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Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

Motion to Amend the Rules of the Senate--Motion in Amendment Negatived

May 7, 2024

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

Honourable senators, as our deputy leader said, I have to keep this speech to less than six hours because that’s what we’re limited to, so fasten your seat belts and let’s be here for a while.

Colleagues, what we just voted on is not something that is going to help the government at this point. It’s not a piece of legislation that we’re passing that will make a difference to Canadians.

My microphone is on, senators. Once I get warmed up, trust me, they will be able to turn the microphone off and you’ll be able to hear me. It just takes me a while to get ramped up. Usually, it’s not when I see democracy being usurped as badly as I just saw a minute ago.

Senator Gold has decided that he wanted to be the first leader — Senator Housakos has said this a few times — in 157 years, he wanted to be the first Leader of the Government in the Senate to use a government motion to run over the opposition and ram through changes to the Rules of the Senate of Canada. That will now be part of his legacy. We are all going to have to decide what will be part of our legacies, and maybe I won’t be any prouder of mine than I suspect Senator Gold will be of his with this motion.

History will show that Senator Gold refused to have the Rules Committee study changes that they should have studied and then brought to the chamber. But to be sure, colleagues, his legacy will be even more tainted: He is using closure to push for these changes after only a few hours of debate and, as I said earlier, after two speakers of the opposition spoke.

I have been known here to be a little rough on Senator Gold at times during Question Period and some of my speeches and even earlier today. I know that Senator Gold is a decent man; he is a good man. But for a reason that I cannot understand, he has accepted and decided to act as a bully on behalf of Justin Trudeau, which is a position that several senators refused, by the way.

There are a few things I don’t understand. I don’t want to name and shame people, although I do occasionally. I don’t mind doing that to the government, but there have been a lot of things said here in the last few days that simply aren’t telling the whole story. I saw senators who tried to make a difference in changing Rules and reforming the Senate well before this supposed independent Senate of Justin Trudeau came along. Our good friend and colleague Senator Greene was part of the Modernization Committee. Former senator Tom McInnis was chair of that committee, and Senator Greene was part of the Conservative team at that time, named by a Conservative prime minister. They brought some reasonable suggestions forward.

Senator Tannas, in one way or another, tried to bring some of those changes forward. Senator Tannas likes to say that he has been elected by some 300,000 Albertans. Well, Senator Tannas was appointed the same way each one of us was — on the advice of the Prime Minister — but when he ran an election, he promised Albertans that he was running as a Conservative. Senator Tannas will still say that he is, in many ways, a Conservative, and yet he votes for Liberal budgets and for closure. I can understand that Senators Greene, Tannas and others might vote even for the motion at the end — because they believe that. I understand that.

But for them to stand and vote for closure — that is the essence of what they had preached against when they were part of the Modernization Committee. They were upset with the Conservative Party for being heavy-handed and not letting things go at the speed they wanted things to go. Now, they vote in favour of a closure motion to which two members of the opposition have had the opportunity to speak. Somehow, they say that is what modernization is all about; that is what the democratic process is all about.

I’m sorry, colleagues, but it is not.

We had a question last week to Senator Saint-Germain as to Senator Lankin’s involvement in this process, and she was asked whether Senator Lankin was part of the ISG. “No, she isn’t. She’s not part of the ISG.” And I said, “Well, did Senator Lankin not come forward with a press release saying, ’I’m leaving the ISG to do this, and when I’m done this, I’m going back to the ISG’?”

The answer to my question of Senator Saint-Germain was that she’s not part of the ISG. Well, I’m very curious how long it will be before Senator Lankin will be part of the ISG.

This is a concerted and concentrated effort to kill the Conservative Party of Canada in this chamber. Let’s at least all admit that. That is the intent of this motion, and that is the intent of the draconian vote that we just had. Why, colleagues, could we not —

Listen, we have six hours of debate coming. I will certainly not take nearly all of it. I won’t take more than 30 minutes, so we’ll have five and a half hours left. Senator Lankin and other senators, if you do want to enter the debate, please feel free. Senator Gold, who now has something to say, did not even have something to say on his own motion. Now he has all kinds of things to say when he’s not speaking to the rest of us.

I’ll get on with it, senator, when I’m good and ready. I do have five and a half hours, so don’t tempt me.

Let me get back to this. I’m curious when Senator Lankin will be part of the second government caucus that we are trying to form because let’s at least call a spade a spade. Let’s admit what we’re doing. When we vote for a Liberal budget, let’s at least accept the fact that we’re at least half Liberal. We cannot vote for Liberal budgets and say, “But we are Conservative. We believe in fiscal responsibility. We do not believe in the flagrant wasting of taxpayers’ dollars, but we will vote for their budget.” It doesn’t work, Senator Lankin.

The Leader of the Government in the Senate enjoys what is, I think, probably the biggest majority in the history of the Senate. Eighty-one senators have been appointed. Eighty-one in this chamber have been appointed by one Prime Minister. We have — are we 12 or 13?

Senator Martin [ + ]


Senator Plett [ + ]

Thank you. We are dropping so fast I can’t keep up. We are a month away from having 12. We are going to, nevertheless, continue to fight the good fight. I think we are punching well above our weight, and we will continue to do that — and that frustrates so many senators here. “How can you, a caucus of 13, actually prevent us from moving things forward? How dare you? You are 13 members. You speak for 7 million, but you’re 13. And how dare you prevent us from moving legislation at the pace that we want to move it?” That is what this is about.

Now, the sad part of that is that it’s not going to stop us. I want every Canadian who is watching and listening — and believe me, they are starting to watch and listen. I don’t need to brag on what I have done, but I made a speech here not that long ago on the scandals that this inept government has had over the last 15 years. It has had 750,000 views, colleagues. People in this country care. People in this country email me. “Thank you, senator, for speaking up for us because the other side isn’t.” People care, and people are paying attention.

If you think this is going to stop us, it will not. And the fact that you are creating another government caucus — which is what you’re doing, clearly — will not prevent us from doing our job. It will make it a little more difficult for Pierre Poilievre, who will probably have the largest majority government in Canadian history over in the other place in a year or a year and a half from now. So, he’s going to have some problems when he has two opposition caucuses here. I understand that. For the life of me, I don’t know why Senator Dalphond’s and Senator Tannas’s groups — any of them — would support this because you’re getting nothing out of this. We’re not having anything taken away. Senator Saint-Germain and her 40-plus senators are getting some benefits, but the Progressive Senate Group, or PSG, and the Canadian Senators Group, or CSG, are getting nothing.

