June 27, 1955

CCF
PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

It should have been done long igo. I would point out also that the amendment refers to consultations and inquiries. I believe it would be wise to have a consultation on this problem with the various provinces before a solution is reached. Certainly some action of that kind will be required.

This resolution cites various subjects into which inquiry should be made. For example, mention was made in the original motion of

Proposed Senate Reform the tenure of office and the method of choosing appointees. These two subjects are not, of course, exclusive. There are several other principles having to do with Senate reform which should be included for consideration.

Furthermore, the resolution points out very clearly the objective of these consultations and inquiries, namely so the Senate may discharge its constitutional functions. 1 believe there is agreement in this chamber on the main functions of the Senate, namely that it should be a reviewing body, able to carry on in much the same way as a high court; to review legislation in a judicial frame of mind; and secondly, to protect minorities. It is perfectly obvious that was one of the main reasons for having a senate in Canada. It was felt that protection should be given to the maritimes when they came into confederation, and also to the province of Quebec. This was one of the original purposes of the fathers of confederation in providing for a senate. So much for the resolution, Mr. Speaker.

I go on to state that I believe there is need for action quickly if the Senate is to be preserved at all. If this question is allowed to drift indefinitely as it has in recent years, and if public opinion against the Senate increases steadily-certainly that is the case in British Columbia, and I have no doubt it is true in most of the other provinces-then surely something should be done about it. The Senate has never been lowpr in public esteem than it is at the present time.

The very mention of the Senate from a public platform brings smiles. We had that identical reaction here today when the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe indicated that he proposed to speak about Senate reform. When he said that, members in all parts of the chamber laughed, and I am afraid that merely reflected the thinking of Canadians from coast to coast. Let us not fool ourselves; the Senate no longer commands serious attention in the country. The fact is that it has been allowed to fall into decay.

That brings us to the question of where we should place the blame for the present low position of the Senate. I do not believe I can be contradicted successfully when I say that the blame for that condition rests squarely on two Liberal prime ministers of Canada, the first of whom was Right Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King, and the second the present Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent). Appointments to the Senate are in their discretion. They and they alone are responsible for the appointments made since 1921, with the exception of that period between 1930 and 1935, at which time Right Hon. Mr. Bennett was prime minister of Canada.

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Proposed Senate Reform

What was the attitude of Mr. King toward the Senate? I believe it can be accurately described as more or less hypocritical. When he first became prime minister he was faced with a hostile Senate. The hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe has read from newspaper reports and from statements by Mr. King which indicate that he was annoyed about the fact that certain of his legislation was overruled by the Senate in which, at that time, the Liberal party did not have a majority. Mr. King used Senate reform as a plank with which to win elections both, I presume, in 1925 and again in 1926.

The hon. member has read statements which verify what we all know to be the truth, that in making appointments to the Senate Mr. King extracted a pledge from the appointees that they would do what he wished them to do with regard to reform of the Senate. The trouble, of course, was that once he got a majority in the Senate he no longer wanted to reform it. Therefore his pledgees or appointees, or whatever you wish to call them, were not called upon to put through any Liberal policy of Senate reform, because there was no such policy.

I thought the answer by Mr. King to questions asked by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) in 1948 was very significant. That answer is found at page 853 of Hansard for that year. Mr. King did not choose to answer those questions in writing. He made a verbal reply and said in part:

His question relates to so-called pledges or undertakings given by certain members of the Liberal party at the time of their appointment to the Senate that they would, if the question of Senate reform came up, support in the Senate such legislation in that particular as the government of the day might wish to have enacted.

Then he went on to explain the reason he had obtained these pledges, and said:

It was that kind of thing which was in my mind when I spoke with different gentlemen before they were formally appointed to the Senate and received their assurance that, in situations of the kind, they would support legislation for Senate reform that might come to the Senate from this house.

Then he went on:

There was nothing in the nature of a written pledge. There was no pledge made to the government, as a government. It was an undertaking that was given to myself, as the one who was responsible for nominating members to the Senate. How many there were from whom I received that assurance. I cannot say at the present time. Nor am I in a position to say just when I ceased to raise that question. It did not become as important later on, when we had a majority in the Senate, and were in a position to see that permanent legislation originating in this house was not defeated because of action on the part of a hostile opposition in the upper chamber.

