Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to be speaking on the Bloc motion which reads:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should abolish the Senate.
If we were to ask Canadians how they feel about the Senate we would get a very widely supported response that it is not worth keeping the Senate as it is and it should be abolished. The Reform approach is to change the Senate substantially to make it work better rather than just to abolish the current Senate and leave nothing to fill the void.
We have proposed over the years since becoming a party in 1987 that Canada needs a triple E Senate. A triple E Senate is one which is elected by the people, is effective enough to stop legislation which is unfair to one region or another, and has an equal number of senators from each province. I will talk about this later.
The motion which calls for the abolition of the Senate and proposes nothing to replace it really shows the approach the Bloc has taken to building our country. It has chosen the approach that the Senate should be abolished rather than trying to fix it, to make it work better, to make it fill a real need this country has. In terms of the country as a whole, the Bloc has taken the approach that it is better to tear it apart than to take the time and effort to fix it and make it work better.
We need a much more positive approach in this House if this country is going to survive. However, the party which has presented this motion does not want Canada to exist as it is. It wants Quebec to become a separate country. The Bloc is quite content to tear down rather than to fix.
Before I get into what the Reform Party has proposed on this issue, I will talk about what the Liberals have said. The Liberals have said quite a bit over the years in terms of fixing the Senate. I believe it was at a party policy convention in 1991 that the Liberals debated the concept of a triple E Senate. I do not know what happened to the motion that was debated and, I believe, passed at that convention. It certainly has not been acted on, which is very sad.
More recently the Prime Minister commented on the Senate. On September 24, 1991 the Prime Minister said: "The regions of Canada need to be more involved in decision making and policy
making at the national level. To meet the hopes and dreams of those who live in the west and in the Atlantic, a reformed Senate is essential. It must be a Senate which is elected, effective and equitable".
Jumping ahead to May 9, 1996, what did the Prime Minister say? It is quite a different thing when Alberta Premier Ralph Klein said that Alberta want to hold an election to elect its senator. Alberta already elected Stan Waters back in 1989. Stan Waters, by the way, was a Reform senator. When Premier Klein said that Alberta wanted to elect another senator, what was the Prime Minister's reaction? On May 9, 1996 the Prime Minister said: "I will name a senator who I will choose and who will represent my party in the House of Commons". That is a quote from the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister's story changed considerably from 1991 to 1996. He stood in the way of the province of Alberta electing a senator to the Senate, something which Albertans have demanded. There was a very large turnout for the election of Stan Waters. Albertans care about this very much. They thought that electing senators was a start toward getting the triple E Senate which they want.
I guess what the Prime Minister says nowadays on a lot of issues is inconsistent. On September 10, 1993 the Prime Minister said: "There will not be a promise that I will make in the campaign that I will not keep". He said that during the election campaign. On May 3, 1996 he said: "Sometimes in the course of a mandate you are faced with a situation where you cannot deliver. You have to have some flexibility because acts of God come in the administration and no politician can see everything happening". His story seems to change from time to time.
I would also like to quote the member for Kingston and the Islands. Last month when speaking about the election of Stan Waters he said: "I do not recall any look of shame on the Prime Minister's face when he appointed this particular Reform hack to the Senate. He won a popularity contest in Alberta. It was a fraud run by the Government of Alberta". This is a quote from the member for Kingston and the Islands, the former House leader for the Liberal Party. That is what he thinks of the Alberta election of Stan Waters, an event Albertans took pride in. It was so important to Albertans yet he speaks of that event in those terms. It is shameful to Albertans and most Canadians.
Changing the present Senate must happen. This move is widely supported by Canadians. They want in its place a body that will help to deal with the problem of legislation which may be unfair to one region of the country passing through this House. I have heard Bloc members say on many occasions that they have been treated unfairly in legislation which has passed through this House.
I would think that the Bloc of all political parties would be demanding a triple E Senate so its regional interests would be protected, so that no legislation could pass through this House of Commons that would be unfair to Quebec. That would be so important yet Bloc members talk about abolishing the Senate. They have not taken a constructive approach.
As recently as last week, Reformers debated a motion which would have made the Senate much more accountable to Canadians. It was a very important motion which was, as usual, shot down by the House.
In the blue book, the Reform policy book which we update at every assembly and have since our 1988 policy conference, the first principle declares the equality of Canadians and provinces, that they should be treated equally under the law. The second principle states: "We affirm the need to establish a triple E Senate in the Parliament of Canada, that is to say, a Senate which is elected by the people with equal representation from each province, and which will be fully effective in safeguarding regional interests".
There have been many attempts to improve the Senate in this House. There was a bill by the member for Kootenay East to have an elected Senate. There was a motion by the member for Mission-Coquitlam to have a triple E senate. All of them have been shot down by the House. They are changes which would be so important to Canadians and to Albertans, but we are not going to get these changes, or we have not so far.
We have to take the approach that we are going to improve the Senate by making a triple E Senate. Until that happens a first step which we have laid out in our 20/20 national unity proposals is to elect a Senate.
I would like to amend the motion. I move:
That private member's motion M-221 be amended by adding immediately after the word "Senate" the following: "in its present form".
The motion then would read: "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should abolish the Senate in its present form".