Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the bill before the House, an act to amend the Nunavut Act and the Constitution Act, 1867.
My remarks will focus almost exclusively on that portion of the bill which amends the Constitution in relation to the Senate of Canada. In fact, I want to use the opportunity of this debate to make the case against the Senate in its present form and the case for a reformed Senate to the benefit not only of the people of Nunavut but of all Canadians. Before doing so, let me address a few words on behalf of the official opposition to the good people of Nunavut.
The territory of Nunavut was created by the passage of the Nunavut Act in 1993. As the minister has already said, it establishes a territory with an area of two million square kilometres that encompasses much of the eastern Arctic. It is a huge, rugged, impressive part of Canada. This territory is inhabited by over 24,000 people, 85% of whom are Inuit and 15% of whom are other aboriginal peoples and non-aboriginals. As one of the largest and most thinly populated regions of our country, its representation in Parliament presents some unique challenges.
On behalf of the official opposition, I wish the people of Nunavut well. They will enjoy the full support of the official opposition in developing democratic, accountable and effective political institutions as well as federal policies that protect and advance their interests. On this latter subject, I will advise the people of Nunavut concerning two serious weaknesses in the approach of the current Liberal government to Canada's north.
First, the government has no vision of the north other than to bureaucratize it, overregulate it and overgovern it. If the deficiency of the substitution of bureaucracy for vision is to be overcome, it must be overcome by northerners themselves developing their own vision. As they do so, the official opposition pledges its help in communicating that vision to other Canadians so it can be realized.
Second, I regret to say that this Liberal government is not competent when it comes to constitution making. It has made no effort and has no intention of attempting to repair the weaknesses and defects of the Canadian Constitution. In passing the Nunavut Act in 1993, we believe the federal government has made a major constitutional error. Nunavut will pay a heavy price in the future if that error is not remedied.
I refer particularly to the point made by Reformers when the Nunavut Act was passed that in effect the federal government was creating a new province. By doing so without following the provisions of the current Constitution, namely by failing to get the required approval of the other provinces, it was creating a situation where the Nunavut Act itself and every law and regulation passed under it may someday be challenged in the courts as being constitutionally invalid. This is an inexcusable mistake for the federal government to make with respect to the creation of Nunavut. The official opposition will do everything in its power to remedy that mistake.
Several of my colleagues, in particular the chief opposition critic for Indian affairs and northern development, the hon. member for Skeena, will analyse part 1 of this bill and propose improvements that will benefit the people of Nunavut in practical ways.
My intention is to focus entirely on part 2 of the bill. This section seeks to amend the Constitution of Canada. In particular it provides for the representation of the Yukon territory, the Northwest territory and Nunavut in the Senate of Canada. It raises not only for the people of Nunavut but for all Canadians the issue of what representation in the Senate of Canada means today and what it should mean in years to come. This is a subject which is long overdue for a thorough discussion in this House.
When Reformers first arrived in this House, despite the fact that our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and that all of us were elected on a platform that included Senate reform, we were amazed to discover that references to the Senate were often considered taboo and were discouraged, if not suppressed. The standing order that prohibits the use of offensive words against either House or against any member thereof was never intended to prevent reference to defects in the operations of either House or in the performance of the duties of members, nor was it meant to suppress frank and open discussion of the need for parliamentary reform.
One of the most profound ways in which we can show our respect for Parliament, for either House and for the office and person of its members is to acknowledge shortcomings when they exist and to advocate remedies for those shortcomings. Constructive criticism of the upper house and its members by members of this House and the advocacy of reform, even the advocacy of the abolition of the upper house must not be misconstrued as offensive or disrespectful. There is ample historical precedent for this position.
The Canadian Senate and other upper houses and the conduct of their members have been intensely analysed, scrutinized and debated in the legislative assemblies of Canada in the past. In the Confederation debates in the legislative assemblies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that gave birth to our country, discussion of the proposed Senate and the limitations of the existing legislative councils dominated those debates.
The reform, retention or abolition of upper chambers was the subject of intense debate and discussion in the Manitoba legislature in 1876, the New Brunswick legislature in 1892, in the Prince Edward Island legislature in 1893, in the Nova Scotia legislature in 1928, in the Newfoundland legislature in 1934 and in the Quebec assembly in 1968. If we need other Commonwealth examples, we could cite the debate and discussion of this subject in the New Zealand legislature in 1951 and the frequent discussion of this subject in the Australian lower house right up to the present day.
Of course discussion of the Senate in this House has been primarily discouraged by the unwritten and unspoken agreement between the two traditional parties whose members dominate the Senate. Why such an agreement? Because the current Senate is an institution which, if ever held up to genuine and prolonged public and media scrutiny, would not survive in its present form.
As I am sure everyone will agree, fortunately there is one particular circumstance under which full discussion of the Senate in all its aspects is not taboo and cannot be discouraged or prevented. That is when the government itself introduces legislation that refers directly to the Senate, representation in the Senate, changes to the Senate and changes to those sections of the Constitution governing the Senate. That is precisely what we have in part 2 of the bill before us, in particular clauses 43 to 47.