Now, fortunately there are some CSG members who appreciate that and say, “Hey, where are we? Why are we being treated the way we are?” But not the leader. Their own leader says, “This is good stuff.” I can’t understand that.

Governments are never fond of having to deal with opposition. That’s fairly common. I mean, opposition is a bit of a pain for most governments. Liberal governments even less so because Liberals basically believe that it’s a God-given right for them to govern.

Typically, Liberals, when they lose a government or when they lose a vote, they immediately the next day say, “Canadians made a mistake yesterday, and if we could somehow have that vote again today, they probably realized overnight they made a mistake and if they had the opportunity to rethink that, they would rethink that.” Senator Downe knows well about that. He’s been in the upper echelons of the Liberal Party, and he knows that.

Conservatives have a bit of a different mentality. When we lose a government — and we’ve lost more than we’ve won — we spend the next four years, two years or whatever trying to find a way of getting the confidence of the people back because we actually believe that in order to govern you should have the confidence of the people.

The Liberal government doesn’t believe that, which is why they have the tail wagging the dog over there right now and have had for how long. Jagmeet Singh is the de facto leader, and he is keeping this terribly inept government alive long enough for Senator Gold to try to kill the opposition in this place. When they lose the government in the next election, then at least they will have this house that they can count on.

Senator Carignan and I were discussing that coming down the elevator. Senator Carignan is a lot younger than I, even though I have more hair than he does. I don’t know what happened, but Senator Carignan is going to be here for a few years, and he promised me that in four or five years from now he would remind you of what Senator Plett said. I won’t be here to do that, and I’m sure those of you who will be here are happy about that.

Motion No. 165 is another example of our Prime Minister’s complete disdain and disregard for Parliament and for anyone who does not think the way he does.

When Senator Batters asked him a question last week, Senator Gold himself admitted that Motion No. 165 had received the seal of approval from the Prime Minister’s Office. That would seem to me that he is, then, simply doing what his boss over in the Prime Minister’s Office wants him to do. He is doing his job, as unpleasant as that must be. I understand that. I’ve been there. I’ve occasionally had to do things that are unpleasant for me as well, and that is what Senator Gold is doing.

We know the frustration that Senator Gold has at Question Period when we ask him questions that he doesn’t appreciate those questions because we really are a little bit beneath what the Liberal mentality is and, “How dare you ask us those questions and keep our feet to the fire?” So he shows his disdain and frustration. I don’t believe it’s a personal thing to me but certainly to my party and my leader. And at least one thing we share and have as a commonality: We have about the same amount of regard for each other’s leaders. I think my frustration is a little worse than Senator Gold.

Hon. Ratna Omidvar [ + ]

I have a question or a point of order.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Is it a question or a point of order?

Senator Omidvar [ + ]

On a point of order.

The Order Paper says we are not debating Motion No. 165 at this point. We’re debating the amendment that Senator Quinn put forward. I give Senator Plett a lot of latitude, as we all do, but I have not heard Senator Plett speak to the amendment. Instead, he is rehashing the arguments that we heard last Thursday on the motion as he has already spoken to the main motion.

Your Honour, I ask if this is allowed under the rules.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Senators, we usually give senators leeway to introduce the subject that is being debated, so I will certainly let Senator Plett continue debating the motion in amendment.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Thank you, Your Honour.

I’m a little astounded that now we’re not even supposed to debate what we clearly have in front of us, and we’re losing time.

I have been completely thrown off my speaking notes here. I like to use my speaking notes, but I’m not sure where I was. I will try to catch up.

What I found somewhat disconcerting last week was the enthusiasm shown by Trudeau senators in beating on the opposition. That was a bit shocking. It is one thing to do the government’s bidding when you are a government senator; I understand that. It is one thing to not like a political adversary; that is also understandable. But it is quite another to come here and hear people cheer on someone who spends his entire 15 minutes talking about a one-party Senate — a one-party Parliament. I find that strange. That is what this has come to. The individual almost received a standing ovation from senators when he says we really shouldn’t have this opposition or even have the right to call ourselves an opposition. That is, in essence, what this has come to.

That is clearly, Senator Omidvar, part of the amendment, the motion and the time allocation — part of all those things.

We have a senator saying, “You don’t have the right to call yourselves the opposition. Who decided you were the opposition?” I would say the electorate did when we lost the election. If we had won, we would have been the government.

This incident made me question the depth of the democratic sense of some of my colleagues. I hope this was only because senators were very tired at the end of the day. It was a long, long day, and we are at the start of another one.

I hope at 10 minutes or 4 minutes to 12 a.m., someone doesn’t insist on an hour-long bell, because having an hour-long bell when there are only 4 minutes left in the sitting is going a little bit overboard. Nevertheless, that is what we had on Thursday. Some of us didn’t get a lot of sleep before we had to board an airplane.

I hope that is not a sign of things to come for the next year, while colleagues continue to be inebriated by the strength of their majority in this place.

Mostly, I hope that this is not a sign that the Pierre Poilievre common-sense Conservative agenda will be met here with aggression and rancour after the next election. Let’s make no mistake: There will be a Pierre Poilievre majority government after the next election.

On Friday, The Globe and Mail published commentary from Konrad Yakabuski on Motion No. 165. This was not the Conservative Party but a Globe and Mail journalist. He said:

After all, there is nothing to prevent future Liberal opposition in the House of Commons from turning to Mr. Trudeau’s Senate appointees to frustrate a Tory government’s ability to get legislation through Parliament. The temptation to do so will be great. And the rule changes Mr. Gold has proposed will make it much easier for ISG and PSG members to delay government bills.

I would hope it would be just the Independent Senators Group, or ISG, and the Progressive Senate Group, or PSG, and not the Canadian Senators Group, or CSG, as well. He left you out for whatever reason. He has as much faith as I do that you will see the light of day.

This is exactly what we are saying about Senator Gold’s plan. To some senators who have accused me of espousing conspiracy theories about the real objectives of Motion No. 165 — well, The Globe and Mail also espouses those so-called conspiracy theories. Again, I truly do hope that I am wrong and the Trudeau senators will accept the verdict of the Canadian voters on their leader and the Liberals. I hope the Senate will respect the will of the elected members after the next election. I will be watching carefully.

Will the Trudeau senators keep up their record of voting with the government 96% of the time after the next election, when there will be a Conservative government? You can bet I will keep track.

