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Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

Time Allocation--Motion Adopted

May 7, 2024

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Pursuant to notice of May 2, 2024, moved:

That, pursuant to rule 7-2, not more than a further six hours of debate be allocated for the consideration of motion No. 165 under Government Business.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, we really are in a hurry to get this through, aren’t we? He doesn’t even have anything to say on his own motion. Ramming through time allocation and he has no comments to make on his own motion on time allocation. That is what this Senate has become. This is no longer a democratic institution. This is an institution being run by —

Senator Batters [ + ]


Senator Plett [ + ]

 — a handful of people who just say, “We are now here. We have now arrived, so everybody step aside, we’re going to now run this institution our way.”

We are here again, colleagues. Senator Gold is once again reaching for the tool that Senator Furey gave him just before he left; the ability to use the power of the government majority to shut down democratic debate. This is the third time that Senator Gold’s impatience has led to the use of the hammer to close debate.

Colleagues, you will note that Senator Harder faced the same opposition and he did not use time allocation one single time through his entire time as the government leader. The fact of the matter is I was either the opposition leader or the opposition whip during that entire time, so our side was the same people. We managed to get through every piece of controversial legislation, including the “no pipelines” bill we got through without time allocation. I guess some people have better negotiating skills than others. I’m not sure.

Senator Gold has said he could not reach a consensus with the opposition because that is what he has to say, which again is entirely false. Senator Gold, I said, “We have four very legitimate amendments to make.” No filibustering, colleagues, none.

The amendments were going to be that this would be for this parliamentary session. The amendment was going to be to continue with our evening suspension from 6:00 to 8:00. One amendment was going to be the amendment that Senator Quinn already offered. We had a fourth amendment — I should have written it down — but it was an amendment that was legitimate, it was short. There was no filibustering going on, none. Let’s do this; let’s debate these amendments and put them through, vote on them, have them either passed or defeated.

Section 7 of the Rules talks about time allocation. Let me, once again, put on the record synonyms that were used over the years, colleagues, by our Liberal colleagues who were then in opposition. By Liberal colleagues who actually believed in the democracy, who didn’t think that 48 independents should run the place. They believed that this institution should be run in a democratic fashion.

I think it might help for the Trudeau-appointed senators who were not here at the time to understand what time allocation really is. What Senator Gold and the Trudeau government want to do has been described as an effort to — let me read these to you — do time allocation; do time limitation, invoke closure, curtail debate, limit debate to the maximum degree possible, cut off debate, shut down debate in Parliament, ram Motion No. 165 through and cut off debate, run shortcuts around due process, avoid careful scrutiny, silence our voices on the most critical issues facing Canadians and slam through its agenda without listening either to Parliament or to Canadians.

What Senator Gold is doing has been called by me and others: undemocratic; a guillotine imposed by the government on this chamber; using power to secure power; the muzzling of Parliament; the muzzling of Parliament and, through that, of the Canadian people; the abuse of Parliament and denying Parliament its right — our duty — to seriously examine what is proposed.

With Senator Gold’s motion, Parliament is being emasculated, and our examination on an important government motion has been radically truncated. This is what Liberal senators said about time allocation 10 to 12 years ago. Some of those senators are sitting in this chamber right now. This is what either you or your colleagues said at that time. Let me not point anybody out. Let me just look at them and whistle.

Let me quote a former Leader of the Opposition — Senator Jim Cowan — about the words “time allocation.”

They are words used to stop debate, to kill it outright, to prevent each one of us from asking questions about the very important and complicated bill before us, to stop us from looking too closely at this government’s plans for our country.

To look closely is, of course, our job. It is what Canadians expect us to do, what we are paid to do, what we were summoned here to do. . . .

— The words of Jim Cowan.

Senator Gold is shutting down debate after two senators, colleagues — two senators — from the opposition have spoken. That has got to be some kind of a record in our Parliament. Two senators have spoken, and he says that is a fulsome and wholesome debate and let’s shut it down.

Senator Housakos [ + ]

Too much democracy.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Senator Gold is shutting down debate before the opposition could table one, single, solitary amendment. Nothing. “I don’t want to hear from you guys. Go away. I’m running this place now.”

If having two speakers and no amendment are considered by this Trudeau government a filibuster, colleagues, we will have a lot of those before the next election. If Justin Trudeau and Marc Gold want to shut down debate with time allocation after two speakers, they will have to do it on a very regular basis. Let me put this chamber on notice right now. This is what this non‑partisan Senate has become: non-partisan. This is the most partisan this chamber has been since I was appointed in 2009.

Senator Batters [ + ]

Not even close.

Senator Plett [ + ]

By far and out the most partisan Senate since 2009 because under previous Conservative and Liberal governments, the use of time allocation was a reaction to a filibuster by the opposition.

Let me again quote my friend Jim Cowan. I miss Jim Cowan. I hope Jim Cowan is watching.

. . . I readily acknowledge that there may be circumstances in which proceeding in this way is justified, for instance when a deliberate filibuster drags on and on . . . .

No argument. I will continue to quote former Liberal senators. Maybe their words will enlighten senators also appointed by a Liberal Prime Minister. This is what Senator Joan Fraser said:

There are occasions when time allocation, drastic as it may be, may be necessary. It may be necessary on a major piece of legislation . . . .

— that’s what this motion is —

— when the opposition is being obstructionist for pure obstructionist’s sake.

The other reason usually invoked for imposing the guillotine on debate is the urgency of passing a bill. I am sure we all agree that debate should be limited when time is of the essence, and we get that time after time. As a matter of fact, with Senator Gold, they come to us and say, “This is time-limited, and time is of the essence,” two months before we receive a bill from the other place. Everything is a hurry to Senator Gold.

