House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.


Ways And MeansGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I have a point of order which I will get to, but I have a point of privilege which takes precedence over the point of order.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.


Len Hopkins Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, you are in the chair, along with the three other people who chair this House of Commons, and I would like to extend to you and to the others in the chair and at the table a big thank you on behalf of this House for your patience, the esteem in which all of you are held and the fairness in handling this boisterous crowd out here on the floor of the House of Commons. It is at a time like this that I think we should recognize good habits and practices in the House. We thank you and the others for your fairness in handling all situations.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

In the name of my fellow Speakers, I accept all accolades.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think he is just trying to get extra sandwiches at your reception.

Mr. Speaker, my point of order pertains to comments made in this Chamber on Tuesday, June 18, 1996. The comments were recorded in Hansard on page 4031. The House leader for the separatist Bloc Quebecois, the member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie, then said:

-for having misled the House by making false accusations that called into question the honesty and integrity of the member for Charlesbourg.

The member then went on to demand an apology from me for having brought forth my point of privilege.

It is my understanding that it is unparliamentary language for a member to suggest that another member has misled the House. This morning Mr. Speaker ruled out of order another such accusation from the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

The member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie has impugned my motives and this is reflected in the official record of the proceedings of the Chamber.

I was not present in the House when these unparliamentary words were uttered. This is the first opportunity I have had to respond to bring the matter to your attention.

I refuse to apologize for defending the interests of the country against the people whose sole purpose for being in Ottawa is to desecrate and destroy what Canadians hold so dearly.

For his unparliamentary language, I believe the member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie should be required to withdraw his remarks and apologize for his accusations.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I used the word "intentionally" in reference to my hon. colleague. Intentionally means consciously. Listening to him in the past few days, I recognize that this was a bad choice of words. I should not have used a word meaning consciously to refer to him. I withdraw the word. I have to admit that he is not conscious.

Point Of OrderGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I think that would close the matter. There has been a withdrawal. That is it.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to rule on the question or privilege raised on Tuesday afternoon by the hon. member for Lethbridge concerning the text of Motion No. 1 standing on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

I thank the hon. member for Lethbridge, the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and the hon. member for Fraser Valley East for their participation in the discussion.

For the benefit of all hon. members, I remind the House the motion in question contains a number of charges against the hon.

member for Lethbridge relating to actions in which he participated at the beginning of this year.

Having rendered my ruling on Tuesday on the procedural acceptability of this motion's being dealt with under Private Members' Business, I will now address the matter of what the hon. member contends is a breach of his rights.

The member submitted that having this motion standing unresolved on the Order Paper has and will continue to seriously affect his reputation and his ability to function as a member. Further, the member argued that given my earlier ruling and that he felt he could seek no other remedy for the situation, he had no option but to bring this matter before the House as a question of privilege.

It has been repeatedly acknowledged by my predecessors that parliamentary privilege is narrowly defined as being limited to matters which affect members in the discharge of their parliamentary duties.

For a breach of privilege to occur, a member must sufficiently demonstrate that something has obstructed or interfered with his or her ability to discharge duties as a member of the House.

In ruling on a question of privilege, I, as Speaker, have to decide whether or not at first glance there has been a breach of privilege.

In this instance, I must determine whether or not the motion sitting on the Order Paper violates the member's privileges by, in some way, impeding him from carrying out his duties.

In the past motions regarding the conduct of members have been placed on the Order Paper under Private Members' Business and have been allowed to remain there, in some cases for the remainder of a session, without ever being brought to a decision by the House.

I refer members to Motion No. 132, placed on notice on May 5, 1986, Motion No. 459, placed on notice on May 24, 1989, and Motion No. 167, placed on notice on February 28, 1996. This last motion died on the Order Paper in the first session of this Parliament but, having been resubmitted under Private Members' Business in this session, was subsequently drawn and debated as a non-votable item of Private Members' Business on March 22, 1996. It was then dropped from the Order Paper without a decision of the House.

The motion now in question, Motion No. 1, was placed on notice on February 27, 1996. The hon. member for Lethbridge acknowledged he hesitated to bring this matter before the House until it had at least reached the point of debate.

While I recognize the hon. member's concern that in the near future he will not be able to respond to the charges made against him, I do not find the member has demonstrated his abilities to function as a member have in any way been affected or impeded over the course of the months that this motion has been sitting on the Order Paper. As such, I cannot find that there has been a prima facie breach of privilege.

The hon. member for Lethbridge sought guidance on how he might be able to address his grievance were I to find this matter not to be a prima facie breach of privilege. In the case before us, while the House will not have to take a decision on the motion in question, the hon. member will have the opportunity to respond to the motion when it is brought up for debate in the House.

In addition, let me reiterate what I said Tuesday: the rules of the House now in place allow for the proceedings on this motion to go forward. Should the House choose to re-examine these rules, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is empowered to undertake such an examination on its own initiative.

Might I therefore suggest that the hon. member consider pursuing this matter with the committee.

