when there are so many issues of concern to Canadians.

I have spoken on the law of Parliament and its privilege, but I would be remiss if I did not draw to the attention of the House the conventions which animate our Constitution, and I will do so now.

The subtle but most important convention which governs the Senate in exercising its authority is based on the very same principle of democratic accountability referred to in the motion under debate. This convention recognizes that in its key legislative role, the role of the Senate is secondary to that of the elected House of Commons.

Professor Peter Hogg, a leading scholar of the Canadian Constitution, illustrated this point in the second edition of his text "Constitutional Law of Canada". It is accepted by opposition as well as government senators that the appointed nature of the Senate must necessarily make its role subordinate to the elected House. The result is that very few government bills are rejected or substantially amended by the Senate. This convention clearly limits how the authority of the Senate may be exercised but through oversight or misunderstanding did not restrain Reform members from encouraging the Senate to reject the firearms bill after it had been approved by this House. There is a double standard already at work here.

However, the issue before us today is much narrower than Senate reform or even the present role of the Senate. The issue is whether the Senate is the master of its own internal affairs, and that is undeniable. This result is dictated by the constitutional law of Canada and the conventions governing its application. Once again, we are wasting a whole day discussing issues we can not in any way hope to change in this debate today.

What do these principles mean? Do they affirm that the Senate shares the privileges of this House and the autonomy enjoyed by this House? Yes, they do. Do they provide definitive answers to resolve disputes which may arise between the Houses? No, they do not, but we are not faced with a dispute, not yet at least. Were we to endorse today's motion, however, we might be.

We have been asked to consider a hypothetical motion and we all know that hypothetical debates can be very unproductive. Does this matter to the Reform Party? I do not think so. What is not hypothetical are the bedrock principles of the Constitution which provide for two independent self-regulating Houses of Parliament. The government is not prepared to jettison this principle today. This is not to say the status quo cannot be approved. We supported the ambitious package of changes, including Senate reform, contained in the Charlottetown accord.

As stated in the speech from the throne in February, the government believes the desire for change is broadly shared across Canada. The government intends to focus priority issues and positive issues to prepare Canadians for the 21st century, initiatives that will improve the lives of Canadians and which would bring them economic prosperity, jobs, equality, social justice, security in their retirement and safe communities.

When I debate this motion and we talk about the issues of concern here, instead of debating a motion that is negative and very poorly prioritized, akin to decorating the living room while the roof needs repair, what we want to deal with are issues that are of real concern to Canadians, issues that would change their lives and make the country move forward into the 21st century and prosper. That of course is too much for the Reform Party to deal with because it does not have any answers to those problems.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the member across has been reading but I get her point that this is a hypothetically debate. We are to vote on the estimates. It is the first vote in the House on the estimates. It is the money for the Senate. There is nothing hypothetical about this at all. It is a $40 million vote for the other place. What we are talking about is accountability.

Does the member across disagree that the Senate should be accountable to the taxpayers of Canada? That is a pretty basic premise.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, no one, least of all the government, disagrees with accountability. We have practised it ever since we came into power.

What we speak to is that the other place is accountable within its own right and within its own jurisdiction. This House is also accountable within its own rights and within its own jurisdiction.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it passing strange the parliamentary secretary would stand up when it is her government that is in the process of cutting funding to women's programs. I had people come in from the Women's Resource Centre in Cranbrook who spoke to me about this issue. They wanted to know what her government would do about it.

Yet she is standing up in the House of Commons saying it is fine that the other place is not accountable for spending over $40 million. How in the world can she have it or try to have it both ways? The hon. member in her self-righteousness is standing there as supposedly the defender of women's programs when her own government is cutting women's programs, saying the Senate is unaccountable for the millions of dollars it wastes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the concept of accountability is obviously very foreign to the Reform Party. In discussing the issue of women's programs we have been meeting as a department with women around the country for the last two months to discuss how

we can change our programs so that they will meet the real needs of women in their real lives.

This is something that is called accountability. It means starting from the bottom up. Talk about hypocrisy. When we talk about a party that has said that women's issues are special interest groups, it is really unbelievable to have this question asked by the member of the Reform Party.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, the arrogance across the way is astounding to me. I cannot believe some of the things this member said in her speech.

