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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was democratic.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I regret to inform you that the riding I represent is actually Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington. While I love Renfrew county very much, as I used to cottage there as a kid, I do not have the good fortune to represent it. For what it is worth, I have not had a Speaker yet who has not screwed up the name of my riding in some way or another, so I will add this to the list.

I am here to talk today about our very exciting democracy agenda. Since this government came to power about a year and nine months ago, it has engaged in the most assertive approach to improving Canada's democracy of any government in the country's history. It is exciting to be a part of such a government.

I want to list some of the democracy measures that we have put forward and then I will talk in a little more detail about them.

If there is time, and I hope there is, I will be dividing my time with the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

We have had eight pieces of legislation that have dealt with democracy and I have divided them into three headings. It seems to me that there are three fundamental theme areas. We have dealt with greater accessibility to the polls for voters. We did that by putting forward legislation that created more advance poll days and more geographically dispersed advance polls allowing people, particularly in areas of the country where advance polls were not easily accessible, access to those advance polls thereby ensuring that we could help people to vote in greater numbers and with greater ease. Nunavut comes to mind as perhaps the best example of this.

We have put forward several pieces of legislation that deal with greater security of vote, greater transparency and honesty in our voting. Bill C-31, which essentially deals with electoral fraud, has put in new requirements for voter identification that will significantly reduce the potential for voter fraud in ridings. That passed with widespread support in the House of Commons. All parties, except the New Democratic Party, were enthusiastic in their support for it.

Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, had provisions ending the role of corporate and union contributions in our electoral process. This is a very healthy thing for an open and transparent electoral process where money no longer plays a role.

Bill C-54, which dealt with election loans and the loophole that was exploited by so many Liberal leadership candidates in terms of getting loans and then finding ways to potentially get the terms of those loans rewritten after the fact, shut down that loophole. This is also a very important part of ensuring openness and transparency in our election financing laws.

The areas that I would like to concentrate on today are the four pieces of legislation that are working toward providing greater democracy in the most direct sense to our representative system: the legislation the government put forward dealing with the election of senators and with the creation of eight year terms for our senators, Bill S-4, which was presented in the Senate in the last term; the legislation, which was passed, creating four year terms and fixed election dates for the House of Commons, which removes the capacity of prime ministers to call elections when the polls are convenient, something that was used extensively by Mr. Chrétien when he was prime minister and had been used by other prime ministers in the past; and finally, Bill C-56, which introduces greater representation by population in the House of Commons.

I want to concentrate on greater democracy in the Senate and then greater democracy in the House of Commons, the two areas that are the most detailed proposals put forward by the government in this area of greater democracy.

Let me start with the Senate and the election of senators.

We talked about introducing in Bill S-4, the idea of eight year terms for senators. This was found to be constitutional in the upper House reference case of 1980 by the Supreme Court of Canada. The court indicated, in rough terms, the length of term would have to be fixed. There would have to be four senators in order to fulfill the constitutional obligation. Senators would be exempt from the kinds of pressures that re-election causes and that short terms could cause that might affect the voting patterns of an individual in either that House or this one.

I note that before the Liberals in the upper House decided to vote against this bill, the Leader of the Opposition indicated that he was perfectly happy with fixed terms. Therefore, we hope he can assert that love he had of democracy and bring his unruly senators into line when this bill is reintroduced.

The upper House was intended as a House of sober second thought, not of partisan second thought. The intention was not that the upper House become what it has become, a House of patronage.

In explaining the spirit of the bill, I wanted to make the point that the upper House has wandered very far from its original intention of being a House of sober second thought. Senators unfortunately are, as a rule, not appointed based upon their merits. They are appointed based upon their partisan affiliations.