If a legislature is called on to pass a bill to stop a strike in a hospital where patients are in danger, it is easy to understand that it is fair to put parameters on the duration of the debate. But Senator Gold’s use of the guillotine is not to counter a filibuster. Colleagues, there is no filibuster.

Senator Gold’s use of closure is not because the matter at hand is urgent. Changing the Rules of the Senate to give more time to some senators to speak is by no means urgent.

Senator Gold has talked about how long this has dragged on. This place has been functioning, but now, all of a sudden, overnight, there is a panic because we are going on a break week, and if we don’t have this in place — if Senator Saint-Germain does not have the right to unlimited speaking time — before we come back on May 21, this place is going to fall apart. If we continue to have dinner breaks from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. when we come back on May 21, what a horrible thing that would be for us. Let’s get this rammed through so that when we come back, we can get out of here at seven o’clock in the evening.

Pay attention — because I will pay attention — to how many senators are here in this chamber when we start having our breaks at seven o’clock instead of six o’clock in the evening, because that is the ultimate reason why we’re doing this: Senators can go home early. They don’t want to be here. They were not appointed to be here. That’s why they want hybrid sittings — because they don’t want to be here. They want to be in their living rooms. Pay attention. Do the math. I’m going to do it.

This is not an abuse of power on our part; this abuse of power on Senator Gold’s part serves two purposes.

First, it answers the calls of all those senators who openly say that they are fed up with the opposition in the Senate — there it is. Only in Justin Trudeau’s Canada could you have parliamentarians openly calling for the elimination of dissenting voices in Parliament. This is simply outrageous. I know a lot of you are tired of hearing from us, and especially tired of me having my unlimited time, but giving it to somebody else isn’t going to prevent me from having mine. Trust me, Senator Lankin; I’m sure you’re going to come up with another motion in the next little while to prevent that from happening.

Conservatives rail against the government; that’s a bad thing. Justin Trudeau’s fans are a small minority in Canada, but he can count on a large majority in this chamber.

I am sorry if listening to the opinion of 80% of Canadians who don’t like Justin Trudeau is difficult for you, but we will continue. I invite you to reflect carefully on what democratic debate is. Time allocation was not in place so that the majority of senators could use it because they don’t like what they are hearing. The use of this mechanism by Senator Gold on Motion No. 165 is a perversion of the notion of time allocation.

I spoke in my speech last week about the fact that time is important for the opposition. Time allows the opposition to alert public opinion about an issue. Shutting down debate early allows the government to do its dirty deeds before anyone notices.

I submit to you, colleagues, that this use of time allocation on Motion No. 165 is to shut down debate early. It is no coincidence that Senator Gold moved his motion after The Globe and Mail had a story on the Liberals preparing the Senate for the election of Pierre Poilievre. The Office of the Prime Minister realized that people were starting to pay attention to the Liberal plans, so they ordered Senator Gold to quickly sweep this under the rug.

It’s either that or it’s a private member’s bill — one or the other. Take your pick. That is why the use of time allocation by the government is so outrageous and should be opposed, colleagues, by each one of you. Even if you dislike the Conservatives, this isn’t about the Conservatives. This is about you having the right to speak, just like us.

Whether you agree with Motion No. 165 or not, you should support the right of all senators to be heard. You should accept that amendments are presented, but this motion removes that. It silences all those voices before they are heard.

Since 2016, we have heard — over and over — how the Trudeau senators are independent. They vote 96% of the time with the government, but they are independent. They sponsor government legislation, but they are independent.

Colleagues, you’re going to have an opportunity again tonight to show your independence. Choose wisely. Thank you.

Hon. Denise Batters [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak against the Trudeau government’s invocation of time allocation on Motion No. 165 — an omnibus motion to overhaul the Senate Rules for the purpose of destroying the Conservative opposition.

To begin, I am stunned that Senator Gold — the Senate government leader — did not even give a speech, after which we could have asked him questions. It is just shocking that he did that.

It’s unfortunate that we once again find ourselves here, colleagues. Three years ago, when I spoke on the Bill S-4 changes to the Parliament of Canada Act, I predicted that Trudeau independent senators weren’t just pursuing changing their titles and increasing their leadership salaries, but also that the government would continue its long quest to destroy the opposition.

Senate Government Leader Gold initially tried to convince us that the highest levels of the Trudeau government had nothing to do with the creation and planning of this motion. But in response to me during Senate Question Period last week, Senator Gold admitted that his office sought and obtained the mandate from the Trudeau government for this draconian motion. He told me this one hour before he gave notice of this time allocation motion. Clearly, the government was aware of this closure motion, and gave its blessing for the Senate government leader to guillotine debate on guillotining the Senate opposition.

Bringing in time allocation at this point — after only a minimal amount of debate on this very wide-ranging motion — shows just how fearful the Trudeau government is of a level playing field. They’re scared they’re going to lose the next election, and they can’t pass the Senate rule changes to obtain what they want, so they’ve decided to just ram it through as a motion. At least when the government brings time allocation on a bill, senators have multiple stages at which they can speak — at second reading, at committee, at the report stage and at third reading. But Motion No. 165 has only one stage: the main motion and any amendments. The government is dropping the guillotine before we’ve even fully finished discussing the first amendment. Invoking time allocation now will mean that senators cannot propose any further amendments on this huge set of rule changes.

A few days ago, when speaking on this motion, Senator Saint‑Germain said:

There have never been more amendments to government bills than during this new Senate. Isn’t that proof that the independent senators from all three independent groups are making the government accountable and improving legislation for the benefit of Canadians?

