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TRANSCRIPTION NEWS CONFERENCE / CONFÉRENCE DE PRESSE - The Senate Committee on Senate Modernization releases its report: Senate Modernization: Moving Forward Part I.

 

TRANSCRIPTION / TRANSCRIPTION

NEWS CONFERENCE / CONFÉRENCE DE PRESSE

 DATE/DATE:  October 4, 2016 / 10:30 a.m. (EDT)

 LOCATION/ENDROIT:  NPT, OTTAWA, ON

PRINCIPAL(S)/PRINCIPAUX:      Senator Thomas Johnson McInnis, Committee Chair, Committee on Senate Modernization

Senator Serge Joyal, Committee Deputy Chair, Senate Committee on Senate Modernization

Senator Elaine McCoy, Member of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure

 

SUBJECT/SUJET:  The Senate Committee on Senate Modernization releases its report: Senate Modernization: Moving Forward Part I.

 

Moderator:                                   Bonjour et bienvenue au Théâtre national de la presse.

 

Hell and welcome to the National Press theatre.  I'm Elizabeth Thompson.  With us today, we have members of the Senate Committee on Senate Modernization, who will be releasing their report.  Senator Thomas Johnson McInnis, who's the committee Chair, Senator Serge Joyal, who's the committee Deputy Chair, and Senator Elaine McCoy, member of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. 

 

Senator McInnis?

 

Hon. Thomas McInnis:               Thank you, Ms. Thompson.  Members of the media, my colleagues in public life, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.  Thank you all for joining us here today.  As was mentioned, my name is Senator Tom McInnis.  I have the honour of chairing the Special Senate Committee on Modernization.  With me is Senator Serge Joyal, who is Deputy Chair of the committee, and Senator Elaine McCoy, an independent Senator who is the third member of the steering committee. 

 

Now allow me to be blunt.  The Senate is misunderstood.  It is seen by too many as an unnecessary parliamentary appendage that lacks purpose.  But I say that the Senate has never been more important than it is today.  Where once we had dignity and decorum in the House of Commons, we now have fables and photo ops.  Where we had passionate debate, we have partisan talking points.  Reason has been replaced by rhetoric. 

 

The Senate is different.  The Senate is collegial.  We work together even when we disagree and we are stronger for it.  When we do not see eye to eye, we use substance and logic to persuade.  I truly believe that even now, the Senate is a model parliamentary institution.  At the same time, the day to day reality of the Senate is changing.  Though I would argue all of our Senators are independent, we are beholden to Canadians and to no one else. 

 

Political parties have traditionally provided the structure around which the Senate functions.  It's clear that for the Senate to continue to operate effectively, and to ensure all Senators have the opportunity to fully participate in the Senate's important work, we must make changes.  So today, we unveil the first part in a collaborative effort to modernize the Senate.  Our report entitled Senate Modernization:  Moving Forward shows how we can work better together in the service of all Canadians. 

 

I will leave it to my colleagues to go into some of the 21 recommendations we are making.  Before they do, I want to talk briefly about the process we followed.  Conservatives, Liberal and Independent Senators, the latter not affiliated with a political party, joined together over the past months to debate how and to what extent we should change the Senate.  We have not always agreed.  Every Senator on the committee feels a great responsibility to get this right.  This has led to passionate discussion, if not argument and debate. 

 

But we have come together to deliver these recommendations to our colleagues in the Red Chamber.  The whole Senate will have the opportunity to debate them and vote on them one recommendation at a time.  With new structures in place, we will be able to live up to the responsibilities the Fathers of Confederation placed on the Senate, and to the expectations Canadians have for their parliamentarians.

 

I'll close by reminding you just what the Senate does and therefore why our committee's task is so essential.   We represent all Canadians by standing up for regions and minorities that lack a strong presence in the majority driven House of Commons.  We investigate by giving expert scrutiny to bills so Canadians know what is being done in their name.  We deliberate by bringing reason, experience and sober second to profound problems like assisted dying, mental health and drug policy. 

 

And we legislate by drafting our own bills when Canadians tell us there is a need or when we see an opportunity to make this country stronger.  These core duties are essential to good governance in Canada.  Our committee's work will help us to lead up, up to a respon-, will lead, let me start again, our committee's work will help us to live up to our responsibilities and give Canadians a Parliament they deserve.

 

I thank the committee members for their great work on this difficult task.  And on behalf of our committee, I would also like to extend our gratitude to the many witnesses who took the time to lend us their expertise and opinions to help us build a freshly energized and modern Senate. 

 

Finally, on behalf of our committee, I thank the parliamentary staff, in particular our Clerk, Daniel Charbonneau and Library of Parliament Analyst, Sebastian Spano.  I now invite Senator Joyal to speak to some of our recommendations.  Senator Joyal.

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Thank you Senator McInnis.  Merci.  Bonjour.  Je suis vraiment heureux ce matin de pouvoir vous faire rapport de l'étape où nous en sommes arrivés dans cette réflexion de renouveler le sénat et de l'ajuster aux besoins contemporains. 

 

Le comité de Modernisation du sénat n'a pas été l'objet d'une création spontanée.  Il est en fait issu de la décision de la Cour suprême dans la référence sur le sénat qui lui est, qui lui avait été envoyée par le précédent gouvernement, référence qui a conclu que pour modifier les structures du sénat, il fallait rouvrir la constitution canadienne et obtenir le consentement de sept provinces pour redéfinir la composition du sénat, ou encore de la totalité des provinces s'il fallait l'abolir. 

