Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate on the response given in answer to the question from the hon. member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove.
First of all, this is not a question of whether it is constitutionally possible for the Prime Minister to appoint senators that have been elected in provincial elections. No one questions whether the Prime Minister could do so if he wished. That is certainly his prerogative. However, constitutionality is not the only question here. There is a larger question on whether or not it is a good idea to appoint elected senators and thereby embark on a piecemeal path to Senate reform.
This brings me to a point that has been repeatedly made and that is the Prime Minister's position on Senate appointments. There have been a number of occasions over the past year, both before and after the recent federal election, where the Prime Minister was asked specifically about his position on the issue of appointing elected senators.
At a CBC public town hall meeting in Ottawa last February he was asked whether he would appoint senators elected in Alberta. The reply he gave then has been his consistent position on this matter. He supports Senate reform but not in a piecemeal fashion.
As the Prime Minister and others have noted, the method of appointment is only one aspect of the Senate. Fundamental reform would need to consider other matters, such as the distribution of seats among provinces and the Senate's role in Parliament. This type of reform cannot be done unilaterally. It will require a consensual approach with the provinces and we should let the Council of the Federation, which embarked to look at this under the leadership of the premiers of New Brunswick and British Columbia, time to carry out its work.
On September 8, following the cabinet retreat in Kelowna, the Prime Minister again was asked this question and again made it clear that pending an agreement on comprehensive reform, which someday we hope to see emerge, he intends to continue to make Senate appointments in the traditional fashion.
Last month, in correspondence to Premier Klein, the Prime Minister reiterated his view that piecemeal changes to one aspect of the Senate would not be an effective way of achieving meaningful reform. At the same time, he reaffirmed that the government remains willing to consider fundamental changes to the Senate should the provinces come forward with a consensual approach.
This brings us to last week, when once again the Prime Minister was clear in response to the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister said:
I do not believe that doing Senate reform piecemeal would bring us the desired result. What it could quite well do is simply exacerbate a number of the problems. What I think we should do is look at Senate reform but look at it in its entirety.
The Prime Minister's position on this matter has been clear and consistent, and for good reason. Patchwork or scatter-gun reforms would cause more problems than they would solve.