Today we have been given the perfect opportunity, and I might say the rare opportunity, on behalf of the people of Nunavut who are being offered representation in the Senate of Canada and on behalf of all Canadians, to do three things: one, to make the case against the status quo of the Senate as presently constituted; two, to consider the case for and against Senate abolition; and three, because Reformers always want to get on to positive alternatives, to make the case for a reformed Senate, in particular an elected, equal and effective Senate. It is now my intention to lay these three cases before the House.
The case against the status quo Senate, the Senate as it is, the Senate to which this bill proposes to send a senator from Nunavut, could fill volumes. However let me outline only seven of the most serious and telling arguments against the Senate in its present form, arguments which we have to take into account if we genuinely respect that institution and want to ensure it has a future in the 21st century.
The first point is that the Senate was defective and fraudulently constructed from the very beginning. In other words, the Senate of Canada, if you will allow me to use a theological expression, Mr. Speaker, was conceived in sin. I am not referring here to the drinking bouts which characterized the Quebec and Charlottetown conferences at which the proposal for the Senate was first put forward.
In the 1860s, John A. Macdonald and the other Fathers of Confederation particularly from Upper Canada were confronted with a dilemma. They had a deadlock in the Parliament of the United Colony of Canada, an equal number of seats for Lower Canada and Upper Canada, but with the population of Upper Canada rising rapidly. They wanted a new assembly based on representation by population, rep by pop as George Brown put it, but how to persuade Lower Canada, Quebec, to agree to give up equal representation which it already had in the colonial assembly.
Said Sir John A. and others “We will create two houses with rep by pop in the lower house and equality between Quebec and Ontario in the upper house. Moreover, we will assure Quebec and Atlantic Canada as well that the main function of this upper house, this Senate based on equality, will be to protect local and regional interests, including the language and culture of Quebec”. Thus the Senate of Canada was conceived and brought into the world.
We have John A., our first and best prime minister, declaring in the Confederation debates: “In order to protect local interests, and to prevent sectional jealousies”—which was the 19th century term for regional alienation—“it was found requisite that the great divisions into which British North America is separated should be represented in the upper house on the principle of equality.
Likewise we have George-Etienne Cartier arguing that Quebeckers should accept this arrangement which limited their province to perpetual minority status in the House of Commons because in compensation, Quebec would be represented in the Senate by a block of senators equal in number to those from Ontario.
There is only one thing wrong with this whole scheme. It was defective at best, and some observers would say and have said that it was even fraudulent. The new Senate was not to be democratically accountable. It was to be appointed which virtually guaranteed that in a time when democracy was in ascendancy, an appointed Senate would decline in influence, respectability and effectiveness in relation to the lower house.
The new senators were to be appointed by the prime minister which meant that rather than representing local and regional interests they ended up representing the partisan interests of the prime minister who appointed them. Thus from the very outset the effectiveness of the Senate in safeguarding local and regional interests, the big selling point to Quebec, was compromised. What good was equality no matter how it was defined in such an unaccountable and an ineffective chamber?
Second, I want to argue that the Senate was and is a compromised house and that by the end of the 19th century it had become apparent that it was already a compromised institution. It was compromised in terms of accountability. It was compromised by partisan patronage. It was compromised in its ability to represent regional interests. Its equality was compromised by ineffectiveness.
In referring to the Senate as a compromised house, do not misunderstand me. Reformers are often accused of being unwilling to recognize the value of compromise but that is not true. Of course we recognize the value of compromising to achieve a greater more principled objective such as the creation or preservation of a country. What Reformers object to is the tendency of old line politicians in Canada not only to compromise but to then compromise their compromises, and then to compromise again until there is no discernible principle left in either their positions or their actions.
This is precisely what has happened to the institutions of both the House of Commons and the Senate throughout the 20th century under Liberal and Tory mismanagement. A two house parliament, a bicameral parliament, is itself a compromise. It is a principled compromise between geography and demography with representation according to the principle of population, numbers of people, in the lower house and representation according to the principle of geographic area in the upper house.
Lincoln said it most succinctly when he described the compromise made by the American founding fathers: “The convention that framed the United States Constitution had this difficulty: the small states wished to so frame the new government that they might be equal to the large ones regardless of the inequality of population; the large ones insisted on equality in proportion to population”. What did the American founding fathers do? These are Lincoln's words: “They compromised it by basing the House of Representatives on population and the Senate on states regardless of population, and the executive on both principles”.
In Canada we started out down the same road, but then we compromised the compromises. Representation by region or province in the Senate was compromised by patronage. Then we started jigging the numbers of senators allotted to each province, departing further and further from the principle that Sir John A. himself enunciated in the Confederation debates, that the great divisions into which British North America is separated should be represented in the upper house on the principle of equality.
Then in later proposals, like the Charlottetown accord, it was even proposed that some seats in the Senate be based on race and some on gender, some by direct election and some by provincial appointment, until there is no discernible principle left as a basis for Senate representation or to guide the Senate's activities.
