Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for a very few moments to debate this particular motion. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.
I am pleased to wade in here to have this discussion. The motion that is before us is about the estimates, and it is about the Senate. The mover of the motion, our first speaker, talked about the whole question of accountability and approving a line item of $92 million to the Senate, where there is no accountability for how that money will be spent.
In reality, and let me clarify this, members on both the government side and the Liberal benches have been extraordinarily upset that we are going to cut off all the money to Senate, which will not be able to operate anymore and some of the staff may be laid off. They have been very concerned about that.
Let me assure members that what we are talking about is the discretionary part of that particular budget line, which is nearly $58 million, and the $34 million, nearly $35 million represents statutory forecasts, in other words the amount of money that has been deemed necessary to keep the lights on and the staff working, and so on.
I know that members opposite and adjacent have been very upset by the fact that we may be proposing to vote on a motion that would lay staff off. I would love to hear what working people across this country think about the faux concern that they have heard tonight from government members and Liberal members.
That is the first point, the concern that we would cut off money and that the Senate would not be able to operate.
The second concern, of course, is that if we close the doors to the Senate, then we would not be able to do anything. We would not be able to pass any legislation. We would not be able to do any business.
It used to be the case in this country that 10 provinces had a Senate or two Houses. They got rid of them, and they still operate. The provinces still do business. My province of Nova Scotia got rid of its Senate in 1928, and it is still working. It is still governing. It is still doing business. It is still passing legislation. It is still raising taxes and still spending money on behalf of the people who have elected the Senate members.
Let us be clear, I understand what the nub of the problem is here. The Liberals and the Conservatives have had this other institution over there that they have stuffed chockablock full of partisans for 150 years, who have gone across this country from coast to coast to coast on the taxpayers' dime performing partisan activities.
It is not that some of them have not done good work or that some of these committees have not done some good work from time to time, when they have been able to find time, when there are no elections or fundraising events or snowstorms in P.E.I. or something of the like happening. They have done some work.
It is not about the individuals, and that is what gets confusing sometimes. It is about a few of them. It is about the ones who seem to use the money they get, the allowances, and the credit cards they get, as if it is their own money to do with what they will, before they finally get caught. It is those ones who end up getting chased around by the authorities, the police, and others. That is a bit personal. Those are the people we are talking about.
We are saying to the government and to the Liberals that we can hold the Senate accountable. That is what this motion is all about. It is about accountability.
Why do we not, as a group, stand up, suck it up a little bit, and start playing hardball with the Senate, start demanding some accountability? The government has not been able to do it in the 10 years it has been proposing to make the Senate accountable. It has not been able to do anything. Let us agree tonight, all of us here in this chamber, to do it once and for all. We will defeat this motion so that all of a sudden, tomorrow morning, the senators will realize they will not get $57 million until they start coming up with some accountability measures that have teeth and that Canadians can trust, and most important, members in this House who are responsible for paying those bills will have some confidence that once and for all, the activities that go on in that chamber will be held accountable.
We will get to the other part. Members suggest that it is impossible to actually deal with Senate reform or abolishment, but it is not. Canadians are ready for it. Provinces are ready for it. We hear about it wherever we go in the country. People are fed up with the fact that we have a chamber where men and women have been appointed simply because of the favours they did for a particular prime minister or for the water cans they carry for a political party. That is not good enough. Canadians are demanding more. They are demanding more because the government and the former government have been asking Canadians to tighten their belts and to do with less.
I talked to a woman today in Dartmouth who is having a hard time finding housing for her and her two children because of the cuts the government has made in the availability of affordable housing across this country. We have tried, my colleagues on this side have tried to force the government to bring forward a national housing strategy, to no avail. The woman, on behalf of her children, wants to see us holding the Senate accountable for at least $57 million of the $92 million that we are supposed to approve tonight.
A number of people have been in my office in the past two months who have had to wait upwards of 40 days to get their claims paid through EI. They have asked me why it is that the Senate, which is unelected and unaccountable, can be allowed to spend $92 million without any explanation, without being held accountable.
I am here to say, and my colleagues are suggesting in their debate and in their support for this motion today, that we have the opportunity to hold this institution accountable tonight, right here, on behalf of my constituents, on behalf of Canadians across the country who are asking us to be accountable for the money that we allocate. We have the opportunity to do that today. Let us do it today. Let us vote to hold the Senate accountable and then let us move on to get rid of the Senate, because we can operate. Canadians are asking us to make sure that the decisions that are made by the Government of Canada in fact are accountable and are made by people who are duly elected.