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House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senators.

Topics

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake is rising on a point of order.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we are here to debate Senate reform. The hon. member is talking about issues of the day and about our budget, which have absolutely nothing to do with the--

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake. I will recognize the hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country to ask a short question, to which I am sure the hon. member for Saint Boniface will be happy to respond.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to add a little to my colleague's comments and concerns about the statement of the member opposite that this is all smoke and mirrors. If anything, for the previous 13 years we have seen smoke and mirrors in the hot air from the member's government, the hot air that has been increasing the climate change and the greenhouse gases in our country.

The government of the member opposite had 13 years to implement democratic reform. If the member feels so passionately about concrete democratic reform, why did he not do anything?

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to return to my hon. colleague's comment because what I was saying was in fact very relevant. When one makes hasty decisions, one pays a political price for them. We are selling out our Canadian companies to foreign ownership. That is what happens when decisions are made that are not based on proper analysis. That is exactly what is happening here.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:40 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, it is a very great pleasure for me to stand in this place today to speak in favour of Bill C-43 on Senate consultations.

Let me say at the outset that this is only one bill in a suite of legislation that the government has been bringing forward on democratic reform.

We have seen Bill C-16, which is a bill to set fixed dates for elections. It received royal assent just recently and will come into effect. It states, of course, that outside of a non-confidence vote, which may bring the government down at any time, the next election will be held on the third Monday in October 2009. It is a very important piece of democratic reform that is overwhelmingly supported by Canadians.

We also have Bill C-31, which is currently in the Senate. It is moving its way along through committee. It deals with voter integrity and trying to eliminate voter fraud. I am quite confident that this bill will receive royal assent before the House rises for the summer.

However, we also have another bill in the Senate, Bill S-4. We have spoken many times on many occasions in this place about Bill S-4, but I have to say that frankly I cannot fathom why this bill has taken as long as it has in the Senate. For the benefit of those Canadians who may be listening, Bill S-4 is a 66-word bill that has been before the Liberal-dominated and unelected Senate for close to one year now. In fact, May 30 will see the one year anniversary of the bill being before the Senate.

This is a 66-word bill that has been there for close to 12 months. By my rough math, that is a little over five words per month that these primarily Liberal senators have been examining in regard to the bill. All this says to me is that either the bill contains some really big words or there is a second agenda at hand, and that agenda is that the Liberal senators do not want to see Senate reform. They do not want to see Bill S-4 pass.

I have examined the bill and I can assure members that the words are not so big such that it would take five words per month to examine the bill, so I have to go to my second assumption, that is, the Liberal senators truly do not want to see any real and effective Senate reform. Why else would they keep a bill that is so short, so succinct, so precise and so to the point locked up in the Senate for close to a year?

If nothing else, that bill in itself speaks to why we need Senate reform. It speaks to why we need a bill like Bill C-43, which allows the process to be taken away from the prime minister of the day in regard to the appointment of his hacks and flacks to the Senate and allows individual Canadians to express an opinion on who they would like to see represent their region or province in the Senate.

I can think of no greater example than the travesty of Bill S-4 for supporting this bill, yet I hear nothing but opposition from members of the official opposition party, members of the New Democratic Party and members of the Bloc Québécois, who are saying they will not support Bill C-43, consultations that in effect would allow a prime minister to listen to Canadians before he or she makes an appointment to the Senate.

If we truly believe in accountability then we must support Bill C-43, yet I hear nothing but opposition from members opposite, and again, that confuses me. On the one hand I hear members opposite talk about the need for Senate reform, for accountability and for regional representation, yet I hear nothing but opposition to a very good piece of legislation that we have put before the House for discussion and debate.

Bill C-43 deals with a very important conception of ours, which is that all members, whether in this place or the other place, should be accountable. There is only one way to deal with true accountability. That is to allow the individual citizens of this great country of ours to have a say in who represents them so that in fact the representatives then would be accountable to the citizens rather than those who appointed them.

That is the essence of Bill C-43. It is to allow consultations to take place at a provincial or a territorial level. Those consultations, in which the will of the people would be expressed, then would allow the prime minister of the day to appoint the individual to the Senate. In other words, it does not in any way take away from the constitutionality that has been in question from time to time during this debate. In fact, it accommodates the Constitution.