As Yakabuski said in closing his column, “The true test of Trudeau’s ‘independent’ Senate may be yet to come.”

In closing, let me repeat the issues I have with Motion No. 165 and the process chosen by Senator Gold.

First, he should not have used a government motion to change the Rules. He broke our traditions and opened the door for future government leaders who are enjoying a majority to do the same. That will be Senator Gold’s legacy, and that will be Justin Trudeau’s legacy.

Senator Gold’s use of time allocation provisions of the Rules after only a few hours of debate on a non-urgent matter such as changes to the Rules of the Senate is a perversion of the concept of time allocation. Senator Gold is creating a bad precedent that will be part of his and Justin Trudeau’s legacies.

Colleagues, you can say all you want that the Conservatives do not want government legislation to pass — and you would be right, because we have been put here for a purpose, as have all of you. But it is democratic, and you are preventing democracy from taking its course. You are preventing us from doing our job by stifling us and telling us, “You don’t have a right. You are only 13 and we are 96,” or whatever the number is. “You have no right to prevent this from going forward.”

These changes should have been studied at the Rules Committee. In the Senate, changes to the Rules have traditionally been made with consensus. I have been quoting some Liberal senators today. Let me quote another one: David Smith. David Smith was a great Liberal and a wonderful individual. David and I had so much in common — other than our political alliances. David was a campaign chair for many Liberal governments. At the Rules Committee on June 3, 2014, Senator David Smith said:

I hear the points that Senator Martin makes, and some of them I agree with. Having said that, I think we have to bear in mind the culture of this committee, and the culture of the Rules Committee has been for some years that you don’t change the rules unless you have a consensus on both sides. You don’t have to have total unanimity. I’m not into this one person veto stuff, but I think you at least want a consensus on both the government side and the opposition. Until you get that, I think you kind of have to keep working at it because, if you just slam it through, that can trigger other things that are undesirable, to say the least.

Senator Martin [ + ]

Wise words.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Wise words — chastising my deputy leader.

In the same Rules Committee, on June 10, 2014, Senator Cools — another wise senator who worked for years as an unaffiliated, independent senator, and who had much to contribute and did so — said this.

Senator Cools said:

What I want to be clear about is that the history of this place and the history of rule changes has always been that rule changes should not be foisted or forced by some upon the others. There are huge traditions here that are long forgotten because there have been such changes in membership, but one of those rule change notions has always been that if some feel strongly about doing something, a debate begins in the Senate to gather the house, to gather the opinion of the senators in the house. At the conclusion of all that, then the committee may be sent a reference.

During that very same meeting, Senator Fraser —

Senator Plett [ + ]

A Trudeau appointee, yes; you are right. That was the wiser Trudeau — the adult Trudeau.

During that same meeting, Senator Fraser added this:

I think it is absolutely essential that the basic structure with which we operate be one that both sides agree is, at the very least, livable and, ideally, desirable because we’re all going to be here, some of us longer than others, for some time yet. We have to bear in mind that the rules we’re talking about are going to apply not only to the present dynamic, the present situation where the government has a majority, but when times change.

The Conservative opposition, colleagues, did not invent this notion that changes to the Rules should be based on consensus. The fact that some senators are now trying to rewrite the history of the Senate to suit their argument is irrelevant. This is how it has been done since Confederation. The Trudeau government has decided to change the Senate on that aspect, too.

On this side, we can only take notice and make sure we remember for when we have the majority back.

Justin Trudeau had every right to make 81 appointments. Many of you told me exactly what Justin Trudeau asked you to do when he informed you that he would promote you to the Governor General of Canada for an appointment to the Senate. I have not heard one senator here tell me that Justin Trudeau said, “Change the Rules in the Senate.”

Maybe he told you that. I don’t think he did, but that is what you are doing here. You are changing the Rules in the Senate, and it is okay that you want to do that. It is also okay that you are frustrated that we know how to use the Rules.

What is not okay, colleagues, is to ram this through — well, by now we might have had four or five hours of debate, but basically the notice of motion came when two Conservative senators had spoken. Today, after an hour and a half or two hours of debate, with only a few Conservatives speaking, you overwhelmingly voted here to shut down democracy. It is okay to believe that this Motion No. 165 should pass. I don’t agree with it, but we can have differences of opinion.

You are creating a one-party state, and we are having colleagues support that on the time allocation — not on the motion, but on the time allocation. “We don’t want to hear from you.”

Senator Gold is saying, “We do not want you to vote on whether this should just be for this session of Parliament — a sessional order.” Senator Gold does not even want you to vote on whether we should have a two-hour supper break. Senator Gold does not want you to have proper debate on an amendment that states, “You should have 45 days to give us an answer as opposed to 60 days.” Senator Gold does not even want you to debate those simple issues.

Colleagues, when you go home this week, please ask yourself at least this question: “Having rammed this through in the few days that we had, did that make one Canadian’s life better, including my own, or would it have been just as good if this had happened at the end of May or the beginning of June?” Ask yourself that question, because what difference did it make?

We asked for simple amendments. I told Senator Gold, “Four amendments, and we will not filibuster.”

He said, “No, I don’t want to hear from you.”

Well, actually, what he said was, “Yes, you can present your four amendments as long as you do it all in one day, and we ram it all through, because I’m coming along with my motion.” And then he says it is democratic.

I would, at least, challenge you to please ask yourself this question over the course of the next week: “What have I done to make Canada better this week? Oh, I stopped those Conservatives from having their way and insisting we have a two-hour supper break, because Trudeau told me that one hour from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. is enough, but from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. is unacceptable. Boy, have I saved the country.” Shake your head all you want. That is what it is when he says, “No, I won’t allow you to bring that amendment forward,” because that is what I asked for.

I didn’t tell Senator Gold, “Let’s wait until September to pass this.” I didn’t tell Senator Lankin, “Let’s wait until September to pass this.”

Trust me; I’m being very careful.

Senator Plett [ + ]

A thorough review at committee would have allowed us to carefully wordsmith the new Rules and debate possible amendments. Sadly, with the process imposed by Senator Gold — and now with time allocation — we will be unable to debate the amendments. I have already mentioned the amendments, but since somebody took the time to type these up for me, I will mention them again, because I have a lot of time:

To keep the evening suspension as is. Or at least, give the whips the ability to ask for an extended period to allow for caucus meetings.