We often hear Trudeau-appointed independent senators expound that the new independent Senate’s effectiveness can be measured by the number of amendments that the Senate passes on legislation. However, this is a myth. Most amendments brought by Trudeau independent senators originate with the Trudeau government. Because there is no government caucus, they pass them on to the Senate via the independent senator who is sponsoring the legislation. Many of these amendments are brought late into the legislative process — usually at the clause-by-clause stage of a Senate committee study. In fact, many of these amendments are to correct technical errors in the legislation that could have been avoided with careful drafting and close scrutiny in the first place.

By Senator Saint-Germain’s logic, the fact that the government is now cutting off debate without allowing further amendments shows that the Trudeau government is dodging accountability, and trying to prevent senators from making our Senate Rules stronger.

We have only had nine and a half hours of debate on this motion so far, with only 11 out of 96 senators speaking — and of those, only 2 were Conservative opposition senators. The Trudeau-appointed Senator Quinn brought a very reasoned amendment to limit response times for written and delayed answers. He did not raise this amendment to waste time, and we have barely had time to debate it.

In imposing time allocation, the government is preventing any further amendments, even to correct errors in the text of Motion No. 165 — and there are many errors in this omnibus motion. Take, for example, the motion’s proposal to make all Senate group leaders ex officio members of committees. If we add the leaders of all five groups to the existing membership of committees, members on all sides will be frustrated by having even less time to question witnesses. The Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament has been studying committee efficiency for months. This proposed change will further dilute the power of opposition senators at every single committee.

The vast majority of time at committees would be taken up by even more senators appointed by Justin Trudeau, something the Trudeau government may like but which is certainly not in the best interests of democracy.

Second, the redefinition of the role of the Government Representative in the Senate to mean that any successor to Senator Gold must be completely unaffiliated is problematic. It will automatically prevent anyone who has even volunteered on a political campaign, made a political donation or put a campaign lawn sign on their property from being the “Government Representative” in the Senate. You can’t have a political affiliation — a right afforded to all Canadians — and be the Government Representative in the Senate of Canada, a political institution? It’s bizarre.

Furthermore, that restriction is placed on the Government Representative in the Senate but not the Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate. Why is that?

But the most egregious of the errors remaining in this motion concern the government changing the rules governing time allocation. Under these proposed rules, the opposition may only get 20 minutes to debate out of the two and a half hours allowed for debate on time allocation. This is actually a decrease in the time we have under the current rules. It is highly objectionable that the government is rolling back the opposition’s ability to oppose the termination of debate in this place. This is a sad day for democracy, colleagues.

There have been a number of misrepresentations made during the debate on this motion, and it’s important to correct them before we vote on such a massive overhaul of the Senate Rules. Senator Saint-Germain calls our current rules a “. . . tyranny of the minority . . .” saying, “We deny privileges to the majority of senators and groups to the profit of a few. . . .”

What she said is ironic, given that a major reason the Senate exists is to protect the rights of minorities. One crucial way we do that is through comprehensive legislative debate in the chamber — the very thing this government is trying to stop by invoking time allocation.

In fact, the existing Senate Rules are structured to protect the rights and views of the minority. Procedurally, the entire Senate can be ground to a halt by the denial of consent by one non‑affiliated, independent senator; that is actually a feature of our Senate system, not a bug. It ensures that all senators are equal and that, for the benefit of minority populations in Canada at large, the majority cannot steamroll over the views of the minority.

It is telling that the Trudeau government did not once mention the rights of non-affiliated senators in eight pages of proposed rule changes. Giving more groups special standing when they don’t have a parliamentary role to fulfill diminishes the rights of non-affiliated senators. Again, this is contrary to the intended role of senators, which is to be independent by virtue of tenure and equal within the Senate Chamber.

Another misrepresentation I’ve heard a few times during the debate on this motion is that unanimity is not consensus. Senators, let’s get real: We all know what “consensus” means, and it is how the Senate has rightfully and traditionally operated. The opposition has existed as a fundamental entity with a defined parliamentary purpose in the Canadian Senate since 1867. You can try to pretend consensus doesn’t have to include the agreement of the opposition, but that doesn’t make it true. In fact, by invoking time allocation on this motion and not allowing debate of any further amendments, the government is unilaterally changing the Senate rules to satisfy the raw political ambitions of one man — Justin Trudeau.

Senator Saint-Germain, the leader of the largest “independent” senators’ group, will receive unlimited time to speak on legislation under these new rule changes, but she won’t use that time to “filibuster” like the Conservatives. She’ll only use her unlimited time to “have enough time . . . to try and improve and amend—” a bill “— when it is undemocratic,” which is, in fact, filibustering.

It’s obvious that the Trudeau government has failed to think through the consequences of the broad-ranging changes they are making to the Senate Rules. This motion will create major problems in practice. For example, the sheer number of people who need to agree on routine procedural tasks will be unworkable. Under these rule changes, five groups will have to come to an agreement on such matters as the timing of bells on votes and holding meetings on days when the Senate is adjourned. You may think things are bad now, but that would be chaos. And what will the result be if there is failure to come to an agreement? More one-hour bells.

Some proposed rule changes in this motion cap the number of groups at five. This means if an additional group of senators wants to assemble into a sixth group, they would be the only group without the rights afforded to the other five — a group without power. I suspect there are several senators who might be uneasy with that outcome.

