Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member who I know is very interested in making sure that the books are frugal, that they are well kept, that we do not waste money and so on.
I know that many in his party advocate the idea of a triple E Senate: elected, equal and effective. Prior to the Charlottetown accord a lot of us took a very serious look at that idea. Theoretically it is an interesting idea.
There was a compromise by the three parties in the House of Commons at that time that we advocate an elected Senate based on proportional representation. That went to the first ministers, who changed what we had recommended. They came up with a different formula for an elected Senate, which would have had some powers, but it would not have been very effective, and there was some equality in it. Of course, that was turned down in the referendum. It would have taken the unanimous consent of the provinces, in any event, to implement it.
The hon. member is a frugal man and wants to look after the public purse. We spend roughly $60 million a year on the existing Senate. In all these years, try as we might, we have never had a solution and a consensus as to how we would reform the other place, which has to be done through the amending formula.
How long do we go on trying? It is a bit like the dog chasing its tail. When does it stop? It goes around and around in a circle, and every time it goes around we spend another $60 million on a House that is not elected, not democratic and not accountable. In fact, the chairman of its internal economy committee would not even appear before the industry committee of the House of Commons to be accountable for the expenditures of the Senate.
With great respect to the ideas he has espoused in the past about a triple E Senate, how long would he suggest we keep on waiting before we try the other alternative of just abolishing it altogether and saving that $60 million?
I think we may be stuck in the end with either the status quo, which we have had for over 130 years, or building a national consensus, which is growing toward abolition.
I remember during Meech Lake and even the Charlottetown accord that support for abolition, according to the polls, was around 21% or 23%. The hon. member from Sarnia is confirming that. About a year ago, it was about 45%. About 45% want to reform it but, again, people who want to reform it have all kinds of different formulae. Bert Brown wants triple E. Somebody else wants one E, which is elected. Somebody else wants the house of the provinces or the house of the federation. One may want more powers. One may want fewer powers. The hon. member from Calgary may want a mixture of powers. We could never find consensus.
How long do we let this dog chase its tail before we say “Let us put a stop to it”? The hon. member is a watchdog on finances and I anticipate his response.