We really do use those. They are not frivolous. If you had caucuses, you would also use them. The next amendment reads:

Change the duration of the debate on a motion to allocate time on a matter to allow more dissenting voices to be heard.

That sounds reasonable. The next amendment reads:

Not having non-voting ex officios count against the quorum for committee meetings.

That is a clear overreach, again. The next amendment reads:

Clarify that committee meetings on Mondays may not be held on a holiday, and that only committees regularly sitting on Mondays can sit and only during their regular time slot.

I believe it would have been more prudent to have these changes part of a sessional order — I have said that — so we could do a road test on them first. If they work fine over the next year and a half, we could continue with it. Trust me; you will still have the majority in this chamber the day after Pierre Poilievre wins government, and you could put all of these in place immediately after. This would have been more respectful of the fact that we are a year or a year and a half, maybe, away from the end of this Parliament.

Finally, as I said in my speech, and as The Globe and Mail put it, these changes are designed to help Trudeau senators frustrate the will of the Canadian voters after the next election.

This is wrong, colleagues, and this is very dangerous for the future of this august chamber.

The Liberals will lose the next election. I predict that. The Liberals will lose the next election. The will of Canadians is already clear and will become abundantly clearer over the next year to a year and a half. We cannot have a Senate that acts as a chamber of confidence and goes against the will of Canadians.

I have no illusion on the final outcome of this Motion No. 165 when it will come to a vote, and we never did. However, we wanted our points made. You took that away from us. You took that away from us, and you took that away from Canadians. Remember that. This is not about Don Plett and his cabal of 12 cohorts. You took this away from Canadians. That is what you did, and that is shameful.

Senator Plett [ + ]

A group, a caucus.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Let me tell you this: Senator Manning came to me last week Monday. I need to share this. He came to me at about midnight. He said, “Don, I have good news, and I have bad news.” I said, “What is the bad news, Fabian?” He said, “Don, we only have five senators in the chamber.” Then I said, “What is the good news, Fabian?” He said, “We have half of our caucus in the chamber.”

We used to have a sign in my village of Landmark — when you drove into my village — and we only had 500 people living in the village. My grandfather on one side of my family lived at one end of Landmark, and my great-grandfather lived at the other end of Landmark. They founded the community, and it grew together. Now it is a fair-sized village. My dad then became one of the supposed founders, and we had a sign at each end of our village: “Our town is small, but our spirit is great.” That is how I feel about my friends here in this chamber.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Our group is small, but our spirit is great. I can only hope that a few Trudeau senators — just to make a point — will find the courage to vote against this motion.

I especially hope that at least all Conservative-minded people — or great democrats — will find the courage to vote against this —

Senator Plett [ + ]

— support the amendment and vote against the final motion. I’m sorry. I’m getting a little mixed up here with the speed with which we have had to go. I have had to look at which speech I am making now. As you said earlier, Senator Martin, I have three times that I can speak. I need to know which one. I do not think that I have any more times, and once I sit down now, I will be done until I stand at least twice.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Nevertheless, colleagues, let me make a prediction. This is not going to work in the long run for you.

Senator Plett [ + ]

No, it won’t. It will work for the next year and a half and maybe even for the next two and a half years. But we have an absolutely great leader — a common-sense Conservative leader — in Pierre Poilievre. Pierre Poilievre will win the next election. Pierre Poilievre will govern, and he will change Rules. He will repeal some of the asinine bills that this chamber has helped.

I hope, colleagues, that at least then you will have the courage to say it is the democratic will of the House over there to repeal Bill C-21, a horrible piece of legislation. I hope you will say that. I do. I see people nodding. I hope that you are not nodding and falling asleep but that you are nodding and saying yes. Because I will check. I will be up in the gallery occasionally whether you want me there or not. I might be ruled out of order from up there.

Colleagues, I will stop there. Thank you for your attention. I really hope that we will support the very common-sense — and I will leave it there — amendment that Senator Quinn has brought forward. It is a good amendment. It needs to be passed. Then, we need to try to find a way, unfortunately, of defeating the rest of it because there are other amendments that should come forward.

Thank you, colleagues.

Hon. Denise Batters [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Senator Quinn’s amendment on the proposed rule changes regarding written and delayed answers in Government Motion No. 165. I wanted to correct the record on some of the debate we’ve heard on this amendment so far. In particular, I am compelled to address some of the errors in Senator Saint-Germain’s remarks on this matter.

Last week, I rose to ask her for clarification after her speech, and she refused to answer my question. This is regrettable, given that it has long been the tradition in the Senate to accept questions from other senators after speaking. The Senate is a political institution, and the back and forth of parliamentary debate is designed to challenge and test arguments on legislation to arrive at the best possible version for all Canadians.

But a trend has developed with Prime Minister Trudeau’s new independent senators: an intolerance of debate. We’re a long way from the times of former senators Serge Joyal and George Baker. Senator Coyle wants debate to be over shortly after it starts. Senator Woo calls having to listen to speeches on this massive overhaul of the Senate rules “tedious.” Senator Saint-Germain was even dismissive of Senator Quinn’s very reasonable amendment on written questions, belittling it as a “distraction” from the main motion. Democracy is not a distraction, colleagues. If you feel that debate in this parliamentary chamber is a waste of your time, you just might be in the wrong line of work.

Let’s remember that under the Senate rule changes proposed in this motion, the Independent Senators Group leader will be given unlimited time to speak and answer questions. Was last Thursday a foreshadowing of how she will use that time — refusing to answer the questions of her colleagues in the Senate Chamber? At least Senator Gold recognizes he has a responsibility to attempt to answer questions, even if his answers are not always satisfactory — well, other than today. Why is that? It is because as Senate government leader, he has a role and a parliamentary purpose under the Westminster system, unlike the third group in the Senate.

When the Independent Senators Group leader refused to answer my question on Senator Quinn’s amendment, she said, “I believe my speech is comprehensive, and I won’t accept any questions.” However, there were several errors in Senator Saint-Germain’s speech, which I think could leave a mistaken impression for senators, especially new senators who are looking to be well informed before they vote. Therefore, allow me now to correct the record regarding this amendment so that senators might have a broader view of the issues involved and have a full understanding of what they will be voting on.

First, contrary to Senator Saint-Germain’s comment, Senator Quinn’s amendment is not a distraction. His amendment is reasonable, precise and well-thought-out. He did not come up with this amendment on the fly as a means of delaying debate or votes on this issue. Senator Quinn proposed this idea — requiring the government to respond to senators’ questions within 45 days — one year ago. He proposed it to the Rules Committee, where such proposals to change the Rules belong — news flash, Senator Gold. However, Senator Saint-Germain dismissed Senator Quinn’s past work on this issue, saying, “. . . the world didn’t begin the day you came to the committee on this question.” Well then.