Colleagues, I ask you to really think about the consequences of what the government is doing in this motion and the effect it will have on our day-to-day operations as well as our long-term future in the Senate of Canada. If you consider yourself independent, you have an opportunity to prove it — right here, right now. You don’t have to vote to cut off debate on this motion. The issues at stake are the reasons the Senate exists: Representation of minority views, democracy and careful review and scrutiny. They matter. So does your vote.

I hope you’ll join me in voting “no” to time allocation. Thank you.

There are a few things that are particularly objectionable about the government leader’s decision to resort to time allocation and to personally proceed with this notice pertaining to changes to the Rules.

I would remind senators that the Rules of the Senate have always been amended by consensus, by decision or by committee report, specifically reports of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. I say “specifically” because there have been times when the chamber has tasked the Speaker with reviewing the Rules during parliamentary recesses. The Speaker came back with proposed amendments to the Rules, which he submitted to the chamber. The Speaker’s report was submitted to the Rules Committee and passed by the Senate.

That is why, traditionally, this has been included in rule 12-7(2), which states, and I quote:

the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, which shall be authorized:

(a) to propose from time to time, on its own initiative, amendments to the Rules for the consideration of the Senate,

(b) to examine any question of privilege referred to it by the Senate, and

(c) to consider the orders and practices of the Senate and the privileges of Parliament;

It is no coincidence that it is either the Senate or the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament that is responsible for doing so. This involves the independence of the chamber, after all.

Clearly, when we are talking about a chamber that must be independent of the government, of the executive, of the House of Commons, it must be able to set its own rules governing how bills are studied. The government cannot interfere in the Senate’s operations and, obviously, it cannot start adjusting the rules as it sees fit so that the chamber panders to the government or so that the government interferes with the Senate’s independence.

It is the first part that bothers me, the fact that the Leader of the Government is the one proposing this amendment to the Senate Rules. Imagine if this were a hockey game between the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens, and the coach of the Canadiens was choosing the rules for the game. I have a feeling that people might see something wrong with that. That is what is happening right now.

Second, there is the issue of time allocation. I was reading the sections of Senate Procedure in Practice dealing with time allocation. In the introduction of the section on curtailing debate and expediting decisions, it states the following on page 106:

In other cases, debate can extend over a number of sittings. This does not mean that debate on such items will go on as long as any senator is ready to seek to adjourn the debate.

That is the philosophy behind and the very foundation of the use of time allocation. Debate has extended over several sittings, not just one, as stated in Senator Gold’s motion.

The fact that after only one sitting, the government leader can give notice of time allocation is an interesting precedent. It is consistent with the letter, but not the spirit of the Rules nor the way the Senate operates.

There’s another peculiarity. As we saw, the leader had to be persuaded to admit that he represents the government. That is just as peculiar. Obviously, we have to determine what is government business and what is not. The Leader of the Government has a great deal of discretion in determining whether something is government business, but once he has made up his mind, he can’t say that he doesn’t represent the government. He’s clearly acting as Leader of the Government.

It’s also peculiar because this reluctance stems from the fact that only the Leader of the Government can move a time allocation motion for government business. When the Leader of the Government tells us that changing the Rules of the Senate is government business, it flies in the face of the whole ideology and the arguments made by this government to the effect that the Senate should be independent. Once again, we can see as plain as the day the government saying one thing and doing another.

This is so true that, in rulings made regarding time allocation on government business, once again in Senate Procedure in Practice, this notion is addressed on page 107. It says, and I quote:

Time allocation establishes a limit on the time that can be spent to debate an item of Government Business. It is primarily used to allot time for the study of government bills, although it can also be applied to motions and other items of Government Business. Only the government can propose time allocation and only for its own business.

Footnote 193 includes a Speaker’s ruling that reads as follows:

 . . . “[t]o allow a process that could result in the application of the Government’s time allocation powers to non‑Government Business is not in keeping with the current Rules and practices.”

The thing is, what constitutes government business and what doesn’t? In their decisions, Speakers have concluded that, if a government says something is government business and presents it as such, then it’s government business. Even though this is all technically in keeping with the Rules, the leader’s hesitation and the fact that we are discussing the Rules of the Senate are actually completely contrary to the philosophy of the Rules and past practices. I think this sets a dangerous precedent.

I don’t know how many of the people here now will still be here six or seven years from now, when we can have another conversation about this precedent and a future government leader may decide to use it, but it would be good to make a note of this in our archives. I can guarantee that, if I’m still alive, I’ll be here and I’ll bring this up to those who vote in favour of this time allocation motion.

Thank you.

Hon. Rose-May Poirier [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the time allocation motion moved by Senator Gold to close debate on Motion No. 165. As I reflected last weekend after the multiple interventions on Motion No. 165, I was left with an uneasy feeling. Ever since I’ve been in politics, moments have happened when I’ve had to hit pause, sit back and thoroughly think, “What are we doing here?” and to weigh the consequences of choices but also the unintended consequences that could unfold. A few questions come to mind.

What could be the unintended consequence of not only the motion but the process used by the government? What kind of precedent are we setting? Are we harming or improving the discourse in this chamber not only today but for years to come? Are we better serving Canadians and our democratic system?

I’m not the only one who is questioning. Over the weekend, multiple people in my community inquired about what was happening in the Senate, what the government was up to and what the purpose of these changes are. Quite frankly, once I told them the government intended to shut down debate on the motion with time allocation, they were shocked but mostly disappointed and concerned.