Again, I thank all hon. members for their contributions to this discussion.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. earlier today I did seek the unanimous consent of the House to debate at all stages Bill C-45. I thought I would seek this one last opportunity before we close to ask if the House would give unanimous consent to deal with all stages of Bill C-45 this afternoon.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

There is not unanimous consent.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would probably find unanimous consent to now move to private members' hour.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from June 3 consideration of the motion.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

3:20 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this debate is particularly timely considering what occurred last night. Many of the Liberals are beginning to wonder if sparrows might not need airports.

Taking the look at the situation we have suddenly discovered the other place does have effect. It is effective. It can do things. In our parliamentary system where we have a government like the current government which attempts to run roughshod all over the opposition parties and the concerns of many Canadians, it is good to have a House of sober second thought that truly is effective. We have seen that the Senate can be effective.

This motion, which calls for the abolition of the Senate, period, end of statement, is unacceptable. That is why the member for Vegreville moved the Reform amendment that after the word Senate, the words "in its present form" be added.

It has been a longstanding position of the Reform Party that we require an effective Senate. We require a Senate that can take a look at bogus bills like Bill C-28.

Bill C-28 was to come back before the House today for the fourth time, after passing through the other place, but even after all this juggling the bill was still flawed. There were a number of amendments to Bill C-28 which were passed by the Liberal majority in the other place in an attempt to water down some of the more odious aspects of the bill, but they still did not get it right, as was shown by virtue of the fact that Liberal Senate Sparrow decided he would do the right thing and join the other people in the other place to vote the bill down.

Bill C-28 attempted to retroactively cancel a contract. It went directly into the teeth of the privileges and the rights we have as Canadians. Whether we are individuals or corporations, it makes no difference, we should have the right to have access to a court of law. What the Liberal government was attempting to do was shut down due process in Canada.

We recognize there was a tremendous amount of money involved in this process. Because of the Prime Minister's promise during the 1993 election, he has placed the people of Canada directly in the way of at least a $600 million loss. This is unconscionable on the part of the Prime Minister. It was only the Liberals in the other place, with the exception of Senator Sparrow, who would put this through. They would not use their conscience. They would follow the direction of the former minister of transport.

There is a process in Canada which we all understand. There is a process within the House of Commons. The legislation from the House of Commons, when passed, goes to the Senate. The Senate should be effective, and it has been shown to be effective. The other place is to be there as a place of sober second thought and also to represent the regions.

We recognize there is some tremendous difficulty within the Senate at this moment. I speak as someone in business. The predecessors to this Liberal government, yet another Liberal government, brought us the great and wonderful national energy plan.

We had in western Canada, based out of Calgary, our very own made in Canada depression. It was made right here in Ottawa with bogus thinking, with centrist thinking that Liberals consistently possess. Sixty-five billion dollars was sucked out of western Canada and brought back to Ontario.

That would never have happened had there been an elected Senate. It is for that reason that we have put forth the amendment that yes, the Senate should be abolished, but in its present form. In other words, there is a place, there is a time, there is a function for the Senate and we must see that it remains. However, the problem is it is not elected and is totally unaccountable.

The Reform Party has been attempting to bring some semblance of order, some accountability to the Senate, in spite of the fact that the Prime Minister has said he will appoint the Senators he wants, who will represent his party and just on and on. He is the past master at manipulating and controlling the parliamentary system.

In addition, the Liberals will not let us make the Senate accountable for dollars and cents. They will not let members of the House of Commons, who are the duly elected representatives of the people of Canada, hold the Senate accountable for the $40 million plus that they are currently spending.

From the executive summary of the auditor general:

We found that the Senate has neither formally nor informally delegated clear responsibility to management, nor has it made clear for what to hold management accountable. We recommend the Senate should more clearly define the mandate of the committee on internal economy and subcommittees, and establish clear accountability relationships with its senior staff.

This is the most important part.

The Senate does not adequately report on its administrative, financial or human resource management performance and does not possess sufficient information to enable it to do so systematically.

It is the Liberal Party of Canada that wants to make sure that the Senators, its friends in the other place, are not going to be accountable to this place. Should we throw out the Senate? No, because as we have seen when there has been an odious bill such as Bill C-28, the other place from time to time will actually get it right.

We saw what the Progressive Conservatives did when they were being thwarted in bringing in the GST, the gouge and screw tax. Former Prime Minister Mulroney ended up padding the Senate so that he could manage to get the GST through the House of Commons. The Senate just broke up into bedlam with kazoos and all sorts of other exciting things.

The way the Senate is currently conducting itself, and occasionally showing itself to be effective, should give the people of Canada at least a glimmer of insight to how the parliamentary system in Canada should work. Why will it not work that way? Because the Prime Minister has made no less than 16 appointments to the Senate, every one of them patronage appointments. In some cases, the people who have been appointed have directly and clearly admitted that they were appointed as a result of patronage.

The second to last person appointed from the province of Alberta clearly stated: "I recognize that I am being appointed to the Senate as a result of the longstanding service that I have done for the Liberal Party". The Prime Minister was very happy to have him there.

The last person who was appointed to the Senate admitted that she should have been elected, to which I say that if she would do the honourable thing she would resign.