Similarly over the same period, successive federal governments began to compromise representation by population in the lower house, minimum numbers of seats for P.E.I. and Quebec, overrepresentation for rural ridings to compensate for their geography, underrepresentation for cities, underrepresentation for the fastest growing provinces like British Columbia.
Since 1867 with respect to parliamentary representation successive Liberal and Tory regimes have compromised the compromises until we have neither genuine representation by population in this House nor genuine representation by province or by area in the upper house. By compromising the compromises they have rendered both chambers less effective in serving the public and less effective in representing national interests than they would otherwise be.
My third point is that the Senate is hopelessly tainted by patronage, and I have already referred to patronage as contributing to the decline of the Senate in the early days. Let me now explicitly list this factor of patronage as a specific and particular reason why this institution is falling into disrepute.
It appears to the public, and it is the public we are here to serve and the Senate is also here to serve, that the majority of senators have been appointed not on the basis of acceptability to electors and not on the basis of ability or achievement but primarily on the basis of their service to party and the sitting prime minister.
With respect to 20 of the last 28 appointments to the Senate by the current Prime Minister, if we asked an average citizen primarily informed by news reports why they think these people were appointed rather than others, the most likely answer today is the appointed people had strong connections to the Liberal Party.
Let me give a couple of examples. On March 6 of this year Senator Fitzpatrick, a prominent B.C. Liberal organizer whose friendship with the Prime Minister dates back 35 years, found himself appointed to the Senate. Only later did the public become aware of the business relationship between Senator Fitzpatrick and the Prime Minister.
In 1987 the Senator and the corporation he formerly owned and operated co-ordinated a stock flip that helped earn the Prime Minister a quick $45,000 profit. In other words, the Prime Minister appointed a long time party activist, personal friend and financial benefactor to the upper house. A reasonable person operating on the general information available to the public would conclude that this was, whatever else it was, first and foremost a patronage appointment.
The same type of patronage connection was evident when Brian Mulroney appointed Senator Fernand Roberge to the Senate in 1993. Senator Roberge was president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal, once Prime Minister Mulroney's favourite watering hole and the site of much of his plotting to unseat Joe Clark as the Tory leader. Senator Roberge was one of the insiders assembled for Mulroney's second run at the party leadership in 1983. Senator Roberge organized the friends of Brian Mulroney gathering of 5,000 people when Mulroney launched his winning leadership campaign and a hospitality suite operation to woo stray delegates. Senator Roberge was also a member of the candidate selection committee for Quebec during the next election.
What is the public to think when it reads through the list of Senate appointees and finds these things? Senator Angus from Quebec, former chairman of the PC Canada fund, known as one of the most successful political fundraisers in the country's history, helped raise money for the Mulroney failed leadership campaign in 1976 and a successful one in 1983.
There is Senator Buchanan of Nova Scotia, former Tory premier of Nova Scotia but one with a notorious reputation for provincial patronage. Senator Cogger was co-chairman of the federal Conservative 1988 election campaign in Quebec and a long time friend of Mr. Mulroney. Senator Jessiman of Manitoba is a long time Tory fundraiser from that province.
I could go on and on but let me deal with some of the appointments by the current Prime Minister. First, Senator Bryden of New Brunswick, candidate for the Liberal leadership in New Brunswick and the person who managed the Prime Minister's 1990 Liberal leadership campaign; Senator Joyal from Quebec, former Liberal MP and prominent Quebec Liberal backroom worker; Senator Robichaud from New Brunswick, former secretary of state in the Prime Minister's government and active worker for the Liberals a great deal of his life; Senator Taylor, former Alberta Liberal leader.
I will tell the House what the public thinks of such a list. I have carried this list around with me for a long time. The public is not amused, the public is not impressed, the public is led to believe that personal and partisan connections to the Prime Minister, patronage connections, not ability or acceptability to electors, are the principal criteria for becoming a Canadian senator.
Fourth, the Senate is further discredited when some of its members are tainted by allegations and charges of ethical misconduct, including allegations of criminal misconduct and no preventive or pre-emptive steps or concerns are shown by the Senate unless the whole thing gets into the media, and no proactive steps are taken to investigate or to suspend during the possibility of investigations or to discipline or remove such senators by the Senate itself.
For example, there has been a swirl of influence peddling allegations for years surrounding Senator Michael Cogger. This senator is alleged to have accepted more than $200,000 from a Montreal businessman vying for government grants, using his influence as a senator to lobby on behalf of the business community for $45 million in federal-provincial grants. This Conservative senator for Quebec was acquitted four years ago on influence peddling charges but the Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial in this influence peddling case.
I raise this case not for the purpose of saying anything for or against Senator Cogger. That is not my point. It is to ask why the Senate itself, why for its own protection, why for its own self-respect does it not take a more proactive role in investigating these types of rumours until they get the life that they have, and if necessary disciplining in some way, not for criminal content but for the ethical aspects of the misbehaviour, when the alleged misconduct reflects negatively on that institution. And it is not only that institution. The public does not make a lot of distinction between parliamentarians in the upper house and the lower house. If we are all frank to admit it, it reflects on everybody, including respected members of the House.