On the first question, it is quite difficult to give you an answer, colleagues, because the government is cutting the debate short. How can we assess the possibility of consequences and unintended consequences of Motion No. 165? What’s the harm of having an extra month to look at it closer? Why not have the Rules Committee study the motion to report back to the chamber? There are so many more tools the government could have used instead of bringing out a closure motion, the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

On the second question of setting a precedent, it could set the precedent of a governing party imposing how they want to be held accountable in this chamber with a time allocation motion. Do we, as a chamber, want to open this box of allowing the Senate government leader to impose how the government is to be held accountable? The Senate, a house of sober second thought, is now considering a motion that stifles debate to change the Rules. It is not enough for Justin Trudeau to have appointed over 80 senators in our chamber; he also needs to drown out the Conservative voice.

As a reminder, in the last election, close to 6 million Canadians voted for the Conservative Party, electing 119 Conservative MPs. Whether you like it or not, we have a direct link with the electorate of the 2021 federal election, and we are their voice in the Senate. That’s a fact. So, as a Conservative senator, I represent two voices: a voice for the people in my home province of New Brunswick and the Conservative voters from across the country in the last election. With Motion No. 165, we are diluting the voice of close to 6 million Canadians who cast their vote in the last election.

On the third question of discourse in the Senate, I cannot see how we are improving the discourse in the Senate. In all my life in the provincial legislature and in the Senate, I have never seen the rules of debate of either chamber be a barrier or an obstacle. We are adding more variables, more unpredictability and, in some ways, a more hostile process to the government, which has a mandate from the people. Is our goal to start challenging the will of the elected people?

On the fourth question, and the most important one, in my opinion, are we better serving Canadians and our democracy? While Motion No. 165 has been styled as being more democratic, why did it take so long for the Liberal government to finally embrace democracy less than 18 months away from the next election? Why not do it three years ago in the name of democracy and fairness for all senator groups, as they claim?

In my opinion, the timing confirms that the government is reading the same polls we are, namely, that the future of this Liberal government is near the end. As a parting gift, the Liberal government wants to complicate the life of the future Conservative government by imposing these rules.

Having been in politics for 25 years, I’ve learned that timing is everything — which brings me to my conclusion as to why the government is so keen on imposing its will on this chamber.

In 2014, Justin Trudeau decided to kick out all Liberal senators to protect himself from the Senate expense scandal. He styled it as a reform attempt, but really it was a political manoeuvre to put distance between himself and the Senate.

Now Motion No. 165 is the final step of the Liberal Senate reform. It is mind-boggling, colleagues — but also very fitting — that the Liberal government’s final piece of Senate reform is to be forced through with time allocation.

Just like today’s debate on Motion No. 165, it is more out of political motivation to block the next Conservative government from achieving its mandate given by the electorate. If there has been a pattern with Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government since 2015, it is the notion of “politics all the time.” This certainly applies today with Motion No. 165 and the use of time allocation.

Colleagues, while it might be the government’s prerogative to use time allocation on legislation when it sees fit, to use time allocation on a government motion in order to force through changes to the Senate Rules is, in my opinion, misuse of this tool. It would be difficult to convince me that time allocation was put in place to force through important changes to our Rules, as Motion No. 165 proposes.

Why does the government believe it needs time allocation to put through a motion that has wide support in the chamber except from the official opposition? There are 13 of us, colleagues, yet the government is charging forward with Motion No. 165. What is the hurry?

In my opinion, what we are seeing here today is the failure of the Senate reform by Justin Trudeau. Prior to 2015, we had senators who represented the government sitting on each committee, with chairs and deputy chairs divided between government and opposition. Through our Rules Committee, there would be a place for dialogue between the government and the opposition to bring changes to the Rules.

Now there is no dialogue between the government and the opposition. We all know who the opposition is: the Conservatives in the Senate. But who is the government? Is it the three senators from the Government Representative Office, or GRO? Is it the Independent Senators Group, or ISG? Is it the Progressive Senators Group, or PSG? Is it the Canadian Senators Group, or CSG? We don’t know. How can we have constructive dialogue between the government and the opposition when they only meet within the confines of this chamber?

Each group here probably has an opinion about what the Rules should be, and within each group there are probably subgroups who will think differently in terms of how the Rules should be written. Therefore, the Liberal government decided to put forward a motion that gives something to everyone except the opposition.

Since 1999, I sat across the aisle on the government side for five years in this chamber and I sat for another eight years in the provincial legislature. As many of my colleagues know, I have rarely, if ever, played the political games between parties. This has still allowed me to hold the government’s feet to the fire in two houses and to defend our policies in two houses. However, witnessing what the government is now trying to do — and most likely will accomplish — doesn’t sit right with me.

In light of what I heard last week and what I have seen in these last months and years, I cannot remain silent, because this is the goal of the motion: to silence the Conservative voice in the Senate by diluting our status vis-à-vis other parties. The slippery slope just got more slippery, colleagues. While I can’t do anything to stop it, as the people back home asked me to do, I can at least share my concerns. Will I be right or wrong? Time will tell, but I want to encourage all my colleagues to reflect carefully on the road we are embarking upon. Thank you.

Hon. Leo Housakos [ + ]

Honourable senators, I too want to share my views on Motions No. 169 and 165. Like Senator Poirier, I don’t think that sharing my views will have an impact on the outcome, but I think it is important that I put my views on the record. In that way, there will be no ambiguity 5, 10 or 12 years from now.

The real discussion here is not so much the risk for democracy or for the roles of the opposition or government. The existential issue is what kind of place the Senate of Canada will be a week, a month or a year from now.

The Senate has had its challenges for 157-odd years. We’ve had those challenges because we are not an elected body. We don’t directly represent the democratic will of the electorate like the House of Commons does; however, we certainly receive the privileges of the outcomes of those electoral processes.

