May 31, 1954 (22nd Parliament, 1st Session)


James Horace King


Mr. Mackenzie King:

That is something I have been considering all my life.
That illuminating answer, Mr. Speaker, which is now part of the history of parliament, does suggest that perhaps the party to which Mr. King belonged should seek to fulfil his life-long dream. It would seem appropriate that the pledge so often made should be undertaken. Obviously this matter cannot be dealt with in the present session. For that reason it is not my purpose to move, as I have on earlier occasions, for the setting up of a constitutional convention, nor is it my purpose on this occasion to propose the setting up of a joint committee of the two houses as I have on other occasions. I do so only because of the fact that I recognize that it must be the responsibility of the government to decide which course it will follow.
On different occasions when we have made these proposals the government has evaded the issue on the ground that this is a responsibility they must accept, and of course they have given other grounds as well. The matter has come up at different times so I recognize that on some occasions it has been opposed for other reasons. I hope that no one will feel that there is any other reason for not supporting the motion at this time and in this case fulfilling the life-long dream of a former prime minister of Canada.
I specifically propose that this should not be regarded as a want of confidence motion.
I specifically propose that this motion should be accepted by the government, as other motions have been, as an expression of opinion of the house that whatever steps the government deems advisable should now be taken to start the preliminary steps towards the fulfilment of this pledge which has been before us for so many years. I am sure that it is in the interests of all Canadians at this time that we should do everything we can

to establish a feeling of confidence in the minds of the people of Canada that their parliamentary system is effective, is sound and is operating to the best advantage of the people of Canada.
After all, we have been told so often that the best answer to any propaganda on behalf of any other system is the efficiency of our own system. There may be some question about the efficiency of proceedings in this house. That, however, is something we are perfectly free to deal with and can deal with on other occasions as we have in the past. I doubt if there is an hon. member of the house, and I would hope there is not an hon. member of the other house, who will assert that the Senate as now constituted is capable of performing the functions for which it was originally intended. I hope that the members of this house have noticed that only within the past few days hon. members of the Senate have asked that they be given a greater opportunity to perform their responsibilities.
That indicates quite clearly that members of the other house are as concerned as we should be about the effectiveness of the parliamentary system which embraces both the House of Commons and the other house that is within these parliament buildings of Canada. I suggest that we should not disregard the fact that, amongst other considerations, questions arise as to the method of appointment, as to the tenure of office and as to the proportion of representation which will most effectively assure the original purpose.
Without quoting at any length the thoughts that were in the minds of those who brought about the system, I should like to quote certain words from a speech by Sir John Macdonald in the legislature in 1865, two years before confederation. It is to be found on page 35 of the reports of those deliberations. He said:
In order to protect local interests, and to prevent sectional jealousies, it was found requisite that the three great divisions into which British North America is separated should be represented in the upper house on the principle of equality.
There are three great sections, having different interests, in this proposed confederation. We have western Canada, an agricultural country far away from the sea, and having the largest population who have agricultural interests principally to guard. We have lower Canada, with other and separate interests, and especially with institutions and laws which she jealously guards against absorption by any larger, more numerous, or stronger power. And we have the maritime provinces, having also different sectional interests of their own, having, from their position, classes and interests which we do not know in western Canada. Accordingly, in the upper house-the controlling and regulating, but not the initiating, branch (for we know that here as in England, to

the lower house will practically belong the initiation of matters of great public interest), in the house which has the sober second thought in legislation-it is provided that each of those great sections shall be represented eaually.
It will be seen, Mr. Speaker, that those were considerations that were in the minds of those who were charged with the problem of drafting our constitution at that time. It was to be a house of sober second thought on legislation. One might wonder how much second thought has been evident in some legislation that has been before us. May I say without any reservation and with admiration for those who have done it, that there have been a few members of the other house who have demonstrated what that other house could do by their clear and critical analysis given to some of the legislation that has gone forward from this house. But even in the face of such able representations as have been made, may I say particularly by the Hon. T. A. Crerar in regard to the fundamental principles of the supremacy of parliament and the rule of law, the brevity of the debates that have taken place on these very important issues, following the presentation of clear and wise comment on legislation already dealt with, does raise the question as to how completely the other house is able, as at present constituted, to fulfil the extremely important tasks which were to be assigned to it.
Since the days when Sir John A. Macdonald made the remarks I have quoted, immense changes have taken place. There is a difference in the presentation, and there is a tremendous difference in the character of the country. No longer is it possible to speak of western Canada simply as an agricultural area; that is particularly true of British Columbia with its immense industrial development, as well as the other prairie provinces with their new resources. Nevertheless the principle he asserted is one which has been in the minds of those who have discussed this subject over the years, and most certainly the principle that it shall be a place for a sober re-examination of the legislation adopted in this house.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, unless the other house is to be a second chamber of review and reconsideration with a detachment that possibly might not be so easy in this house, for many reasons, then I suggest that we are paying a great deal for the form without having the reality. The mere fact that many men and women for whom all of us have the highest personal regard now occupy the seats in the other house is no answer to the demand that is being made in every part of Canada for the reform of the second house if it is to be an effective part of our parliamentary system. I, of course, feel sure we
Suggested Senate Reform need make no argument on this side to support the lifelong dream of Mr. Mackenzie King and the pledge which has been the pledge of the party to which the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) and his government belong.
I shall read the resolution I propose to move, but before I do so, I repeat that it leaves to the government the responsibility for initiating whatever steps should be taken to start the proceedings so that at the beginning of the next session we may not have vague generalities about Senate reform, such as there have been in times gone by, but we may have some concrete proposals as to how we are going to tackle this subject. May I point out also before I move this resolution that I am not prepared, nor do I believe the members of this party or hon. members of the house generally are prepared, to consider abolition of the second chamber until we have had an opportunity to examine the possibility of real reform. I do say, however, that unless there is some step taken towards reform, the demand from the people of Canada will bring about the abolition of the Senate because the people of Canada find it very difficult to understand why it is necessary to pay the amount of money that is now being paid for the maintenance of the second chamber under conditions as they now exist.
This house saw fit to increase the amount of money received by the members of the Senate at the same time as the step was taken in this house over the opposition of many hon. members in regard to that move-

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