So I repeat that I believe the attitude of the late Mr. King, with regard to Senate

reform, was really only one of hypocrisy. Like the present Prime Minister, Mr. King kept quite a few vacancies all the time. I always believed he used them as a disciplinary measure. If there were eight vacancies in the Senate, there were at least ten Liberal aspirants for each of them. And while those vacancies remained not one of those ten would even draw a deep breath if he thought that would displease Mr. King. And it was a very-

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LIB

John Whitney Pickersgill (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Pickersgill:

Is that what happened in the first half of the thirties? Ask the hon. member for Dufferin-Simcoe.

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PC
PC
PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

There may have been a similar situation then, under the Conservative government, before I got here. I am speaking of what I have seen.

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LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

You do not really believe that of any prime minister.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

I do believe that of Mr. King, or I would not say it. Mr. King was a great political strategist, and he used vacancies in the Senate as one means of preserving discipline in the Liberal party.

The attitude of the present Prime Minister is different. I think his attitude to the Senate is one of utter indifference, and of hopelessness. He has more vacancies now, I believe -and a member of the government can correct me if I am wrong-than there have ever been since confederation, with an effect on public opinion which is disastrous so far as the Senate is concerned. If that is all the value the Prime Minister of this country places upon the Senate, why should any Canadian place more value upon it? Certainly it shows how little importance the Prime Minister places upon the other house.

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PC
PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

He showed very clearly his attitude toward the Senate last year during the discussion on the bill to increase salaries. I am referring to page 1639 of Hansard for February 1. During that debate several members brought up the question of Senate reform. They did not see why the senators should get the same increase as members of the House of Commons. The Prime Minister indicated quite tactfully that he did not see any reason either. He went on to say that if the members of the other house saw fit to amend that bill so they did not get as large an increase as the members of parliament, nobody here would feel very badly. But of course the senators did not rise to that suggestion very

quickly. They passed the bill through without any amendment in about half an hour, or certainly in less than an hour, and that was their answer to such a suggestion.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Maclnnis:

They were protecting the rights of the minorities.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Yes, perhaps that was one instance where they were protecting the rights of the minorities as they saw those rights, but here is the quotation that indicates the present Prime Minister's attitude toward the Senate. He approached the question on the basis of the constitution and said:

I must confess I have never felt that it was realistic to give any serious study or thought to the probability of modifying it. In order to modify it there would have to be also the concurrence of the members of the other house.

He was referring to the constitution as it related to the Senate. He went on:

Since I have been in Ottawa I have found that there were plenty of problems that it was realistic to study and consider, because I might have some responsibility in connection with forming some opinions as to the solutions they should receive.

As a matter of fact the Prime Minister has a lot of responsibility in this question of Senate reform, though he does not seem to recognize it. He went on:

I must confess I have never felt I was going to have in my day the responsibility of having to come to a conclusion about substantial modification as to the character of our constitution.

He should not have taken on the position of Prime Minister of Canada if he was not prepared to face this Senate problem, just as he had to face other problems. He went on:

I have heard certain modifications suggested about the way in which appointments on summonses to the other house might be made. But quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I have never heard one that did not seem to me to bristle with more obstacles than promises of advantage to the Canadian public.

That shows utter hopelessness with regard to reform of the Senate. I ask this question. Is the Prime Minister letting the Senate die out? Is he letting it fade away? Obviously he has not as yet shown any indication that he has given this problem any serious thought. If the statement he made on February 1 of last year reflects his attitude at the present time, there is not very much likelihood of reform of the Canadian Senate while the present Prime Minister holds his exalted position.

I do not blame the senators for the present position of the Senate. They are in reduced numbers. How can they possibly function properly when there are 22 vacancies, and no attempt whatever to fill them? It is recognized that appointments are for party service. Why should we try to camouflage the facts?

Proposed Senate Reform That is recognized here in the house today, and it is recognized in Canada from coast to coast. Twenty-eight or 29 of the present senators have been in the House of Commons as Liberal members since I came here in 1935. That is over one-third of the present Senate. I am not quarrelling with the fact that they are in the Senate. They deserve to be there just as much as anybody else who is there, but nearly everyone in the Senate has been either a member of this house, or in the provincial legislatures, or a defeated Liberal candidate, or has had some connection with active Liberal party organization.

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LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

Or a defeated Conservative candidate.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

I am not saying that the appointments made under Conservative prime ministers were always the correct ones. I am simply referring to the position of the Senate as we know it to be today, in 1955.