Let me quote from former Senator Dan Hays in a presentation he made to a Senate committee on May 25 of this year. He made the following statement:

In the appointments made to the Senate by Prime Minister Mackenzie King, only two of the 103 were not Liberals. Under Prime Minister St. Laurent, only three of the 55 appointments were not Liberals. Under Prime Minister Diefenbaker, only one of the 37 appointments were not Progressive Conservatives. Under Prime Minister Pearson, only one of the 39 appointments was not Liberal. Under Prime Minister Trudeau, 11 of the 81 appointments were not Liberals. Prime Minister Clark made eleven appointments to the Senate and all were Progressive Conservatives. Under Prime Minister Mulroney, only two of the 51 appointments were not Progressive Conservatives. Under Prime Minster Chrétien only three of the 75 appointments were not Liberals. Under [the member for LaSalle—Émard], five of the 17 appointments were not Liberals.

The upper House has simply become a den of patronage and we are trying to break free from that. This is the point of Senate elections.

It is possible, I suppose, to consider abolishing the Senate. Our friends in the NDP have indicated that is their preferred approach. It is not my preferred approach. It is not the Prime Minister's preferred approach. Moreover it is a very difficult avenue to pursue because it requires the consent, depending upon which constitutional scholar one goes to, of either all the provinces, or at least seven provinces with half the population.

At any rate, it is a difficult avenue to pursue, but if it turns out that the other parties are unwilling to pursue elections to the Senate, it is clear that the abolition of the Senate is preferable to the approach of simply using it as a House of patronage, the pattern of course of previous governments, and in all fairness of both partisan stripes, in the past.

I want to talk for a moment about representation by population in the House of Commons. Bill C-56, introduced in the last session of Parliament, dealt with greater representation by population, a more equitable system in the lower House, and I am a great fan of this.

The representation by population formula that was incorporated in the original Constitution Act, 1867, has by reason of repeated amendment become less and less representation by population and more and more representation by population, with one exception after another. It was amended in 1915, again in the 1940s, in 1952, in the 1970s, in 1985, and each time it moved further and further from one person, one vote, the equality of voting, regardless of the riding or the province in which one lived.

This has produced the situation that there is now great disequilibrium. The bill attempts to bring back a measure of representation by population. It would introduce new seats for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. In the cases of Alberta and B.C., they have been brought right up to equality with the level that Quebec is at, essentially at the national medium number in terms of electors per MP.

Ontario would be below that, but far further ahead than they are now, and this is a major step, for the first time, in the direction of returning to the spirit of rep by pop that was part of the original Confederation deal for the lower House.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I would like to apologize to the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington. The counties of Lanark and Renfrew were previously tied. I promise him that when I go back to my office, I will write on the blackboard, 100 times, Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made a very clear and distinct speech. Therefore, I want to ask him a question.

If it is true that there is no longer something called patronage, and if the hon. member, his party and the government believe that we should no longer name people to the Senate, why is it that the very first act of the Prime Minister when he became Prime Minister was to name Senator Fortier, who actually refused to run, and make him a minister of the crown with no ability to sit in this House and respond to questions? How does that reality and the sort of fantasy speech I heard here actually come together?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the best way of responding to the question by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre is to point out a number of things.

First of all, the Prime Minister has not filled most of the vacancies in the Senate because he is hopeful that it will be possible to fill these by means of an election. Only the obstruction of the members on the opposite side can prevent that from happening. Hopefully this is a sign that the member for Vancouver Centre will be able to go ahead and support Senate elections.

Second, I point to Bert Brown, who has now been appointed to the upper House. He of course was elected by the people of Alberta. He is now Canada's second elected senator and the first individual in this Parliament to represent what hopefully will become a universal trend.

Third, let me address the question regarding Mr. Fortier. He was appointed on a very specific basis. The member may disagree with it, but the basis was that the city of Montreal deserves some representation. It is the second largest city in the country. It is the largest city in Quebec. It deserves to have some representation in the cabinet; thus the reason for appointing him. He has indicated that of course he will resign and run in the next election for a seat in the House of Commons.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's speech this afternoon. I always look forward to his speeches as they are always well researched and contain a tremendous amount of information.