In another case the name of Saskatchewan Senator Eric Berntson has been repeatedly mentioned in connection with a fraud scandal involving well known provincial Conservatives in that province. Senator Berntson is currently standing trial on a charge of breach of trust arising from that scandal. The charge is in relation to a January 1987 transfer of $125,000 in public funds from the PC caucus to the Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan. It is alleged that Senator Berntson obtained money from his legislative expense allowance by submitting false invoices from three companies. In November Senator Berntson was committed to stand trial on another charge of defrauding taxpayers of $68,000.
Again, the point here is not whether Senator Berntson is guilty or not guilty of fraud. That is for the courts to decide. My point is that these rumours have been swirling around for years, particularly in Saskatchewan and all too frequently allegations of unethical conduct, including even allegations of criminal misconduct, arise against members of the Senate. When that body is so slow and so reluctant and so half heartedly becoming proactive in acknowledging these things and investigating them and doing something to discipline its members then it is the Senate and I would argue the Parliament of Canada that get discredited as institutions.
My fifth point is that the Senate is further discredited by the unconscionable work, travel and spending patterns of some of its members, not all of its members. That is why it is important to distinguish. The Senate is further discredited by the work ethic or lack of work ethic exhibited by some of its members and by the abuse of travel and other privileges.
What is the public to think of former Liberal Senator Andy Thompson's work ethic? Senator Thompson showed up for Senate sittings about once every two years, just enough to fulfil his requirement to keep the Senate seat. Between 1990 and 1997 Thompson collected $519,550 for attending 14 sitting days in the Senate. With an attendance rate of 2.6% that means he collected $37,110 per day. That is getting up into the Wayne Gretzky league.
The Senate itself did nothing about this delinquent behaviour until it was forced to do so by pressure from the media and the official opposition in this House. Even after that the most it could do was vote to suspend Thompson without pay.
What is the public to think about Senator Eyton's attendance record or the eight other senators, Kolber, Lucier, Pitfield, Lawson, Angus, Carney, Austin and Sparrow with attendance records of less than 50% between June 1990 and November 1997? What is the public to think of Senator Taylor's travel budget? Senator Taylor billed Canadian taxpayers $105,000 for travel expenses. This bill included the cost of flying in eight of his nine children at taxpayer expense for his induction. He said it was one of those once in a lifetime occasions when they pay for the family to fly down to the ceremonies.
What is the public to think about Senator Lucier's place of residence? We are talking about representation of a northern territory in the Senate of Canada. This senator is supposed to represent Yukon, to provide regional representation for that vast northern territory through his seat in the Senate. Senator Lucier lives in British Columbia and he has said that the Senate's legal staff approved his change in residency five years ago when he moved to Vancouver.
I do not want to be one sided on this. Defenders of these defective work habits and attendance records and travel abuses will say, and I regret that they say this, we have all of this in the lower house as well. Perhaps there is regrettably some truth in that. On some other day I will address the need for reform of the House of Commons.
The great difference between the House and the Senate on this score is that in the case of elected members of this House if the public finds out about these abuses or if it judges something we are doing to be an abuse, whether it is or not, the public can do something about it. It can refuse to re-elect. It can throw us out. But in the case of our unelected, unaccountable and largely untouchable senators there is nothing the public can do to rid the chamber of such abusers and such abuses. That is what makes party patronage or unethical activity, lousy attendance or abuse of privilege even more odious when it occurs in the Senate than in the House of Commons.
I am talking about some members of the Senate, not all. That is the reason I mention names. I do not want to impugn people who do not deserve to be impugned. The Senate is discredited when the principal occupation of some of its members is primarily partisan political work. Some senators certainly work hard but the work they do, supported by their Senate salary, their Senate office, their Senate staff and their Senate travel allowance, is primarily partisan work.
Senator Tkachuk billed $98,329, the second highest of all senators for travel in the fiscal year 1996-97. He explained his bill was higher due to his role as co-chairman of the Tory party and his need to travel to various party functions across the country. The senator explained that as campaign chairman he had to travel all over the country for the party before the election. The president of the Liberal Party from 1975 to 1980 was a senator, Senator Graham, appointed in 1972. This senator also co-chaired the national Liberal campaign in 1997.
Another senator, Senator Hays, was president of the Liberal Party during a campaign in 1997. The chair of the national Tory campaign in 1988 was Senator Atkins, appointed in 1986. There is a strange coincidence between these appointments occurring in one year and two years later full time political work. The Alberta election chairman for the federal Tories in the 1993 election was Senator Ghitter.
During these periods I do not deny that these senators do a great deal of work but it is primarily partisan political work. In attempting to justify this activity some will say that it is all work necessary to the democratic process. What the public does not support is this work being done on the payroll and the budget of the Senate. Nor does the public appreciate seeing Liberal and Tory senators paid from the public purse managing and directing campaigns against parties like Reform, the Bloc and the NDP which have no representation in the Senate.
Even more serious is that some of this political work done by senators is of such an unsavoury character that no amount of whitewash can justify it. Perhaps in this connection I can mention a personal experience. Maybe some believe that people get a negative view toward institutions because of their experiences younger in life. Perhaps that may be my case.
