Mr. Speaker, I am here today to follow up on a question I raised back in January on the subject of Senate appointments.
I understand that the hon. member for Mississauga Centre, my good friend, will be responding tonight. When I ask my questions, I will have to place them in the form of going back to the government, since he obviously is not formally assigned this portfolio.
In the question I raised in January, I pointed out that the government is inaccurate when it says that it is necessary to make appointments to the Senate as opposed to having Senate elections.
The argument that is presented by the government regularly is that the Supreme Court has ruled that Senate elections are not permissible, abolishing the Senate is not permissible, etc., without one of these very difficult-to-obtain 7/50 amendments to the Constitution, to which seven provinces must agree as well as the federal Parliament.
That is actually not true with regard to Senate elections. It is impermissible, according to the Supreme Court—and we have to take its decision on this—to sponsor federal elections of senators—that is, to actually hold federal elections from which nominees would then be presented to the Prime Minister for appointment to the Senate. However, it is permissible to have elections on the model that have produced a number of elected senators, some of whom still sit in the Senate—Betty Unger, for example, and Scott Tannas. They are there after having been elected by Alberta voters under a provincial statute, the Alberta Senatorial Selection Act.
That was one of the points I was trying to make, and I do hope that through the parliamentary secretary the message will get back to the government that Senate elections are still permissible. Indeed, there is an elected senator-in-waiting in Alberta who ought to be appointed when the next Alberta vacancy arises in another two years.
The other thing I wanted to address is what I want to actually pose the question about.
There has been inadequate transparency with regard to the appointments process. There is a board that has now been appointed. The board makes recommendations. The recommendations are presented to the Prime Minister. The rule that has been set up by the Prime Minister is that he gets five nominees for each vacancy. He then selects from among those five—or he can choose someone else who is not on that list. If that is the case, the board cannot report back to us about that.
That is a source of enormous frustration, and I would like to see it changed. I want to encourage my colleague to go back to the government and urge it to be more open in that regard.
There is a further problem with regard to the procedure and House affairs committee on which I sit.
We have been attempting to get members of the board before our committee so that we can ask them questions about the first round of Senate appointments and about what they plan to do with regard to future Senate appointments. There is some lack of clarity as to how they are acting and what the rules under which they are going to operate will be, now that the first phase of appointments is over.
I have been blocked at every turn in attempts to bring them forward. The Liberal members continually vote down any attempt to bring the board members forward, and this effectively means that in place of transparency we have opacity.
Will the parliamentary secretary commit to going back to the government and encouraging it to allow these members of the board to come before the procedure and House affairs committee to answer questions about their mandate?