The Liberals are noted for half measures. I suggest to them that this might just fit. If Liberal members, in good conscience, were to vote in favour of this motion, as amended by the Reform Party, at least we could start along the process of seeing some changes happen to the other place because truly they must happen. The Reform Party stands for a Triple E Senate, elected, effective and equal.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

3:30 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a citizen of Quebec, as a representative of a Quebec riding, and as a member of the Bloc Quebecois, I have absolutely no hesitation about taking part in the debate today in support of the motion by my colleague, the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, calling for the abolition of the Senate.

The reason I have no hesitation is because I know that a large majority of Quebecers no longer want the Senate, and have not wanted it for some time now. We know that during the period surrounding the Charlottetown negotiations the consensus was generally in favour of abolishing the Senate.

This consensus had been reached much earlier, however, in 1980, the year of the referendum. At that time, the key federalist players, as represented by Claude Ryan in his beige paper, were calling for the abolition of the Upper House. So the nasty separatists were not the only ones to have had this idea.

A little background is necessary. I would like to remind you of a speech given in this House over two years ago by my colleague, the member for Richelieu, in which he gave a very interesting history of the institution known as the Senate. It is worth repeating briefly.

My colleague reminded members that the other House was a vestige of colonialism, that it had been created to protect rich landowners from the more populist sentiments of elected representatives. As proof of this, he mentioned the $15,000 one was required to have. Do we realize how large an amount this was in those days? Of course, only the rich had that much money. They protected the interests of their rich fellow citizens, a practice that has by no means been suspended, far from it.

Of course, the role of the Senate has evolved. However, as with many other institutions, theory and practice are often poles apart. Rich landowners were replaced by faithful political servants. Abuses of all sorts have been abundantly recorded and publicized. There is no need to go over them all again. The work of members has more to do with the political agenda of the major parties than with pure research. The Senate has become the means the government uses to avoid contradicting itself publicly, to protect its reputation when it finds it has made a mistake. It has become a discreet but oh, so faithful, tool for the elected members of the major parties.

A very good example of this is the process used for the bill on electoral boundaries readjustment. That time, the process was so flagrant that several members condemned it here in this House. As recently as yesterday, we were given proof of how undemocratic the very existence of the Senate is. All the newspapers reported that the Senate had refused to adopt the bill on Pearson airport. There can be no better example of the arrogance and power of the Senate.

How can it be acceptable that people who are appointed, not elected, not answerable to the public, can decide on their own initiative that a bill which has been seriously examined and debated for a number of hours in the House of Commons can be shoved aside just like that?

Even if I were opposed to the bill, I would still be disgusted to see that these people appointed for political services rendered, to either the Liberals or the Conservatives, and others who have no obligations to anyone, could take it upon themselves to decide the future of the biggest airport in Canada?

How do the members of the party in power, the members of the same party which made sure it had a majority in the Senate, feel today, now that they know that even the people they appointed to carry their colours in the other place have contributed to the undoing of a bill the vast majority of them in this House were in favour of?

How do they feel knowing that, instead of proposing amendments, the other House simply rejected the bill? That is not very flattering for the Liberal members, is it Mr. Speaker? This is the

best example of the absurdity of the Senate and the best reason for calling for its immediate abolition.

Despite their wishes Quebecers are paying the cost of an institution they no longer want. The cost is huge. In 1995-96, the budget is over $42 million. What about the unemployed whose benefits have been cut so the federal government can save money on their backs? What about women who are single parents living at the edge of poverty facing the possibility of having their welfare cut, because the provinces' money is being cut by the federal government?

What about young men and women looking for a first job and being hit with the repercussions of a lack of job creation policy. What about old people, whose pensions may well be cut. Imagine the frustration of all these people, who know that huge amounts of money are being spent each year to provide a sumptuous lifestyle for an institution that no longer fulfils its primary purpose and for which they have long had no use.

And then we wonder why Canadians opt out? Why they have become so bitter toward their politicians? How can people not see that Canadians feel they are not being listened to? Canadians are right. That is why, in supporting the motion by my colleague calling for the abolition of the Senate, I want to have heard the voice of those not listened to.

Power must be given back to those it belongs to-the voters-who, as my colleague for Kamouraska said, see the Senate as nothing more than the symbol of Parliament's inefficiency and ineffectiveness. I know the Liberal government has no intention of considering the abolition of the Senate, because we have been told there are other priorities.

It should be one of the government's priorities if we are to end duplication. With an elected House, I see no need to pay for another House to do the same work. We were elected and we are accountable to the people. We must be accountable, whereas the other House can intercept a bill without being accountable to the public. This is why I strongly support the motion by my colleague from Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

3:40 p.m.

Vaudreuil Québec


Nick Discepola LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, first I wish to remind the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup that, as members of Parliament, we have a responsibility to work for the common good of our country. We have a responsibility to adequately represent the public and to serve its interests as best as we can.

The interests of Canadians have to do with economic prosperity, jobs, equality, justice, safety within their community and national reconciliation. The issue of whether or not the Senate should be abolished is not a priority for them right now.