When I was in my teens I once had occasion to attend a reception given for new Canadians who had just received their Canadian citizenship. My family was very much involved in politics and political life in Alberta. I used to go to these things and I found them an inspiration. In the midst of one of these festivities I remember a prominent Edmonton lawyer, a well known Liberal, struggling to his feet because he was drunk and walking over to one of our new Canadians. I remember who the fellow was.
I remember who the fellow was. At least I can picture him. He was a fellow of Italian background. This lawyer put a hand on each of his shoulders. This is a new Canadian who has just been made a citizen a few minutes before. He says in a very loud voice so that everyone else in the room can hear, particularly the other new citizens, “You are now a Canadian citizen, but I hope you realize that it was a Liberal government that let you into the country and if you ever vote for a Tory government they will probably send you home”.
This lawyer was doing political work. I would argue it is political dirty work, intimidating new Canadians to vote Liberal.
Why do I mention this incident in the context of a discussion about the Senate? It is because this lawyer was eventually appointed to the Senate from which he continued to do this political work, particularly in Edmonton, only with greater prestige and greater authority.
This type of political work, performed by senators and supported by public funds, discredits the institution. It discredits the whole federal political system, especially in the eyes of new Canadians who are its victims.
Someone will protest and say this is all grossly unfair. Are there no good senators? Are there no senators who are hard working and conscientious? Are there no senators who render public service? Are there no senators who are distinguished persons in their own right? I would reply, “Of course there are”.
To be fair I will name some of them, although members will agree it is difficult for mere mortals like ourselves, and even more difficult for the public operating on partial information and media perception, to separate the sheep from the goats.
Here is a partial list of senators who are distinguished persons in their own right.
Senator Keon is a renowned cardiac surgeon who in 1969 helped to found the Ottawa Heart Institute. Sister Peggy Butts has dedicated much of her life to teaching at schools across the country and working to help women and the poor. She is a recipient of the Weiler Award which acknowledges and honours exceptional contributions to the community and social development in Canada.
Senator Archibald Johnstone is a distinguished World War II veteran. He served as a crew member with the Royal Air Force heavy bomber squadron and retired with the rank of flight lieutenant.
Senator Anne Cools is a former social worker who has dedicated herself to helping women and the poor.
I want to make a special appeal in a few minutes to these and other distinguished senators to divorce themselves from the other senators and become allies of Senate reform. But before I do, let me say what must be said, with no disrespect intended. I say that successive prime ministers abuse even these distinguished appointments in the following way.
In the inner circles it is referred to as applying the holy water principle. A prime minister wants to appoint his political friend to the Senate and he wants to appoint someone for purely partisan political purposes, so to make the appointment less odious to the public he seeks out and appoints at the same time some distinguished and honourable person to sanctify the other appointment.
Let me illustrate this. When Prime Minister Mulroney appointed eight special senators to help ram his GST legislation through the upper house, most of them were Tory patronage appointments: Normand Grimard, a party fundraiser; James Ross, a long time Tory activist; Eric Berntson, a former Tory deputy premier of Saskatchewan; Michael Forrestall, a former Tory MP; et cetera.
But they also included Senator Keon, the renowned cardiac surgeon and founder of the Ottawa Heart Institute, a distinguished non-Tory appointment to sanctify the other patronage appointments.
When the current Prime Minister makes his Senate appointments he does the same thing.
When in 1997 he appointed as senators the former Liberal premier of P.E.I. and a former Liberal MP who was in his own government, he also at the same time made a distinguished non-partisan appointment in the person of Sister Peggy Butts.
When this year he appointed as senator a prominent B.C. Liberal organizer and fundraiser, a two-time failed Liberal candidate from Newfoundland, he also at the same time appointed the distinguished World War II veteran Archibald Johnstone.
The tactic is to sanctify patronage appointments with a few distinguished appointments, but in the end the reputation of all, including the reputation of the Senate, is diminished rather than enhanced.
Let me quickly identify the seventh. Some political scientists, I suppose, would argue that this is one of the most weighty arguments against the Senate in its present form. I refer to the cost of the Senate, particularly the enormous cost in relation to the insignificant benefits.
Over the past 30 years the Senate of Canada has cost the taxpayers of this country some $1 billion. This breaks down approximately as follows: senators' salaries, $354 million; senators' travel, $133 million; senators' office expenses, $72 million; Senate administration and services, $441 million.
We would argue that there is no way that Canadians have received anywhere near $1 billion in benefits from this institution. Certainly Canadians have not received $1 billion in legislative improvements as a result of sober second thought. Certainly Canadians have not received $1 billion in effective representation of regional interests.
For example, I do not know exactly what percentage of that billion in Senate representation represents the cost of British Columbia's Senate representation.
During the last 30 years none of B.C.'s big, major, provincial and regional issues from the state of the west coast fishery to the unique B.C. aboriginal issues to B.C.'s unique constitutional positions to B.C.'s views on equalization have been given anywhere near the representation on the national stage that a province that is going to be the second largest province in Canada deserves. The only way a B.C. senator has been able to get national attention for B.C. in recent years has been to muse publicly about B.C.'s secession.
