That shows how quickly these things move along. Perhaps the figure will be 23 tomorrow and 24 the next day. That is all the more reason for taking this action. I believe the Prime Minister would agree that to appoint 22 more members of the Liberal party to the Senate, persons who are Liberal supporters-although that has been the practice followed by both parties in the past-would simply make the Senate even more ridiculous, as far as being an impartial body is concerned, than people already consider it to be.
I feel the Prime Minister has a wonderful opportunity to choose outstanding representatives in the fields I have mentioned, namely those of industrial management, agriculture, labour, education, science and culture. I believe those people could bring tremendous knowledge to bear on the discussions in the Senate, and could restore it to its proper place. As further vacancies occurred more men and more women of this calibre could be added, and in that way I think the legislative procedures of parliament would be immeasurably improved.
I know the Prime Minister does not have an easy choice in this matter. I really feel that he agrees with what I have said. These are not new ideas; they are old ones. I really feel that in what I have said he agrees with me. I also sympathize with him because of the problem he is up against. I know and he knows that as soon as he announced a policy of this kind the telephones would be ringing, the wires would be clogged and the mails would be jammed with violent protests from thousands of faithful
Liberal party members, all of whom think they are in line for one of these 22 vacancies.
I know the problems the Prime Minister would face, but I think he is a big enough man to face them. I hope he will do so, because it is the only chance we have of restoring the Senate to the position of respect to which it is entitled in the minds of the Canadian people. If something of that kind is not done I think the demand of the people will be that the Senate be abolished, because I believe they will feel that it is ridiculous to pay out large sums of money to operate the Senate if the Senate obviously is not able to pass impartial judgment on the legislation passed by this house, and for that reason has no real function in our parliament today.
Mr. Speaker, may I say a few brief words. I think I can consistently make a few corrections, because I am not looking for an appointment to the Senate. Personally I do not think the hon. member who introduced this question and those who have spoken on it are seeking reform now, because they know perfectly well that if they had wanted reform they would have brought up the question at the beginning of the session, not now when it is impossible to introduce legislation. Therefore I think they are wide of the mark.
Second, a number of hon. members of the opposition think the Senate is at a low ebb. At supper time I heard somebody say, "Hurrah for the Senate". I do not think the Senate has ever been better than it is at the present time. It is all right to hit at somebody because you think it is popular to hit at them, but even the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra said that the former member for New Westminster, Senator Reid, has done work that has been highly commended. Never since I came here has the Senate had so much front page publicity. Some members have said there should be an age limit. Why have an age limit in the Senate when there is no age limit here?
I am not 75. When you tell me I cannot be a member of the House of Commons, tell the citizens of Fort William and they will talk to you. It is all right talking to people who are far away and cannot reply. I think the Senate have done a fine job.
The Senate occupies the position of a court. I know some of its members who were once
members of the House of Commons. When they were here they were just as efficient as anybody in the house, and they have not changed a bit. I have listened to them a few times when there were some dry speeches going on here. I slipped over there to hear something excellent, and I did. It is all right to blame the people on the other side of the house, but I am convinced that today the Senate is doing a better job than it has ever done since I came here.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker; that is all I have to say.
Mr. Speaker, the policy of my party with respect to the Senate is that it should be abolished and of course I am in favour of that policy, though I must admit I never could get very enthusiastic about it because I could never see clearly how we would set about to abolish the Senate. I felt that if we formed the government the first thing we would have to do would be to get somebody in the Senate to represent us there, even at the opening of parliament, and once having embarked on that course we probably might consider changing our policy of abolition.
It is rather strange that at this time we should hear so much talk about restoring the Senate to its former place in the government of the country. If the Senate has fallen from its former place of usefulness in the governmental set-up of the nation, surely there must be some reason for that. I do not think the reason can be that the present Prime Minister is not filling the vacancies fast enough. I imagine if the Prime Minister felt he needed to have more representatives in the Senate he would fill the vacancies very quickly.
As for myself, I do not think it would make a particle of difference to the other place, to this house or to the country at large if 22 new members were appointed to the Senate. You cannot get anything more from the Senate than you are getting from it now. It has become the fifth wheel on the governmental machine, and in my opinion it is really no use to try to restore that wheel to usefulness by attaching some sort of power to it, putting a new tire on it or any of the other things that one does with a wheel.