The government listens to Canadians. Its response is clearly reflected in the measures announced in the throne speech and in the budget. These measures seek to improve relations between governments and to meet the concerns of Canadians. According to a Gallup poll, unemployment has been at the top of the list of concerns for Canadians, including Quebecers, for 10 years already. This is the issue they want their government to tackle.

During the first half of its mandate, our government took measures to create conditions promoting sustained economic growth and job creation. It launched a major administrative reform, reduced the deficit and took initiatives regarding trade and international investments.

However, these achievements do not tell the whole story. They do not tell that over half a million jobs were created in the Canadian economy since we took office, that the unemployment rate went down 2 percentage points and is now under the 10 per cent mark for the first time in five years. Our government also undertook to put public finances on a healthy footing.

As you know, since its election, our government has followed a pragmatic approach regarding the renewal of the federation. It remains focused, as always, on issues of interest for Canadians, namely the economy, jobs and social programs.

However, it is hard to believe this is the case for the official opposition. Instead of making a constructive contribution to help Quebecers join their fellow Canadians from the other provinces, the Bloc Quebecois disregards Quebecers' true interests.

It is clearly stated in both the speech from the throne and the budget that our focus will be on preparing Canada to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In fact, the first ministers' conference that will start in just a few hours fits in with our commitments, as a step toward renewing the federation.

The first ministers will be discussing how governments could better work at creating jobs in Canada, preserving our social safety net and developing a joint program of changes aimed at renewing our federation. Those are the issues that concern the people of Canada. Those are this government's priorities. These should also be the official opposition's priorities, because what do Canadians from all provinces want if not for their governments to work in co-operation to bring in changes that will have a direct and positive impact.

First of all, we have promised to limit the federal government's spending power in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. The government will no longer use its spending power to develop new shared-cost programs in areas of provincial jurisdiction. It is the first time in our history that the federal government offers to limit its own powers outside a formal constitutional negotiations setting. This is a milestone in the evolution of federalism. We believe that it

is through this spirit of co-operation with and respect for the provinces that we will promote Canadian unity.

At the social level, the government promised to ensure that Canadians can continue to rely on a secure and sustainable social safety net. Again, we will work in co-operation with the provinces to preserve the kind of social programs Canada is famous for. That is what our government's commitment to social solidarity is all about.

The government also made a commitment to clarify, in co-operation with the provinces, the respective responsibilities of the various levels of government. We are withdrawing from areas for which responsibility lies more appropriately with the provinces, the municipalities or other stakeholders, areas like occupational training, certain sectors of transportation, forestry, mining and recreation.

Three weeks ago, our government announced it was completely withdrawing from the area of manpower training. This is a fine example of allowing the provinces to adapt programs to their specific needs. This is an important step toward a federalism that better meets the needs and aspirations of Canadians.

At the economic level, the government will continue to work in co-operation with the provinces to reduce barriers to domestic trade and manpower mobility.

This is how our government is renewing the Canadian federation: by proposing constructive and practical solutions to the issues concerning Canadians, moving step by step in a climate of dialogue and respect.

I urge my colleagues in the official opposition to co-operate with our government in helping Canada, and especially Quebec, move forward.

Ever since I started my speech, Bloc members have been asking me: What does this have to do with the motion before us? I would like to quote from an editorial by Pierre Gravel that appeared in the June 5 edition of La Presse . This editorial, headlined ``Temps perdu'', ends like this:

-the harshest critics of the Senate finally realized that attacking this institution is totally futile under the current Constitution, which requires unanimous approval for any change at that level, something that is not going to happen tomorrow in Canada. Any member who tries to revive this debate must have nothing better to do. But the most troubling in all this is that his leader is letting him go ahead.

That is why I chose to use my time to show Canadians that we have a lot of work to do and that abolishing the Senate would not help us in any way to renew federalism. What Canadians really care about is employment and social security.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

June 20th, 1996 / 3:50 p.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to say a few words about abolishing or not abolishing the Senate and the value of a Senate.

I feel that the original motion which was to abolish the Senate is not good enough and we could not support it. However, I feel that by adding the amendment to the motion, in its present form, definitely has some merit. After having abolished the Senate in its present form, we replace the Senate with a representative body that is equal across the land from province to province, that is effective and that is elected.

Imagine a Senate where the people of Canada get to vote for its members. Imagine a Senate where there are three representatives from each province, or the territories when they get in, and they are elected by the people. Imagine a Senate that is so equal that it could now concentrate on its effectiveness in representing the regions of the country. Imagine a Senate which is allowed to protect the interests of the Atlantic provinces. Imagine a Senate that is allowed to protect the west. Imagine a Senate that is allowed to protect Quebec. Imagine a Senate that is allowed to effectively represent the province of Ontario.

Imagine if we elected senators who were effective and equal across the land, a Senate that could have some powers and truly be a chamber of sober second thought, that could send back to this House legislation which is ineffective or distorts the balance across the country or which unduly or unfairly, because it perhaps was overlooked by the House of Commons, hurts one region of the country too much while maybe helping another region of the country.

We are a country with five or six distinctive and different regions. We have a House of Commons which is elected on the basis of representation by population. Sometimes we miss, distort and hurt certain parts of the country because of that. Representation by population is a sound and the basic fundamental of democracy. It is necessary, important and must always be upheld.