My colleague talked about why it is important to do those things in terms of the democratic reform we have proposed. What I want to know from his perspective is what the danger is of the House not pursuing the changes needed to make this a more democratic place.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about making this place more democratic, so I will assume that his question refers not to the Senate but to the House of Commons. The short answer for the Senate, if he had asked me about that, in a nutshell would have been that if we cannot reform the Senate, I think the move for the abolition of the Senate would grow. Having a unicameral Parliament in a federation is not as good as having a bicameral Parliament, which is why we see them in all the other federations of the world.

With regard to this place, the danger is simply this. Ridings are getting larger and larger as the population of the country is growing, but they are getting larger in the provinces with the most rapidly growing populations, which in practice means Alberta, B.C. and Ontario, where there is a more rapid rate than elsewhere. There is an increasing discontinuity between the size of an average riding in Ontario, for example, and Saskatchewan.

I wrote a article for the National Post three or four years ago in which I pointed out that if current population trends continue, Statistics Canada predicts that 20 years from now the average riding size in Alberta will be twice the size of an average riding in Saskatchewan, for example. There is something fundamentally unfair about a system like that. We are simply trying to do what we can to rectify that situation.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

We are resuming debate with the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform. He should know that he has 10 minutes, of which he will have a little less than 5 minutes this evening.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

5:55 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that approximately four minutes from now, we will be breaking to let the bells ring for a recorded division. I will not be able to get through all of my comments, but I do want to make a few comments, if I may, in the short period of time that I do have.

I am very pleased to stand here in response to the Speech from the Throne and say how excited I was when I heard the speech that was delivered so eloquently by the Governor General.

One of the other things I want to say is that for the first time we had an opportunity to let the majority of Canadians really get engaged in listening to the speech, because for the first time the speech was actually primarily delivered in prime time in terms of television. Certainly in eastern Canada it was viewed in prime time. I know that from my own standpoint, we received several calls in my constituency office from people who actually had a chance to view the Speech from the Throne and they viewed it as a great opportunity. This is something about which we should all be excited, because it is actually getting more citizens engaged in the democratic process.

Of course, not everyone was in favour of it. Members collectively from the opposition parties seemed to criticize it. They called it Americanization. Let us face it: If the collective opposition cannot make a couple of references to George W. Bush on a daily basis, life just is not worth living for them.

That fact notwithstanding, it was a very positive move, because it allowed Canadians to see firsthand how this government intends to conduct itself over the course of the next months and we hope the next few years.

It spoke specifically of five priorities, what this government intends to do in strengthening the federation, strengthening our sovereignty, strengthening our economy, strengthening our environmental practices and, of course, with Bill C-2, strengthening the ability for all of our citizens at home to feel more secure in their daily lives. One of the things we wanted to make sure with our tackling violent crime bill is that we enacted some measures that have been long overdue to protect our citizens, whether they be children, adults or seniors. We wanted to make sure that we took positive action to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians. That is why we have introduced Bill C-2, a comprehensive bill to deal with some very important pieces of legislation that had been stalled for far too long both in this House during committee and in the Senate.

I also want to touch very briefly on some of the points that my colleague was mentioning about Senate reform. One of the things we do have the ability to do in this House and in the upper chamber is to take some positive action in reforming the Senate.

For too many years, well over 100 years, we have had an unelected, patronage appointed Senate. What we are attempting to do is take the patronage appointments away from how we conduct our Senate.

By allowing citizens through a consultation process to voice their opinions on who they wish to represent them regionally, as senators, has got to be viewed as a positive thing. However, I do not see much acceptance of that initiative by members opposite and members of the upper chamber. That is clearly unfortunate.

Also, what we need to do very seriously is, this House, as an assembly, should send a direct message to the Senate that when we send a piece of legislation from this place to the other place, the Senate must deal with it expeditiously with no delay.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is tight and I thank you for the brief opportunity I have had to give these remarks.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 6:00 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the amendment now before the House.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the amendment. will please say yea.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #2

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the amendment lost.

It being 6:35 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:35 p.m.)