Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address the House and anyone who might be in the gallery tonight on a beautiful summer evening in Ottawa.
We need to be clear on what we are talking about tonight, what the substance of the debate is. It is my understanding that my colleague from Winnipeg Centre gave notice of opposition to Vote 1 in the estimates, which is an amount of approximately $57 million under “The Senate—Program expenditures, in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015”.
What does this mean? It means that this amount is part of the amount that the Senate uses to conduct its operations. There has been a lot of important debate tonight about changes in the Senate, about how we could reform the Senate, about how the Senate could act in a more transparent manner or be more accountable to Canadians. These are important, weighty issues.
I have certainly been quoted in the media. My opinions about the need for Senate reform are on the public record. When I go out to talk to my constituents, it is an issue. How do we make the folks who are responsible for legislation in this country more accountable to Canadians? There are several senators who would agree that this body should be made more accountable. This is a topic of debate.
Going back to what we are talking about tonight, it is the allocation for this upcoming fiscal year for the operations of the Senate. I am going to take a moment, because I have some time tonight, to read an article that is on the Parliament of Canada website. It is entitled “Making Canada's Laws”. It states:
...Canada's Constitution states that both the Senate and the House of Commons must approve bills separately in order for them to become law. Legislative basics The lawmaking process starts with a bill — a proposal to create a new law, or to change an existing one. Most of the bills considered by Parliament are public bills, meaning they concern matters of public policy such as taxes and spending, health and other social programs, defence and the environment. A bill can be introduced in the House of Commons (C-bills) or the Senate (S-bills), but most public bills get their start in the Commons. A bill goes through certain formal stages in each house. These stages include a series of three readings during which parliamentarians debate the bill. Prior to third and final reading, each house also sends the bill to a committee where members examine the fine points of the legislation. Committee members listen to witnesses give their opinions on the bill, and then subject it to clause-by-clause study based on the testimony. Either house can do four things with a bill: pass it; amend it; delay it; or defeat it. Sometimes, one house refuses changes or amendments made by the other, but they usually both agree eventually. All laws of Canada are formally enacted by the Sovereign, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and the House of Commons. Once both houses have approved a bill, it is presented for Royal Assent and becomes law.
Just to recap, how does a bill become law? It passes through the first House—sometimes the Senate, but usually the House of Commons—and it passes through the second House—usually the Senate, but sometimes the House of Commons—and then royal assent is given by the Governor General.
How does it pass through a House? It goes through first reading, when the bill proposing a law is received and circulated. At second reading, the principle of the bill is debated to verify that the bill represents good policy, et cetera. Then it goes through committee stage. Members of the public appear as witnesses to comment. At report stage, the committee report is considered by the whole House. Third reading is final approval of the bill, and the bill is either sent back to the other House or set aside for royal assent.
As a recap on how the legislative process works here, right now, for this fiscal year, we require both Houses in order to pass legislation. I actually do not think anyone here can argue that, and if they do, they need to have a refresher course prior to continuing their activities in the House. We need to have both sides under our Constitution right now.
The subject of the debate tonight is whether we should or should not approve funding for the upcoming fiscal year to keep the government operational. To put this in a real-life context, there is opposition on this particular vote. If this vote in the estimates were to be defeated, what would that mean in a real-life context?
A bill is coming up that my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands is keen on, because she proposed it. I am talking of Bill C-442, an act respecting a national Lyme disease strategy. It had first reading in the House on June 21, 2012, according—