I take some difference of opinion with my hon. colleague the deputy House leader who said that the bill would allow us to skirt the Constitution. I do not like that choice of language. I choose to say that the bill would allow us to accommodate the provisions contained within the current Constitution, and those provisions say that only the Governor General can appoint members to the Senate. The current convention is that the Governor General, before making that appointment, would take advice from the prime minister of the day, and only the prime minister. That would still be in effect. Therefore, the constitutionality argument is really mute.

The prime minister would still appoint senators to the upper house, but only after the prime minister listened to the expressed will, through a consultation process, of the citizens in various provinces, territories and regions. What could be fairer and more transparent than that? What could be more accountable than that?

We on this side of the House say that we have to get away from the process that has occurred for the last 100 years where, for strictly partisan reasons, members of the upper house have been appointed. In all fairness, we have seen time and time again appointments made on a partisan level regardless of political affiliation and regardless of which party happens to be in government of the day.

We have seen time after time Liberal prime ministers appoint Liberal senators for no other reason than the fact that the person has been a good, loyal political partisan soldier to the Liberal Party. We have also seen that happen when Conservative governments have been in power. Conservative governments have appointed Conservative senators because of their loyalty and partisanship to the government of the day. My point is that should not be allowed to happen because there really is no accountability to the people. There is only accountability to the party of the day, or the prime minister who made the appointment.

We need to get away from that method of appointing senators. We have to allow Canadian citizens a voice in who they wish to see represent them in the Senate.

The bill deals with that in a very precise, succinct and fair manner. Consultations would be taken during federal elections at the provincial level. Should the citizens of a particular province decide they wished to see a certain individual represent them in the Senate, that would allow the prime minister to advise the Governor General of his will to appoint that person.

We do not have a constitutional argument here. We have a fairness argument, and it absolutely works.

Many times we have seen appointments made to the Senate which, under normal circumstances by anyone's standards, would not be considered to be fair and would not be considered to be representative of the people of that province. I want to draw to the House's attention only a couple of those examples.

In my opinion one of the most egregious uses of this appointment process happened with a current senator by the name of Art Eggleton, a former mayor of Toronto, a former Liberal member of Parliament and a former Liberal cabinet minister. Most Canadians will recall the disgrace in which Mr. Eggleton was dismissed from cabinet. He was found guilty of awarding untendered contracts to one of his former girlfriends. What was his reward? His reward was an appointment to the Senate. That, under normal circumstances, would never happen.

I am sure if we took a look at some of the other names of current senators in the upper chamber, we would find that the reason those people were appointed was because of the loyalty they exhibited to the party. They were appointed not because they were deserving of representing the people, but only because they curried favour with the prime minister of the day or the government of the day.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Blair Wilson Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

What about Fortier?

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

This is what I find really interesting. Whenever we have this debate, we hear nothing but chirping from the other side because we touch a nerve. The Liberals know what I am saying is right but they just do not like it. They do not like to hear the words which exhibit the type of favouritism and patronage they exhibited during the many years they were in government.

Again, I go back to the fact that if they truly believe what they are saying about accountability and democratic reform, why can they not support a bill such as Bill C-43? It is the height of hypocrisy and sanctimony. They say on one hand that they want democratic reform, but that they do not like this. They like the current system where they can appoint their friends to the Senate. It comes down to that.

Senator Jim Munson, who was the former director of communications to Prime Minister Chrétien, was appointed. Why? I suggest because he was a loyal soldier to Prime Minister Chrétien and was rewarded, when Prime Minister Chrétien left office, by getting an appointment to the Senate. Francis Fox is another example. There are many. It should not be allowed to happen. What is the problem with allowing individual citizens to comment on who they would like to represent them in the Senate?

I also want to point out that this concept of having the people engage in a consultation process before senators are appointed is widely supported by Canadians across Canada. There will be some, such as our friends in the NDP, who do not want a Senate at all. They want the Senate abolished. Therefore, they would not support a bill of this sort.

Some years ago I would probably have put myself in the category of those who wanted the Senate done away with. I did not really see the need for a Senate at all times or at any time. I have since changed my view on that. Since I have been in this place, I have seen, from time to time, the upper chamber actually perform the service it is intended to perform, and that is to be the voice of reason or the voice of sober second thought.

