IN THE HOUSE ~ NDP Opposition Motion in the House ~ Representation in Parliament

40th Parliament, 3rd Session

Business of Supply
Opposition Motion—Representation in Parliament

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and start off by paying tribute to the member for Hamilton Centre who has brought this motion forward in the House of Commons today. As the NDP critic for democratic reform, he has brought the views of Canadians right to the front and centre of the House of Commons. He deserves the thanks of all members of Parliament and Canadians across the country. We praise him for his work.

I am flabbergasted. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Conservatives and Liberals are going to stand in the House and say they do not support a motion that starts off by saying it is going to consult Canadians. We will have a parliamentary committee consulting Canadians on proportional representation, on modernizing that essential electoral system, and I will come back to that in a moment. I think it is self-evident, but the importance of modernizing our political systems does bear speaking about for a few moments.

Mr. Speaker, I should note that I will be dividing my time with the member for Ottawa Centre.

I cannot for the life of me understand why Conservative and Liberal MPs are, on the one hand, saying that they do want a consultation on proportional representation, yet on the other hand, saying that they absolutely refuse to have a national referendum on the Senate.

It is quite clear, or it should be, to everyone that with the falling rates of voter participation, it is absolutely essential that we modernize our political institutions to deal with the existing democratic crisis. Barely over 50% of Canadians voted in the last national election. It was particularly appalling among the youngest Canadians. About 25% of 18 to 24-year-olds actually voted. Therefore, there is an institutional problem when Canadians do not feel their vote will count and do not show up at the polls.

We will see what Canadians say about getting rid of the Senate, or at least allowing Canadians to have a voice on that and make their choice. Canadians in my riding are saying they do not believe the Senate is democratic, that it is political nominees who come from the Conservative Party, and I will come back to that in a moment. They simply would love to have the opportunity to vote on that and vote to abolish it, as every province in the country has chosen to do. Every province that had a senate abolished it. When we go to what were formerly the legislative councils, they have all been abolished. No one regrets that. There is no call in British Columbia or Quebec to re-establish the senate, to reappoint political hacks and bagmen and bagwomen. There is simply not that outcry.

Why Conservatives and Liberals are so resistant to modernizing those political institutions is a question that hopefully individuals will ask. If there is an election campaign in a few weeks' time, I think individuals will ask the candidates from those parties why they refuse any sort of modernization of our political institutions.

I have a lot of respect for people who vote, whether they vote NDP, or Liberal, or Conservative or Bloc The fact that they vote is important. Conservative voters voted often for the Conservative Party because they were told it would bring change to Ottawa. It has been exactly the contrary. In fact, the situation, the misuse of government resources, the sense of entitlement of the Conservative government and Conservative politicians is as bad or even worse than it was under the former corrupt Liberal regime.

Canadians voted for change. Many people in Canada voted in good faith for the Conservative Party. Now they are seeing that the commitments made by Conservative politicians have been completely betrayed.

Members may remember the Prime Minister saying that he would change the Senate, that he would stop using the Senate as some kind of warehouse for defeated party candidates the way the Liberals used to do. Let us look at the appointments that the Prime Minister has made, using taxpayer money, using the hard-earned money of softwood workers in British Columbia. They work hard and they pay their taxes. Their tax money is going to fund a group of bagmen and political hacks in the Senate.

Who has been appointed?

The former director of the Progressive Conservative Fund was appointed to the Senate and is now being paid, when we include office expenses and other expenses, half a million dollars. That money is being taken from the hard-working taxpayers of B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The tax money of Canadians who are working hard and dealing with record debt loads is going now to fund political hacks, and there is no other way of putting it, in the Senate.

The Tories national campaign director for 2006 and 2008 was appointed to the Senate. Half a million dollars of hard-working Canadian taxpayer money is being shovelled right at him every year.

I will mention some more Conservative appointees to the Senate: the former chair of the Conservative Party Fund; a former Conservative MP who was defeated in the 2008 election; an unsuccessful Conservative candidate in B.C. in 2008; an unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the 2006 election; an unsuccessful former Conservative candidate who ran for the Canadian Alliance Party in 2000; a former Conservative MP from 1984; the former president of the Conservative Party; the former co-chair for the Prime Minister's leadership campaign; a former press secretary to the Prime Minister; former provincial Conservatives; another unsuccessful Conservative candidate in 2008; another unsuccessful Conservative candidate in 2008. The list goes on and on.

These people were rejected by the Canadian public. The Conservatives offered them up and Canadians said that they did not want them. What did the Conservatives do? Showing the utmost hypocrisy even for their own voters, giving the back of the hand to their voters, many of whom voted in good faith for the Conservative government, they stuff the Senate with their party hacks and take taxpayer money in the most abusive way and use that as their own resource just for themselves.

Rather than addressing the crucial issues that the NDP has been bringing forward, such as the shortage of physicians and nurses, the record levels of student debt, the tremendous poverty in which Canadian seniors are living, the fact that our veterans are treated despicably by the government, and I could go on, the Conservative administration, with that sense of entitlement that goes beyond even what the former corrupt Liberals felt, has been stuffing the Senate at half a million dollars a pop with failed Conservative candidates and other party bagmen and bagwomen.

We have been talking about scandals in the House of Commons such as the Conservatives misuse of taxpayer resources to further their own political ends, the misuse of ideology in government grants. In perhaps no other way does this show how profoundly mistrustful Canadians will be of those Conservative politicians who come forward in the next campaign and say that they have cleaned up Ottawa.

They are rolling in muck and mire, just like the Liberals did. They are showing the same contempt for the public as the Liberals did. Five years ago Canadians voted for change and voted to have some cleaning up. What we are seeing is the same level of trough, the same rolling in the muck and mire that we used to see.

The Senate is packed with insiders. NDP members are saying we must have a referendum. We must consult Canadians. We must put in place an electoral system that, yes, would be to the disadvantage of the Conservatives because they did not get the percentage vote in the House. The House of Commons will be a much more representative population and the Senate will be abolished, because that is what Canadians will decide.

***
Mr. Peter Julian:

Mr. Speaker, the minister already knows the answer to that question.

First, members will recall that the Conservative government broke its word on the fixed election dates. It brought that legislation in and we supported it. What did it do? It broke that commitment.

What the minister is not saying is that ultimately it is the Prime Minister who decides. He is appointed. Therefore, this idea of some kind of sham Egyptian-style election is simply inappropriate. I thing people around the world are actually fighting for real democratic reform.

The other point I want to raise is this. The government has shown such incredible contempt for British Columbia. It has forced the HST on British Columbians. It has done absolutely nothing to address key B.C. issues. If the government wants to permanently enshrine B.C. with only six members in the Senate, which is far below its population ratio in the country, that shows just one other reason why British Columbians should vote NDP in the upcoming election.

***
Mr. Speaker, I believe Canadians who have listened to the debate today already understand that the Conservatives and Liberals do not want Canadians to be consulted. They are telling Canadians to let them run their little shell game here, let them take taxpayer resources so they can fund their Conservative Party and let them use public moneys for their private gain.

What is very clear from this debate is Canadians should be writing their Conservative and Liberal MPs, asking them why they are stopping them from having the right to voice their vote on the future of the country. They should ask them what is wrong with them having a vote on the Senate and why they have been denied their right to vote. Canadians should be asking them those questions.