 

La préoccupation qu'un certain nombre de sénateurs avaient, c'est que cette décision qui renvoyait la réforme du sénat sur la table des négociations constitutionnelles ne devrait pas être le dernier mot des besoins d'ajuster le sénat au fonctionnement contemporain, c'est-à-dire de le rendre plus ouvert, de le rendre plus inclusif et de le rendre plus efficace. 

 

Plusieurs d'entre nous à cette époque-là, donc après la décision de la Cour suprême, nous nous sommes demandé comment pouvons-nous revoir le fonctionnement du sénat sans avoir à rouvrir la constitution canadienne?  Donc, le mandat de notre comité se situe à l'intérieur des paramètres actuels de la loi constitutionnelle du Canada.  Et nous nous sommes demandé quels étaient les objectifs de notre travail, de nos réflexions, qu'est-ce qui devrait être changé au sénat pour le rendre plus ouvert, plus efficace et plus inclusif.

 

La première des recommandations que nous faisons à nos collègues sénateurs, c'est celui de télédiffuser les débats du sénat.  En effet, comme vous le savez, la chambre des communes, depuis plusieurs années – j'y étais d'ailleurs à l'époque – où la chambre des communes a vu ses travaux diffusés sur les canaux de télévision, nous, nos travaux restent, pour la plupart du temps, je dirais secrets ou confidentiels malgré la teneur des débats et malgré le sérieux des débats que les sénateurs apportent à l'étude des projets de loi et des questions de politiques publiques.

 

Nous nous sommes donc mis d'accord que la première recommandation, c'est celle de télédiffuser les débats du sénat.  Nous avons examiné les coûts de, d'installer un système de télédiffusion dans l'édifice actuel, dans la salle actuelle du sénat, et comme vous le savez, le sénat est comme la chambre des communes, quitteront l'édifice du centre dans la prochaine année, à la fin de 2017, et il en coûterait au-delà de $1,200,000 pour installer l'équipement qui sera à toutes fins pratiques, obsolètes après notre déménagement dans le nouvel édifice. 

 

Par conséquent, ce que nous proposons dans l'intérim, c'est d'utiliser le webcast et le Twitter pour assurer que les débats du sénat sont accessibles aux Canadiens.  Mais nous ferons le nécessaire pour que lorsque nous aménagerons dans le nouvel édifice qui est en train d'être aménagé, nous, nous aurons le bénéfice de la télédiffusion.  C'est donc dire que d'ici un an environ, les Canadiens auront accès directement aux sénateurs en action, et c'est là où pourra voir si tous les préjugés qui s'expriment à l'égard du sénat sont réels. 

 

Les Canadiens pourront comparer la façon dont les sénateurs abordent les débats publics et avec, avec la manière que les députés eux-mêmes y mettent pour étudier les projets de loi, et surtout tenir le gouvernement responsable. 

 

C'est d'ailleurs le deuxième élément de nos recommandations, celui des projets de loi omnibus.  On a vu une prolifération des projets de lois omnibus depuis, en particulier, le gouvernement Chrétien de la fin des années 90, et évidemment ça a atteint un sommet avec le dernier gouvernement, au point où, comme le disait à l'époque le chef de l'opposition à la chambre des communes, ce sont des projets de loi mammouths qui sont tellement considérables et qui touchent à tellement de sujets qu'il est impossible dans une période de temps limitée, d'aborder des questions qui n'ont avoir avec les dispositions budgétaires, ne serait-ce que de rappeler l'exemple des deux dispositions qui amendaient la loi sur la Cour suprême pour valider la nomination du juge Nadon dans une, dans un projet de loi budgétaire. 

 

Évidemment, cela n'avait rien avoir et pour faire droit à une étude approfondie de ces questions-là, il est essentiel que l'on puisse diviser les projets de loi omnibus et renvoyer chaque partie des projets de loi aux comités correspondants, aux comités habilités à étudier les questions d'environnement ou de transport ou d'affaires sociales ou de justice ou de finances. 

 

Et donc, une des recommandations clés que nous faisons, que nous informons en définitive le gouvernement, que les projets de loi omnibus, lorsqu'ils seront éventuellement déposés au sénat, seront divisés selon la nature des sujets qu'ils contiennent et seront votés distinctement, de sorte que les dispositions financières pourraient être elles adoptées dans le délai du temps imparti, mais toutes les autres dispositions se verraient consacrées le temps nécessaire à leur étude, à leur débat et à leur adoption ou amendement, puisque comme vous savez, amender un projet de loi budgétaire se fait à l'intérieur des contraintes de la constitution, et par conséquent, il y a une sorte de limite des pouvoirs de la chambre des communes et du sénat lorsque le gouvernement recoure à cette initiative qui a pour effet en définitive de distordre la démocratie. 

 

I would like to say to my colleagues how much I appreciated that we were able to achieve the establishment of the committee after two years following the decision of the Supreme Court.  Many of us were concerned that when the Supreme Court concluded that any major change to the institution would have to go back to the negotiation table, the constitutional negotiation table, that was the end of it.  We thought that there were many ways to modernize the institution, to renew the institution without reopening the constitution.  

 

And I think that the present Prime Minister gave the signals when he trust with an advisory committee the selection of Senators that's within the constitutional framework.  Without changing an iota of the constitution, the composition of the Senate will be deeply changed, and I think my colleague here today, Senator McCoy, will be able to entertain you how that will trigger adjustment of the functioning and operation of the Senate. 

 

So we think that the proposal that we are putting forward won't need to reopen the constitution even though they will call upon amendments to the rules of the Senate, amendments to the administrative rules of the Senate and amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act, which is totally within the framework of the power of the House of Commons and the Senate in sync. 