From time to time, pieces of legislation have gone from this place to the upper chamber and brought back with meaningful, realistic and important amendments that make a bill stronger. That is an important function. However, what I cannot abide by are bills like Bill S-4, which would purport to put a term limit on senators, unduly and purposely delayed, obstructed by the unelected senators in the upper chamber simply because they do not want the system to change.

It has been said in the House before that under the current system senators can serve their terms for up to 45 years. They can be appointed at age 30 and serve, as it stands now, until age 75. Bill S-4 would set a term limit of eight years so any senator, after being appointed, would only serve for a term of eight years.

I understand that the leader of the official opposition has taken several positions on this bill. I understand he supports it in theory. He has said from time to time that he supports terms limits anywhere from six to eight, to ten to twelve, to fourteen or fifteen years. I do not know what is going to happen when the Senate finally gets around to dealing with the bill. Regardless, it is one step in Senate reform to have term limits set upon senators who are appointed to that place.

This is another important step because it allows individuals to comment and express their opinions on who they wish as their appointed representatives. What could be fairer?

We have a democratic system in our country right now where all members of this place are elected. Would anyone suggest that we go away from that system and have members of Parliament appointed? Of course not, it makes absolutely no sense. One of the basic tenets of our democracy is the fact that elected representatives are just that: elected by the people they represent. Yet in the Senate, it is just the opposite.

We have senators in my province of Saskatchewan and in Ontario and in every province who are supposedly there to represent the people of those provinces, but were not elected by the citizens of those provinces. Where is the fairness in that? Where is the accountability? I would suggest there is none.

The bill would address that flaw in the current system. It would allow individuals across the country to cast a vote, to voice their opinion on who they wished to see as their senator in their region. Who can argue with that basic tenet?

Apparently Liberals can because they are voicing their opinion today in this debate. I certainly suspect that when it comes time for the bill to be voted upon, they will voice their opinion by voting against the bill, but I cannot understand why. How can they say they are in favour of democracy and then vote against the system that would allow democracy to take place?

There are a few aspects of the bill that are worth noting as well. The first one is the method in which voting would take place during the consultation process. Currently, as everyone here knows, to be elected as a member of Parliament, we go through the first past the post electoral system. In a federal election in our home ridings, if we get more votes than any of our opponents, regardless of the percentage of that vote, we will be elected to this place.

When I was first elected in 2004, I was elected with receiving just above 33% of the vote. I won by 122 votes. This means at that time roughly 67% of the people in my riding did not want me to be their representative, but they got me anyway. In the second election luckily I was able to increase that amount to about 43% or 44%, but it still was not the majority. The majority of people in my riding voted for someone else. We suspect that even though this system seems to have worked well over time for the members of Parliament, we should enact a different voting system for those people who cast ballots on the consultation process for senators. Why? For a couple of reasons.

The primary reason is if we had the same voting system for electing members of Parliament, the first past the post system, we might end up with the same results. I am not saying that is necessarily a bad thing. What I am saying is if we had a different system of voting, it might be able to properly reflect the wishes of the majority of people in that region who are expressing an opinion.

Therefore, contained in Bill C-43 we have a provision that would allow for preferential voting, or at least a preferential voting system, the single transferrable ballot, to elect members.

How that works very simply is this. There may be a number of candidates who are putting their names forward for senators. The individuals who wish to express their opinion cast ballots marking their preference, either one, two or three. If there were three candidates, they would mark their first choice, second choice and third choice. If there is no majority on the first ballot, in other words if none of the candidates receive over 50% of first ballot support, we would then go to a system where we start counting the second ballots and add that to the total.

At the end of the day, those people who were selected or at least elected at the consultation level would have at minimum 50% plus one vote of all those who cast ballots. By the time the prime minister got around to appointing the individual to the Senate, he or she could be absolutely assured that the individual had the majority of support of the people within their province.

We do not have this system in the lower House, but it is one that I believe is a very necessary and a very democratic method. That is why I believe this bill, through all the various aspects of the bill, is something we should support. Again, it allows for accountability. It allows for the senators, who are appointed, to be accountable to the people who cast ballots for them, rather than being appointed just because of who they know in the PMO. It also ensures that we have some democratic rights at the provincial and territorial level. Finally, it allows the assurances of the prime minister that the majority of people in the province actually voted for and wanted the senator who ultimately becomes appointed.