The challenge remains, though not in the fact that we don’t represent democratic electoral outcomes. What is imperative and what has happened historically is that all senators have understood that our behaviour within the confines of our democracy was essential in garnering the credibility of this institution.

Democracy has a couple of elements: general elections and Parliament. Of course, the outcome of general elections determines who governs, through the support they receive in Parliament. However, democracy is practised in Parliament in between elections, in the House of Commons and in the Senate. It is important that between elections, minority voices have a significant and substantial role in Parliament. When I say “minority voices,” and when we talk about minority voices in this place historically, it is those who lose the election. It is those who, between one election and the next, need to have a voice in this place in order for government to be held to account and to be influenced by those voices.

Nobody wants to take away the government’s mandate or their right to govern. We certainly didn’t in 2015, when the Trudeau government won the election, and the two subsequent elections. Based on their electoral platform, they imposed on this institution the way they wanted it to operate. We acknowledged that there was a limit to what we could oppose, even though we had a majority the day after the election.

It needs to be understood that in the course of a government’s mandate, this institution reflects less and less those general elections and the will of the public — unlike the House of Commons, which reflects it more and more.

It is also imperative to understand that this institution, at the tail end of a government — and all governments have an expiration date in this country; it’s called democracy — becomes disproportionately too powerful for its own good. We have that case in point today, where 80 out of 105 seats in this chamber have been appointed by a Prime Minister who is on his way out. You don’t have to be a genius. If you’ve been around the political democratic process long enough, you will know that if the public doesn’t throw him out, the Liberal Party will.

Yet, this institution disproportionately represents that particular leader. That has always been the challenge of this institution. It was the challenge at the tail end of the Harper, Chrétien and Mulroney governments. That is as far back as I can go because I’m of a certain age. Every single majority group in this institution, as they reached that historical moment, understood their limitations. They understood that power is important, that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Colleagues, it is unbelievable to me that eight and a half years after a run during which the Trudeau government won three successive elections — they put forward their agenda, which was supported in the House of Commons after the first term of a minority government. There were two elections after which they had minority governments and their agenda flew through here, waved through this institution without any hindrance. We tried to have robust debates. Sometimes we managed to and sometimes we didn’t. We all know that the times we managed to have robust debates was due to the small opposition here clawing tooth and nail to make sure we had those robust debates. Without a doubt, there have been a number of Trudeau-appointed senators who contributed to those debates. I don’t want to diminish that important fact.

It’s incredible that after eight and a half years, where the government has had no difficulty putting their agenda through this place, all of a sudden they think it’s imperative and essential to help this institution by changing the rules and procedures of this democratic, independent house. The only thing we have in terms of independence — two things, actually — from any prime minister who appoints you are your tenure — he can’t fire you, even if you tell him he does a crappy job or you vote against his bills — and our complete independence of the rules, procedures and our rights as parliamentarians.

In 157 years in this chamber, we’ve never had a motion tabled to change the rules and procedures of this institution by a government representative, a leader, call him what you want. Never in 157 years did a feeble government require the time allocation tool to pass the infringement and the trampling of each and every one of your rights and privileges, never in the history of this institution. Now, all of a sudden, why is there a need for that? You should ask yourselves those questions. Why is it in this new independent Senate that the most robust debate on these procedural rule changes has come from leaders of leadership groups? We used to have two; now we have three or four. In a few years, there might be 15. Who knows? That’s all, of course, in the betterment of debate.

I’ll say this. Again, time allocation is a legitimate tool that the government has because it’s their right to govern, but they should never impose it on rule and procedural changes in any one of the two chambers. By the way, this type of thing would never be tried in the House of Commons — there would be a riot, even by the government’s coalition partners, the NDP.

But I am torn when it comes to Motion No. 169 because I’ve been here long enough. I’ve been in government, and I’ve been in opposition. By the way, our British parliamentary democratic system has a government side and an opposition side. I remember when I was sitting on the government side, and there were 65 or 70 of us. There were 30 on the opposition side, and they were a nuisance. Senator Cordy, Senator Massicotte and Senator Cowan — do you remember, Senator Tannas? They were a nuisance. If you think we’re a nuisance, go back and watch those debates. But in due time, I realized that’s what an opposition is supposed to do. That’s called democracy — being a nuisance, having a robust debate and making life as difficult as possible for government.

When they move forward motions in order, giving the same rights, privileges and tools in the tool box to another caucus group that is larger than the opposition and who think they should have the same rights because they’re a larger number in this place but have been appointed by the government, it makes no sense. It’s a discombobulated argument. You’re basically giving an opportunity to a larger group in order to stifle and drown out the few voices left of the opposition. The only reason the voices have become so few in this chamber is because of the nature of the institution. Unfortunately, it’s not an elected body. If it were an elected body, there would be a lot more Conservatives sitting on this side of the bench after the last two elections. We have to be cognizant and respectful of that reality, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum.

I don’t begrudge any of my independent Senate colleagues here, because you are all following the will of the government. It’s a government motion. They’re using time allocation to pass it instead of doing what has been the tradition for 157 years, which is to have a discussion and have a debate at the Rules Committee. It might not come to a consensus. Bring it to the Senate floor, and the majority has the right to change the rules and procedures. That’s how it works. Each and every one of us has a right to do that.

Let’s look at it clause by clause and what the impact will be. Let’s be intelligent enough to realize that six or eight years from now, those of you who might be in this chamber may be sitting on this side, with a Poilievre government going into its eighth year and having appointed 60 or 70 senators. Think about this particular motion, where you have a dozen Government Representatives because the government of the day has established this precedent. Our institution is governed by the Constitution and the unwritten precedents we establish over the years. We’re establishing one now. The government can move unilateral changes to the Rules. The government can use time allocation to pass them. And in this place, we don’t need consensus. If you have a majority of appointed senators, they will pass whatever they want.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

I’m sorry, your time has expired.