 

And we have been invited by the government when the Leader of the Government appeared at the beginning of the new Parliament, to look into those legislation and make recommendations.  So we didn't expect to get the framework of our reflection from the government.  We thought it was up to us to take initiative and come forward with our proposals.  And those proposals are the results of, I should say, deep thinking.  The first initiative we took was to organize a symposium at University of Ottawa in January 2015 whereby 12 recommendations were tabled following that symposium with various experts drawn from all over Canada, 12 recommendations that were then studied with other recommendations that two of our colleagues, Senator Greene and Senator Massicotte, took the initiative of organizing in the fall of last year. 

 

So in other words, we were not starting from scratch.  We had already the benefits of a university symposium and of a broad consultation that took place among our colleagues last fall of last year.  And we thought that with those parameters, with the decision of the Supreme Court, the way that the Supreme Court framed the role and function of the Senate with the reflection drawn from those five experts from a university community and from the reflection from that broad consultation whereby more than, I think, 55 Senators took part into that reflection, we are in position to come forward with 21 recommendations that, as I say, are aimed to renew the institution and open the chamber, make it more functional and assume our responsibility to keep the government accountable, to bring sober second thought to legislation, and to investigate difficult policy issues because not being elected, we have free reign to open issues on some topics whereby, I should say, if you are elected, you're much more subject to pressure and you have much less freedom to come forward with recommendations in relation with, as Senator McInnis has said, with drugs issue, you know, the report of our late former colleague, Senator Nolin did, as we did with mental health and as we did with medical assistance in dying. 

 

So in other words, the Senate has a role.  We are a bi(inaudible) Parliament.  We are the appointed chamber, we are a complementary chamber to the House of Commons, but nevertheless, our role is as essential to the functioning, the good functioning of Parliament of Canada and we are happy that we are able to give a first report that will give a signal to the House of Commons that they too might have to do their introspection and look into their functioning and how better improve the way they approach legislation and they keep government accountable.

 

Merci. 

 

Moderator:                                   Senator McCoy.

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       And it's my pleasure to introduce Senator McCoy, who is the facilitator of a group of independent Senators, I should say, whose group is called to grow in the weeks and months to come.  And I think that that reality brings us to readjust the operation of the Senate chamber and she'll be certainly in position to entertain you on that very issue. 

 

Senator McCoy. 

 

Hon. Elaine McCoy:                    Thank you Senator Joyal and thank you Senator McInnis.  First though, I wish to underline the fact that I'm here this morning as a third member of the Steering Committee of the Modernization Committee, and not in my capacity as facilitator or as the say in England, the convenor of our new organized independent senators group, whose tagline, I'm proud to say is Organized for Change, but we would, as a group, be very willing to entertain all of your questions later, and of course, I will enter the conversation this afternoon. 

But what I want to point out first of all is I think we're all sitting here and this is a piece of history being enacted in this room today.  And the reason for that is I cannot recollect, in all my 11 years as being an Independent Senator in this Canadian Senate, of having an Independent member of, an Independent member of the Senate being on a Steering Committee.  And if that were the case, which my memory doesn't recall, not once was that person asked to participate in the news conference on a report. 

 

So I truly do thank Senators McInnis and Joyal.  I have received nothing but courtesy from the two gentlemen.  Now that isn't to say that we have agreed on every point, and indeed, we've been nose to nose on many issues.  We have lively intelligences and we both, all come from broad-based experience, but we are united in our desire to serve Canada and to have an effective modern Senate.  And that is what has kept us talking to one another. 

 

This collaboration and collegiality is not what we have necessarily experienced, particularly in the last decade, and so what you're seeing this morning is the beginning of the modern Senate.  Much to do to keep going, but that's true. 

 

I'm also pleased that we have taken the opportunity to dedicate our first report to the late Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin.  He was a great champion of moving forward.  He introduced the first motion to have this committee struck just two weeks after the Supreme Court reference that Senator Joyal spoke to.  He asked Senator Joyal to be his seconder and you did.  And so, indeed we have been, amongst ourselves, discussing these matters for at least the last two years, probably longer in some respects. 

 

What has perhaps accelerated our desire to move into the 21st century is an influx of new Senators and they're bringing new thoughts, new ideas, new energy and we are, I think all of us welcoming them into our midst with delight.  Certainly, if the calibre of the next appointments equal the calibre of our recent appointments, certainly we will be blessed with new colleagues in that regard. 

 

But as I look at you, Senator Tannas, who was elected in Alberta, who's also an influx of new energy and new intelligence, and we certainly welcomed you as well.  In other words, we are a big enough house of Parliament that we can encourage people to come in and be independent minded.  That is the real message, I think, we want to send.  And certainly it was the message that Canadians send and I'm only just very pleased that we're being given another chance actually to respond to what Canadians actually want. 

 

As you know, we had a survey, I did a, had a survey conducted in March this year.  Canadians – by Nick Nanos – Canadians overwhelmingly said they'd like to see the Senate change for the better.  And one of their recommendations for the better was to have Senators not belong to a political caucus in the chamber.  And so I think we're moving in that direction.  And personally, for my own, speaking for  myself, and I've said this in the committee several times, I don't think political caucuses are the problem.  I think abuse of power has been the problem. 

 

But nevertheless, we need, we do need to have independence and independent thinkers in the Senate and we need to have collaboration so that we tease out the very best in all of the very many roles that we undertake, all six major roles that we undertake for Canadians.  And I think that this exercise, this committee and now the debates that we will open up in the chamber – stay tuned, I think we'll have even more lively discussion. 

