Mr. Speaker, the issue here is regarding the votes in funding the institutions that we have in this country, such as the Senate in this particular case, and denying the funds. I questioned the member earlier about the money surrounding the support staff because that is a pertinent question. The vote we are having denies the funding of that institution. That includes not just the senators, but the support staff as well. I am not sure the member understood the gist of my question.
What was said about the behaviour of many of the senators, in many cases, yes, nefarious in many of these instances and I agree with his outrage in many cases. Is the Senate in a situation right now where it is becoming more accountable? Yes, it is, but we all are as parliamentarians.
The complaint was that some senators were out campaigning on public funds. Imagine that. That is a violation of the money that we are receiving here from taxpayers to do our jobs. We cannot take this money and go out and campaign. My hon. colleague who just spoke was in Labrador during the byelection. Perhaps he could explain to us how that was paid for. And several other members from the NDP were there. Were the flights and meals covered by the party itself? Just asking.
I would also like to talk about the Senate and the Supreme Court decision, but one of the things that disturbs me beyond the question that is being asked about the funding of the Senate itself is regarding the fundamental concept of the sober second thought, the original concept of the Senate way back when. I know my colleague from the NDP talked about it. It was originally set up to protect the rich. If we go to the Debates, yes, a lot of these upper-middle-class people comprised the Senate, but really it was about sober second thought and the binding of regions in a very large country. The regions being Ontario, Quebec, and the three Maritime provinces.
When we started with the Constitution there had been several amendments to the Constitution pertaining to many aspects of Parliament. How do we change the Constitution in the future? My Conservative friend from Ontario earlier talked about a concept of what is contained within the Constitution Act, 1982, sections 38 to 44, which talks about how we can change the Constitution pertaining to the Senate. Do we have an elected Senate or do we have an abolished Senate? I use those two examples for very good reason.
The Conservatives want to have an elected Senate. I am sorry if I am paraphrasing too much. The NDP members want to abolish the Senate, which I do not think I am paraphrasing, I think that is about it. Fundamentally what the Supreme Court said was in order to do this, according to the Constitution and the federation that we are in, we need permission of the legislatures of each of the provinces in this country, along with Parliament's okay.
Earlier I talked about the NDP members getting rid of the Senate and that was not true. I was mistaken. They go way back. They talked about it from the very beginning even when they were the CCF. What I take issue with is that the concept of bringing the provinces into this conversation about getting rid of the Senate never took place. Where is the work to be done in order to abolish the Senate? I joked that for many members of the NDP it became a Twitter campaign, “let's abolish the Senate #disingenuous”, but the problem is the work was not done.
I do not know of any conversation that the federal party has had with provinces to decide how to deal with the Senate, not just abolishing it but electing it, appointing it, nine-year terms, 13-year terms, all the concepts that were upheld by the Supreme Court in its recent decision. People were shocked and said they could not believe the Supreme Court would say that all provinces were needed to abolish the Senate. I am not a constitutional lawyer and I am not surprised that is what it said. Nobody was. Yet it became a campaign in doing something that is just not possible to do.
Let us put aside the element of sober second thought and whether this is fundamental to our country. Provinces got rid of their senates, other countries get rid of their upper chambers, that is true, but in order to have that conversation in this country, it seems to me that the two parties never opened that conversation, never opened the idea of conversing about getting rid of the Senate or electing the Senate.
Every now and then there would be a musing from a province about what it wanted to do. The premier of Saskatchewan wanted to abolish the Senate. Why did he say that? I do not know. Certainly the NDP never asked. He just came out with it and volunteered the information. Other provinces had the same reservations. Other provinces wanted an elected Senate, but nobody was really engaged in that conversation whatsoever.
Let me return to what the Supreme Court said. For fundamental changes in the Constitution, how we change the Constitution, one says that we need seven out of 10 provinces that represent over 50% of the population. Ergo, we come into the idea of an elected Senate, or a consulted one, like how the Prime Minister consults with the public. What the Prime Minister wanted to happen was to allow the provinces to run these elections. I did not see any first ministers conference by the current Prime Minister, stating, “Oh, by the way, this is what we want you to do”. Therefore, it was more of a conversation of, “We think this is a good idea, now come on you people, get on with it”.
When the Prime Minister talks about starting a conversation with the provinces, he does not start conversations with provinces. He starts arguments with provinces. In this case, with the NDP, it is an ignored argument. It is an ignored conversation. It is one thing if they were able to do it, if they were able to unilaterally make the changes of getting rid of the Senate and not bother talking to the provinces. That is one thing. Someone could call that being very brazen, to say the least, very arrogant, but they cannot even do that.
For years, was it not incumbent upon a federal party such as the NDP to even ask how it could do it? We always use the expression the ends justify the means. This end was not going to happen because the means would not justify it to happen. It is almost like the Constitution did not exist. It was like an imaginary piece of paper that hung on the wall like some kind of glorified magna carta that people looked at as some kind of map and said, “This is what we used to be”. The Constitution is not what we used to be, the Constitution is what we are. It is a living, breathing document that we use to govern our country.
Ergo, in 1982, we received the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for that very reason. It was not just an add-on to say this is a nice thing to say, it was an add-on because the courts could use it, and we as legislators must adhere to it, which was illustrated by a few of their decisions recently, certainly in the past two years. That is why I say #disingenuous.
Certainly somebody in the party had to say at some point, “We can't do this”. Therefore, what do we do? Now we are going to say, “Let's make sure the Senate does not get money in order to operate”. What the hell is that going to do? Seriously. It gets to the point where it is like if we lose the game, we take our ball and go home, except we do not even go home, we just side on the sidelines and pout with ball in hand. “Fine. We are not going to give you the ball. We're going to sit here, but we're not going to give you the ball”.
Sometimes debate in this House elevates itself to a level where it becomes informative. Then there is the debate that degrades itself into becoming absolutely ridiculous. It is the theatre of the absurd. If we want to make a statement, the statement was already said by them. Again, I acknowledge the fact that it is not a recent thing for the NDP/CCF. It goes way back. However, the question was always “what” as opposed to “how”.
They knock our party for not having ideas on certain issues. This is the longest non-idea issue they have ever had. It absolutely is bereft of any road map, of any GPS, of anything. We are going to do this just because. I am going to take a long walk on a short wharf just because. I am not going to tell people how I am going to do it. It is just going to happen. It becomes this argument they put up every now and then based on the lowest common denominator.
They brought out the names of the people who cheated the Senate in the worst kind of way, and I agree with them that it was the worst kind of way. What happened was a dereliction of duty, to put it mildly, but it was also something that was an absolute disgrace for the Canadian taxpayer.
Recently there have been actions by all parties. Some people get in trouble and get ejected from caucus. That happens. It has happened recently to them. Would I disband the NDP? No. However, for some reason, they can take the lowest common denominator and extrapolate it to a solution, which is to just get rid of them.
They say it has no democratic value whatsoever, but actually, their idea of abolishing the Senate flies in the face of democratic values. If we abolish the Senate, a vote has to take place, not just in this legislature but also in 10 legislatures across this country. Each legislature of course has a mandate from the people. If the elected people of, say, the greatest province, Newfoundland and Labrador, bias accepted—