This is a country where a member stands up and says that all people who vote for a certain party are bigots or racists. That is the kind of country this member would like to see and talk about. That is truly unfortunate.

In my opinion this member is poorly informed and does not represent the views of many people across the country, in particular those in her riding, about the Senate. How can the hon. member feel she can separate the responsibilities of the House of Commons from the Senate when the House must approve a vote relative to the Senate? How can she say it is none of our business when this House must vote on it and yet the Senate spends the money?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I did not speak clearly enough or perhaps I did not enunciate the principles well enough. I thought that is exactly what I just answered in my speech, that the two Houses are separate and that they are accountable and autonomous within their own right.

I suppose that if one repeats that statement over the course of today it might finally sink in.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the motion put forward by my hon. colleague for Comox-Alberni. The motion before us today, which calls for control-I will not say greater control, just control-to be exercised over how public money is spent at the Senate, is a timely topic.

In fact, the Senate of Canada, as we have known it since 1867 and whose functions have changed very little since, but I will come back to this later, has already become something of an anachronism in a democratic society such as ours. For all intents and purposes, there is no longer any institution similar to the Canadian Senate in the western world. The House of Lords has seen its powers drastically reduced by the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949; today, all it has left is protocolar powers, as it only has a suspensive veto.

We are in a situation where, in all matters except constitutional matters, the Canadian Senate has powers identical to those of the House of Commons. Several books has been written about the rights and privileges of the Canadian Senate, and the powers in question are enormous. The only difference between the Senate and the House of Commons, aside from the 180-day constitutional suspensive veto acquired in 1982, is the fact that money bills cannot originate from the Senate, but they still have to be approved by the upper House, which has the same powers as this House, at least in theory, in terms of legislation.

The members of the other place are appointed and therefore are not accountable. On the other hand, every five years, if not more frequently, all of us members of the House of Commons must account to our voters for our management of public funds and our individual budgets. People can ask us: "What did you do with the money you collected in taxes?" While they have, in law, the same powers as us as far as managing public funds and passing legislation are concerned, the members of the other place are not accountable.

There is a serious anomaly here, and our party has always been opposed to this way of doing things. A motion that will be a votable item will even be debated in this House, on Monday. I am referring to the motion of the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, asking this House to support the principle of abolishing the Senate in its present form.

For the sake of history, let me quote a text prepared by the late Jean-Charles Bonenfant, a librarian for the Quebec legislature and an emeritus professor at Laval University's faculty of law, where I had the pleasure of being one of his students during a few years. This was written in the sixties, but his opinion about the Senate never changed much throughout his career. It is a well known fact that Mr. Bonenfant turned down several offers to sit in the Canadian Senate, because of what he thought of that august place.

I will read excerpts from an article published by professor Jean-Charles Bonenfant from Laval University. He wrote the following, and I basically agree with his views: "Rightly or wrongly, the Canadian Senate is the legislative body that seems to have the worst reputation in the whole world".

In 1942, journalist Grattan O'Leary wrote that the position of senator was not a job and that the Senate was not a place where one was supposed to work. Mr. O'Leary became a senator in 1962.

In 1961, Jean-Luc Pepin, who became the member of Parliament for Drummond and a cabinet member, passed a number of judgments on the Senate. He described it as "a political hospice, a sepulchre, the pound of flesh demanded by the parties, the most exclusive retirement club in the world, the fifth wheel of govern-

ment, the hollow echo of an optimistic past, the only sure weakness in the Constitution Act, 1867, a divorce mill, a tourist attraction, and the list goes on".

Finally, Marcel Faribault and Robert Fowler, imagining a new Constitution with a revamped Senate, in their book Dix pour un , wrote: ``Whether you judge it by its achievements or its reputation, the Canadian Senate has not been a particularly auspicious institution''. That is putting it mildly.

And yet, in a federation such as ours, the Upper House could have played a very important role. Representation in the Lower House is usually determined on the basis of population. Representation in the Upper House attempts to create a certain equality between the constituent parties.

This is why each of the fifty states in the United States, regardless of its size or population, has two senators representing it in the Senate.

In Australia, each of the six states sends 10 senators to the Senate, and in Switzerland the 46 members of the Council of States are divided equally among the 23 cantons.