Further, Senator Saint-Germain’s reference to my position on removing the government’s ability to give excuses confused the issue. I certainly was not in agreement with Senator Saint‑Germain’s stance on this matter. I was criticizing the Trudeau government giving itself the power to dodge accountability by responding to a written question with an excuse.

The government cannot evade answering questions by providing excuses for either House of Commons written questions or access-to-information requests. They still have the obligation to respond within a set time period. I don’t know why the Senate would or should accept anything less. For this reason, I support Senator Quinn’s amendment as it is written. Giving the government the ability to make an excuse does not bolster accountability. That is a bizarre argument to make, particularly here in the chamber of sober second thought.

Senator Saint-Germain described Motion No. 165 as bringing “ . . . great progress from our current situation . . .” — meaning by implementing any time limit on government responses to Senate written and delayed answers. She said, “. . . it is not worth spoiling for such an ill-advised amendment” — such as Senator Quinn’s. Senator Saint-Germain is essentially telling us to be satisfied with the divine benevolence of the Trudeau government, to take the scraps they throw to us and be grateful. No, thank you.

With Motion No. 165, this Trudeau government is treating the Senate like a poor cousin. The Senate is supposed to be an equal and complementary chamber to the House of Commons, and we have an equal right to get an answer.

Honourable senators, I’m sure you’re aware of how long it takes the government to respond to our written and delayed questions. Just last week, Senator LaBoucane-Benson finally returned several answers to questions from November 2021. The Trudeau government is so benevolent that it took them two and a half years to respond. Even when this government does finally return responses to written and delayed questions, many of their answers are of poor quality.

In September 2022, I asked a question in Question Period about the horrific James Smith Cree Nation mass murders earlier that month in northern Saskatchewan. I received the Trudeau government’s response five months later. This answer had already been publicly disclosed by the RCMP in a press conference four months earlier, so why the delay in returning the information to me?

Another delayed answer I recently received from the government came 14 months after my initial request. I had asked about the number of Canada Revenue Agency employees who had been fired for inappropriately claiming the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB. The answer I received had, again, already been released publicly in a media article four months earlier. This answer also contained a number that was out of date. A second news article from a couple of months ago quoted information from the government giving an even higher number, yet the response Senator Gold returned to me contained the old and incorrect number of those fired. It really is preposterous.

Other senators have had similar experiences. Two and a half years ago, Senator Housakos asked questions to Senator Gold regarding the Senate appointment process. Last week, the government returned a one-sentence answer to Senator Housakos that still didn’t answer his questions and essentially said nothing.

I want to correct a couple of other errors in Senator Saint-Germain’s response on this amendment. First, I want to assure her and other senators that Senator Gold is not the sole person toiling away to answer Senate written and delayed answers. He has a $1.5-million office budget and a massive staff to assist him.

Second, the answers to the questions — as we heard today at the Rules Committee — are actually coordinated by the large Privy Council Office after being prepared by the relevant government departments or agencies and then approved and released by the appropriate ministers. Senator Gold’s office then returns that information to the senator who initially raised the question.

Senator Saint-Germain, fear not: Senator Gold has the weight of the entire Trudeau government at his disposal. It’s serious that the Trudeau government does not give Senator Gold and the Senate the respect we deserve, but that’s a separate issue. This is why answers to questions asked by senators routinely wait months, and sometimes even years, to be returned.

There is an easy solution to cut down on Senator Gold’s workload: The Trudeau government should prioritize briefing Senator Gold properly, like a minister of the Crown, so he can more readily answer questions directly during Senate Question Period. This would cut down the number of delayed answers in the queue altogether. During Prime Minister Harper’s mandate, when Senator LeBreton and Senator Carignan served as Senate government leaders, they would bring huge briefing binders into the chamber every day for Senate Question Period because they knew they had to answer for the government. This occurred even though Senate Government Leader Carignan was not in cabinet. He was still a sworn privy councillor — like Senator Gold — and was expected to answer questions from other senators on the government’s behalf. The information in those briefing binders would come from his office coordinating with the government on key issues of the day.

The only time Senator Gold seems to give full answers in Question Period occurs when independent senators ask questions and give him prior warning as to the content. Then he pulls out an 8.5-inch by 14-inch page to read out the prepared answer. It is not a requirement under the Senate Rules to tell the government leader what the questions will be in advance, nor should it be. Question Period is supposed to be without notice, on demand. Senator Gold should be briefed well enough to be able to answer almost all questions on the floor of our Senate.

Senator Saint-Germain suggested that the government needs a longer time — 60 days as opposed to the House of Commons’ 45 days — because of the superior comprehensiveness of Senate questions. She said that Senator Quinn’s amendment to reduce the deadline for a response from 60 to 45 days “. . . doesn’t take into consideration the nature and complexity of questions often asked to the government by senators.”

This is hardly the case. Perhaps Senator Saint-Germain needs to spend some time reviewing written questions in the House of Commons. I can assure her that MP questions are just as complex as those asked by senators. Frankly, to suggest otherwise is erroneous, not to mention condescending.

Senator Saint-Germain referred to the process for responding to written and delayed questions in Motion No. 165 as “. . . more robust and clearer than the one in the House of Commons.” Again, I have to wonder, has she reviewed the House of Commons process? Unanswered questions in the House of Commons are referred to the relevant standing committee, which can call witnesses on the matter, including the parliamentary secretary or departmental officials. When MPs don’t get an adequate answer in Question Period, they can request to speak during adjournment proceedings, also known as the “late show.” I can tell you, I’d be a frequent guest on the late show if we had such a thing here. The late show allows MPs an opportunity to press the government on their questions in the House of Commons chamber and continue to publicly hold the government to account.

Compare that with the proposed Senate process outlined in Motion No. 165. Senator Saint-Germain calls it a “sanction,” but there is no sanction, really. Under this motion, if a question is unanswered after the time limit, the question would go to the Rules Committee. Why? What is the Rules Committee going to do about it? It will have nothing to do with getting answers on the content of the question. Is the Rules Committee going to delve into issues of foreign interference, the cost of the Prime Minister’s latest luxury vacation or giving lucrative contracts to their buddies? Of course not. It’s just another example of this government using the Senate Rules Committee as a dumping ground for its various failures.