 

I look forward to your questions.  And thank you gentlemen, again.

 

Unidentified Male:                      Thank you.

 

Moderator:                                   Thank you very much.  Time for questions.  One question, one follow-up per person.  And then we'll go around to a second round of people if we have time and people want one. 

 

Marie Vestel, Le Devoir.

 

Question:                                      Oui, bonjour.  J'ai une petite question plus précise.  La recommandation numéro deux, de revoir les règles administratives de façon à ce qu'ils intègrent les multiples fonctions d'un sénat moderne.  Pouvez-vous juste rapidement préciser qu'est-ce que ça veut dire?

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Oui, certainement.  D'abord, comme vous le savez, il y a trois types de règlements qui définissent et organisent le travail du sénat.  Il y a les règlements du sénat, qui sont essentiellement sur la procédure que l'on suit à la chambre comme tel, dans le débat des projets de loi ou dans l'étude des questions politiques.  Ensuite, il y a la loi du parlement du Canada qui définit à quel niveau le sénat restera une institution indépendante fondée sur son financement à travers les deniers publics. 

 

Et enfin, il y a les règlements administratifs du sénat.  Le règlement administratif, c'est celui évidemment qui gère les dépenses du sénat, qui gouverne les dépenses du sénat.  Alors il est certain par exemple, que dans le cas des comités qui veulent se déplacer à travers le pays dans l'étude d'un projet de loi qui a, par exemple, des implications régionales.  Le cas classique évidemment, c'est le comité de l'Agriculture et les pêches.  Il y a pas beaucoup de pêche à Ottawa, ni d'agriculture à Ottawa, sinon à la Ferme expérimentale. 

 

Et par conséquent, un comité qui veut, par exemple, évaluer l'impact des pesticides dans l'agriculture contemporaine va devoir aller sur place.  Alors les comités doivent se présenter au comité de la Régie interne pour obtenir leurs budgets.  Et par conséquent, lorsque le gouvernement décide que le budget du sénat va être réduit oui diminué, bien évidemment, forcément, cela a un impact sur le travail des comités, la liberté que les comités ont de se déplacer, de faire venir des témoins, de commander des études d'expertise, etc.

 

Alors, il est certain que il faudra revoir la manière dont le budget du sénat est défini, c'est-à-dire le contexte à l'intérieur duquel les priorités du sénat sont exprimées, et comme cela a un impact sur le plan financier.  Et nécessairement, comme dit l'autre, tout commence en mystique et tout finit en politique.  Bien, tout commence en politique et tout finit en budget.  Et donc, tout ce que nous pouvons proposer se retrouve toujours devant le comité de la Régie interne.

Je parlais tantôt de la diffusion des, la télédiffusion des travaux.  La question financière est capitale.  Si on en arrive à la conclusion que pour installer dans le nouvel édifice où nous déménagerons le filage, les caméras, l'éclairage, etc., il faudra, cela se reflétera sur le budget annuel du sénat.  Donc, nous devons certainement réévaluer comment le fonctionnement du comité de la Régie interne se déroule pour nous assurer, par exemple, que sur les questions financières, le, comme disait l'autre, le portefeuille suive les paroles.  Et par conséquent, le fonctionnement du comité de la Régie interne est capital pour l'efficacité du sénat.

 

Question:                                      Sur le, l'idée de pouvoir scinder un projet de loi omnibus, est-ce que c'est pas quelque chose que la chambre des communes pourrait avoir envie de freiner?  Est-ce que vous pourriez être bloqués dans vos efforts?

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Non, pas du tout.  Lorsque le projet de loi nous arrive de la chambre des communes, comme vous savez, le gouvernement contrôle la majorité à la chambre des communes.  Au sénat, le gouvernement ne contrôlera plus la majorité au sénat, comme l'a souligné ma collègue, la sénateur McCoy.  À très court terme, la majorité des sénateurs seront des sénateurs Indépendants.  Et par conséquent, il n'y aura, il n'y a plus de discipline gouvernementale au sénat. 

 

Il n'y a plus de caucus gouvernemental au sénat.  Il n'y a qu'un seul sénateur qui représente le gouvernement, le sénateur Harder, et lui-même, se présente comme sénateur Indépendant.  Il ne se présente pas comme un sénateur Libéral.  Par conséquent, lorsque les projets de loi nous arrivent de la chambre des communes, nous devons accorder à ces projets de loi la priorité et nous devons les débattre, les analyser, leur donner le second regard, the sober second thought, comme la Cour suprême l'a très bien rappelé, de manière à rendre justice à chaque aspect du projet de loi. 

 

Or, si le projet de loi est truffé de toutes sortes d'autres amendements à diverses lois qui n'ont rien avoir avec le budget, mais le gouvernement de sa majorité à la chambre des communes pour se débarrasser de son agenda législatif dans une seule opération, évidemment on fausse les principes de la responsabilité ministériels.  Et comme le gouvernement contrôle la majorité à la chambre des communes, en toute fin pratique, la chambre des communes n'assume pas sa responsabilité constitutionnelle, n'est pas en mesure de l'assumer. 

 

Alors, en divisant le projet de loi au sénat et en renvoyant à chacun des comités concernés le sujet du projet de loi qui lui est, qui lui est dévolu de par sa nature, nous arriverons à une bien meilleure évaluation du projet de loi.  Et comme je le souligne tantôt, cela n'empêchera pas le gouvernement d'opérer.  Nous pouvons adopter les dispositions budgétaires séparément et accorder aux autres aspects du projet de loi le temps nécessaire pour pouvoir faire droit à notre rôle de, d'apporter un second regard et de tenir le gouvernement responsable des progra-, du programme législatif qu'il propose au parlement.

