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.