Mr. Pat Martin
Mr. Speaker, on your request, I would be happy to withdraw it and replace the word with one big fat “insult” to the Canadian people, if that is more palatable to those present.
That whole group, the whole Conservative war room, could continue its purely partisan activities with $140,000-a-year salary, staff and office space, and incredible travel privileges. It is wrong and unfair on so many levels that I do not even know where to begin.
Also, the Conservatives are by no means alone in this. The Liberals have been equally guilty over the years of stacking the Senate with their political operatives, so that the partisan activities of the party are passed on to the taxpayer. It is an abomination and an affront to democracy.
Earlier I referred to the early years of our democracy when the Senate would veto much of the legislation passed by the House of Commons. I spoke about how the Senate arbitrarily vetoed J.S. Woodsworth's Old Age Pensions Act of 1926. We spoke of the Senate vetoing funding for the new unemployment insurance act in the 1960s. One would think such a thing could never happen today, but one would be wrong.
I refer members to Bill C-311 in the last Parliament, Jack Layton's climate change accountability act. For five years, over two minority Parliaments, Jack Layton massaged and encouraged his climate change bill through the lower chamber, only to have it unilaterally and arbitrarily struck down in the Senate without a single hour of debate and without a single witness being heard. Now Canada, at the G7 discussion on climate change, hangs its head in shame, because it has nothing to bring to the table. No legislation has ever been brought forward on the subject of this existential threat to the world. It is no wonder Jack Layton called the Senate “outdated and obsolete...a 19th-century institution that has no place in a modern democracy in the 21st century.”
I refer also to the member for Wellington—Halton Hills and the very modest parliamentary reform act that he encouraged members of Parliament to adopt. I believe the vote was 270 to 17 in favour in the House of Commons and, sure enough, it has gone to the Senate to die, I believe. I put it to everyone that we will not see that bill succeed in the 42nd Parliament.
The third bill was already mentioned by my colleague from Windsor, which I believe you put forward, Mr. Speaker, on sports betting. It has languished for three years in the Senate, probably never to be seen again. The last bill was introduced by my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, a bill on transgendered rights, an important bill that was nurtured through the House of Commons, a very real social issue, again dying an unnatural death in the Senate.
After years of failed attempts and a frustrating Supreme Court ruling, Senate reform is now sitting squarely on the too-hard-to-do pile. The Prime Minister would have us believe that there is no appetite among the provinces for what he calls another round of constitutional wrangling, but how would he know? He has never called a first ministers meeting. He has never asked them. It has been 23 years since we had a go at amending the Constitution. Does he think that is too frequent to consider the well-being of our federation?
The Constitution is supposed to be a dynamic document, a living, breathing thing, not static and rigid. I think the Prime Minister is wrong. I believe there is a real and growing appetite for reopening the Constitution to discuss any number of things, from interprovincial trade to revenue sharing, to the Canada pension plan, to yes, even the future of the Senate of Canada.
I took part in the constituent assemblies leading up to the Charlottetown accord led by Joe Clark. I was one of the ordinary Canadians who wrote a letter to The Globe and Mail and 160 of us were chosen to learn more about the Constitution of Canada and embrace some of the issues that the federation was facing. I can inform members that it is a healthy exercise to take the pulse of the federation from time to time and try to address the legitimate concerns and grievances that inevitably grow in a federal system of government. It is healthy to come together to reaffirm the resolve that it takes to keep our loosely knit federation intact.
It was a worthwhile and important effort that almost had me convinced that the Senate could be fixed. I no longer believe that. I now share the view of the premier of Saskatchewan that it is irredeemable and should be abolished.
Let me close by quoting, once again, Mr. Greg Thomas, of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, in his recent article in the Toronto Star:
The Senate is a disgrace to Canada. The Senate doesn’t make our nation better; it makes it worse. And unelected assembly of landowners has no legitimate right to rule over the rest of us, no matter what the Constitution says. The Senate is a constitutional institution, to be sure. But then, so was...the slave trade, in Britain, in the 19th century.
Democracy in Canada could be enhanced by abolishing the Senate.
I say to my colleagues, through you, Mr. Speaker, by voting nay on vote 1 of the main estimates tonight, members of the House of Commons will put this issue on the national agenda. I urge members present to vote tonight, reflect upon what is best for democracy, reflect upon what their constituents would want them to do and vote accordingly. I suggest that leaves them with no choice but to vote no on vote 1 of the main estimates 2015-16.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: MAIN ESTIMATES 2015-16