Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central I am very pleased to participate in the report stage debate of Bill C-9.
Bill C-9 is an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.
In the last session I spoke to Bill C-2 which was passed in the House. The Canadian Alliance or Reform Party at the time opposed the bill. The Liberals should be ashamed because Bill C-2 had so many serious flaws in it that it was not only undemocratic but almost anti-democratic. Bill C-2 made Canada look like a dictatorship.
Among other technical matters Bill C-9, which is an amendment to Bill C-2 passed in the last session, stipulates that if the chief electoral officer wishes to examine certain things like alternative voting processes such as electronic voting, the alternative cannot be used without the approval of both House and Senate committees. Clause 2, which we intend to amend, states:
The Chief Electoral Officer may carry out studies on voting, including studies respecting alternative voting means, and may devise and test an electronic voting process for future use in a general election or byelection. Such a process may not be used for an official vote without the prior approval of the committees of the Senate and the House of Commons that normally considers electoral matters.
The term Senate is used and that is why the amendment is being proposed. I congratulate the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière who moved an amendment which reads:
That Bill C-9, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 31 to 33 on page 1 with the following:
“committee of the House of Commons that normally considers electoral matters, after consultation with the committee of the Senate that normally considers those matters.”
The Canadian Alliance supports the amendment because it takes the role of the Senate out of the bill. Our policy book, which is dictated by grassroots members of the Canadian Alliance, states in section 71:
We will support the election of senators who would then have a democratic mandate to carry out their constitutional responsibilities. We will further support the distribution of Senate seats on an equal basis determined through constitutional discussion with the provinces and territories.
The Canadian Alliance advocates Senate reform. Senators try to do their job the best way they can. As co-chair of the Senate and House of Commons Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations I had the opportunity to work directly with senators. There are senators who work very hard. There is wisdom in the other chamber and we look forward to the sober thought from the other place.
There are senators who want to have a veto in our elections act on how Canadians elect members to represent them in the highest chamber. The Senate wants to have a veto in the bill, a veto the weak and arrogant Liberal government is allowing in the bill. That is a serious concern. Senators are elected in other countries. Our largest trading partner, the U.S, elects its senators.
The point which would motivate us in the Chamber to support the amendment is that senators are not accountable to constituents because they do not have any constituencies. They do not represent constituencies. They are appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada and tend to be accountable to him.
I commend B.C. Senator Gerry St. Germain, who has offered, and who is prepared to resign from his senate seat provided the Prime Minister appoints an elected senator to the Senate. That senator has made a bold step and I appreciate his intention.
The Canadian Alliance members support the amendment. Under the current legislation, only approval of the House of Commons committee is required. Giving the Chief Electoral Officer the freedom to examine innovative alternatives that could help to modernize our electoral process is a good thing but it should be limited to the elected members who represent Canadians in the House of Commons.
On this side of the House, our ears perk up when we see the use of the word Senate, particularly in reference to it interfering in the election process. Are the Liberals preparing to have the Senate kill any innovative ideas the Chief Electoral Officer may propose? Maybe we cannot trust the Liberal government. The Canadian Alliance believes that the voters, not the government, should decide whether a party or a candidate is worthy of a vote.
As all opposition parties will be supporting the amendment, it is now up to the Liberals. If they do not accept the amendment, it would be another example of how they are making Bill C-9 anti-democratic.