Mr. Speaker, I am particularly proud to be a member of the New Democratic Party. I am particularly proud to stand on the shoulders of giants like J.S. Woodsworth and Stanley Knowles. I am also particularly proud to see my colleague from Winnipeg Centre carry on the tradition of questioning the institution we call the Senate.
This evening we have talked about our Constitution and about the institution we know as the Senate. We have also discussed Senate reform; these discussions are nothing new. We also talked about the Constitution, a topic that does not come up often for fear of having to open up the Constitution or talk about it.
This evening we are talking about allocating $57 million to the Senate. I must admit that I am opposed to sending this amount of money to the Senate because we have hit a bit of a dead end in our talks about Senate reform. One option we still have in the House of Commons is deciding how to allocate money to the various departments. In this case, I think that in recent years the Senate has proven that it does not take its duties seriously when it comes to spending and the way it spends money.
Once again, I have to say that not necessarily all senators are at fault. However, over the past years and decades, the Senate has lost its purpose. I think that is the fault of a series of prime ministers who made partisan Senate appointments.
I have to say that when I came to the Parliament of Canada, I was pretty innocent. I had absolutely no idea that senators attended MPs' caucus meetings. I found that totally outrageous. Why did senators, who were supposed to be objective, attend MPs' caucus meetings every week? That suggested some almost insidious connections within the old parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives. Because of those connections, people from the upper chamber, who were supposed to be non-partisan, attended Liberal and Conservative caucus meetings. That has been going on for decades.
It is very clear that senators appointed in recent years were put to use by the Conservative Party. Those appointments were made solely to help the Conservative Party line its coffers. Senators were sent from riding to riding to raise funds for Conservative MPs. That is outrageous. I could not believe it. They also carried on the Liberal tradition of raising funds and participating in election campaigns with impunity.
It is truly extraordinary and surprising that the NDP, without the help of any senators who specialize in fundraising and travel all over Canada, became the official opposition in 2011. That is to our credit. We succeeded in forming the official opposition in the Parliament of Canada because we worked hard and met with Canadians.
This evening we are doing what we have been doing for quite some time. As the official opposition, we are in proposal mode. On October 22, 2013, my colleague from Toronto—Danforth moved a motion. It is interesting, because our Liberal colleagues like to brag about being the first party to present a plan for thoughtful Senate reform. However, they voted against our motion, which stated:
That, in the opinion of this House, urgent steps must be taken to improve accountability in the Senate, and, therefore, this House call for the introduction of immediate measures to end Senators' partisan activities, including participation in Caucus meetings, and to limit Senators' travel allowances to those activities clearly and directly related to parliamentary business.
That is a motion that we moved in 2013. The Liberals, who are supposedly newly converted to Senate reform, voted against that measure to make the current senators less partisan.
We are carrying on the tradition of proposing changes to the Senate. One of the first things to do is to oppose the $57 million included in the main estimates. We are simply saying no. That is one of the first things we can do right now.
As Campbell Clark of The Globe and Mail said this morning, this is the first step toward reform. This is something the members of the House can control. They can say no to this transfer of funds to the Senate.
What is more, the idea was already out there. The Conservative MPs are in favour of reforming the Senate, and the Prime Minister has been talking about Senate reform since the 1980s, but they voted against our motion, which simply said that we must adopt urgent measures to end partisanship in the Senate. That is a very important first step. The motion also said that senators should not attend caucus meetings, among other things.
I must also point out how unfair these measures are. We made a careful choice based on principle. We do not want any senators. There are no NDP senators, and I am very proud of that. In fact, the two old parties have always campaigned by using their senators to raise money. All their old campaign organizers are in the Senate, in any case. This must stop and we must cut off this $57 million. It is a good step toward real reform of the Senate.