However, there has to be a balance brought into rep by pop through regional representation. The only effective way that can be done is through the Senate. However, the Senate, in its present form, that is appointed by a Prime Minister who appoints only his political cronies and friends and then says "your there to represent my party", like this Prime Minister has said, is not the purpose of a Senate.

I am not questioning the quality of some of the people in the Senate. I am questioning how they get there. I am questioning whether their loyalties are to the party that is in power or to the

region and communities they come from, where they have grown up, made their living and have many friends. Would it not be far more effective and reasonable to have senators representing the areas they come from because they know those people and understand them?

It would enable them to send bills back to this House if they unduly affect the francophones outside of Quebec who are afraid of being assimilated. Could not those three senators from Quebec stand up and look at the Official Languages Act or an official languages bill and say: "Look, this bill is not good enough for Quebec and this is why. We want to send this back until the House recognizes why this is not good enough for Quebec." Would that not have a better balance of power than we have right now?

Our system is weak. It is weak that we freely elect a dictator every four years, somebody who, with his or her little cabinet, can do at will whatever he or she wants to do. That is democracy at its worse if it is abused. We have opposition members and backbenchers to keep them in line. However, we can swing the pendulum too far in one direction.

What we need is systemic change. Imagine a democratic system where Canadians could finally have a system of government, which we are close to having now, that would truly be effective, one which would not only have the principles of representation by population, which is fine the way we have it now as our electoral system is good, but one that would contribute and add a Senate that would be equal, effective and elected across the land so that we also know that these people have some strength, some force and some say.

What about effectiveness? What powers should senators have? The House of Commons should be supreme. Representation by population should be supreme. As a check or a control and a chamber of sober second thought, just in case, however inadvertently it may happen, something comes into the Senate which the senators know is wrong for the people whom they also represent, something that the masses of the House of Commons has ignored or overlooked, they then look into a bill.

Hypothetically they say: "On this bill, we say that this language act is unfair to Quebec and therefore we need to protect the francophones outside of Quebec a little better and this is how we recommend you do it". They make an amendment. They send it back.

Let us say that the Senate holds free votes. If two-thirds of the Senate says no a bill would come back here. We fix it. If the House then says: "No, we disagree", it goes back again. Then both houses will have listened to the debate and everyone understands everyone else.

On money bills, however, the House of Commons should be supreme. Senators would not have the right to deny the funds that the federal government needs to spend, which it thinks on behalf of Canadians is the way it wants it. The Senate could not affect money bills or money bills would need a higher percentage of votes to send them back in case the government is doing something that the Senate feels is unfairly hurting one region.

On money bills the Senate should have no say or need a higher percentage of votes to send them back. However, the budget is another matter. Bills that affect an allocation of funds and on other bills like gun control, Pearson airport, Official Languages Act or anything like that, senators would have the right to improve them if they need improvement. What would be wrong with that kind of system?

Imagine a system where we had a second check or control and that chamber of sober second thought said: "This is a good bill. This helps everybody across the country". Can you imagine the harmony, Mr. Speaker, and the unity and the national pride that we would create with a system where both houses work together as a team? I know, Mr. Speaker, your son knows a lot about teams and teamwork. That is what we have to do in this country.

We are creating a system that is divisive. We are supporting and defending a system that pits region against region. The funds that we are trying to redistribute to help those people who need help are not being spent in a way that gathers and earns respect. Why do we not look at the system and change it?

Here is an opportunity for people who believe in democracy to throw partisan politics aside and to think what is in the best interests of all Canadians. I would suggest it is a system that works. It is a system that Canadians could support. We need that. Even in the House of Commons we can do some systemic changes here to improve things. That is not the issue here today. It is the Senate.

We need to have an equal, effective and elected Senate, have the best Constitution and have the best legal minds work together on a parliamentary system that would complement this House of Commons, not fight the House of Commons.

I am sick and tired of making fun of the Senate. I should not have to make fun of the Senate. I do not want to make fun of the Senate. However, I will as long as we have a Prime Minister who abuses, misuses, misrepresents and openly, defiantly tells Canadians: "I will select whomever I want to select and he will represent my party over there". That is not what a senator is supposed to do.

I would be embarrassed to be the senator so named. I would want to come from Alberta as a senator and say: "I represent Alberta. I am glad the Prime Minister appointed me but I am going to represent Alberta, even if, like Senator Sparrow, I have to vote against a Liberal bill". That is effectiveness. If something is wrong with a bill, send it back here and we will look at it to see what is

wrong. Take this Pearson airport bill. It would be our job to fix it, get it through, so it is in the best interest of all Canadians.

That is what democracy is all about. That is what we should be working toward instead of this strict, biased, prejudicial, narrow-minded, self-serving, democratic dictatorship that we elect freely every four years. We pretend that it is working but it is not. I challenge all of those in this House, the 295 members of Parliament, to look at our democratic system and put their best efforts, put their thoughts into how it can be improved.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

4 p.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion of my colleague, the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup.

