Mr. Speaker, as I said at the outset of my speech, I want to take a moment to highlight some of the work. This is a budgetary issue as well, and we would not be able to debate the ability of the Government of Canada to fund issues if we did not have a good President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Finance. They put the Government of Canada on the path toward long-term balanced budgets and economic stability. I would be remiss if I did not talk about that.
Specifically, we are talking about the motion brought forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre with respect to the Senate of Canada. A lot of focus has been put on the Senate of Canada over the last number of years, and it goes without saying that the Senate is a constitutionally mandated part of our parliamentary democracy. Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that both chambers have the resources they need to constitutionally fulfill their mandates. This motion would provide the other chamber with the resources it needs to continue on in some of the very important work that the Senate does.
We have been talking a lot about the Senate and Senate reform. It is obviously very important for us to talk a bit about what we have seen in the other chamber over the last while. A couple of years ago, a potential abuse of taxpayers' dollars was identified. That is something that we on this side of the House find absolutely appalling. Members will recall that when this first came out, I was often in the House answering questions regarding what we were seeing about Senate expenses. On this side of the House, we were focused on ensuring that the individuals who were highlighted were being held accountable for their actions. That is something that has been the focus of our government since we took office in 2006.
We were all somewhat surprised about the rules regarding how the individual senators handled their expenditures. The rules there were dramatically different from the rules that we follow in this chamber, and a number of us were surprised by that. There was an opportunity for the Senate to come to an understanding that the systems it had in place were not acceptable to Canadians. They were certainly not acceptable to members of Parliament, who have the opportunity to vote on expenditures like we are doing tonight. We all expected better and something different from them.
That is why the Senate made some very important changes to the structure of its finances. They are changes that we have supported. At the same time, it was the Senate that then invited the Auditor General to review all of the senators' expenses. That was a very important move. As I just said, we had very different circumstances in the House of Commons for handling our expenses. A lot of us could not rationalize how expenses were done here in comparison to how they were done there. It was important not only for members of the House of Commons who have the opportunity to approve their budgets, but, more importantly, for Canadians to understand what was happening and how, and to ensure that this had never happened before.
We heard from Canadians that they wanted the maximum light shone on how the Senate was undertaking the payment of expenses.
I want to be clear on this next point, because I have heard about it from some individuals. This was not and is not an issue with respect to the public service workers who handle expense claims. I want to be very clear on that. Those who are in the public service work very hard and do a professional job. Their job was to undertake the repayment of senators' expenses based on the rules that the Senate had brought in place. These are rules that had been in place for many years, through previous Liberal administrations. They were tightened up, but not to the satisfaction, at least of members on this side of the House, or, more importantly, to the satisfaction of Canadians. We see that change has happened.
Also, we have an Auditor General's report which was recently completed. That will be tabled in the Senate tomorrow. Obviously, we anxiously await the results of the audit.
I think it is relevant to the discussion here today that we have heard from a lot of Canadians with respect to possible changes to the Senate, how we could reform the Senate to better reflect our current democracy.
We have brought forward a number of recommendations to change the Senate, to make it an elected Senate, to make it accountable, and to place term limits on senators. We brought those changes forward. We sent it through to the Supreme Court of Canada, because we want to ensure that we could do what we were proposing. The Supreme Court of Canada has come back to us and said that the only way we could change this institution, the only way we could change the Senate was if we received the unanimous consent of all the provinces and territories.
What we have now is that the Council of the Federation, which comprises the provinces and the territories, have it within their mandate to look at the reforms that we have put forward and to come back to us suggesting whether these are reforms the provinces would like to undertake with us so that we could modernize the Senate. Failing that, we do not in the short term believe that Canadians have an appetite to enter into long, protracted constitutional negotiations with respect to reforming the Senate. We believe that Canadians want us to continue to focus on jobs and economic growth.
We know that the NDP have put forward a proposal with respect to the abolition of the Senate. While that might be a good sounding point, of course it would require a constitutional amendment, which again, as I said, would require the approval of all of the provinces. As we know, that just is not there right now.
Many of the provinces have suggested that they would want to enter into constitutional negotiations to address other issues that they have with respect to the Canadian Constitution, which would plunge Canada back into something that we saw back with the Charlottetown and Meech Lake accords. While there is global economic fragility, that is not something this government wants to entertain.
We have reform proposals. We have them on the table, the proposals that would have it elected, that would have term limits. Now it is up the Council of the Federation to come forward and address those proposals that we have on the table.
We also know that the Liberals have made some proposals with respect to changing the Senate. Their proposals would see an unelected, unaccountable Senate be appointed by an unelected, unaccountable body, which is completely not something that Canadians want.
We also know that the Liberals have come forward and said that the Senate Liberals, even though they call themselves Liberals, are not members of the Liberal Party. Well, I think they do a disservice to themselves and I think they do a disservice to Canadians when they suggest that just by changing the name from Liberals to Senate Liberals they no longer belong to the Liberal Party, when they campaign for the Liberals, when they fundraise for the Liberals, when they attend Liberal conventions, and when they call themselves Liberals. I think they are trying to fool Canadians into thinking that they are not Liberals. They are Liberals. I think that does a disservice to Canadians.
This is not what Canadians want. Canadians want these people to be accountable for the decisions that they make. That is something that we on this side of the House have been fighting for right from the very beginning.
There can absolutely be no doubt that the deliberate misuse of taxpayers' dollars is not something that any Canadian will stand for. As I have said on a number of occasions in this House, I look back to my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham, and people in my community and in communities across this country work very hard.
In my riding people are up early in the morning. They hop on the GO train and go to work. Farmers are up at the crack of dawn working their fields. They work hard for the amount of money they get to invest in their families and for that, they send money to governments, federal, provincial and municipal, and they expect that those dollars will be treated fairly and with respect. When that does not happen, when there is a deliberate attempt to misuse those dollars, Canadians have every right to be angry and they have every right to expect that their elected officials at every level will do better.
That is what we are insisting on and continue to insist on with the Senate. However, make no mistake. Senators are an important part of our system right now. We have a bicameral system. It is in the Constitution. We have a responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure that senators continue to do the work they have before them.
I will come back to how taxpayers view expenditures. As I said, Canadians work very hard. They want to be able to provide for their families. They want to be able to save some money for their futures, for their children's futures, to invest in their businesses. They expect a very high standard from us. We have put in place on this side of the House and of course now on the Senate very strict rules on how taxpayers' dollars should be used. When that trust is broken with Canadians, the very least Canadians can expect is that the funds be returned and in the instances when taxpayers' dollars are misused deliberately, that the people who do it are held accountable.
That is what we are seeing right now in the Senate. There will be a report presented tomorrow. If the reports are to be believed, some senators will be investigated by the RCMP and other senators will be asked to repay money. Here is where we have a bit of a dilemma. It is when elected officials think that they are above the law or that somehow what Canadians expect of other politicians is not what is expected of them.
When I look at the NDP right now, I find it very difficult to understand how we can be debating this motion tonight and not talk about the fact that it is the NDP that owes millions of dollars to the Canadian taxpayer. That is very important. If reports are to be believed, the Auditor General has come forward with some $900,000 worth of payments, which need, in one way or another, to be accounted for and paid back to the taxpayer of Canada. We know that right now the NDP owes $2.7 million to the very same taxpayers. Where did the $2.7 million come from? They came from resources that are provided by taxpayers, that come—