The Canadian Senate has never played the true role of an Upper House in a federation type country. From the beginning, its composition has been along regional rather than provincial lines. In 1867, membership was 72: 24 for Ontario, 24 for Quebec, 24 for the maritimes, that is Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which, when Prince Edward Island joined, had to give up 4 seats.

As new provinces appeared, the Senate added new members, finally settling, in 1915, at four divisions of 24 members. Quebec and Ontario remained unchanged; the maritimes division had 10 senators for New Brunswick, 10 for Nova Scotia, and 4 for Prince Edward Island; and the western division had 6 senators for each of the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

These 96 senators were joined, in 1949, by the six senators from Newfoundland, and later by 2 senators for the territories, raising the maximum to 104.

Under the administration that was in place during the 33rd and 34th Parliaments, a Conservative administration, we saw the hitherto unused clauses of the Constitution allowing the number of senators to be raised to a maximum of 110 or 112 put into application in order to push through the GST legislation.

Senators are appointed by the Governor General, and thus to all intents and purposes by the government, the Prime Minister even if he controls his government properly. Although a few examples of appointments outside political considerations can be found, we can state that one of the primary prerequisites for a senator is membership in the party in power.

The British North America Act requires certain qualities of senators, qualities in the sense of eligibility requirements. They must possess $4,000 in real and personal property, a quite exceptional amount in 1987. The Senate was therefore reserved for a quite specific category of person. Nowadays, it is quite easy to qualify. You can take your MasterCard or Visa, get a cash advance, and buy some property quite quickly, which was not the case in 1867.

In Quebec, theoretically, the senators represent 24 senatorial divisions. These correspond to the 24 divisions of the legislative council elected between 1856 and 1867. The territorial divisions act gives the divisions represented by senators. It is worth pointing out that, according to my personal research, not one Quebec senator has a division office.

One might wonder what is the point of dividing Quebec up into senatorial divisions if the people serviced, if I may use that expression, cannot track down their senators.

Moreover, if you carry out a survey of no scientific value whatsoever, asking passers-by to name their senator, it is rare to find anybody who can do so. This is far different from the situation with their MP. Whether they like the person representing them in the House of Commons or not, they are generally able to identify that person and to say: "So and so is my representative in the House of Commons and I will vote (or not vote) for him or her in the next election". Generally, members of the House of Commons are recognized, while the members of the other House do not enjoy the same high profile. This does not mean that there are not some fine people there. It is not my aim to judge the members of the other House, but rather the institution, which, as I said earlier, is completely outmoded.

We must remember that, until 1965, senators were appointed for life, and a number admirably benefited from the privilege. There was the Hon. David Wark, from Fredericton, for example, who was appointed in 1867, at the time of Confederation, and died in 1905 at the age of 102. The Hon. Georges Dessaules of Saint-Hyacinthe died in 1907 at the age of 103.

Under Bill C-98 introduced on April 27, 1965 by Prime Minister Pearson, which was passed by both Houses, a senator appointed after the bill became law would remain in the position until he reached the age of 75.

I have always wondered whether the Governor General could reappoint someone to the Senate, who had retired at the mandatory retirement age of 75, once they turned 76, since the 1965 legislation contains no such prohibition. Perhaps we might see people like Senator Wark or Senator Dessaules come back to sit in the Senate if such an interpretation were possible. A senator can always resign,

of course, and risks losing his seat in the Senate if he no longer fulfils the requisites of his appointment.

As with what happens in an elite club, the Constitution provides that the decision rests with the Senate in the case of a vacancy in the Senate or on the matter of a senator's ability to sit there.

This is sort of the way it was in the United Kingdom in the 1940s. At that time, the House of Lords had the power to judge any of its members accused of a crime. That practice continues today here, even though it was abolished nearly 50 years ago in the United Kingdom.

Yesterday, my hon. colleague from Vancouver Quadra made a brilliant speech before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on the powers of upper houses in British type parliaments. My hon. colleagues should refer to the proceedings of this committee.

I can therefore say that the Senate is an upper chamber similar to the British House of Lords, on which the Fathers of Confederation modeled the Senate to some extent when they established it. But contrary to popular belief, its powers are not as limited as those of the British Upper Chamber following the Asquith Bill of 1911. This first Parliament Act to be passed was complemented by the 1949 Labour bill. These two bills considerably reduced the powers of the House of Lords, which is now left with only a suspensive veto.