History has shown us that, from the very beginning of the Canadian federation, the need for the Senate has been constantly questioned. At the time of union, as I was mentioning the other day, the Fathers of Confederation could not agree on whether it should be elected or appointed, because, since 1856, they had had an elected legislative council.

Therefore, the united Canada which came into being in 1840 was more advanced than the institutions we know today. We took a step backward in 1867, with an appointed Senate with responsibility for protecting the regions, minorities, and, although this was not spelled out, the general public against the abuses and excesses that might be committed from time to time by the House of Commons.

It was perhaps justifiable in 1867 to think that the House of Commons might, in the heat of the moment, take measures requiring some control by the Senate. This is no longer true today, with the advent of universal suffrage. We must remember that women in Canada did not have the vote until 1919-20. Limitations on the right to vote were abolished and any Canadian citizen aged 18 and over is now entitled to vote.

Accordingly, the reasons set out in 1867 for having another House no longer obtain. Almost all Canadians are agreed that the Senate is no longer necessary, and that it should be reformed or abolished, but almost everyone agrees that that will not happen.

I was listening to the speech by the member for Calgary Centre a little earlier, in which he gave a perspective of the Senate of Canada quite different from mine. Personally, as an elected representative from Quebec, I am not interested in having a stronger Senate, an elected Senate, in Ottawa. What would be the result? This Senate, of course, would acquire legitimacy in the eyes of the public. If the 24 senators from Quebec were elected by the public, it would strengthen the central institution. It would be one more House to reinforce the power of the federal government, to the detriment of provincial governments, and it would take up a position somewhere between the provincial first ministers and the Prime Minister of Canada. It would be just one more obstacle, not to the Reform party but to distribution, to the proper operation of the system.

Some time ago we reached the conclusion that the Senate was not reformable, since everybody wants reform but nobody wants the same reform. The Reform members want one that is elected, equal and effective, suggesting six to ten senators per province, regardless of population, in a Senate that would have the same powers as the House of Commons and be elected by universal suffrage.

Liberal members, or rather the Liberal Party, stated in the red book that the Senate would merely be elected, so already there is a divergence between the two. And what do we want? Basically, we are here to promote Quebec sovereignty. We are therefore not fighting to reinforce federal institutions, but to reform this institution, theoretically, in a way which might be desirable. If indeed we were here to reform federal institutions that might be possible, but that is not what we are here for. As well, any reinforcement of federal powers will take away from the powers of the provinces, Quebec in particular.

Reform members have chosen to influence Ottawa by reforming institutions. They said: "If the provinces were properly represented in an equal, elected and efficient Senate, that would be one way for them to exercise more power". We take a different approach, knowing that we will never have a majority in this country, but that we will have a majority in our own space, which is: "Let us withdraw from the Canadian federation". It will probably be easier for Quebec to withdraw from the Canadian federation than it will be to reform the Senate.

So I have a hard time with the amendment by the member for Vegreville, who proposes to abolish the Senate in its present form. In principle, I could say yes, knowing nothing would come of it.

Earlier, the member for Vaudreuil said, getting back to the relevance of the debate, in his last two sentences, that an editorial had said the unanimity rule was required. It has not often been raised in the context of amending the Constitution to permit the abolition of the Senate.

In my opinion, section 38 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the seven and fifty rule, would normally apply with, in my opinion, the mandatory approval of Quebec, since sections 23 et sequentes of the British North America Act of 1867 contain provisions on

senators with respect to Quebec specifically. I think Quebec should be one of the parties assenting to the abolition of the Senate.

However, speeches in election campaigns and here in the House and perhaps the inability to do anything have prevented anyone from taking the initiative. Fortunately, the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup has taken this initiative, which will at least shed some light on things, following the latest events. Yesterday, for example, the bill on the Pearson airport was defeated by a House that is not accountable to anyone for its actions. Before that, there was Bill C-69 on electoral boundaries. A bill of this elected assembly which had been developed in committee for one of the first times in the history of Canada's Parliament was defeated by the Senate. It does tend to stop you in your tracks when people who have not been elected come and tell you how to get elected. Some things just do not work.

My colleague, the member for Beauce, said the other day that, in his riding, three voters out of four favoured abolishing the Senate. In my riding, the proportion is probably slightly higher.

In 1978, I was 30 years old and did not even have $4,000 worth of belongings-had I, though, and it does not take long to accumulate if you know you are headed for the Senate, you can get a loan-but had Prime Minister Trudeau been in my riding and said to me: "My fine young man, you would be an asset to the Liberal Party of Canada, would you be interested in being a senator in Canada's Parliament?", I might have said yes at the time. I would have been here for 45 years, because the Prime Minister liked my smile or enjoyed a brief conversation. There are no selection criteria, other than pleasing the prince of the moment.

I prefer the more difficult, demanding and valid rule of going before the supreme court of the electorate every four or five years as we do. This is what makes you and me and the members of this House, wherever they sit, responsible for our actions. This is what we have in common.

It is not just because our name appears on the ballot every four or five years, but it is generally because people reach us in the riding, because we see them. The calls come in, the letters come in and we are in constant contact with our electors, who judge us. However, 98 per cent if not 99 per cent of the time our electors are unable to identify the senator representing them.