This is like how Senator Gold now wants the Rules Committee to study the role of non-affiliated senators because the government failed to address their concerns in this motion. The Trudeau government didn’t even use the term “non-affiliated senators” once in eight pages of major proposed rule changes.

Senator Saint-Germain said sending unanswered written questions to the Rules Committee would be a “. . . question of privilege . . . .” This is absolutely false. Motion No. 165 does not mention anything about a question of privilege. This would need to be expressly stated, but the motion says only:

. . . the absence of an answer shall be deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament for consideration and report . . . .

When a question of privilege is studied at the Rules Committee under the Senate Rules, it takes precedence over all other matters before the committee. Motion No. 165 certainly doesn’t stipulate that this would be the case. Even if it did, it would be totally unworkable because our Rules Committee would do nothing but deal with the unanswered questions that it can’t do anything about. It’s ridiculous.

Honourable senators, if we are going to so profoundly change the Rules of the Senate of Canada, we have an obligation to inform ourselves about the current Rules and the reasons why they exist. We should not discard the Rules simply due to an eagerness to change. There will be significant unintended consequences for not proceeding with a high degree of caution. While some of these changes may seem like a great idea from where you sit right now, just know that one day — maybe one day soon — you will be on the opposite side. Will the changes you’re advocating for now still seem fair from that vantage point?

Placing a limit on the time the government has to respond to senators’ questions is reasonable. It is unfortunate that this Trudeau government has chosen to roll it into an omnibus motion with measures designed to disable and dismantle the opposition in this place.

Senator Quinn’s amendment is a thoughtful and sensible attempt to introduce better accountability into the process that this government is proposing for unanswered questions. It would reduce the number of days the government would have to respond from 60 to 45, in line with the House of Commons. It would eliminate a loophole for the government to avoid accountability with excuses.

Senators deserve to get answers from this government on behalf of Canadians, and we deserve to get these answers with the same respect afforded to MPs in the House of Commons. For these reasons, I hope you will join me in voting “yes” to Senator Quinn’s amendment. Thank you.

Honourable senators, I’ll be brief.

I read Senator Gold’s Motion No. 165 very carefully. Although I have much to say about the motion’s overt and covert intentions, I’ll limit my remarks to one problematic aspect of the motion.

Normally, we would have been able to do our job properly and amend the motion to correct this shortcoming. However, we are being deprived of the opportunity to correct this series of changes to the Rules of the Senate because the government’s time allocation motion is muzzling us.

I’d like to outline the very reasonable and sensible amendment I wanted to move because I want to show you that Motion No. 165, in addition to being totally illegitimate, has an obvious flaw that we’ll be forced to adopt. This is important, because there are others. Since the Leader of the Government, who answers to Justin Trudeau, has decided to limit our speaking time, amending his motion will be impossible. The leader has a monopoly on the truth.

I’d like to draw your attention to section 17 of Motion No. 165, which amends the Rule that deals with Senate committees. Rule 12-3(3) states, and I quote:

 . . . the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition or, in the absence of either, their respective Deputy Leaders are ex officio members of all committees except the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, and the joint committees.

As ex officio members of committees, the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition also have the right to vote.

However, section 17 of Motion No. 165 would have the effect of ensuring that the leaders or facilitators of other parliamentary groups recognized in the Senate and having the most members would also sit as ex officio members, but without voting rights. The intention behind this part of the amendment, which is to not give voting rights to the three other leaders, is to avoid throwing committee votes off balance. However, there is no mention in this amendment of the quorum required for committees to sit. Under section 17 as it currently stands, the leaders of the five groups could be taken into account in establishing the quorum, which is four members according to rule 12-6(1).

To illustrate the flaw in that amendment, let’s consider a hypothetical situation. A standing committee is convened to consider a government bill clause by clause, but only the Leader of the Government, who has the right to vote, attends, along with the leaders of the Canadian Senators Group, the Progressive Senate Group and the Independent Senators Group, none of whom have the right to vote. No other member of the standing committee attends. The quorum of four would nevertheless be reached, and all votes would be one to zero. It just doesn’t make sense.

My example is obviously an extreme one, but it clearly illustrates the inconsistency of section 17 if we don’t take into account, in its current wording, the quorum of committees and the participation of new ex officio members that it provides. To correct this obvious problem, I would have proposed amending the new rule 12-3(4) of the Senate Rules proposed in the motion as follows. First, I would have added the words “and quorum” to the marginal note of this new rule so that it would read, “Ex officio members voting and quorum.” Second, in the text of rule 12-3(4), I would have replaced the words “their respective deputies, shall have the right to vote” with the words “their respective deputies, shall: (a) have the right to vote; (b) be taken into account for the purposes of determining whether a quorum is present.” Third, I would have added a reference to new rule 12-3(4) in the list of exceptions that follows rule 12-6(1).

Colleagues, essentially this amendment would have established that the five leaders or facilitators recognized parliamentary groups would henceforth be ex officio members of the standing committees, excluding the three previously named committees, but that only the government leaders and the Leader of the Opposition would be entitled to vote, as is the current practice, and that they be the only ones, in addition to regular committee members, to be taken into account in establishing quorum. However, honourable senators, I cannot do it. I cannot even propose this “common-sense” change. The Senate cannot even study it because the Leader of the Government decided that he was master of the game, supported in this by so-called independent senators who abdicated their responsibility to study the rules and their amendments. It is sad, honourable colleagues, but that is the situation. I’m sorry, but we are going to have to live with that.

Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

As a reminder, we are debating the motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Quinn.

Hon. Leo Housakos [ + ]

Honourable senators, this is part 2 of the remarks I made in part 1, which are essentially to remind everyone that democracy is only exercised in our function as parliamentarians and that there is a distinguished difference between parliamentary functions and government.

Senators are summoned here to not only exercise our titles, our privileges and perks and to support the government, but we’re also here to challenge the government. We’re here constitutionally to ensure that we fulfill our role in representing the interests of our regions.

It is imperative to understand the implications of the motion before us. Earlier in my remarks, I said that I’m torn. While I stand on the opposition side of this chamber, I find these rules abhorrent in the fact that the government unilaterally forced them upon this institution. We’re seeing, for the first time in the history of Confederation, the use of such draconian tools as time allocation to pass changes in our rules, procedures and rights of Parliament — the most fundamental rights that we have.