What would the Senate do that is not already being done by this chamber, a chamber elected by the people of Canada to do the things the people of Canada want done? It has been said that the Senate should be made more useful and given more
Proposed Senate Reform power, but remember that the Senate in its present form has the same powers as this chamber except in one small particular. It has the power to veto what has been done here by those who were democratically elected to govern the country.
There goes one man who cannot stand to hear the truth. In my opinion a non-elected Senate that has the power of veto over an elected chamber is the negation of democracy. Not only is that so, but in all countries today where they have the parliamentary system the tendency is toward a one-chamber parliament. In New Zealand the Senate was abolished a few years ago. Who abolished it? The Conservatives, when they came into office. The second chamber in the United Kingdom, the mother of parliaments, has been brought to a position where it is practically absolutely useless as a legislative body.
Have we, the elected members of the House of Commons, so little faith in our own capacity to deal with matters affecting Canada that come before us that we must have them reviewed by a non-elected body of men who can say to us, "Go and play marbles; we know what the people want and you do not".
It is said that the function of the Senate when Canada became a nation was to protect the interests of minorities. I never saw it in print, but I am told that Sir John A. Macdonald said that was the function of the Senate, to protect the interests of the rich who were always in the minority.
What Sir John A. Macdonald said was that its function was to protect minorities, and as the rich were always in the minority its function was to protect the rich. It has done that pretty well.
I appreciate that the Prime Minister has a problem. His predecessor had a problem, but I think for his predecessor the problem was easier than it is for the present Prime
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Proposed Senate Reform Minister. I do not like to speak disrespectfully of one who has departed, but I think the former prime minister was more of a cynic than the present one. He felt he had reformed the Senate sufficiently when he had a majority of Liberals there. He never made any further attempt to reform it after that. As a matter of fact, I believe he gave up asking questions of those who were being appointed when he was getting to the position where, in the natural order of things, he could have a majority in the Senate without making any promises or accepting any.
I do not care for many of the proposals that have been made here regarding the Senate. If we are going to have a Senate in a democratic country I believe that Senate should be elected. As I said before I am not afraid to discuss any problem, and I think I can discuss any subject objectively. There is a feeling that we discuss problems and take action on problems because we are elected members, which we would not do if we did not have to seek election. Surely if there is anyone in that position in this house he should not be here. A person who cannot face the electorate and tell them, "I favour this because I think it is for the benefit of Canada", or "I do not favour that because I do not think it is for the benefit of Canada", has no right to be here. I am not going to advocate something because some few people think we ought to have it and I cannot find it in my heart to say no.
The hon. member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre had a proposal for reforming the Senate by appointing a labour man to it. Well, the Senate will not be reformed by appointing one labour man to it: that is not what I would call labour representation in the Senate. In order to give labour the representation it ought to have in the Senate it should have members in the Senate approximately equal to labour's voting strength in the country. Labour will not be represented by the appointment of one old man who has retired from other fields of endeavour in the labour movement. We want young men in the Senate if the Senate is going to be useful.
I see the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Pickersgill) shakes his head. Perhaps he does not want young men in the Senate. Perhaps the government does not want young men in the Senate. But the people of this country want young men in the Senate if they want a Senate that is going to be of any use.
We fill the other place with old gentlemen who have retired or are about to retire from whatever useful work they were doing. As a matter of fact they were retired from the world. Then we expect these old gentlemen to
give a 1955 or 1956 expression of opinion on the problems that affect Canada. What utter nonsense! They cannot think in terms of 1955 or 1956; they think in terms of the years of their activity. That is not the kind of Senate I want.
Then again, I do not think it would be desirable to have the provinces appoint certain members to the other place. I believe it would make for all kinds of trouble. We come here to this parliament to represent Canada, not Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and so on. I said we would get into all kinds of trouble. We will vote for this amendment. Because the Senate is a problem child so far as Canada is concerned I suppose something has to be done with it. At the moment it is fairly harmless, and it is a good divorce court.
I think it would be desirable to discuss what we should do with the Senate, or what place it ought to hold in the government of Canada. For that reason we believe, as has already been stated by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, this amendment is in order and it would bring about that result. It is a question worthy of discussion, but let us think of it objectively. Sometime we may have to abolish it, but I think one of the great difficulties in the way of abolishing the Canadian Senate is that it cannot be abolished without its own consent.