On the other hand, the Canadian Senate has all the powers of the House of Commons except, as I mentioned earlier, that it cannot introduce a bill providing for a tax or an expenditure.

In 1918, the subject of Senate powers was thoroughly examined by two great Canadian legal scholars: Aimé Geoffrion and Eugène Lafleur. They submitted a conclusive and momentous opinion in writing supporting the Senate's omnipotence, which the Lower House, the House of Commons, still does not recognize, particularly as regards financial matters.

Note that, since 1982, the powers of the Senate regarding constitutional amendments were slightly curtailed, as this House now has only an 180-day suspensive veto, as I indicated earlier.

It is strange, to say the least, for a House where appointed members sit until they turn 75 not to have any public accounting procedure and to hide behind its privileges and some pretty outdated traditions to justify itself.

I think that, in requesting that representatives of the Senate appear before the Standing Committee of Government Operations to review annual expenditures of approximately $40 million, the committee was acting not only in good faith, but also in response to the public's wish to know how their money is being spent. To try to see how the money is spent is, of course, a first step.

In every riding I travelled to, but I will focus on my own riding, the majority of people do not see the use of an upper house like the one we have at present. It should be either abolished or reformed. In the present circumstances, as desirable as it may be to everybody, a reform is clearly not possible.

Seventy years ago, and even at the Charlottetown conference and the Quebec conference, such a reform was discussed before the Senate was even established. Some advocated an elected Senate, based on the model of the united Canada legislative council, while others wanted an appointed house. The decision to establish the Senate in 1867 was not a unanimous one. Some wanted to reform this institution before it was even set up, which was definitely a bad start. They never could reform it. Given the constitutional yoke created by the 1982 amending formula, we can wonder whether such a reform will ever take place.

All the parties in this House have taken a stand regarding the Senate. The Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice clearly indicated that he is in favour of having an elected upper house. His position is clear. As for the Reform Party, it is in favour of a triple E Senate, even though some Es are disappearing. A Senate that is equal, effective-there is also another E-oh yes, a Senate that is elected, equal and effective.

Some E's are disappearing right now, including the E for equal, because we realized it did not really make sense to have the same number of senators representing a small province and a larger one such as Quebec or Ontario.

As for us, we say that, in its present form, the Senate must be abolished. If it must be brought back to life to reflect a different Canada, then it should have another structure. It is unacceptable to keep a non-elected house with such large powers. If it were an advisory body, and if we could afford it, it might be helpful, but it is no longer acceptable, in 1996, to have a house with powers equal to those of the House of Commons.

This is why the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of a single house system of government whose members are elected by the population as a whole. This is an issue that we should tackle at the earliest opportunity.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I must commend the hon. member for his in-depth study of our Senate's origins and the influence of the Mother of Parliaments, Great Britain, and especially its 1911 legislation, the Parliament Act.

I would like to ask the following question: Since our Senate has already caused endless delays in dealing with several bills passed

by this House, does the hon. member consider this a violation of customary constitutional law inherited from Great Britain? Is this an established fact, yes or no?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend from Vancouver Quadra for his question. In my opinion, the Senate's attitude, especially in relation to Bill C-69, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, is usually a prerogative of the people's elected representatives. By not only considering but unduly delaying consideration of this bill so that it died on the Order Paper between the two sessions of this Parliament, the Senate has hijacked the powers of this House and shown contempt for this House as well as for traditions that have been clearly established for decades.

This is a literal interpretation of the Constitution Act, 1867, which is totally unacceptable. I think this must be the last action taken by the Senate, especially on an issue so central to the privileges of this House as the readjustment of electoral boundaries.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a very interesting debate because it brings up the entire issue of accountability, an issue that seems to be very foreign to the Liberals and particularly to the member for Vancouver Centre in her comments earlier. She spoke about the issue of being accountable for taxpayer dollars as being an academic dissertation.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This House must be accountable for the expenditure of Canadian taxpayer dollars. We are talking about the expenditure by the Senate of $40 million. She is correct to a great extent when she says the Houses are equals. However, she is absolutely incorrect when she comes to the issue of their being equal if she is saying this Chamber, elected members, is equal to the other Chamber, appointed members. This simply cannot be the case.