So when it comes time to vote, I will see whether I will support the motion of the member for Vegreville, that is, the amendment. As for the motion by the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, I will certainly support it, particularly because the hon. member is currently circulating a petition addressed to the House of Commons in most ridings in Quebec seeking the abolition of the Senate.

I would suggest that voters lucky enough to be represented by a member of the Bloc Quebecois sign this petition. Those who are not, whose member is from another party, should ask their member or another one to have it sent to them. We would be happy to send it. It will be no easy job abolishing the Senate, but we have always said that the first step in such an undertaking is particularly important.

On this point, Mr. Speaker, I wish you a fine and restful summer. You look tired; come back refreshed in the fall.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

4:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief in my intervention.

I think the motion presupposes that the government, by a stroke of a pen, would be able to abolish the other place. That speaks to the ignorance of the Canadian Constitution.

There is no system of law making in any country that is perfect, but before we belittle the other place let us remember that in the history of our Confederation, with the two Houses in place, we are still the number one nation in the world in which to live.

With respect to the work that is done by the Senate, we have to recognize the thoroughness with which some special projects have been undertaken, the excellent research, the excellent reasoning and policy formulations which have made a great impact on the country. As well, we have seen some of its legislative work and even involvement in some of the diplomatic activities.

It is very important to remember that today the Senate is still the forum for regional concerns. On that basis it has a lot of merit. It is indeed a Chamber of second thought and second mind. I believe there will be a time when we will have an effective, equal and elected Senate.

The process of election of members to the other place is not the ultimate criterion for legitimacy. Let us recall that members of the Supreme Court of Canada are appointed to that body, yet nobody has questioned the legitimacy of the Supreme Court of Canada and the justices who sit in that highest court. It is fallacious to conclude that because the process is by appointment it is not legitimate. In other words, it does not make the process necessarily negative.

I believe the challenge to all of us is to have quality in appointments. I am proud that the Prime Minister of Canada has seen to it that the quality of candidates is truly excellent. That they happen to be Liberal does not detract from that quality. The Canadian people in 1993 entrusted their confidence in the Liberal Party of Canada.

And so we have to respect the other place. We have a sample of Canadian ingenuity and Canadian genius when one body is elected and the other body of Parliament is appointed. On that note, I would like to have an improved other place. However, we have to show continuing respect for that other place.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

4:10 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Motion No. 221 which calls for the abolition of the Senate. I am particularly delighted today to speak to it because of what happened yesterday when the Senate rejected the Pearson airport bill.

If this motion were a bill that would lead to the abolition of the Senate, if it were put before the House today and put to a free vote, I think the bill would pass. The general feeling in the House after what happened yesterday is that the Senate has walked on its own grave, it is time for the Senate to go. In the next general election I expect every major party to have a platform on the Senate because of what happened yesterday.

Why is it so significant? The Senate has rejected a piece of legislation that was passed by this Chamber, a Chamber which represents the people of Canada. Every member in this Chamber was elected by the people of Canada. The bill went to the Senate and it was rejected by a House, another place, whose members are not elected but appointed.

It is immaterial whether the senators are Liberal or Conservative or what their political affiliations are. The important point is the Senate interfered with a fundamental democratic process, which is that the House of Commons is supreme. When legislation leaves this place it cannot be rejected by the other place. It can be corrected, it can be amended. The Senate has an important role to examine legislation for flaws but it does not have the right to kill legislation, except in the most extraordinary circumstances.

The Fathers of Confederation saw it as a Chamber of second thought that would step in should the elected assembly go completely out of control, but only in the most exceptional circumstances, a constitutional circumstance perhaps or a charter of rights circumstance, not in bread and butter legislation, which the Pearson bill was. It was totally inappropriate and the government is now in the position that it has to consider what its next move is to be.

I am only a backbencher and so I fortunately do not have to speak for the government, but I can provide an idea of the types of choices the government is facing.

We will obviously not back down on this. There is $600 million in taxpayer money at stake, so the government has to move on this. It has two choices, as I see it. It can redraft and make certain changes to the bill, run it through the House of Commons process and then back to the Senate.

The other option is to prorogue Parliament and have a new speech from the throne. Then the bill can be reintroduced exactly as it is.

I suggest the government will probably be considering that very seriously as a point of principle. To change the bill even slightly as a result of what happened yesterday in the Senate would be a concession to the Senate in a way that I do not think the government should do.

The government still has a problem. If the bill goes back through the process, it will cost countless thousands of dollars in the time of this Chamber, the clerks and all the people who are behind the preparation of the legislation. Even if it goes back through this House and to the Senate again, there is a risk of the same thing happening of a tie vote and the legislation being rejected.

The government has to look ahead and consider how it can guarantee the bill will go through the Senate the next time around. It has the option, as did the previous government over another bill, to create eight more Senators. The Prime Minister has the power to go to the governor general and create eight more Senators.

When the previous Prime Minister did that it caused quite an outcry. It was regarded as the Prime Minister's interfering in the Houses of Parliament. People did not see that the Prime Minister of the day had just cause, in my view. He was facing the problem of legislation which had gone through the entire democratic process and had been blocked by an unelected body.