Regional representation of B.C. interests in the Senate has been completely ineffective. The same can be said for Senate representation of regional interests in every part of the country.
The cost of the Senate is staggering. The benefits, particularly with respect to regional representation, which Sir John A. himself said was the reason it was being set it up, are negligible.
I say this is an ominous conclusion since, if the abolition of upper houses is studied in the provinces of Canada and in other British jurisdictions, the principal argument for the abolition of upper houses has, in the end, been the excessive cost in relation to minimal benefits.
Time does not permit me to further elaborate on these defects of the old status quo Senate. I want to get on to the more positive dimensions, but further elaboration should not be required.
The seven deadly sins of the current institution are: fraudulent beginnings, compromised principles, partisan patronage of the worst kind, unethical conduct and work habits, abuse of privileges, a higher priority to partisan political work than to the public service, and excessive cost in relation to negligible benefits.
If these grievances and defects are not addressed, what will be the inevitable result? The result will be increasing public dissatisfaction, with dissatisfaction growing into anger, and anger resulting not in demands for reform, but demands for complete abolition of the whole place.
Perhaps it would therefore be appropriate to conclude this case against the Senate of Canada with a reference to one of the most infamous ends to a parliamentary institution in all parliamentary history.
We had nothing to do with the planning of this debate at the time, but it is ironic that it was 349 years ago to the day, April 20, 1649, that Oliver Cromwell walked into the chamber of the so-called rump parliament in England.
This was an institution that had so discredited itself with inactivity and corruption in the pursuit of self-interest that one of its own members, Cromwell, the man who had defended that parliament against the king, who had risked his life to try to save it, who had risked soldiers' lives and had soldiers killed to try to save the institution, now turned against it.
The record says that he came to that British parliament on this day in 1649 and at first he sat in a seat at the back. As he listened to the discussion in the rump parliament, the one for which he had sacrificed lives, the members debated not how to reform the parliament and make it a better servant of the people and the king, all they discussed was how to perpetuate it exactly as it was.
According to historians, Cromwell got up from the back seat and, contrary to accepted practice, went to the front. He walked up and down in the aisle between the seats and gave one of the shortest, hottest speeches of denunciation of a parliamentary institution that has ever been made.
I will read it in part just to give members a flavour. He said:
It is high time—to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured—; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches—Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?—Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls (for a cleansing of) this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House—Depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! — Be gone!
It is to prevent the necessity of any such terrible speech ever being given or such drastic action ever being taken in relation to the Senate of Canada that I now turn to the case for and against Senate abolition and the case for genuine Senate reform.
If the Senate was fraudulently conceived, has compromised its basic principles, is tainted by patronage, unethical conduct and bad work habits, and is excessively costly, it is understandable why some members might ask: Why not simply abolish it?
This is the position of the NDP and a position which commends itself to many as long as it is not critically examined.
The reason a majority of Reformers oppose abolition, despite our vehement opposition to the Senate as it is, is very simple. It is a reason which rests on the very nature of our country and the prerequisites for good government and national unity.
If we were to abolish the Senate—and we ask the NDP members to think about this, particularly those from Atlantic Canada and western Canada—Canada would have a one-house parliament in which the heavily populated areas of southern Ontario and southern Quebec would have an absolute majority of the seats.
In such a parliament, I ask, how would the regional interests of Atlantic Canada, western Canada, northern Canada, northern and rural Ontario, and northern and rural Quebec ever be properly addressed? If Canada were a small country perhaps the effective representation or accommodation of regional interests could be ignored. However, Canada is the second largest country on the face of the earth. Our regions are big enough to be countries in their own right.
National unity, as well as good government, therefore demands that we develop national institutions which recognize and accommodate regional interests rather than ignore or subjugate them, or rather than leave regional representation exclusively to the provincial governments.
The way that the other big federations, the U.S., Germany and Australia, have reconciled the interests of heavily populated areas with those of thinly populated areas is by properly adapting the two-house parliament to their needs. It is high time that Canada did the same.
For those who think this would represent some Americanized departure from our form of federation or the British parliamentary system, let them study and improve upon the Australian model rather than the American model if they prefer.
Suffice it to say that what we should be striving for in terms of parliamentary institutions is a two-house parliament that works: a lower chamber based on genuine representation by population in which the heavily populated areas rightly enjoy the greater influence, but also an upper chamber in which there are equal numbers of senators per province or state, as in the U.S. and Australia, where the thinly populated regions will have the greater influence.
Then, in that two-house parliament, let those two houses be so conjoined that laws do not become laws and federal policies do not become policies until they pass both houses, thus reconciling the demands of both representation by population and representation by area.
It is the position of the official opposition therefore that, of course, we should abolish those features of the Canadian Senate which render it useless and repugnant to voters and taxpayers. Abolish patronage appointments. Abolish inequitable representation. Abolish unethical activity and practices. Abolish ineffectiveness. However, do not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Let us not be tempted to believe that abolition would simply be the first step toward reform of the Senate.
