Mr. Speaker, I forget exactly where I was when I left off, which was probably the point of doing that.
I was pointing out that a lot of this partisan pettiness, and that is what it is, exists no matter where one goes, whether one is in the provincial legislature or here. If members are elected to the Senate, we are going to get the same thing. If that is what Canadians want, fair enough, but let us understand that by electing and giving legitimacy to the incredible constitutional powers the Senate has, we create a whole new political dynamic in Canada. This place will function nothing like it does now.
We could look to the Americans as an example of the kind of gridlock there can be between two strong elected houses. They have conference committees where they are forever trying to find compromises so they can actually get something done. We could go there, as complicated as it is, but for less than 35 million people, is it really that practical?
Ontario, Quebec and every other province that had a Senate got rid of it. I believe that our provinces have incredible responsibility under the Constitution. Health care, environment, police services and administration of the courts are just a beginning list of things they are responsible for. They are important matters. The people of all the provinces did not believe they had to elect another tier, find another class of politicians to go into a second place to provide that sober second thought.
The people were quite competent to decide who among them they would send to their provincial capital and make the decisions, and it works. I am quite prepared to be corrected, but I am not aware of a single province where there is a huge clamouring to reinstate the Senate in that province because it cannot trust the people who have been elected directly to the legislature. They may not like them, but then we have a means of taking care of that, do we not? It is called an election, which we do not have in the other place.
This notion that the country needs it as part of its structure I do not think holds. I know there is a concern, particularly among members from smaller provinces, that in the absence of the Senate there would be some kind of a ganging up of the larger provinces. I say this right up front as a member from the province with the largest population in our Confederation. I understand the concern, but as I have said earlier, I am not aware of just how much province protecting is going on in that other place. I am sure I will get examples of senators who have done things for their provinces, but I am talking about the grand scheme of things. Unless we actually walk over there, we do not know what is going on as the Senate does not have TV cameras. My point is that alone is not reason enough to keep the Senate.
What about the notion that because we have such big provinces compared to many smaller ones, without the Senate, no matter what role it is playing directly, somehow that is going to be a real problem for the smaller provinces. Having served municipally, provincially and now federally, I can say that as long as there is representation by population, we are always going to have this.
My good friend, the hon. member for York South—Weston, a former regional chair, would understand better than most what it is like with densely populated areas such as a downtown area and then the more suburban areas that feel they are not being treated fairly because all the attention and money is going downtown where the people are. It is a constant struggle.
I was an alderman, but if a councillor has an area in the ward where there are only a few houses or maybe an area by an industrial sector and most of the money seems to be going toward the development of a new area, a new school, a new recreation centre, people constantly say, “You are only doing it because that is where all the votes are for you. You are ignoring us”. I am not saying it is not a problem; I am saying that it is inherent in representation by population.
At the city level and more appropriately as a comparison at the provincial level, we get past that. We elect premiers in cabinet who are partisans, clearly, but we also expect that for the most part we do not do too badly overall, and I am talking historically, in managing to ensure that everyone has a piece of the pie and gets a share of the interest of the senior level of government. There is no reason we cannot do that. We do that here. We do it in our caucuses.
We have to elect the right kind of parliamentarians. I do not want Hamilton to win at the expense of my neighbour, Burlington. I want Hamilton to win, you bet. It is in large part why I am here, but I care about my neighbours in Burlington. I also recognize there is a self-interest. We cannot be isolated. We are part of a regional economy in southern Ontario, as well as a national economy. So that does not hold, in my opinion.
In the few minutes I have left, I want to focus on the power that senators have, why Canadians ought to care about this, and why it matters. I am going to use a very pedestrian issue compared to the huge issues of the day that we deal with here at the national level.
Not long ago, there was an attempt by this place with a bill passing all the stages at committee and here in the House, to reduce the ability of railways to ignore the noise they make, especially when the trains are idling in neighbourhoods. This was a good thing. It was Parliament responding to issues that affect people where they live. It is not just about the big issues of the day; we have to care about where people live, how they live and the quality of that life.
The House of Commons and the minority Parliament was doing the right thing. The bill went over to the Senate. The Senate changed it. It gave the power back to the railways, not to make as much noise as they want, but to go beyond the language and the restrictions that the House of Commons, the elected people, said that the railways should abide by.
I want to know what senator is from Hamilton and is going to be accountable to the people on Stinson Street, Aberdeen Avenue, Lawrence Road and Allison Crescent, where we have trains that park and idle, people who would have benefited from this House passing that law. What senator is going to answer to my constituents? I do not even know who it is.
I spent 13 years in the Ontario legislature and I never once had a senator call and ask me what I thought about something or what Ontario thought about something. I was in the Ontario cabinet. I never had a senator call and ask me, “What does Ontario think about this?” or “I want to talk to you about this and how it affects Ontario”. No, but that place has the power to make the lives of my constituents who are living beside those railway yards worse.
That is not right. It is not right, when we have taken the time and the effort to improve the quality of life of Canadians and an unelected body, not answerable to anyone, not consulting with anyone, can override that decision. If they are holding public meetings, I would like to know about it. I have never heard of one.
That is not the end of the process. We then start going back and forth with it, which takes me right back to the idea of whether we want that process. If the senators were elected and had that power, they would certainly be democratic, but we have to have this whole big battle over what the final law will look like, rather than just letting the democratic process that serves us so well in this place be the final decision.
If we get a law passed through here and it is signed by the Governor General, it becomes the law of the land. Then we go back to our constituents, and in this minority Parliament we do that a lot, and we knock on those doors and we say, “Yes, sir and yes, ma'am”, and we account for our time here.
In the absence of that, Canada cannot offer up all that we believe Canada is, because when we get out on the international stage, people look at us and say, “But do you not have an appointed upper house?” There is no answer to that. The only real answer is that we are trying to fix it. The way to fix it is to abolish it, or at the very least, have a referendum. If none of that works, we can try reform, but the reality is that it is probably going to fail.
What has the best chance is to have an agreement that we will take what that place is supposed to do in terms of representing provincial interests and have it reflected in this place, and thus not rely on an unelected house.
I look forward to questions and comments.