Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to the main estimates this evening and specifically to the Senate appropriations. Before I go into more detail about the subject at hand, I have to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Brome—Missisquoi, an outstanding member whose riding is near Sherbrooke.
My colleague from Timmins—James Bay already mentioned one of the important points I wanted to raise: the difference between voted and statutory appropriations. Both Conservative and Liberal members have a hard time telling the difference between the two. There is a fundamental difference between appropriations voted here in the House and statutory appropriations. As my colleague said, the government allocates $58 million for voted appropriations—I rounded the number, obviously—and $34 million for statutory appropriations.
I just wanted to set the record straight before getting started. The few people who spoke before me seemed to have a hard time telling the difference between these two kinds of appropriations, a difference that is nevertheless very clear when we look at the voting process for appropriations in the House.
The Senate will cost $92.5 million, which is more than in past years. The main estimates list the previous year's spending and the forecast spending. From 2012-13 to 2013-14, Senate spending increased by about $3.8 million, or nearly $4 million. In contrast to all of the government departments and agencies that are tightening their belts at the behest of the Conservative government, the Senate has been increasing its budget year after year. The Treasury Board is asking all government departments and agencies to cut spending, but the Senate is making no effort to spend less. It is a shame that the Senate is once again taking advantage of this money to make expenditures that could be described as hard to justify. Later on, I can comment further on everything that has been going on in the Senate recently.
Before I begin, I would like to put some numbers in perspective. What does $92.5 million represent? It represents the taxes paid by 8,000 families who are footing the bill for the Senate. Another significant fact I would like to point out is that the Prime Minister promised he would not appoint any unelected senators. That was back in March 2004. How many senators have been appointed since then? More than 57. If my math is right, the total is now 60.
The Prime Minister also said that an appointed Senate is a relic of the 19th century. However, senators are still being appointed. As I said, the Prime Minister appoints senators every year. It is interesting to look at who is being appointed. A former campaign strategist, a former president of the Conservative Party, party fundraisers and failed Conservative candidates have all been appointed. There are very recent examples of this, dating back to just 2011. Conservative candidates who did not win the election were then appointed to the Senate. That is quite the gift. It seems that Conservative candidates who lose an election can get a gift from the Prime Minister and be appointed to the Senate, where they can remain until they are 75 and pocket all the money that comes with that, obviously.
Meanwhile, the third party and the government are trying to sell us nice ideas about how the Senate is a place for sober thought and reflection. I believe the Supreme Court ruling referred to a chamber of “sober second thought”.
For the last little while, members have been trying to convince us that the Senate engages in sober second thought, when most of the senators, who have been appointed by either a Liberal or a Conservative prime minister, are people who have close ties with the party and obey their prime minister. That is therefore not true. No one can convince me this evening that the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought. I think those are the words the Supreme Court used. In reality, senators are controlled by the Prime Minister's Office, whether the prime minister is Liberal or Conservative.
Here is another interesting statistic about appointed senators. To whom are they accountable? I do not think they are accountable to the public. In fact, 51 of the 57 senators appointed by the Prime Minister made donations to the Conservative Party. I would like to believe that this is just a coincidence, but I have my doubts.
This brings me to the topic of the people to whom senators are accountable once they are appointed and they arrive in the other chamber, where they can remain until they are 75. To whom are they accountable?
It is a valid question. We may ask to whom they are accountable if, for example, a senator is involved in misconduct, has acted badly or has incurred inappropriate expenses. I do not think I have to go on at length about senators' expenses. Everyone watching at home knows what I am talking about.
Senators are paid by taxpayers, and it takes 8,000 Canadian families to pay the Senate's bills. To whom are senators accountable, then? They are accountable only to the prime minister who appointed them.
That really is true. In theory, one could argue that it is not the case, that they are free to think and act as they want and that they are not accountable to the prime minister.
However, in fact, senators are accountable to the Prime Minister's Office only. We saw that during the Senate scandal. The Prime Minister's Office exercises immense control over the senators, including the leader of the Senate, who, if I am not mistaken, meets regularly with the Prime Minister. We have also seen how certain tactics that were used in the upper house were directly linked to instructions from the Prime Minister.
Do not try to convince me that the Senate is a chamber of sober second thought. Only one person controls it all: the Prime Minister and the people in his office.
Do not try to tell me I should believe the Conservatives, either, when they talk of reforming the Senate. They have been promising to reform it for more than 10 years. The hon. member for Wild Rose said that it was the opposition's fault that the matter has been dragging on for 10 years.
The only person to blame is the Prime Minister, because, in his vision of Senate reform, his only intention was to avoid talking to the provinces. The only thing in his mind was to get his reform through without having to talk to the provinces.
As a result, the only person to blame if there has been no Senate reform for 10 years is the Prime Minister. He promised reform, though. He never wanted to consult the provinces. He always wanted to do it all by himself without ever consulting, and the Supreme Court told him that things do not work that way.