Hon. Salma Ataullahjan [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the motion for time allocation. What compelled me to rise and speak? I would like to share a personal story with you about the importance of a healthy democracy.

When my daughter Shaanzeh was in Grade 4, our MP had a competition for students to write an essay on democracy. Well, Shaanzeh won that competition, and the prize was a trip to Ottawa, to the great seat of Canadian democracy, to come and see some debates. You must wonder what Shaanzeh wrote about that she won that competition.

Well, my father, who was a senator, had just been imprisoned because we had martial law, and all the government senators and MPs were taken from their homes overnight and imprisoned. Shaanzeh had never questioned me about it. I didn’t realize it had had so much of an impact on her until she wrote this essay.

What did she write about? She said, “I am so lucky to live in Canada, where I can speak freely about anything I wish, and I will not be imprisoned.” I knew what she was talking about, but her school friends said, “Oh, my God, Shaanzeh, your grandfather is in prison? What did he do? Whom did he kill?” Because those of us who live in Canada and the kids who are born and grow up here realize that you don’t become imprisoned for speaking your mind or for engaging in debate.

When we came to Ottawa, I came with her. I didn’t realize that many years later I would be working here. I am so blessed.

I believe it is important not to hastily curtail this debate, as the result might have long-lasting effects on our democratic institutions. I struggle with time allocations in this chamber, as I believe we should never limit parliamentarians’ ability to speak on issues. We are primarily the house of sober second thought, which involves a great deal of debate. It is part of our mandate, and we have the great privilege of being able to speak freely.

I came to Canada in 1980, and I’m proud to call this country my home. Throughout the years, I have seen how easy it is for democracies to be derailed. I believe we are fortunate to sit in this Red Chamber and take the time to properly get to the bottom of important issues that will often affect not only our work but, ultimately, the lives of Canadians.

Even my daughter, when she was only 9 years old, understood the importance of not only voicing concerns but listening to others’ ideas as well. A democracy requires work. It requires remaining vigilant, listening to others and empathy.

Honourable senators, I urge you to remember that Motion No. 169 must transcend party lines, and we must think of the well-being of our democracy for generations to come. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, I will be speaking on debate on the amendment and on the main motion if Motion No. 169 is adopted to time allocate that debate. Seeing that we are at this late moment in the overall debate of the time allocation motion, I realize now that I will be limited in speaking about all of my concerns. I’m highlighting one specific concern in my speech on the main motion, but because of this time allocation motion, where we’re going to have only six hours, our leader, who has unlimited time, could take up a big chunk of that time, and I will only have 15 minutes —

Senator Plett [ + ]

Five and a half.

Senator Martin [ + ]

I’m talking about the six-hour debate, senator.

This time allocation is truly limiting debate and discussion on this sweeping motion that we need to continue to have.

Our Order Paper, our scroll, is very thick. There are two sections: “Government Business” and “Other Business.” If this motion for sweeping changes to the Rules were put in as a regular motion under “Other Business,” then we would have ample time for debate and could look at things more carefully. Perhaps we would even refer it to the Rules Committee where it belongs.

Some of you will argue that this has been at different committees, including the Rules Committee. However, over my years here, I have learned just how important it is that reports from the Rules Committee have unanimous consent when they come back to the chamber, because not everyone is a member of the Rules Committee. There are members of the opposition; sometimes there are independent senators. All senators can partake in debates at committee. In terms of voting on that report, however, it must receive unanimous consent and have the endorsement of everyone around the table. The proposed rules in those reports can then be looked at in this chamber and then voted on — hopefully with unanimous consent, because these rules affect everyone.

Certain things that my colleagues have said concern me. I want to put them on record and share them with those of you who are still deciding whether you are going to support this time allocation motion. We’re appealing to you and saying that we need more time. This is a sweeping motion involving many rules, and even one rule requires a full debate. As I said, this should go to the Rules Committee.

Senator Carignan has already explained it, citing some of the history and precedents. The government has tools available to them. That’s why this is a government motion. I understand that because we were in government. I think I’m probably on record as moving the most time allocation motions — but it was always for bills, not for motions. The government has various tools, such as the reordering of Government Business so that they prioritize what they want to hear first. Then, there is invoking time allocation. I support it for debates on bills when it is the role of government to advocate for the government’s agenda. That tool is there for that purpose. But during my years here, in government and in opposition, I have never seen a government motion of not just one rule but many that will have both intended and unintended consequences for years to come — until they are changed, possibly in a future government motion. But I hope this does not set a precedent. It is a precedent-setting moment.

Senator Plett [ + ]

It will be.

Senator Martin [ + ]

That’s what makes me very nervous and uneasy, as Senator Poirier has stated clearly. It doesn’t sit well with me either.

In a previous debate, I mentioned one simple rule change that we thought would make lives easier, not only for the government but also the opposition, in terms of changing members of committees. It was a substitution, not a full change, so that when you attend in place of another senator, you are actually a member of that committee for that time. It’s on the website. You have all the responsibilities and rights of a senator who would normally sit on that committee. We thought that a quick substitution would be easier to do and be better. I proposed that at the Rules Committee and it was adopted unanimously, but when it came back to the chamber, as I mentioned, one of the senators was very much opposed to that change. They cited how important it is for senators to be at a committee and have the full right to be there, even though they are not substituting and are full-fledged members for that committee meeting. I thought that was an important point.