If I were sitting on the other side, on the governing side — which I was once upon a time, for the first seven years of my career after being summoned here — I like some of these changes, by the way, colleagues. I suspect that some of us on this side — who might be over on the other side in a few months — will embrace these. Many of you who will still be here in two, four or six years will regret today and that you let the toothpaste out of the tube. There is no way of getting it back in. In our parliamentary system, when you create a precedent, governments take full advantage of it. I’ve seen this during my 40 years in political life.

Let me provide a hypothetical — a very possible and, I predict, a very probable hypothetical. You will have a prime minister elected in the next election who, in two, four or six years, will have appointed 70 or 80 new senators. By the way, it happens. I was here when a guy named Stephen Harper appointed 70 or 75 senators, and now we’ve seen Justin Trudeau appoint over 80. There is a good likelihood that the next prime minister will do the same.

Keep in mind the scenario where you have a dozen government representatives, a Conservative governing caucus of 12 — not 3, but 12 because they will want to have a larger caucus. What might sprout out of the next couple of Parliaments are two new groups. One of them could be the ICG group and the other could be the ITG group. They will have their own leadership. They will demand their status in this new independent institution. The ICG is going to be the “Independent Conservative Group,” with 38 or 39 senators, and the ITG will have another 36 or 37. “ITG” is the “Independent Tory Group.” So you’ll have a total of 75 to 80 Pierre Poilievre-elected senators in this chamber who will feel empowered by the fact that there are precedents. They are the majority in this chamber, and they deserve to change the rules, procedures and rights of Parliament to fit their shape and size and what they determine to be right.

By the way, many of the changes they won’t have to make because you’re making them now with Motion No. 165. The argument from the new leader of the ICG will be, “We’re the largest group after the government, so we should have unlimited speaking time. We should have ex officio representation on committees.”

The ITG group will say, “Wait a second. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We deserve the same thing. By the way, we deserve the same budgetary and financing allocations that other groups have, like the Independent Senators Group.”

They will have a legitimate claim. Who in the world would argue otherwise? You’ll have a wonderful situation where you have three groups — a governing group and two other groups who will be the majority in this place — and their argument will be, “We want the right to speak on behalf of the things that are important to us.”

Essentially, you will have three groups speaking on behalf of the government. Do you see the problem with that? You don’t today, but I guarantee that you will in a few years. I’ll be sitting on that side, using your arguments and laughing.

Let me tell you that when I came to the Senate, I learned from some giants of Parliament like Serge Joyal, Jim Cowan and David Smith. Even when I was Speaker, appointed by order-in-council, they used to tell me all the time, “Mr. Speaker, you will only be judged by the way you treat the minority in this chamber.” The majority has all the tools, votes, rights and privileges. They will ultimately do whatever they want, but democracy only functions when the minority voices are treated with deference. The moment that the government stops treating the minority groups and minority representations with deference, democracy dies. And there are no rules that can save it because democracy functions on the premise that the government respects the principles. When you unilaterally change the rules of an institution just because you have the numbers, that institution has gone to hell in a handbasket. That, colleagues, is the reality, and there is no way around it.

I call upon you — senators — who will take the time to reflect on this for the sake of democracy, and for the sake of a number of years from now when future governments are using the tools you’re putting into place to trample and reduce the megaphone of opposition voices. You don’t want to be in a situation where your children and grandchildren ask you, “Where in the world were you when this was going on?” and you say, “I was acquiescing to the government.” Again, I appreciate it; we’ve all been there: You always dance with he who brung you.

Democracy flourishes when you have the courage to push back and tell any government, even one that has appointed you to the Senate, “This is a line, Mr. Prime Minister or government leader, that we won’t let you cross. There are other lines you may cross. There is other legislation that I wasn’t thrilled about, but I was reminded that my main job here is to make sure we support the government.”

We all know that this government has bankrupted the country over the last eight years, and yet you were obliged to vote for supply bills and budget bills that — deep down — you knew were a catastrophe, but you supported them anyway because you do not want to question the will of the democratic chamber. We’re not a house of confidence. But we are a house of principle. We are a house where if we — each and every one of us — feel compelled and strongly about something when the government goes too far, on behalf of our region, constituents or various groups we represent, such as French, English and everyone in between, this is the place to be heard and counted. It saddens me that we passed a draconian motion in order to force rule changes and procedures without a whimper in this place, and nobody seemed concerned.

Senator Quinn, who is always tempered and reasonable, has an amendment here that is essentially calling upon senators to preserve our rights and privileges compared to the other place — nothing more, nothing less. Again, let’s go back to what our privileges are here; Senator Batters alluded to it. We have the same rights and privileges as the members of the House of Commons. The difference is that we’re not elected nor are we a house of confidence. Why in the world would you accept changes that diminish your role? Even if it doesn’t sound like a big deal — 60 days over 45 days — why is a question from a member of the House of Commons more important, or more compelling, than a senator who represents Alberta, Quebec or wherever? If anything, being the upper chamber, we should demand that the government give these answers within 30 days. That’s what we should be doing. We shouldn’t allow the government off the hook when it comes to things like this.

It’s bad enough that we accepted the will of the electorate in 2015. By the way, none of you can take credit for this new independent Senate. When the history books are written in Canada, there is not a single one of you who is going to say, “I showed up in Ottawa after being appointed in 2015, and I decided to be independent.” The decision was taken even before the election of 2015 when Justin Trudeau unilaterally threw out members of his caucus, and we know the reasons behind it. Ultimately, he put it in his electoral program for political expediency and, based on that election, forced the discombobulated changes that we’ve seen over the last eight and a half years upon this institution.

We accepted those in principle because — again — it was the will of the electorate. But nowhere did he say in his program that he was going to stick his nose into the institution to such a degree that he was going to change the Rules and procedures of the institution unilaterally using his government leader, a government motion and closure on that motion. That is a precedent, colleagues, that we’re going to have to live with for many years, because I guarantee that future governments are going to use it. Why wouldn’t they? I will be the first to defend the future government using it because I see many senators in this institution telling me that it’s more than fine.

That hypothetical scenario that I put on the table, colleagues, will become reality; trust me. I’m not clairvoyant or Nostradamus, but I’ve been around politics long enough to know that when you put a tool on the table, a politician will use it, especially when in the Prime Minister’s Office. Justin Trudeau used to talk about the virtues of the opposition when he was in the opposition. He doesn’t extol those virtues anymore, and, in eight and a half years, he hasn’t once said, “We have to give more power to the Senate or the House of Commons.” It’s quite the contrary.