 

Moderator:                                   Mike Le Couteur, Global Television.

 

Question:                                      Why should Canadians believe you guys that this is actually a new way forward when you still have fiercely partisan Senators sitting in that chamber?

 

Hon. Thomas McInnis:               Well, I think that is less so.  If anyone that watched the debate on assisted dying last, earlier this year, you know, there was absolutely no partisanship whatsoever.  There was Conservatives voting one way, some of them, some of them voting another way on the amendments.  Same with the Liberals, same with the Independents. 

 

I think what you're, what you're seeing here and I think you'll be seeing it in the future, is that people, Senators are going to start thinking independently, making their own mind up on legislation.  What I saw and witnessed last spring, you saw when there was a break in the action, groups forming and talking and discussing the issue and finding out more about it, and how, and there was actually some very meaty discussions that were taking place right on the floor. 

 

And so I think what you're seeing here is a transformation.  And with these recommendations, what this report, the, one of the key points of it, is to bring the independence into the fold.  This is democracy, this is equality, this is making all Senators equal.  And I think it's unparalleled and I don't believe can be drawn as an analogy to the House of Lords and the Crossbencher.  So I think what we have here are whatever number of Senators we now have, it'll go to 105.  You will have independent thinkers, people  that no one can predict where they're going, and no longer will it be the case, or is it the case now that something, a bill or whatever comes from the Commons and you're whipped.  This is the way you're going to vote.  You will not see that.  You will not see that in the future.  And that's a good thing.

 

Question:                                      Isn't that the way this house was supposed to function before all of this, sober second thought?  It wasn't supposed to be whipped, supposed to be doing all these checks and balances, and maybe I'll ask Senator McCoy to weigh in on this as well.  I mean, you're saying this is a new way forward.  Isn't this the way it was supposed to be?

 

Hon. Thomas McInnis:               Yes.  Yes it was.

 

Question:                                      So what happened?

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Well, I think that, I think, you want me to --?

 

Hon. Thomas McInnis:               Well, you can, but I just, I wasn't there to see that, but what it, what, many will argue that the party system is still alive.  Right?  In part two, we will have a discussion on the Westminster system.  We will look at, you know, the pros and cons because it's always been the case in the Westminster system where you would have those that would propose and those that would oppose.  And so you know, that's, that debate is going to take place in part two, as to where we are going. 

 

And I think, at the end, and no one can predict with certainty, but in the end, people will see that not only is the Senate as a body independent, Senators will be independent, independent in thought. 

 

Hon. Elaine McCoy:                    I will weigh in, if I may.  Because when you take a good look at hour history and the history of the Westminster model, which has been exported all over the world, in variations, it's like having, it's like having a Rolls Royce built in England.  That's one model.  And then exporting a Rolls Royce for here, you know.  They put the steering wheel on the other side.  So there are some commonalities but not identical.  Except for a few essentials and all of those essentials are characteristics of the lower house. 

 

And so we always have a government and we always have an official opposition.  It's a government in waiting, which mirrors the, in order to ensure that we always have an executive.  There's never a gap between one government and the next, just the way there wasn't when we used to have the Crown, a king or a queen running things. 

 

And that's where this, the partisanship has really become fine tuned, if I can say.  And I'm not saying that that's not appropriate.  It's not my brief to discuss the House of Commons.  However, there is, and I think Canadians have elegantly stepped up to the need to design something that acts as a conduit to that fierce political competition in the lower house.  And that is what the Senate was meant to be.  And as Georges-Étienne Cartier said, we will, this is Quebec, said we will not enter confederation unless we have equal representation in the upper house that will save us from the tyranny of the majority. 

 

And George Brown from Toronto, who was his colleague in bringing the great confederation together said we were only too glad to give that to Quebec and the Maritimes, cause then it was a deal maker in those days, and it's for that very reason, to offset the possibility of an abuse of power, which the majority can, in fact, carry.  So how did we get, I don't want to go how we got off the track, you know, the judge now in court gave us some examples of how we got off track.  What we're interested in doing is going forward.  I think Canadians want us to go forward.

 

I think that what we are setting out to do is to really encourage a new culture for the Senate of Canada in the 21st century, and that is based on respect and it's based on equality of Senators, it's based on each of us taking our fair share of the burden of our jobs, which the Queen has called us to do.  And that is to serve Canada.  And we are not going to evolve into that wonderful shining new institution tomorrow.  It's going to be a transition and an evolution, but I sincerely believe, even those who have been noted for their exceedingly enthusiastic support of political parties in the past, even they will come along with this, I would suggest. 

 

And certainly, the way this committee has worked and the three of us who are sitting before you are exemplars of how this committee has worked, and there are other members in the audience of our Senators who will attest to that as well.  So that's the message, going forward.

 

Moderator:                                   Madeleine Blais-Morin, Radio-Canada.

 

Question:                                      Sénateur Joyal, ce qu'on voit dans les recommandations principes que j'ai pu lire là, ce sont des idées, à part le projet de loi ou la division du projet de loi omnibus, dont j'avais pas entendu parler, mais l'élection d'un président, la télédiffusion des débats, ce sont des idées qui circulent depuis longtemps.  À quel point vous voyez ça comme étant majeur comme avancée, ce, cette recomman-, ces recommandations-là?  À quel point c'est, ça va transformer le sénat, à votre avis?  Est-ce que ça va assez loin?

