Mr. Speaker, this debate tonight is not about a few bad apples in a barrel; it is about the fact that the entire barrel is a pork barrel. The entire barrel is rotten, and it needs to be fixed.
The people of Canada have lost confidence in the Senate, which is neither democratic nor accountable. The people of Canada are looking to this House to show leadership.
This motion seeks to force reform and to get the barrel fixed, which is much more important than just going after a few bad apples. Of course, they are not all bad apples. There is no question that there are some senators who are outstanding citizens and who have contributed a great deal to our country in their careers. There is also no question that there are many individual senators who work hard in the red chamber and who seek to serve the country well. They have done nothing wrong.
However, even if all the senators were in that league and none of their colleagues were a Conservative or a Liberal crony, helping themselves to public funds while doing the bidding of their patrons is unacceptable. Even if they are all working hard, we should still fight to stop funding the Senate and force reform.
This motion is not about those cronies who are abusing their appointed positions. It is about the institution that has become degraded and corrupted by its political masters. The prime ministers, whether they were Liberal or Conservative, have loaded it up with cronies for their own ends. Through patronage appointments and supporting the Senate, they have undermined democracy. The only way we can stop this degradation and abuse of public funds and trust is to cut off the funds.
As hon. members on the Conservative benches and the Liberal benches have pointed out, abolishing the Senate will require constitutional change. However, cleaning up the act in the meantime can be done. That is what this motion is about.
Cutting the funding is something we can do in this House to stop the abuse and force reform. We, the democratically elected members of this House, have an opportunity to force the issue by stopping funding. We have an opportunity to force the issue so that this House can debate, and the country can contemplate, democratic institutions.
We have an opportunity. More than that, all those here who believe in democracy have a responsibility to uphold democratic principles and principles of good governance. This is about democracy. This is about transparency. This is about accountability. This is about good governance.
All members of this House must agree that the Senate is not democratic. It has not been transparent. It is clearly not accountable. That is not the fault of individual senators. The problem is the institution itself, which has become nothing but a creature of the government in power.
The current Prime Minister spent his earlier career in politics railing against this institution of patronage. He spent his career crying out for reform and for a triple E Senate: equal, effective, elected. Remember that, Mr. Speaker? He campaigned on that when leading the Reform Party.
Now is the chance. Where is the Prime Minister on this? The current Prime Minister cried out when former prime ministers Mulroney and Chrétien and Martin loaded the Senate with patronage appointments. He cried out for reform. He cried out and campaigned for reform for years, until he finally got in the position to do something about it. What did he do? He started larding the pork barrel with patronage appointments, blatantly and cynically, so that he could overwhelm the Liberal majority in the Senate.
As a result, excellent legislation for sending affordable drugs to African kids was killed. A bill dealing with climate change was waived out of hand.
While he was larding it up, he claimed, in the most cynical way, that he was making appointments to facilitate Senate reform; this while he was bloating the institution with more senators than ever, all getting public funds, which was a clear abuse of public funds.
Rather than reforming the senate, he has undermined democracy. He did not appoint just cronies and media personalities and celebrities. He appointed failed Conservative candidates, failed candidates for this House. He appointed candidates for Parliament who had been defeated in their own ridings. They had been rejected by voters. They could not get elected. The current Prime Minister, the long-time spokesperson for democratic reform, whose former party was called Reform, made these cynical and undemocratic patronage appointments.
In one of those cynical, undemocratic—in fact, anti-democratic—appointments, he appointed a defeated candidate to cabinet. It was someone who had been rejected by the electorate, someone who could not get elected. That undemocratically appointed senator became a cabinet minister. That was not democratic. That was a slap in the face of democracy. In fact, it was a slap in the face of this House.
With that appointment, the Prime Minister was not just further degrading the Senate; he was further degrading this House of Commons and he was further degrading democracy.
Who has been served by these patronage appointments? It is clearly not the people of Canada, who have no say in the matter. The Conservative Party has been served and the Prime Minister has been served.
The two senators now under scrutiny for abuse of public funds and public trust worked very hard to get their appointments, not for the people of Canada but for the Conservative Party.
What we have here is an institution that is an extension of the Conservative and Liberal parties' election machines. That cannot be fair. That cannot be just.
Why was the $92 million spent on the Senate not shown in the election spending reports? We know for sure that they were fundraising. They were campaigning.
I have no doubt that if the Prime Minister were still in opposition and the bad apples of the day were all Liberals, he would be crying out for reform. He would have been leading the charge with this motion. He would have been looking to stop this waste.
Instead, the Prime Minister has been making the pork barrel even worse. He has even put more pork into the barrel. He has not been accountable. He abandoned his principled pursuit of a Triple-E Senate as soon as he had the chance to mould that Senate to his own ends.
He has forgotten that we were elected to serve the public trust, not to abuse it. He has undermined democracy. It is the responsibility of every democratically elected member of Parliament to stop the abuse, force reform, fix the barrel and stop feeding pork into it. Empty it, get rid of the rot, and vote for this NDP motion to stop funding the Senate.