I look forward to taking questions from the members of the opposition.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's presentation. He seems to be very much in favour of the consistent application of certain principles. This raises a couple of questions.

Why did he single out only senators appointed by Liberal governments and leave aside the most egregious appointment that has been seen in decades? That would be the appointment of the public works and government services minister, who refuses to run in an election in Montreal. Every time a seat opens up, he refuses squarely to run for election. I would like to hear the hon. member's opinion about that.

If the member is in favour of consistency, I wonder if he would go a step further and argue for what exists in the United States, that judges should be elected as well. If he is in favour of consistency, why would he not be in favour of the same election rules for the Senate and the House of Commons?

If he believes in accountability, I would like to know what he thinks about the arguments put forth by those who believe in proportional representation, that it is a more democratic system than the first past the post system.

I would like to raise a hypothetical situation. Let us suppose that the Prime Minister went to a system where he only appoints senators who have been elected. If a province decided not to play by those rules for whatever legitimate reason it might have, and there were retirements of senators from that province, but the Prime Minister would not appoint senators unless they were elected, and the provincial government would not go to elections, that would mean that province would be underrepresented in the Senate. What does the hon. member think about that?

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I find myself smiling every time I hear a member from the opposition raise some of these concerns because they have no credence whatsoever.

Let me deal with the last point first. The bill contains a provision that Senate consultation would take place at the same time as a federal election. Provinces would be consulted should they wish to engage in their own consultations during provincial elections. This is a federal House, so those provisions are taken care of. For the member to suggest it is not accountable and not democratic is sheer folly because it is.

I want to get back to the member's first point where he said it was the most egregious appointment ever. I would take great umbrage at that when he is speaking of Senator Fortier because as the Prime Minister stated at the time of the appointment, the reason he appointed Senator Fortier to the Senate was he wished to have him in cabinet representing the city of Montreal, the second largest city in Canada. He also stated at that time, and this is something that the members of the opposition conveniently forget, that the appointment is not until age 75. It is until the next election. That is it.

When the Liberals appointed senators, until 1965 they were there for life and now they are there until age 75. That is not the case here. For the member to talk about the most egregious case of appointments in Canadian parliamentary history is absolutely out of the question. It is not true.

I look forward to more questions because again, I have not had this much fun listening to questions in a long, long time.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary and the Conservative government have an open mind about the possibility of some kind of proportional representation coming into effect some day when it comes to the selection of senators. Why did they choose to initiate this process without any kind of broad consultation?

Why would the Conservatives choose a research firm like the Frontier Centre which has a stated bias against proportional representation? It is on the record years ago saying that proportional representation is a bad idea. This indicates to me that perhaps there is a preconceived bias on the part of the Tories that they would seek out and find the one polling firm that is so jaded and biased toward proportional representation that they are willing to risk their objectivity by saying so and giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to have these tiny little focus groups and then base a conclusion on that. Does that not speak to a prejudice against meaningful reform and proportional representation?

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Winnipeg Centre for his question, which was not on Senate reform, but was on proportional representation.

I have answered this question in this place many times before. He speaks to the consultation process that this government has engaged in, on trying to find more avenues for democratic reform, but when he criticizes the method in which we have engaged in this consultation process, he forgets one very important fact. At the procedure and House affairs committee, this government, not the NDP nor the Liberals, proposed a motion to allow members of the committee to go through a consultation process Canada wide. Every individual party in this House would have been represented by its members who would go forward as a committee and engage Canadians in the consultation on democratic reform, which I am sure would have included proportional representation.

What happened when we proposed this motion at the committee level? The NDP voted against it. The member for Ottawa Centre voted against it. Had members voted in favour of this consultation process, we would have been engaged in that process right now. Perhaps the member for Winnipeg Centre might have been his party's representative. For some reason, the New Democratic Party voted against a motion which would have allowed the procedure and House affairs committee to engage in democratic reform consultations across Canada.

The member has no credibility when it comes to asking a question about why we may have a bias. The very actions of those members showed that they clearly have a bias themselves.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, unlike the last two speakers who gave five problems with this bill that were not really answered, I want to compliment the member on saying that he recognizes that the Senate is a body of sober second thought and provides reasoned additional input into bills. In fact he made the very important factual point that a substantial number of bills have been amended and improved by the Senate.