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Je vois que, comme l'a mentionné le sénateur McInnis, ce sont la, c'est la première étape.  C'est le interim report, comme le titre du rapport le dit.  Nous avons d'autres éléments de réflexion qui feront l'objet également de, de recommandations dans le, la prochaine étape de nos travaux.  Mais si ces recommandations-là que nous faisons aujourd'hui semblent recueillir un consensus parce que elles ont déjà été exprimées dans d'autres forums, dans d'autres études, je crois que le temps est mûr pour au moins engranger cette partie-là. 

 

Et je crois que lorsque l'on initie un mouvement comme celui dans lequel nous sommes impliqués, dans lequel le sénat accepte de s'impliquer, il est certain que on est engagé dans un processus de réflexion qui va emmener d'autres réformes importantes.  Ma collègue tantôt, le sénateur McCoy et sénateur McInnis, à la précédente question, soulève une question fondamentale. 

 

Si les partis disparaissent ou ne sont plus dominants dans la structure du débat du sénat, comment on organise le débat?  Parce que un débat, par définition, c'est pas une conversation.  Une conversation c'est une échange d'opinions, mais un débat c'est un affrontement d'idées basé sur des valeurs.  Et les partis politiques sont des familles qui partagent des valeurs. 

 

Là où le système a failli, à mon avis, c'est là où les partis politiques ont imposé aux membres de leur famille de voter dans la même direction, quelle que soit leur opinion sur le projet de loi ou les nuances qui pourraient lui être apportées.  Et tous les partis politiques se sont rendus responsables de cette, je dirais de ce méfait, aussi bien le plan Libéral antérieurement que le parti Conservateurs. 

 

Là on est engagé dans un processus qui est tout à fait différent.  Il y a une nouvelle dynamique et cette nouvelle dynamique va engendrer une redéfinition du rôle des partis politiques et de la discipline à l'intérieur des partis politiques que nous n'avons jamais connue au sénat.  Et c'est sûr qu'il y a eu une corruption du système avec les années qui a handicapé le sénat dans le fonctionnement qui était attendu de lui selon la, les principes constitutionnels qui y ont été enchâssés, comme la Cour suprême les a défini. 

 

Alors il est certain que notre recommandation aujourd'hui, la majorité des recommandations font pas nécessairement l'unanimité, mais il y a un large consensus pour donner suite à ces recommandations et c'est la raison pour laquelle nous les avons rendus publiques maintenant pour pouvoir, comme on dit, prouver le mouvement en marchant. 

 

Mais il y a d'autres étapes essentielles qui vont devoir faire l'objet de notre réflexion, qui est celui de la manière dont les partis politiques qui vont demeurer présents au sénat, vont devoir redéfinir leur fonctionnement pour assurer ce débat.  Parce que c'est important qu'il y ait un véritable débat et un débat, fondamentalement, c'est un affrontement d'idées.  Et cet affrontement d'idées là doit être libre et doit permettre à chaque sénateur de prendre la position ou les positions qu'il ou qu'elle veut défendre, eu égard à la proposition sur laquelle il doit voter à la fin. 

 

Alors, c'est un, c'est une première étape.  D'ailleurs, M. McInnis l'a bien mentionné tantôt, notre comité continue ses réflexions et, et sa réflexion, comme l'a souligné également sénateur McCoy, c'est sur le modèle de Westminster.  Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire le modèle de Westminster au sénat dans une chambre qui doit être indépendante, d'une chambre qui fonctionne essentiellement sur la base des partis politiques.  C'est le contexte à l'intérieur duquel la démocratie s'exerce. 

 

Alors c'est l'ajustement que nous aurons à faire et nous reviendrons avec des recommandations certainement lorsque notre réflexion sera complétée.  Mais c'est une réflexion qui est, à mon avis, inévitable et qui nous commande d'arriver à des conclusions réelles sur le fonctionnement du sénat dans sa manière de débattre et de, d'étudier les projets de loi.

 

Question:                                      À votre avis, est-ce que la partisannerie est encore trop présente au sénat pour changer fondamentalement la façon ––

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Bien, je crois que ––

 

Question:                                      –– dont (inaudible).

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       –– le, le poids, le poids de, du nombre actuellement, comme sénateur McCoy l'a mentionné, la participation importante de sénateurs indépendants, qui se déclarent indépendants, ça ne veut pas dire que parce qu'ils sont déclarés indépendants, qu'ils ont perdu leur échelle de valeurs personnelles.  On peut être indépendant mais être davantage, disons, se retrouver davantage dans une fam-, telle famille politique sur le plan des valeurs, sur le plan des principes.  

 

Mais il est certain que le nombre important d'indépendants emmènent le sénat dans son ensemble, à réfléchir sur la façon dont il débat les projets de loi.  Depuis que les sénateurs Libéraux ont été remerciés de participer au caucus national, bien come on dit en anglais, no strings attached.  On n'a plus d'obligations d'avoir à se définir à l'intérieur d'un corridor très précis.  Et vous l'avez vu dans le cas d'aide médicale à mourir.  La position que les sénateurs Libéraux indépendants ont pris, la majorité d'entre eux, n'étaient pas la position que la majorité des députés Libéraux ont pris. 

 

Les sénateurs Libéraux ont pris des positions sur C-51, qui est un projet de loi extrêmement important sur le plan des droits de la personne, qui étaient à l'encontre de la position que les députés Libéraux avaient pris, d'appuyer en principe le projet de loi.  Les sénateurs Libéraux ont voté en faveur des amendements fondamentaux sur le projet de loi C-6 pour réorganiser les unités de négociations syndicales à l'intérieur de la Gendarmerie Royale. 