If the Senate is completely abolished it is highly unlikely that it will be replaced in the foreseeable future with a reformed Senate. Among the members of this House who are suddenly advocating Senate abolition, I have detected no strong interest in establishing any other checks and balances on themselves, in particular the regional checks and balances which a reformed Senate provides.
Those premiers who would prefer to maintain their own monopoly on representing their provincial interests, rather than sharing this responsibility with a federal institution, would not be in a hurry to reinvent the Senate if it were abolished. If the Senate were abolished there is little likelihood that a reformed Senate would ever be established in its place, and the Canadian federal system would continue to fail to balance representation by population with representation by province.
It is therefore the position of the official opposition that the useless and offensive features of the current Senate should be abolished and an elected, equal and effective Senate should be created in its place. The long range interests of Canadian federalism are better served by Senate reform than by the short term expedient of Senate abolition.
It is long overdue that I put before the House the information and the arguments which will hopefully lead all hon. members to support the proposition that the Senate should be reformed and that we should get on with it. I will outline the objectives of Senate reform and its benefits to the people of Canada, the benefits to ordinary citizens with aspirations for jobs and better services and with concerns about taxes, deteriorating health care and national unity.
As the official opposition envisions it, the objectives of Senate reform are threefold. The first is to give the people of Canada more democratic control over representation in the upper house by electing those representatives, and to ensure that senators, whoever they are and whatever they are and whatever they do, are servants of the people of Canada, not servants of the party of the prime minister who appointed them. The first objective of Senate reform is therefore to democratize the place and to give Canadians the benefits of that democratization, namely accountability of the Senate and the senators to them.
The second objective of Senate reform as we envision it is to make the Senate an effective legislative chamber, more effective in its analysis and amendment of legislation and policy, yes, but in particular more effective in bringing regional perspectives and regional interests of people in different parts of the country to bear on federal government policy and legislation.
The views and the interests of the fisherman in Newfoundland are different from the views and the interests of the businessman in Montreal. The views and the interests of the logger in northern Ontario are different from the views and interests of the factory worker in southern Ontario. The views and interests of the prairie farmer, the Alberta roughneck, the northern trapper, the urban westerner or the retiree on Vancouver Island are all unique and different. All these views and interests are shaped by geography, by where these people live and work as well as by other factors. The challenge is to bring the uniqueness and diversity of these views and interests more effectively to bear on federal legislation and policy.
As I pointed out in the throne speech debate, there was hardly any regional sensitivity at all in the government's legislative program as contained in that speech, despite the fact that in the last federal election the Canadian electorate regionalized the House more definitively than it has for many years.
The government's legislative program and the government's budget did not even acknowledge the urgent requirement for a new Atlantic economic development initiative to address the crying need for more jobs and better incomes in that part of the country. The government's legislative program and budget did not even try to link the needs of both the west and east coast fisheries—the conservation needs, the management needs, the people needs, the community needs—and to address them as national issues.
Despite the government's acknowledgement that the national unity problem is rooted in the discontents of Quebec and that it is a priority, there is nothing in the government's legislative program or budget that specifically addresses the regionalized nature or dimension of this problem. Likewise there is nothing explicit in the government's legislative program or budget that addresses the need for recognizing and complementing the Ontario government's efforts to stimulate job and income growth through tax relief with a parallel federal initiative.
There is little or nothing in the government's legislative program or budget that explicitly addresses the needs of the north despite the fact that this region comprises the greater part of the country. There is nothing that seeks to harness the ideas and energies of the new west or the Pacific region to national objectives such as economic growth, strengthening of social services or national unity.
In the U.S. such frontline industries for the new economy as Boeing's aerospace facilities and Microsoft's headquarters in the Pacific northwest are located there in part because of leverage obtained over military contracts and development funds by western states in the U.S. senate, but there is no equivalent of that in Canada. My point is that the second objective of Senate reform should be effective regional representation and action through the Senate's legislative role.
The third objective of Senate reform as envisioned by the official opposition is to give practical and institutional expression to the great principle of equality of citizens and provinces. We fervently believe that the great principle of equality for all rather than special status for some will prove to be the foundation for national unity in the 21st century, and to have one chamber in the Canadian parliament where the voice of the people of each province regardless of their size or their stage of development is equal to that of any other would be conducive to national unity and ensuring the continuation of this great federation to the benefit of all its citizens no matter where they may live.
We can identify practical benefits to Canadians no matter where they live coming from Senate reform. The objectives of Senate reform as we see them are democratic accountability, effective regional representation in national legislation and policy, and affirmation of equality. Who in the House could possibly disagree with such objectives?
I turn now to two trails to Senate reform. The academic literature in Canada including studies commissioned by various parliamentary committees and task forces contains many studies and proposals for Senate reform. I could read off a page of them, but I will not bore hon. members by listing more of them. Suffice to say there is a great wealth of information available on this subject from the Library of Parliament.
What I would like to do is get down to the practical measures required to advance the concept of Senate reform beyond mere academic discussion. I would like to advance Senate reform to the stage where the public is agreed, the provinces are agreed and parliament is agreed on a plan of action which will start us down the road to real Senate reform, a plan of action that will transform the Senate from an obsolete 19th century embarrassment into a useful, functional, respectable 21st century institution.
