Madam Speaker, I have bad luck, as every time I wish to speak and you are in the Chair, there are always questions on the interpretation of the standing orders. I suppose it is coincidence.
I rise today to speak to Bill S-34, to modify the procedure of royal assent to bills passed by parliament. I know that I have 40 minutes for my comments. Unfortunately, there will be no period for questions and comments following my 40 minutes. I will try to speak for the full 40 minutes, since I have many things to say on this topic. If I run out of time, I will ask for the unanimous consent of the House to go beyond 40 minutes.
First, I wish to say that our party will be supporting this bill to modernize parliamentary procedure. The government could have introduced this bill in the House, rather than going through the other chamber.
The House of Commons is the elected chamber, while the other place, the Senate, does not have the same legitimacy as the elected members of this chamber. This is the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, one that is shared by most Quebecers.
While I did say that we would be supporting the bill, there is one thing that I would like to comment on, something that I have already spoken about before, and that is the whole issue of the legitimacy of the other chamber. Every four or five years, as set out in Canada's constitution, those who are watching from the galleries or on television have the opportunity to judge the value of the work we do here in the House of Commons. Every four or five years, citizens have an opportunity to say—and this is the democratic action they take—whether or not they want their member to continue representing their interests. They can say “Yes, I want to keep my member”, or “No, I do not want to keep my member”. This explains how members are elected or defeated. This is democracy.
But the people in the other chamber, the Senate, are appointed by the Prime Minister as a political reward. Usually, they are people who have proven their worth in provincial legislatures, as leader of the opposition or of the party in power. They are people who are good political organizers for the government in power. Members will note that I have not yet mentioned the Liberals. In my opinion, it was exactly the same when the Progressive Conservatives were in power. But since the Liberal Party has been in office, there have been certain appointments. I would like to mention a few of them.
We had, as a senator, Jean-Louis Roux, who is now Chairman of the Canada Council. He was made a senator. Right now, we have Senator Jean Lapointe. We have surgeons. I give these examples because they are people who, in addition to sitting in the Senate, continue to do their regular jobs.
When Jean-Louis Roux was appointed, he was on a Quebec-wide tour with a theatre company. Senator Jean Lapointe is still doing shows. In addition to performing in the Senate, he appears in various regions of Quebec.
I challenge all of my colleagues in the House. Before becoming an MP, I practiced law. I still get calls from members of the public and friends who require my services as a lawyer. I tell them that I cannot practice law because my duties as an MP keep me busy full time.
Without getting into party politics, I could take the minister of intergovernmental affairs as an example. He was a university professor. I might ask him whether he would still have the time, with all his ministerial duties and responsibilities, to teach three hours a week at the University of Montreal or at Laval Univeristy.
Could he find the time? He is shaking his head, and I believe him. My comment is pertinent. What about my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who was an economist for the UPA. Does he have time for any outside activities such as carrying out studies and analyses on contract in his capacity as an economist? The answer is no.
Why is it that the senators—such as Senator Jean Lapointe, or another who is a heart surgeon and still has time to do heart operations—have the time to continue in their prior professions?
It is because being a senator is an honourary position; senators are often considered professional lobbyists or bagmen. As recently as Monday of this past week, or perhaps the previous week, Senator Leo Kolber organized a $10,000-a-ticket fundraising session—I think the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs was there, and the Prime Minister was meant to be as well, but had to cancel at the last minute—to add to the coffers of the Liberal Party in Quebec.
They are professional lobbyists who are not registered under the Lobbyist Registration Act. All of this is happening and it has the effect of diminishing the office as well as discrediting politicians and politics in general.
When we are out and about on the weekend, when we go to the mall, or to do our own groceries, as I do, we get stopped by people who say to us “These scandals are incredible. It is incredible how they mock us, how they take us for fools”. An outdated institution such as the Senate validates this idea.
Let me get back to the bill to modernize royal assent by allowing bills to receive royal assent by written declaration instead of the traditional parade. We agree that this is an exercise that we could easily do without.
The government should look into what Quebec did. During the quiet revolution, the government of Quebec went ahead with major changes to the parliamentary institution. In fact, on November 29, 1968, Quebec's legislative assembly passed a bill that abolished the legislative council, the equivalent of the second chamber of their parliament. This bill was passed very quickly.
For all of these reasons, we will vote for this bill, and the time has come to abolish the other chamber.