I am not a constitutional expert or anything like that, but I find now that we have to go to the imperial parliament for certain amendments to the British North America Act. There are certain amendments with which we have power to deal ourselves, but I doubt very much if this chamber, on its own resolution, could get the imperial parliament to abolish the Senate. I think we would very likely have to have the consent of both houses of parliament.
After what has been said, I thought I had better say these few words in regard to the other place, whether or not you agree with them.
May I be allowed to say that in participating in the debate hon. members should not indulge in expressions which might imply some reflection upon members of the other house. I refer to Bourinot's fourth edition, page 360:
In the House of Commons a member will not be permitted by the Speaker to indulge in any reflections on the house itself as a political institution, or as a branch of the government or upon the other house; or to impute to any member or members unworthy motives for their actions in a particular case; or to use any profane or indecent language, such as is unfit for the house to hear or for any member to utter; or to question the acknowledged and undoubted powers of the house
in a matter of privilege; or to reflect upon, argue against or in any manner call in question, the past acts and proceedings of the house-
I would ask hon. members, while they are discussing reform of the Senate, to be very careful as to the expressions they use with respect to the other house.
This amendment deals with a matter that I feel is of continuing interest and has been debated over the years. Invariably during the course of those debates on this subject strong expressions have been used regarding the Senate and the membership of the Senate.
I do not intend to indulge in that type of discussion. But I would point out to you, sir, that no one ever spoke in stronger and more uncontrolled language regarding the Senate than did the late prime minister, Mr. Mackenzie King. I should like on this occasion to make one or two suggestions, particularly because I believe that this is a subject of inherent interest to the people of Canada and to the preservation of democracy under our system of government.
It is hard to understand why one of the co-equal partners in the government of this country should have been treated, as it has been in the last several years, with an almost undisguised contempt by the government of Canada. Either the Senate performs the functions and responsibilities envisaged by the fathers of confederation, or it is a useless institution. I am one of those who believe the Senate is necessary to the constitutional preservation of the rights of minorities in this country. That was its original concept; that was the idea of the fathers of confederation; that was the basis upon which the several provinces which entered confederation accepted it. Without that basis those provinces would not have entered.
It is interesting to study the general concept lying behind the necessity for a second chamber. Going back to the days prior to the rebellion of 1837 one finds that one of the major reasons for that civil war was the fact that there was a legislative council not responsible in any way to the people but, under the colonial system then prevailing, almost all-powerful in its relationship to the elected chamber. And it is interesting to trace what happened following the rebellion of 1837. Under the act of union provision was made for a legislative council and for an assembly, the legislative council to be appointed by the governor. Under that system every councillor was appointed for life. Upper and Lower Canada had an equal number of members. The total had no maximum, but the minimum was fixed at 20.
Proposed Senate Reform
Complaints arose that an appointed legislative council was not in keeping with responsible government, so in 1854, by a statute of the legislature of Canada, power was given to elect the members of the legislative council. In 1856 the government of the day brought in the legislation making provision for the elected or appointed legislative council, as the case might be, with 24 representatives from Upper Canada and 24 from Lower Canada. The term in the case of those elected was eight years, with one-quarter retiring every two years.
When the conference took place at Charlottetown, and the later one at Quebec, on the basis of the experience the representatives of the people had had in connection with an elected upper chamber they were agreed on one thing. That was that the upper chamber was necessary to preserve the rights of minorities, and that it could not be an elected body, for otherwise it would ultimately become the all-powerful legislative body.
Facing this problem today we agree on one thing. That is, whether we believe confederation was a pact or that the statute of confederation was a statute, the basis of confederation, or the reason certain of the provinces gave up their rights, was on the sure foundation that there would be two chambers in this country, one appointed and the other elected.
While it is interesting to speculate as to whether or not the Senate could be abolished by an amendment passed by the House of Commons and the Senate
and I believe it could, without any resort to Westminster, provided there was in fact a majority in the Senate desirous of achieving the execution of that body-it is my personal belief that it would be the derogation of one of the major constitutional foundations upon which confederation was built. Therefore I do not go with those who believe we should end the Senate, but I do believe that the responsibility facing people today, and in particular facing this parliament, is that it should do its part- if I may use a phrase of Dr. R. A. MacKay -not to end but to mend the Senate.