In particular I want to outline for hon. members the two trails to Senate reform. The one trail which I will refer to as the Meech Lake-Charlottetown trail to Senate reform is one to which both the federal Liberals and the federal Conservatives have been attracted in the past. The current Prime Minister always refers to it when he is questioned about Senate reform.
First I want to examine the Meech Lake-Charlottetown trail to Senate reform and argue that it is a dead end, that it leads nowhere and should be abandoned by any parliamentarian or citizen who genuinely desires reform of the Senate.
I then want to lay before the House what I will unashamedly call the western trail to Senate reform. It is a trail which has its origins in a genuine desire from one great region of the country to advance its regional interests, not by threatening separation but by increasing the effectiveness and regional sensitivity of the institutions of the central government.
The western trail to Senate reform is over 20 years long. I will argue that it can become the Ontario trail, the Quebec trail, the Atlantic trail, the northern trail, the national trail to Senate reform, if we absorb its lessons and support its initiatives.
First I will refer to the Meech Lake-Charlottetown trail to Senate reform. Both the Meech Lake constitutional accord and the Charlottetown constitutional accord contained half-baked proposals for Senate reform. Both accords were opposed by many Senate reformers in all parties and both accords were rejected by Canadians, the Charlottetown accord being rejected through a constitutional referendum.
It is important to understand why the Senate reform proposals contained in these accords were rejected as well as the context in which the accords as a whole were rejected so that future attempts at Senate reform and constitutional change do not founder on the same rocks. I must say that I have been absolutely amazed at the superficiality of the comments made by the Prime Minister on this subject. I want to take some time to examine it thoroughly.
Members of the House, in particular those from western Canada, will have the following understanding of the events surrounding Meech Lake, Charlottetown and their Senate reform proposals. In 1981 the Government of Quebec under Premier Levesque refused to participate in any further federal-provincial conferences on the Constitution unless Quebec was given special rights and assurances.
In 1986 Premier Bourassa announced that Quebec would resume a full role in constitutional councils of Canada if five Quebec demands were met, namely recognition as a distinct society, the right to opt out of national programs and to be compensated for them, a greater role in immigration regulation, a role in supreme court appointments and a veto on future constitutional amendments.
On April 30, 1987 the Prime Minister and 10 premiers met in private at Meech Lake and without consulting their legislatures or electors drafted an agreement to meet Quebec's five demands and provide for a second round of discussion on further constitutional change including Senate reform. In order to get other premiers to accede to Quebec's demands the Prime Minister had to grant similar rights to other provinces, including the right to veto future constitutional amendments.
The resulting Meech Lake accord was then translated into a constitutional amendment and unanimously approved by the first ministers on June 2 and 3, 1987 in Ottawa. The premiers all agreed to return home and push a Meech Lake resolution through their legislatures without amendment as quickly as possible.
While the western premiers supported the accord with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the majority of their people opposed it. The more they found out about it, the less they liked it. What bothered them more than anything else was the top down, closed door approach to constitution making that Meech Lake represented. The process discredited those who participated in it as well as the content of the accord.
Second, westerners objected to the rigid amending formula. If every province were given the right to veto substantive amendments, the chances of securing the constitutional amendment to reform the Senate, for example, would be drastically reduced.
Third, westerners objected to Meech's token references to Senate reform and the lack of substantive assurances that real progress would be made in this area in any second round of constitutional negotiation.
It had taken the federal Conservative government a very short time to translate Quebec's five constitutional demands into a full blown constitutional amendment. Yet despite the presence in the cabinet and caucus of western MPs whose constituents had been demanding a triple E Senate since 1984, the federal government had no triple E Senate amendment in preparation and was unresponsive to representations by the Alberta government on that subject.
The poorly conceived token effort at Senate reform contained in the Meech Lake accord consisted of a proposal to appoint senators from a list submitted by the relevant province, provided the appointee was also acceptable to the federal cabinet.
There was also a promise to convene a first ministers conference at which Senate reform would be further discussed. Since every province would have a veto over future constitutional reforms and the Quebec government had already declared its antipathy toward a triple E Senate, the promise of Senate reform through a first ministers conference was meaningless.
Obviously these meagre Meech provisions for Senate reform were unacceptable to those who desired genuine Senate reform and who had developed comprehensive proposals for a Senate that was elected with equal representation and effective powers.
As hon. members will know, after the collapse of Meech, the Mulroney regime made one more attempt at a constitutional accord, an effort which culminated in the Charlottetown accord of 1992. While the process whereby Charlottetown was developed gave some belated attention to securing public input, mainly through the Spicer consultation, its Senate reform proposals were hardly more in tune with western Canadian thinking where Senate reform had been under active consideration for more than 10 years than those of Meech. The Senate reform proposals of the Charlottetown accord were contained in section 2(a) of the agreement.
For the written record I would like to have section 2(a) of the Charlottetown accord recorded at this place in Hansard . To save the time of the House I seek consent to dispense with the actual reading and have it recorded in Hansard as read. Do I have that consent?