I would like the member to follow up on the good work he did in his opening speech and outline some of those positive changes that the Senate has made to bills.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I should correct myself. In response to the intervention from my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, I said that at committee the member for Ottawa Centre voted against the motion put forward by the Conservatives. It was, I believe, the member for Acadie—Bathurst who voted against it, but nonetheless, it still was an NDP member on the committee who voted against consultations by the committee itself.

With respect to the question of my hon. colleague from Yukon, there are a number of examples, some minor and some fairly major, where senators, after examining a bill that has gone from our place to their place, have come forward with amendments that have strengthened the bill. Sometimes those amendments were technical in nature. Perhaps the wording was slightly flawed. Sometimes they were more substantive.

My point is simply this. If the Senate was doing the job that it purports to do, if it was doing the job that we all want it to do, it would examine legislation coming from this place in a non-partisan manner to see if they could strengthen it.

The purpose of the Senate is not to obstruct legislation, but to examine it for weaknesses and to recommend positive changes. Yet what we see time and time again, by the very nature of senators being unelected and therefore unaccountable, is that they are not looking for ways to strengthen a bill, they are looking for ways in which to obstruct a bill. Again I go back to Bill S-4, a bill that has been before the Senate for close to a year. It is a 66 word bill, yet it has been there for close to a year and there is no end in sight.

That is because, in my view at least, the Liberal senators wish to obstruct this bill. They do not want to see it go forward, despite the views of the majority of members in this place. They are using the powers they have to obstruct legislation when in fact they should be doing just the opposite. They should be looking for ways in which to pass legislation as quickly and as swiftly as they can, while all the time ensuring that the legislation is properly formatted.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-43, An Act to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate.

First, I want to comment on a couple of things. I want to congratulate the Senate for its work on bills as was just mentioned. A bill, no matter how short, can be bad and should be improved and dealt with. The senators should not be bullied into pushing forward a bad bill. I congratulate the senators for their work.

A Conservative member asked about democratic reform in the previous government. The point was made that during the previous government the biggest changes perhaps in history, but at least in modern history, were made to advance democratic reform in the House of Commons. Great credit has to go to the member for LaSalle—Émard who made those changes. I will mention three of them.

First was the increased funding for the Library of Parliament to help members of Parliament to have substantial research input into bills.

Second was the election of committee chairs. This might have emanated from the opposition, but the last government brought it forward. It is distressing that the new government has taken a backward step in democratic reform by revoking that, at least within its party in not allowing elected committee chairs. The democratization of that process was done by the member for LaSalle—Émard.

Probably the greatest reform that really changed the dynamics of the House at the time was the bringing in of the three line whip. It allowed members to take their own positions on a large number of items, confidence motions as they always were, budgets, throne speeches, these types of bills, on which the government has a position. Unfortunately, we have not seen that recently from the government side, but we have certainly seen that democratization on this side of the House with significant input for members to represent their ridings.

Now I would like to get back to Bill C-43. As has been clear on this side of the House, I and other members are definitely in favour of appropriate, rational and comprehensive Senate reform. That is not the issue. Once again, if there is a bad bill, one that does not do the job, obviously we have to either amend it or defeat it.

I am not sure what the Conservative member who was complaining about the stalling of bills has to say about this, but it is surprising that this bill was tabled four months ago and it is only now before us. Why was it sitting around when it could have been brought forward a lot earlier?

The Liberal position is to have full scale comprehensive Senate reform. If we are to reform a body that is complex and which interacts in the legislative process with other bodies, obviously we have to put it all together for it to make sense. When a Ford truck is broken, we do not drop in a Volkswagen engine and assume it will fit and that the truck will start. It will not fit. It is air cooled. We will burn the engine out. We cannot try to make a change to one part.

In this particular case, it is not a change that will be effective. We should not try to make a change which would make the whole system fall apart. It would create more problems than if we looked at the whole situation and how all the parts are interrelated. I will give some examples later in my speech that outline how the different parts of the system would be negatively affected by tinkering with one part without considering the ramifications on the other parts.

It is astonishing that the Conservatives would put forward a bill that would hurt Alberta and British Columbia so much, that would decrease their representation in Canadian affairs. I am sure some Conservative members did not realize this because the individual members did not write the bill, but it is still a fact. We would never, on this side of the House at least, approve a bill that would hurt Alberta and British Columbia so much without making the appropriate adjustments to make sure they were represented.