 

Alors moi je regarde les projets de loi, depuis que nous avons été remerciés de nos bons services, et je me dis bien, on se sent certainement, je n'ai pas renoncé à mes valeurs Libérales personnellement. J'ai été Libéral toute ma vie.  Mais par ailleurs, je n'ai plus d'obligation stricte à faire en sorte d'évaluer si mon vote va embarrasser mes collègues, mes anciens collègues à la chambre des communes. 

Alors ce que je vous dis, c'est qu'il y a – et on le constatent également chez mes collègues Conservateurs, il y a une plus grande, certainement une plus grande ouverture à se définir individuellement sur les projets de loi et sur les questions politiques en fonction de ce que nous estimons être la position la plus juste dans les circonstances, la plus adéquates par rapport au mandat électoral du gouvernement et par rapport à nos propres valeurs individuelles. 

 

Alors il est certain que le, les éléments de l'évolution sont, à mon avis, réversibles, surtout si M. Trudeau maintient son engagement à nommer des sénateurs indépendants pour les trois prochaines années. 

 

Hon. Elaine McCoy:                    And maybe I could just add to that – Senator McInnis, you may wish to as well – but I think you'll be able to gauge to some degree, from the debates we have on the floor of the chamber regarding these, this report.  There's no question we have, shall I call them traditionalists.  We have a group of traditionalists, not, some of which belong to one political caucus, some of which belong to another, some of whom don't belong to any political caucuses.  I can't give you an exact head count today, and I will say, I think, also that the opinion in the House is shifting.

 

So if you're asking me if I am optimistic, I will give you an unqualified yes.  I am seeing a shift amongst the Senators with whom I have been working over the past 11 years towards, as we say, a more open, collaborative approach, one that stresses review of legislation based on evidence, not speaking notes.  And when it stresses our obligations to Canadians not only in the chamber but also in raising important public causes, also in parliamentary diplomacy and protecting minorities and all of which you have not heard us speak about as much.  But you will be, I dare say, in the coming years. 

 

So I'm very encouraged with this, with the way we are today and I would not hesitate to look forward to a very active, very intelligent and very committed Senator, Senate comprised of 105 Senators all wanting the best for Canada.

 

Hon. Thomas McInnis:               I just wanted to add that that when, when you have 105 Senators, just like ordinary Canadians, you know, sometimes there's a bent to be more socialistic and believe in strong and social values, and social legislation, and then you may have some that are fiscally responsible.  And you know, not, that's not a counter, but that they look at that so-called conservative value. 

 

So you'll always have those when you have that many.  That's not to say that that's going (inaudible) partisanship.  That's their belief.  And so, it's, I've read many reports that suggest that partisanship is dead.  Actually, I think what we are seeing in the Senate is less and less partisan.  Whether it'll be totally eliminated, I hope so and I think the Independents will see that that happens, but I mean, it's going to take some time.

 

Moderator:                                   Okay.  Sorry.  Well, we've got about four more people on the list ––

 

Question:                                      Yeah.  Okay. 

 

Moderator:                                   –– and I've got 10 minutes before Melissa's going to get upset.  So if we can try to use the time as efficiently as possible.  Paul Wells, Toronto Star.

 

Question:                                      Senators, two and a half years ago, Justin Trudeau, the new Liberal leader, kicked every Liberal out of the, every Liberal Senator out of the Liberal caucus.  How much of this report today is directly a result of that action?  How much of it is, on the contrary, a result of your own sort of spontaneous reflection?

 

Hon. Elaine McCoy:                    Just one factual correction, Mr. Wells.  He kicked them out of the national caucus, but from there, I'll let you speak to the Liberal Senator who's up here.  Go ahead, Senator Joyal. 

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Well, I think that there is certainly pros and cons.  There is no doubt that Senators were playing a role in the national caucus, be it that some of them had been formally elected, as had government responsibility, was holding a portfolio, were long-serving member, had larger experience than new members.  Look at the new Parliament, you know, two thirds are new members.  Before they are able to really take part into debates of policy issues like medical assistance in dying, you know, you have to, as we say in French, you have to do your classes.  You know, you have to learn.

 

And when you are on a short span of four years of Parliament life, well, the last year, you're in an election, the first two years, you're trying to find your ways.  So there are not, you know, the capacity of Members of Parliament to keep the government to account is very limited.  Let's put it on the basis of, you know, experience, knowledge, expertise, mastering the procedure, mastering the issues, be able to stand up and speak on an issue and challenge the government, you know.  Try to do it, you'll see.  It takes time. 

 

So when we were, when I was in the national caucus, I could bring to the group certainly an input into the thinking, into the definition of policies and into the compromise and the consensus that you have to arrive if you want really to maintain the majority.  The government, Mr. Trudeau, decided that he could, he could spare with that.  Well, fine.  So now, I have no debt to the Liberal caucus on the other place.  I remain a Liberal, as you check on my site.  I've been policy chair of the Liberal Party for 25 years.  I've been part of drafting red books for, you know, 15 years. 

 

So I have the impression that I could contribute to the public debate in my own way.  But now, I am not indebted to the other place.  As a matter of fact, when I walk in the street, if I meet a Liberal member, they cross over.  They don't want to talk to us, you know.  So fine, I mean, it doesn't change my conviction personal, but when the bills arrive in the Senate, well I do my job with sober second thought, you know, with the conviction that I express and that I have shared with Canadians all my life in very important debates in Canada in the last 45 years.