When I hear some hon. gentlemen say the Senate has not discharged any of its responsibilities, again I do not belong to that school. On occasions over the years it has been a block to legislation passed in the House of Commons. But, with the perspective of history, as one looks back with an appreciation of events as he reviews the past, it becomes clear that on a number of occasions the Senate has been right in the action it has taken. When I hear some criticizing the Senate because of the manner in which it
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Proposed Senate Reform discharges its responsibilities with respect to divorce, I must say that personally I am among those who believe that the attention given by the Senate and its committee to divorce proceedings coming before them is such that the cases receive as fair, as considerate and as deliberative consideration as is given by the courts of law.
I have never dealt with this divorce question before. In the 15 years I have been in the House of Commons I have heard the Senate condemned and maligned for its failure properly to examine the divorce cases coming before it. Making due allowance for the frailties of human nature, and the errors made as well in the courts of law, I feel the Senate does in fact discharge its responsibilities in connection with divorce in a manner that assures, in large measure, a degree of just conclusions at least equal to that which can be expected in the courts of law.
Having said that, however, I do believe the attitude taken by the Prime Minister toward the Senate in the last few years is difficult to understand. After all, it is his prerogative and privilege to make appointments to the Senate. The general concept of confederation was that these appointments were his. And while in the experience of history the minister or ministers from any province could have consideration given to their views, the fact remains that under the general plan of confederation these appointments were indeed the responsibility of the prime minister.
The reason given for this at the time of the discussions in Charlottetown and Quebec was in fact this, that the prime minister would endeavour in the appointments made to assure the maintenance of the highest degree of legislative responsibility and competence in that body.
I cannot understand, and certainly the people of Canada have difficulty understanding, why a body composed of such responsible and able people as the Senate should be placed in the position that it functions with only partial representation. It might be said that we are saving money by not making these appointments. If that be so, Mr. Speaker, we could save a great deal more by abolishing the institution altogether. But as long as the Senate exists there can be no justification for delays in appointments of the duration that has been the case in recent years.
There are 22 vacancies. Five have existed for two years, three for four years, five for five years and one for six years. Either the Prime Minister has some faith in this institution and intends to wait until a sufficient number die so he may be able to put an
even greater majority in the Senate and thereby reform it; or, on the other hand, it reveals an undisguised contempt for an institution which I believe is deserving of better consideration from the government of the day.
I believe the Senate is necessary. I do not know what are the Prime Minister's views on the British North America Act, whether he regards it as a pact as did one or two of the fathers of confederation and as did the late Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, who on more than one occasion in this house definitely stated that in his opinion it was a pact. He referred to it as such on March 9, 1927. He said, "It is indeed a pact." I notice that Dr. MacKay in his book "The Unreformed Senate of Canada" takes the stand that morally it is a compact among the provinces of Canada. Whether it is that or not, it was an agreement, and the Senate was a necessary and requisite part of that agreement.
That being so, I believe it should be the earnest endeavour of the government of the day to ensure that the Senate shall have its membership filled within a reasonable time, instead of placing the Senate in the position where it is in the nature of hope deferred, or the dangling of a carrot before the eyes of those within the Liberal party who hope that time will ultimately assure their elevation to that body.
Where are the reform promises of the old days? Will the Prime Minister tell the house what happened to all those carefully drawn agreements during the 1920's? The late Mr. King went to the country twice on a policy of reform of the Senate. He contended that the means whereby that reform would be effected would be through the instrumentality of the executioners appointed by him to the Senate.
Mention was made this afternoon by my hon. friend the Acting Leader of the Opposition that in 1927 John Evans, then the member for Rosetown, asked Mr. King this question, as reported at page 355 of Hansard:
What is the form or wording of the pledge, if any, taken from those who have been appointed senators during the last two years with a view to Senate reform? How many have been thus pledged?
Mr. King answered:
An assurance of support of such measure of Senate reform, in conformity with the requirements of the constitution, as may be introduced by the Liberal administration.
This assurance has been given by all who have accepted appointment to the Senate within the time mentioned.
I have not gone to the trouble to ascertain how many went into the Senate on the basis
of this plan. The Prime Minister should be able to tell the house and the country whether a similar plan is in existence today, and whether in the appointments that have been made since he became Prime Minister of this country an undertaking was secured.