It has been shown by the member from the Bloc who pointed out the House of Commons is the place where expenditures of Canadian dollars are controlled or should be controlled. In that respect the two Chambers are not equal and never could be equal.

The difficulty we are experiencing at this juncture is we have an unelected, unaccountable body that is nonetheless functioning as part of the parliamentary process.

I received a communiqué on May 22, as I am sure did many of the members from the Senate, stating the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology will be beginning hearings on the employment insurance bill, Bill C-12, the employment insurance bill which passed from this Chamber to that Chamber.

That it is before that Chamber is the clearest possible indication and the most current example I can give of the Senate's being responsible for the ultimate passage of government legislation, which is why the Prime Minister goes out of his way to make sure his Senate is stacked the way he wants it to be stacked, the same thing the Conservatives have done. All the traditional parties have done it and continue to do it.

The Senate is supposed to be a chamber of sober second thought. Considering it is supposed to be a chamber representative of the regions, it is very interesting to see the composition of the Senate committee on social affairs which is discussing the employment insurance Bill C-12. There is one member from Newfoundland, two members from Quebec, three members from Ontario, three members from New Brunswick, three members from Prince Edward Island but none from western Canada.

It is particularly interesting that of the four senators, the four Senate seats given to the province of Prince Edward Island, three out of four of those members are sitting on this pan-Canadian bill on the Senate committee. How many of the 24 Senate seats from western Canada are represented? Zero, none, zip. Western Canada is cut out.

That kind of thing simply would not ever happen in an accountable body. It would never happen where the members would have to go back to western Canada and say "I am sorry but you guys do not count, you do not matter, your point of view is not to be represented in this committee hearing".

They have set up some meetings. Every now and then a little serendipity happens. It is very interesting. Potential meeting times for the standing Senate committee on social affairs for Bill C-12, employment insurance, are to be held in room 256-S in the Centre Block, Thursday, May 30, and this is the serendipity, when the Senate rises but not earlier than 4 p.m. I thought that was a rather neat bit of serendipity because as we saw during the delivery of the governor general's speech from the throne, perhaps some of the senators had not risen before 4 p.m. They had just been carried to the Chamber to continue their snoozing.

What is wrong with the Senate at this point? While senators are effective, or at least have the potential to be effective, they are not elected and therefore not accountable. We have gone through the issue of it not being equal. There is not equal balance, regional representation on this committee or in the Senate Chamber itself.

That the province of Ontario has 24 senators, that the province of Quebec has 24 senators and that the four provinces in western Canada between them have 24 senators clearly shows there is a very distinct regional imbalance.

What is the first step? The first step in Reform's process of making this an important part of the parliamentary process, a full functioning body, elected, effective and equal, the triple E Senate, the first step that can happen outside of the Constitution is that we

see the next Senate appointments be elected. The first step is to make it accountable through election.

It is interesting we have had one elected senator. Reform Senator Stan Waters, who passed away unfortunately a few years ago, was the first and only elected member to that body. We have precedent. The Alberta government through its Alberta Senate selection law elected Senator Stan Waters and he was appointed after his election.

When there was a vacancy in the Alberta lieutenant-governor position, the Prime Minister simply reached into the Senate and said: "Okay Bud Olson, you are no longer a senator. You are now the lieutenant-governor". That is fine, but within 10 minutes the announcement was made that Senator Nick Taylor would be the next senator. It should be noted that Senator Taylor did run against Stan Waters. I guess if you cannot get into the Senate one way, you will get in another.

In a statement made in the House by my colleague from Calgary West, he made note of this fact: "It may take 10 years to balance a budget, 10 years to lower taxes, 10 years to reform people's pensions, but it only takes 10 minutes to reward friends with Senate appointments". That is the shame of the Senate.

There are people who would accept these positions when in Alberta the Senate selection act is in place. I have been encouraging the province of British Columbia, and with the new government that will be elected today I will be encouraging it, to re-enact the B.C. senate selection act. This can happen outside of the Constitution.