 

So that's why I think that it's good in a way for the Senate to be independent that way and I cherish that and I have written about that, you know, 13 years ago.  I devoted a book on this.  So I'm not against the objective of the government.  But on the other hand, the government has to realize what the government is missing.  And I think that by doing that, the hold of the government on the MPs are bigger.  Their capacity to control their MPs is bigger.  And that is not healthy for the role that the House of Commons has to assume to keep the government to account.  And that seems to me to be a very important challenge.

 

In, you know, in political law, there is the one of the unintended consequence.  You achieve a good, which is to make the Senate more independent, but at the same time, you strengthen the hold of the executive on its members.  So you know, on the whole of it, when you draw the line, what is the pro, what is the con?  And if I would be an MP today, you know, I would reflect along those lines. 

 

And that's why I think, as much we do our, to use an Italian expression, our aggiornamento, we are renewing the Senate, as much, I think, the House of Commons has to go through a similar process to see how much the executive has strengthened its hold on its members in relation to its constitutional role to keep the government accountable, because that's where, you know, they have the last word on the accountability of government. 

 

So this is very serious stuff, you know, and it's easy to dismiss the Senate.  Ah, you know, it's a bunch of bagmen and whatever.  Well, I have seen bagmen.  They were not that bad Senators either, but I don't think that you can think that from then on, we owe anything to the government.  And I raise this point with you on a very important point.  The government doesn't have a hold on us because we're separated.  We have been, severed, we are cut.  But the government is trying to find ways to reach us, because they need the vote, they need the – you know, that at a point in time, the Senate will draw the line and vote on an issue. 

 

And how is the government doing it?  By asking the Ministers whose legislation is in the Senate, to speak to the Senators individually, to phone them or to ask them to meet them.  So it's divide to conquer.  In other words, you know, they use their might as Ministers to call a Senator and say oh well, we have a bill, you know, and that's fine.  Oh, you have a Private Member Bill.  Well, when it's come in the House, you know, I'll be supportive of that bill.  (sic) 

 

Or you know, oh, your issue, your pet issue, you know, of X, I don't want to give examples because you would put names on Senators, but it's easy to do the trade and I think that's not transparent.  I prefer a caucus whereby you stand up and you challenge the Minister, then let the Minister to deal one on one with people.  And that's another law of unintended consequence. 

 

The government needs the vote and they ask themselves how are we going to reach the vote?  And believe me, as I said, I've been in politics a long time and I can see how the system retrigger itself when they cut themselves from a certain way of exercising power.  And this is what's going on now.  I mean, if you think that that's not going on, I'm sorry, you're, you know, you probably would need some additional reflection to understand how the system works.  Because we're talking of power here.  It's the legislative power.  And this is power.  And you're talking about executive power.  It's power.  It's a fight for the power.  Who controls the power.

 

And what you assist now is a triggering of reorganization of the power.  And we don't have the yet definitive answer.  We're reflecting upon this.  But don't think that we're not knowing or understanding what's going on.  Believe me.  I mean, as my mother would say, you know, don't try to show to an old monkey how to make faces, you know.  I am an old monkey and believe me, I've seen the system inside out and I'm still very much involved into it, and I still very strongly believe in that system.  I strongly believe in the Westminster model system.

 

But on the other hand, I know the operation of it is not in the abstract.  It's in, you know, on the floor, I mean, sur le plancher des vaches, you know, on the cows' floor.  And that's where, you know, all the nice intentions find their way into their operation on a day to day basis.  So that's where we are at at this stage.

 

Hon. Thomas McInnis:               Mr. Wells, if I could just say, I, ladies and gentlemen, you can now understand the debates and the discussion and if not, arguments, we have in the committee, which has been a positive thing. 

 

Let me just tell you, all that was going on at the time that the then leader of the Liberal Party asked the, the Liberal Senators to leave the caucus, all that was going on, in my mind, it was kind of a political coup.  I don't, I don't think, you know, that it was thought out that this would be, make the Senate more independent or anything like that, but an unintended consequence is in fact what you alluded to.  It did help.  But, but as you, all  of you know, there's been article after article after article about reform and reform in the Senate over the years. 

 

And I think what's crystalized it, what's brought it forward and the reason that this, I believe, is going to be successful is the, that to some degree, that action, but the, the Independents coming into the Senate and, when I first came to the Senate, I looked across and I said well, who are those two ladies up there in the far corner.  Well, it was Senator Cools and Senator McCoy and they were Independent.  And I thought well, well what, well they spoke intelligently.  They knew what they were talking about and did very well. 

 

But now, with this influx of alleged independent thinkers, and I hope they are, I think that that, as I said earlier, will crystalize into making the Senate a more independent place, and people will be open-minded when a new bill comes in, when the budget comes in.  They'll be open-minded to these, this nuance.  And so I think that, you know, as I say, it's been around a long time to talk about reform.  I think this is something that you will see, these changes are going to be, I will predict, will be approved by the Senate.  And when you see part two, when  we get into other areas of discussion and debate, you'll see new recommendations with a modernization of the Senate in its true form. 

 

Moderator:                                   Okay.  Thank you very much.  I apologize to those on the list who couldn't get a question in, but there is another press conference coming in momentarily.  So I invite people to carry the conversation outside.  Thank you very much.

 

Merci beaucoup. 

 

Hon. Thomas McInnis:               Thank you very much, Ms. Thompson. Thank you.

 

Hon. Serge Joyal:                       Merci.

 

Hon. Elaine McCoy:                    Merci.