Furthermore, the Senate is given little important work to do. That of course is the fault of the government exclusively. Take legislation. During the present session we had a bill respecting the Canadian National Railways. It was a very important bill, bringing all the legislation having to do with the national railways together in one statute. That bill could very well have been introduced in the Senate. It was involved. It meant checking several dozen statutes, and the Senate could have done a thoroughly efficient job on that particular bill. Instead, it was introduced in the house when we were in a rush. Members of the house were very busy; and while we did the best job we could, this is one case where a bill could have been introduced in the Senate.

The same is true of the bill on the order paper now to amend the Transport Act, which has to do with agreed charges. It could have been initiated in the Senate, where again they could have given it more careful study than we can possibly do this week. It comes up in committee tomorrow. They could have called witnesses and made a thorough study of the bill.

This failure of the government to give the Senate very much real responsibility for initiating legislation has caused the more aggressive Senators to make their own business. I need only refer to Senator Crerar and his committee on finance, which has done a wonderful job for more than one year, and the committee under Senator Reid dealing with the traffic in narcotic drugs in Canada. These were cases where those particular senators made work for themselves and in so doing rendered a service to the people of the country.

5342 HOUSE OF

Proposed Senate Reform

I should like to point out that senators themselves during this session have debated this question of the failure to fill vacancies. Many of them have deprecated the fact that vacancies have continued for such a long period. The sum and substance of this part of my remarks, Mr. Speaker, is that the Senate has not been given a chance by the government. It is no wonder the Senate has ceased to command the serious attention of the country.

1 do suggest that some steps which might be taken to investigate this problem include first of all, as mentioned in the amendment, the method of appointment. The hon. member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre (Mr. Thatcher) suggested that men and women who are leaders in certain fields in Canada should be appointed to the Senate. I had intended to refer to men who are leaders in the labour field, in organized agricultural activities, in the universities of Canada and in the field of journalism, to mention only a few of the groups from which representatives should be appointed who would give great service to Canada in the Senate.

Then I believe this question of having senators appointed by the provincial governments is worthy of consideration. One of the main functions of the Senate is to protect the provinces, and surely it would help if a certain percentage of the senators were appointed by the provincial governments. Then on the tenure of office, to me the present provision has always seemed one of the indications that the fathers of confederation were only human. They were not perfect. When they arranged for tenure of office in the Senate they slipped up pretty badly. This very fact that a person is appointed for life means, because of the frailties of human nature, that a certain percentage of the members of the Senate can never function physically because they are too old. They are appointed for life and when they become ill and unable to carry on, they still occupy Senate seats. The result is that it is impossible to have the Senate function on the basis of all members being physically able to carry on.

Suggestions have been made that the appointments should be for a period of years, and ten years has been suggested. There would then be reappointments, and there has also been the further suggestion of compulsory retirement. Many years ago a leading public man suggested retirement at 80 years of age. I would not suggest that age today, but these are questions which we believe should be considered.

Consideration should also be given to making the Senate an elective body. I realize the reason the fathers of confederation made

it an appointed body was that they were thinking largely of British precedent, where they had lords in the House of Lords. We do not have any lords in this country, except that sometimes cabinet ministers think they are pretty near to being lords. The system here is different, and I believe a lot can be said for the elective system. Certainly there should be an investigation into that possibility. If the members of the Senate were elected they would fill a far more important place in the public life of the country than they do at the present time.

My final suggestion is that consideration should be given to finding ways and means of bringing about in the Senate more concern for the ordinary Canadian. I do not believe the ordinary Canadian has much chance under the present Senate set-up. Things have reached the stage under present conditions where the people from coast to coast who keep this country going, the men and women who are carrying the responsibilities of the country and without whom there would be no Canada, find it hard to get their problems before the Senate for consideration. In my opinion that is one of the great drawbacks to the present Senate set-up.

Above all there should be a recognition that there is a Senate problem and that something should be done about it. It looks as though the government is prepared just to sit out this debate and then vote down the amendment without attempting to justify the present position. Surely no one here would say that the present situation in the Senate is satisfactory. Other commonwealth countries which have been faced with this condition have taken steps to bring about changes and make their upper houses more in line with reality.

Since I came here in 1935 I have seen the Senate decline steadily, more particularly in recent years. When I came here first, senators prided themselves on their non-partisanship, and I am referring now to senators representing both parties. I ran into that on more than one occasion, but now there is nothing left about which they can pride themselves. Certainly there is very little political independence left in the other house.