I remember the clerks looking at me knowingly because these rule changes have to be looked at carefully, taking into account their consequences and how they detract from or add to what we’re trying to do as a chamber. I learned my lesson then as Deputy Leader of the Government regarding one simple rule change and the fact that if there is opposition, there may be a good reason. In fact, it’s all the more important for opposition members or independent, non-affiliated senators to approve that rule change — because it will impact them.

The fact that the rights of non-affiliated senators are being diminished, as Senator Batters noted, is very concerning. It should concern every one of us, because it could be one of us at some point. We have to think about the shoe being on the other foot.

I’m speaking in opposition today, but I understand the frustration many of you may feel regarding the efforts that you’ve made to try to change some of the Rules. But I hope you can also see that as a chamber, we have made some amazing accommodations or one-off changes. For example, through “with leave of the Senate,” we allow many things to happen; and with sessional orders, many things can go into effect.

We’ve been both a tough and an annoying opposition, but when we were in government, the Liberal opposition were very effective. I learned so much from them. I appreciated the role that they played and the role that we had as government. I understand the power of government tools.

I feel as though in this time allocation motion, which is limiting debate, I only have two more opportunities to speak — one at amendment and one on the main motion — but I could have multiple speeches on every rule that I’m concerned about; some of these were brought to my attention during today’s debate.

In effect, this time allocation motion will allow the government to change the rules from a position of power because they have the power to limit debate. It is an abuse of power to do that with something as important as rules that will impact this entire chamber. Every single one of us — whether we’re in government, in opposition, affiliated with a group or non-affiliated and sitting alone — will be affected. I plead with all of you, honourable senators, to think about what we’re about to do by limiting debate and allowing the government to time allocate on their government motion to change many rules, not just one — rules that will limit powers and the rights of some senators in this chamber — and to think about not supporting this time allocation motion because we have that opportunity. We can reject this time allocation motion and return to debate. That’s what I ask all of you to do — and to carefully consider the impact and unintended consequences of what we’re about to do with this motion. Thank you.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Hear, hear.

Hon. Jim Quinn [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to discuss whether it’s necessary to move time allocation at this specific time of debate on the Rules of the Senate. I raise this with the irony that the only amendment by senators to their own Rules that can now be moved is my own, since adopting this time allocation motion at this stage will prevent any further amendments to the Rules motion.

This morning, simply by coincidence, the Rules Committee heard from both the Deputy Clerk, Procedure, from the House of Commons; and Director of Operations, Parliamentary Affairs, from the Privy Council Office, on the topic of delayed answers and responses to written questions — the very subject of the amendment that I had proposed.

Given that many senators are busy, have conflicting committee meetings and would likely not have reviewed the draft transcripts, I want to draw your attention to the following matters for your consideration.

When asked whether there is an obligation to provide a comprehensive answer or even directly address the question raised when providing an answer to a written question, the Deputy Clerk, Procedure, from the House of Commons said:

Our Speaker’s rulings have been fairly consistent in that our Speaker is not empowered to judge the quality, the completeness or the accuracy of an answer.

Further, the clerk said:

It is even possible for the government to provide an answer saying, “We cannot provide an answer,” and for the purposes, that is an answer.

The Privy Council Office, or PCO, also indicated they use certain limitation language if they cannot fully answer a question.

What triggers a referral to a committee is if the deadline to provide an answer is not met; it is not whether a substantive answer is given. Under Motion No. 165, the proposed rule is to refer to the Rules Committee if either an answer or an explanation of why an answer has not been provided within the time frame. I wanted to make that clear because yesterday, when I was asked the question, I was unclear in specifying that, in fact, my amendment does not take away from the fact that when an answer is not achieved, it cannot be referred to the Rules Committee. I want to make that clear.

My amendment simply removes an unnecessary duplicative and procedural loophole that would give the government the ability to not even attempt to answer a question by providing an explanation of why an answer has not been provided. In the House of Commons, all questions are given an answer within their 45-day time frame. The Senate should be no different. In fact, this morning, when asked if the 45 days could be accommodated for the Senate questions process that is being proposed in the amendment, the answer was yes, it can be accommodated. Therefore, I don’t understand why we would vote for time allocation before the committee transcripts are not officially published to give you time to reflect.

Colleagues, on the issue of 60 days versus 45 days, it’s about ensuring that all members of Parliament are equal. Having a 60‑day deadline means that the House of Commons will receive a prioritization because they have a more strict deadline. The PCO said the following:

. . . Without a deadline, there is always a risk that where there is one in the House of Commons, these questions might be prioritized, given the volume. . . .

Lastly, the PCO said:

The responses from the Senate — when we assign the questions, we indicate in our assignment form that they should be responded to within a reasonable time. We interpret that as being as close as possible to what we use in the House of Commons.

I close my comments by noting that in an access to information and privacy, or ATIP, request on how government prioritizes Senate written questions, that ATIP document revealed that, “Since this is a Senate Question, deadlines are flexible if other urgencies take priority.”

Senators, I think we need to change this culture. This is a small step in that direction by ensuring that we, as parliamentarians, have a similar rule as in the other place. My fear is that, as parliamentarians and senators, we are not taken seriously with our own inaction of adopting step-by-step measures, such as what I am proposing, which doesn’t take away from the rule changes at all. Those measures, in fact, put us on the footing of becoming more recognized as parliamentarians.

I thank you for listening.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Are senators ready for the question?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

All those in favour of the motion will please say “yea.”

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: In my opinion the “yeas” have it.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore [ + ]

Call in the senators for a vote at 5:33 p.m.

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