Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
The Senate is an unelected legislative body whose members are appointed through political favours without any checks and balances and without any mandate from the Canadian people. Moreover, it has no fundamental accountability to the citizens and taxpayers of this country.
The Senate simply does not believe it is accountable to the Canadian people. It believes it is above the standards and principles of accountability that apply to the lower chamber of this Parliament, the House of Commons. The result is a culture of corruption, which has manifested itself over the years in numerous scandals, such as the latest one involving Senator Duffy.
This is not to say that the senators are somehow more predisposed to be corrupt than elected members. Not at all. The difference is that the democratically elected House of Commons has initiated numerous mechanisms to ensure its accountability to Canadian taxpayers. This includes, for example, limits on spending and travelling expenses. In contrast, the Senate has stubbornly refused to put similar standards and accountability mechanisms in place.
As a result, there is no clear code of ethics, and there are many loopholes, which some entrepreneurial senators are happy to use to advance their interests. They use the Senate's funds for dubious purposes at taxpayers' expense. Some of them even sit on the boards of corporations.
A unelected and unaccountable legislative body whose members cannot be removed from doing a bad job or abusing public trust is poised to go down a path of abuse and corruption, and sadly, this is exactly what we see happening.
This inevitably begs the question, does Canadian democracy need such an institution in the 21st century? The answer is clear: No. This archaic institution has no place in our political system anymore. It drags us down and prevents our Parliament from becoming a more transparent, accountable, and efficient democratic institution.
The time has come to roll up the red carpet. Of course, this will not be an easy thing to do. It will certainly require extensive consultations with the provinces, some of which have expressed their concerns about representation in Parliament with the abolition of the upper House.
An NDP government would engage in a constructive dialogue with the premiers to decide the future of the red chamber, and I am sure that Canada will be better off without that archaic institution. The experience of New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries clearly demonstrates that unicameralism is a viable choice for a modern democracy. I am confident that this is the right choice for Canadians as well.
Once again, the House is being called upon to intervene on an important issue and express the views of the people it represents. The people have expressed their opposition many times to the lack of accountability in the Senate, an institution which, we must remember, because of its composition, does not necessarily act in the interest of the citizens and taxpayers of our country, and whose members are named through political favours or merely through a partisan selection, without any checks and balances or any mandate from the Canadian people.
The issue before us today and on which we must vote this evening is very important. Will we listen to the vast majority of Canadians or, on the contrary, will we decide to close our eyes, ignore what real democracy is and sidestep the corruption scandals in this institution that inflame public opinion?
In fact, in the wake of the scandals in the Senate, and further to the successive revelations that have thrown light on the flawed practices of senators, there are many questions that remain unanswered. On the other hand, it is becoming more and more evident that this institution as it stands today is not a true representation of a democratic system. Its conduct is not above reproach, and it does not seem to be able to spend public money responsibly.
It is time to put an end to all these lapses of accountability, the flagrant lack of transparency and the contempt for the most elementary rules of democracy. It is time to take bold measures, measures that will stand as examples and will put an end to all attempts against the public interest.
Unlike senators, members of Parliament have a direct relationship with their constituents and are in regular contact with local residents. That proximity enables them to stay informed about public opinion and about what the public wants. On that point, there is a very broad consensus as to the need for thorough reform of that institution, which is unfortunately resistant to change.
Elections are the legitimate foundation of democracy. They provide a way to hold governments accountable to the people. They make it possible to build a strong and representative democratic system. Citizens are free to choose their political representatives. Candidates are selected on the basis of their political affiliation and their election platform, as well as their social involvement, their productivity and their performance throughout their political career.
Those candidates will be penalized at some point, or instead rewarded with renewed voter confidence when an election is held. That is the electoral model that Canadians want and demand, a model that embodies the principles and the core of democracy: a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Unfortunately, the Senate cannot say that it adheres to these basic principles. Canadians have simply had enough of hearing about senators who use taxpayers’ money as if it were their own. They have had enough of an entitled and utterly corrupt Senate.
Canadians across the country believe it is unacceptable that a body as powerful as the Senate does not have a system with the capacity of strengthening democratic control and ensuring proper management of its own operations through oversight and checks and balances. The present model has clearly failed. What purpose is there, then, to keeping a dead body on life support?
The NDP's position is based on very clear principles. There is nothing that justifies the existence of an unelected, unaccountable Senate that enacts legislation for Canada, particularly when its members are incapable of obeying their own rules. It is time to abolish the Senate once and for all.
I often knock on doors in my constituency, and this was a subject that came up again this weekend. It really is unbelievable because when I go door to door, I introduce myself by saying that I am their member of Parliament, I am happy to be there because I want to know their opinions, I am going back to Ottawa the following week, and I would like to know what issues they would like me to talk about in the House. I ask them whether they want me to consider an issue, to put it before the House, to ask a question and to introduce a bill, on any subject. I ask them what they want me to talk about in the House the next week.
These days, we talk regularly about Canada Post. In Dorval, it is the Dorval golf club operations. We talk about the Canadian economy, and we talk quite regularly about the Senate. When I see that the people I ask to tell me what issue is most important go so far as to name the way we use Canada’s upper chamber, it means that Canadians are very concerned about the situation.
In a constituency like mine, there are local issues and there are immigration problems. People come to see me to talk about very individual situations. Overall, however, what we talk about is the Senate. We hear people talk about the abuses committed by senators and the trips taken and paid for out of their office expenses to engage in partisan activities.
When I am asked what the Senate does, I have to explain that basically, the Senate was in fact created as a repository of a certain constitutional memory and to put people in place who had very diverse experience. What is it now, though?
Now, the Senate is a gang of buddies put in place by a Liberal leader or a Conservative leader to represent partisan interests and go out and collect money, and it drags out the process of enacting legislation in Canada, because we have to go through the same process all over again in a second chamber.
Unfortunately, the people who make up the Senate at present are no longer the people who were supposed to have an institutional memory, and that is very disappointing. It disappoints me tremendously, it disappoints the NDP and it disappoints Canadians.
The question we are asking ourselves tonight is whether we should keep funding the upper chamber. I think the answer is no. Canadians think the answer is no. I hope that all members will vote not to send money to the Senate.