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LIB

Louis-René Beaudoin (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I would ask the hon. member to use as great care as possible in referring to the other house. I have been worried since this debate was initiated because of what has been said, which might be taken as rather offensive as far as the other place is concerned. Under our standing order 41 the practice has always been to keep the debate within bounds. Although the subject of this debate is the reform of the Senate, I would

hope that hon. members will be most careful as to the expressions they use.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

If you wish I shall withdraw that remark. In conclusion may I say that the solution for this problem can come only from the Prime Minister. No one else can give a lead in facing up to and settling this problem. He has the greatest majority that any Prime Minister of Canada has ever had, both in the House of Commons and in the Senate. It is about time that he did something about this problem.

At six o'clock the house took recess.

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AFTER RECESS The house resumed at eight o'clock.


PC

George Harris Hees

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George H. Hees (Broadview):

Mr. Speaker, as we all know the Senate is supposed to fulfil certain definite functions. It was originally conceived as a body of outstanding, knowledgeable and public-spirited Canadians who were to gather together and deliberate on the measures passed by this House of Commons. I think we would all agree that many of the members of the present Senate are men who have served their country in the finest way possible, as senior statesmen, and have made a great contribution to the legislation of this country. Their advice has been widely sought, and they have brought outstanding ability to bear on the deliberations of our affairs.

However, I think it is highly unfortunate that right from the beginning the Senate has been appointed by the government of the day. For that reason, irrespective of what party happened to form the government, the Senate became largely a lush pasture for the supporters of the party which happened to be in power at that time. Many senators today, I believe, have been appointed-and this is no change from the past-because they were quite candidly faithful party members whom the government believed it should reward for some reason or other; or were members of the House of Commons whom the party in power found impossible to regulate here in this chamber, and so they were moved upstairs.

Latterly, because we have had one party in power in this country for the past 20 years, the Senate really has become a retirement haven for faithful Liberal party workers or members, instead of being what it was originally intended to be, namely a gathering of the best minds in the country to discuss and instigate legislation without being subject to the influences and pressures which are brought to bear upon members of

Proposed Senate Reform the House of Commons by those who send us here, and in that way be able to give clear judgment on the issues brought before them.

I think we would all agree, and I know it is the feeling of the people of the country, that because of the particular set-up of the Senate at the present time, with all but seven members coming from one party, the Senate today is no more nor less than a rubber stamp for the government.

In days gone by the Senate was represented on a fairly even basis, with the membership divided between the two old parties; but now, as I say, all but seven come from one party. I think we would all agree, and I feel sure that the government does so, that this is not a good thing for any legislative body. The Prime Minister today has the opportunity to make this a body of legislators which can regain the confidence of the people of Canada and restore the Senate to its real place and its real authority. Senators do not need to have political affiliations, but they should have great and wide experience and ideas which they can bring to bear on the discussions in which they take part.

As has been suggested by other members who have spoken in the debate today, I believe we should have many more outstanding representatives from various fields of endeavour in this country. To mention six fields only, I feel the Senate should have outstanding representatives from the fields of industrial management, labour, agriculture, education, science and culture. If appointments were made from those ranks in the future, I believe the Senate would be immeasurably strengthened. In fact I believe appointments of that kind must be made in future or the demand by the people of Canada for the abolition of the Senate will eventually become stronger than any government can withstand and abolition would take place.

I believe it would be a sorry state of affairs to have that happen. I think a group of men and women who are not obliged to face the electorate every four or five years, as do the elected representatives in the House of Commons, could view legislation in a much more impartial manner because they would be unswayed by the problems which were facing the people who sent them here, and could form more objective judgments on the problems that our country is facing today.

Such a group would have the time in which to really contemplate the issues of the day. They would have no axes to grind. They could bring fresh viewpoints to bear and

Proposed Senate Reform could introduce amendments to our legislation which I think would be very constructive indeed.

I believe that was the true function for which the Senate was originally intended and the real reason it is part of our Canadian constitution. I think we should make our Senate one composed of members who can fulfil this function of objective deliberation.

If that function is carried out, I believe the role of the Senate can be restored to that which was originally intended. As has been said today, the Prime Minister has a wonderful opportunity to bring the Senate back to life and to it restore the esteem to which I believe it is entitled. Today there are 18 vacancies. The Prime Minister I know will agree that-

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June 27, 1955