Some references were made in previous speeches to the Law Reform Commission. This commission did a remarkable study on electoral reform and I will quote from Hansard what was said about the report. One would hope that any bill on electoral reform would look at that expert information and refer to it.

It was stated in Hansard:

The report is perhaps the finest treatment of the question of electoral reform in a modern democracy that has ever been written.

When the official opposition critic asked if any members of the government had read this report, not one member stood. If would seem that if we were designing a bill, we would look at all the intelligence available, especially at the best report ever written. Hopefully, before this debate is over, a Conservative member will stand and say that he or she has read that report and, more important, that it had an effect on this bill before us that has been criticized so much.

Can anyone imagine having the Law Commission of Canada Act, an act of Parliament, disrespected by the government? There are statutory responsibilities under that act to perform services for Canadians. By law, the government must do things for Canadians but the zero funding in the budget is very questionable in relation to the proper functioning of democracy.

Another issue that has been raised in the debate about the bill is, as the deputy House leader from the Conservatives said, that it skirts constitutionality. It may be constitutional and it may not. If the bill gets to committee, we will certainly want to hear from experts on both sides of that issue, to be fair, as to whether changing one piece of a complex system would be constitutional. As all members of the House know, there are certain changes to the Senate that cannot be made in this manner or by simply bringing a bill before the House of Commons.

The other major point is that the bill would not do anything. What would it achieve? The prime minister can already appoint members. In fact, this morning one of the opposition members, in response to a question, made the point that in 1998 Prime Minister Mulroney appointed Stan Waters.

I think westerners would probably be appalled if they knew that the prime minister would not need to follow the results of these elections. If westerners elect someone the prime minister does not like, he would not need to make that appointment. The decision would still be up to him.

Let us be frank: the Conservative government does not really want to change Bill C-43. It just wants to keep an old Conservative promise to its electoral base without really taking the time to reform the Senate. Once again, it is a shame that this government is pursuing its own political agenda at the expense of real reforms that would benefit all Canadians.

I now want to try solving the perplexing question as to why the government would put forward a bill that, as I have outlined, does not change anything and, were it to change anything, it would cause all sorts of other problems.

The reason that has been hypothesized by a number of speakers so far is that the government is trying to appease its western Conservative base which it has upset so much. People might ask why the Conservatives are angry and why they are hastily bringing forward a bill with, as people have outlined, all the flaws to appease that base.

The first reason is that right after the election the Prime Minister appointed Senator Fortier after saying that all appointments would be made on merit. This came as quite a shock to Conservatives across the country but they gave them a second chance. However, it did not last very long.

The second reason is that after speaking adamantly against floor crossing while in opposition and after 40 Conservative members voted against floor crossing in a bill, the Prime Minister appointed a Liberal as a minister before a number of Conservatives who had worked hard for the party. I am delighted that we have a Liberal in cabinet but I think a number of Conservatives were upset about that appointment.

The third reason is the fact that the government has become a huge spender. After telling people for years and ranting against the NDP and others who would spend a lot of money, the Conservatives brought in the biggest spending budget in history.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

What does this have to do with Bill C-43?

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

It was three times the rate of inflation. After talking about cutting program spending--

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Blair Wilson Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Tax and spend Conservatives.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

We cut taxes.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

--it was tax and spend, much to the shock of those Conservatives across the country--

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hear the hon. member for Yukon. I will ask all members to hold off until questions and comments and then they can ask questions if they have any.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but I do not mind if I am upsetting the Conservatives so much about the bad things they have done that they need to respond.

The Conservatives were yelling that they have cut taxes. I have before me a federal tax return that Canadians have recently filled out. I will go to the tax return that Canadians filled out last year. On the first $35,595, in nice red letters here, what did all Canadians pay in income tax, especially poor Canadians? It was 15% on income tax. In schedule 1 of this year's federal tax return, on $36,378 the rate is 15.25%. The federal income tax basic rate has increased.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The hon. member was quoting from a document and I would like him to table it.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake has asked the member to table a document from which he was quoting but that actually only applies to ministers. The member would need to seek the unanimous consent of the House to allow the member for Yukon to table the document.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.