The Prime Minister appointed Bud Olson as lieutenant-governor. Then he appointed Nick Taylor. Then what? I went back and came up with the adopted resolutions of the biannual convention of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1992. I would think this was a good document. These were the adopted resolutions of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1992.

Resolution 20 is on Senate reform. After it goes through all the whereases it resolves that the Liberal Party would commit itself "to an elected and effective Senate comprised of, but not limited to, equal representation from each of the 10 provinces of Canada". This resolution was brought forward to the Liberal Party of Canada by the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador and adopted by the Liberal Party of Canada.

It is interesting that Senator Rompkey, out of the goodness of his heart, following the adoption of the resolution of the Liberal constituency organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador, accepted an appointment to the Senate. I guess that is having it two ways, is it not?

This is a matter of accountability. This is a matter of what our legislative process is, where it should go and how it should get there. But what of the most recent Liberal appointment? First, the leader of the Reform Party asked the Prime Minister in this House what he was going to do.

I had a conversation with Premier Klein who indicated that he was very distressed-unhappy, we will say-about the fact that the Prime Minister had moved with such obscene haste to make sure that Nick Taylor got his just reward. After the unfortunate passing of Senator Hastings, the premier was going to write to the Prime Minister asking that the people of Alberta be permitted to go ahead with the senatorial selection act.

I believe I spoke to him on the Wednesday, which was only a day or two following the passing of Senator Hastings. He felt constrained because the funeral would be on the Friday. Premier Klein naturally and justifiably felt constrained in writing to the Prime Minister and saying: "I know you went with unseemly haste to get your friend Nick Taylor appointed, but I would like people in Alberta to be able to exercise their democratic right". He did not want to do it at least until the funeral of the senator.

The funeral of the senator was on Friday and in the first part of the week what did the Prime Minister do? He knew from the questions of the leader of the third party what our party wanted. He knew from the reports in the newspaper what Premier Klein wanted. He knew from comments that I had been making in the news media what was going on. What did he do? The Prime Minister of Canada pre-empted democracy and denied the people of Alberta the ability to vote on who they wanted to represent them in that chamber.

I wrote this letter to the editor:

The arrogance of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in appointing a Senator from Alberta, is only overshadowed by the hypocrisy of the appointee Jean Forest. Jean Chrétien proved that he doesn't give a hoot what Albertans want and what they are legally entitled to through the Province's Senatorial Selection Act. He told the leader of the Reform Party in the House of Commons, "I will name a Senator who I will choose and who will represent my party in the House of Commons". What about someone to represent Albertans?

The last time I checked, the Senate was supposed to represent Canadians not the Prime Minister's Liberal Party.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the Prime Minister's Senate appointee Jean Forest has proven that the Senate is out of touch and unaccountable. She is either ignorant or hypocritical. On her first day in Ottawa she said, "if it could all be worked out, I would be in favour of an elected Senate".

It has been worked out. It was worked out when Senator Stan Waters was elected and appointed to the Senate. What does she

mean when she says: "If it could all be worked out, I would be in favour of an elected Senate?"

Considering her credentials, it is doubtful she is ignorant. She must know about Alberta's Senatorial Elections Act and the written request from Premier Ralph Klein to Prime Minister Chrétien. The new Senator was grossly insincere when she went on to say, "it doesn't seem to be in the works now. I accepted the appointment thinking I could, perhaps, make a contribution in the meantime".

Albertans have shown they support an elected Senate. Jean Forest has lost the small fragment of integrity she may have had by accepting her appointment to the Senate with her stated support of an elected Senate.

If she truly believed her own words she would not have accepted her own appointment. She has only one honourable course of action and that is to resign and give Albertans what is rightfully theirs-the ability to elect a senator to represent the wishes of the electorate.

We must speak with respect of the other place. I do so, but nonetheless I must say this. If those people really believed in the democratic process, if those people really believed that the people should be represented by a legitimate house of sober second thought, if those people in that chamber really believed that the people should hold them accountable, every one of them would resign and stand for election.

This can be done outside the Constitution. I am not talking about constitutional reform at this time. I will restate that the purpose of the Reform Party is to ultimately get a triple E Senate: effective, elected and equal. That is our goal. That is our objective. That is a foundation stone of our party.

In the meantime, without tinkering with the Constitution, I say to all the senators: Do the honourable thing. Resign.