The perception of creating new Senators underscores even more the uselessness of the institution when it comes to interfering in the proper procedure of the House of Commons. I do not think that is a good option. I do not think it would go down well. The government has to make a very serious decision about what to do with the Senate. Obviously we cannot allow it to go forward to have this incident occur a second time.

The motion put forward by the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup is a good motion, and the government should seriously consider it. We should abolish the Senate.

One of the objections raised by some members who spoke on this issue is that the motion does not define what we replace it with. I certainly have some thoughts about that, and the hon. member for Calgary Centre had considerable thoughts.

There is the suggestion of the three Es: elected, effective and equal. The problem with that scenario, an elected Senate, is we will have the same type of situation as in the United States of two democratically elected bodies. That would actually paralyse Parliament. It would not be effective at all.

We already have an efficient system. What we have to do is return the Senate to the original idea of the Fathers of Confederation. As mentioned during the Meech Lake accord discussions, it should represent the regions of the country. We should find a formula where the Senators are appointed for a very short term but reflect regions of the country. That would be a big step toward addressing some of the concerns of my Bloc Quebecois colleagues.

The motions simply says abolish the Senate. I agree. Let us do that first and then we can talk afterwards on the new formula for the Senate. I feel very strongly in light of what happened yesterday, the interference with the decision of the elected body, the House of Commons, that the other place should now become no place.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

4:15 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, time is going by rather quickly and I will probably be the last speaker on this topic. When there is discussion, things can change. The Liberal colleague who just spoke was shaken by the arguments of the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, but also by something that took place last night in the other House.

In fact, it is quite strange and unexpected that we should be discussing this today of all days. What happened yesterday was very serious. For lack of one vote, the House has been brought to a halt. As the member just said, if nothing changes and the government wishes to maintain its position, it will have to present a new bill and the same thing may happen all over again.

However, we should perhaps qualify this. It seems that what we saw yesterday was a certain laxity on the Liberal side of the Senate. Apparently a Conservative senator was not present at the start and would not have been able to vote, and that could have made all the difference. There was a lack of vigilance, such that the situation in which we find ourselves was avoidable. The system cannot bear the whole blame, but the situation is nonetheless amusing.

Coming from Quebec, as I do, and having discussed this many times with the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup-it is rather the opposite, the member for Bellechasse is right, we often alternate, particularly at the end of session. I think this is the ninetieth time I have risen to speak since the throne speech.

I do not, however, agree with my other colleague, the member for Vaudreuil when he says there is no point in discussing the topic. We cannot accept the comments of the member who just spoke, whose riding I have forgotten, Hamilton-Wentworth I believe. In question period, I saw the Minister of Transport upset at what had happened yesterday, and he was right to be upset.

The member for Vaudreuil spoke about everything under the sun. He seemed to be practising for the campaign trail. If his performance is any indication, we can expect an election this fall. He really seemed to be practicing a campaign speech. He said that it was useless to speak of it, that it cannot be changed, that unanimity would be necessary and cannot be obtained-a fine admission of powerlessness by a member of the House of Commons under the current federal system.

I agree, it is true that it is hard to change. I would even say virtually impossible. It is impossible for us here to abolish the Senate, we cannot. It seems that some sort of stratagem will have to invented somewhere if it is to be done, for it has become frozen in time.

Frozen in time since 1867, and this change cannot be made, although it translates the desires of many, in Quebec and elsewhere. No way of changing it. Talking Constitution or changes in Quebec, no way either, it requires unanimity. For the past 30 years, we have seen constitutional rounds come and go and we always end up in the same dead end. One day, something will have to be done.

We in the Bloc Quebecois think that, as far as Quebec is concerned, what is needed is for the rest of Canada to accept Quebec's becoming sovereign and to discuss with it an offer of economic and, yes, political partnership. I think that would make a huge change and would be along the lines of the formula of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, which was in place before the Union Act. That formula is worth re-examining, not just copying, for times have changed. That could bring about a change.

Along with the hon. member for Bellechasse, I am telling the people of Quebec and elsewhere who agree with us that the Senate should be abolished, because it costs $43 million a year and cannot be touched by the voting public, that they ought to sign a petition asking that the House of Commons abolish the Senate. This is an institution that is no longer of any use. I have nothing against the people individually, some of them are extremely decent people, but that is not the issue. When we do not have to be answerable to the voters for our actions, I think that the exercise of a modern democracy is not possible.

I therefore support the hon. member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup in his undertaking, which I must say is far from pointless. If a lot of Quebecers and Canadians support this motion, one day it will bear fruit, and we will manage to abolish this system which costs us $43 million.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, let me take my turn in wishing you, and all of my colleagues of all parties, a good vacation.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order, please. The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has

now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The SenatePrivate Members' Business

4:25 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you will find consent to proceed immediately to the adjournment proceedings and, once concluded, the motion to adjourn be deemed withdrawn. I suggest the sitting be suspended to the call of the Chair, which shall come for the sole purpose of a royal assent ceremony.