Mr. Speaker, you are most generous to give me six minutes for my speech and ten minutes for questions. I will not let them go to waste.
On May 25, I spoke about Bill C-10, which aims to limit the term of senators appointed after October 10, 2008, to eight years. It would be retroactive for two years since it is now November 2010.
The Canadian Constitution is a federal constitution. Accordingly, there are reasons why changes affecting the essential characteristics of the Senate cannot be made unilaterally by Parliament and must instead be part of the constitutional process involving Quebec and the provinces.
The Conservatives want to strengthen the Constitution by ignoring the provinces and Quebec. In the late 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada considered the capacity of Parliament to independently amend constitutional provisions relating to the Senate. According to the ruling it handed down, decisions pertaining to major changes affecting the Senate's essential characteristics cannot be made unilaterally.
In 2007, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion:
That the National Assembly of Québec reaffirm to the Federal Government and to the Parliament of Canada that no modification to the Canadian Senate may be carried out without the consent of the Government of Québec and the National Assembly.
The government has to amend the Constitution to make these sorts of changes to the Senate. The Senate itself and other issues could potentially be on the table. Quebec would be prepared to discuss an even wider range of issues, but we know that that is not likely to happen any time soon.
It would be simpler to propose that the Senate be abolished. We all know that the Senate serves only the interests of the party in power, the Conservative Party. Senators are appointed, not elected. If we were forced to keep the Senate in perpetuity, I would strongly advise that the Senate be elected and that the senators have no connection with the other parties in the House of Commons.
Senators are appointed to serve the government's interests. Let us look at my riding, for example. One of the senators lives in Sherbrooke, but he is not the senator for Sherbrooke. The senator who represents Sherbrooke does not live there. So there is a problem right from the start.
In 1867, it was probably called a senate duchy. Now, it is called a senate division. Sherbrooke is in the senate division of Wellington. Léo Housakos is the senator for that senate division. The senator who lives in Sherbrooke is Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, who represents the senate division of Lasalle.
There is no sense of belonging, aside from the basic connection the senators have with the government. I have two quick examples.
The first example concerns Mr. Housakos, a big financier who gets money for the government. The newspapers have given a fair bit of coverage to his connections in the financial community.
The second example concerns Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu from Sherbrooke. This man has suffered some devastating losses in his lifetime. He was an advocate for victims' rights and victim protection, but unfortunately, now he is an advocate for law and order and the government's “tough on crime” agenda.
We can see that this has nothing to do with real life. The senators exist only to serve the government and the party in power. To paraphrase Quebec humorist and realist Yvon Deschamps, what is the point of the Senate?
It should just be abolished.