The other element that also needs to be highlighted, my dear friends, is that we’ve spent hours and hours with a government that is so obsessed with changing the Rules because they want to limit the voice of the opposition and limit criticism at all lengths. They want to make sure that, at the end of the day — because it’s always a public relations show — when anything bad is said about this government — you know what it is — you’re being partisan. It’s code for “Don’t criticize the government.” Again, it’s our role. When you’re summoned here, your job is to criticize the government and policies — nothing more, nothing less.

All of a sudden, Senator Gold, it seems that your government’s number one preoccupation over the last week, or couple of weeks, is that rule changes and procedural changes in the Senate are more important than the fact that we have historic deficits, historic debt, a historic cost of living and a generation of Canadians who have been relegated to living in the basement of their parents’ home because they can’t afford to buy a house. Crime is skyrocketing. That’s a reality. For the first time, as Canadians, every last penny of our GST that is collected is being sent to pay the interest on the debt in this country. More is being paid toward the interest on debt in Canada right now than transfer payments in health care — no worries there. There are 6 million Canadians without doctors, but what we need to debate is Senator Quinn’s amendment on Motion No. 165 because that is critical — right, Senator Plett?

Canadians across this country don’t want the Senate and all their senators here working on any other possible problems, but they want us to consider the Rules and procedures about lunchtime and giving a Trudeau-appointed group and their leader unlimited time to speak so that their time can be used to tell us what a great job the Prime Minister and his government are doing. All the problems I just highlighted are a figment of my imagination and that of 40 million Canadians. That is what this government thinks is more important, and what Canadians are calling on their parliamentarians to focus on.

In short, colleagues, I thoroughly support Senator Quinn’s amendment, and all of you should be standing up to support it as well, because this is the first time we have a truly independent senator asking the government to stop muzzling and neutering this place. It’s bad enough that they have called you to Ottawa to speak on behalf of your regions, but they throw you out of the governing national caucus. You can’t go there on a weekly basis because they don’t want to hear complaints from their senators about their regions and how things are going. The truth is that if you were sitting in the national caucus, and if all of you were getting up every Wednesday morning to tell the Prime Minister what you’re hearing from your friends, neighbours and citizens, you would be telling him, “Hey, buddy, change your ways and change them quickly.”

They don’t want to hear that from you guys, so they neutered you by throwing you out of the caucus. They told you that you’re ndependent, which basically means, “Don’t criticize the government,” and now you’re basically being told that you’re also second-class parliamentarians compared to members of the House of Commons. Their level of importance is significantly higher.

Colleagues, for all those reasons, I support Senator Quinn’s amendment, and I call on anyone with any common sense to do the same. Thank you very much.

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

Honourable senators, I rise for the second time today to speak to Senator Quinn’s amendment to Motion No. 165.

I believe that Senator Quinn’s amendment is an important one for our chamber and for all Canadians.

As parliamentarians, we are the voice of our constituents, organizations, stakeholders and Canadians from coast to coast to coast. In both houses of Parliament, we rise during Question Period and ask the government leader questions that matter to Canadians.

As deputy leader of the official opposition, I have asked questions to the government leader on numerous occasions. As a proud B.C. senator, I have asked many questions that address the issues that affect British Columbia. Like many parliamentarians, I have become an advocate and voice in the Senate Chamber for many organizations, including ones serving Korean War veterans, the deafblind community and small businesses, to name a few. I have, on occasion, asked questions to support these organizations, defend their rights and hold the government to account for hard-working Canadians. Often, these questions are not answered directly by the leader at the time they are asked. We then wait for the answers to come in the form of delayed answers. Answers to questions about veterans’ issues, the housing crisis, the dangerous decriminalization of drugs, health care and other important issues that directly affect Canadians must be given in a timely manner.

Colleagues, while Question Period’s purpose has sometimes been questioned and taken for granted, let us not forget the essential role that both oral and written questions play in our parliamentary system and democracy. Question Period is an important means to hold the government accountable and receive more information on certain issues. Written questions can be especially useful for receiving more detailed answers on data, statistics, funding, et cetera.

While the government says it wants to be open and transparent, the current status of the Access to Information and Privacy, or ATIP, Office is anything but open. It is mired in a culture of delay when Canadians and parliamentarians want crucial information on government spending. During Question Period both here and in the other chamber, the government would rather read off talking points instead of giving clear, accurate answers. As for written questions, it is quite remarkable that the first question submitted during this Parliament, on November 23, 2021, is still on the Order Paper, unanswered. The system is clearly broken with such a delay — not one of days, weeks or months, but years.

In that context, written questions for senators are purposeful and important. Senator Quinn’s amendment would better align our practice with that of the House of Commons. Why should our questions be subject to a limit of 60 days instead of 45 days, like in the House of Commons?

Senator Housakos [ + ]

Or two years.

Senator Martin [ + ]

Yes — or two years. It is not logical to have two sets of rules for written questions within one Parliament.

We have heard other senators refer to the House of Commons and this 45-day limit. Senator Plett said:

. . . I don’t see why the government should have more time to answer questions than the questions of the members of the House of Commons.

I say “members of the House of Commons” as compared to “MPs” because I agree with Senator Quinn. We are all MPs. We are all members of Parliament. I don’t really see how letting the government not answer our questions by simply tabling a document saying they cannot answer the question is any good.

Senator Quinn stated:

I want to start by saying that members of the House of Commons and senators are, in fact, members of Parliament. We should be treated equally when it comes to receiving a response to written questions and delayed answers. When a valid question isn’t responded to in a satisfactory manner, there is a mechanism on the other side known as the Adjournment Proceedings . . . .

Colleagues, I have had the honour of serving as Deputy Leader of the Government and Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I take pride in these roles. I have a deep respect for the Senate as an institution and the importance of upholding the Westminster system and the Rules of the Senate. The original motion by Senator Gold does propose to add a time frame for the government’s answers to written questions but why he chose not to align it with the House of Commons practice is baffling. It further demonstrates that we cannot as a chamber vote on the motion right now. Further debate and consultation are needed, not just on this one line item, but also various others in this broad, sweeping motion.

But here we find ourselves in this time-allocated debate.

It is no secret that we, the Conservative opposition in the Senate, are against Motion No. 165 in its entirety. But why is the government so afraid of further consultation and debate? Instead, they move time allocation to within a matter of days, to stifle debate and ram the motion through.

While I support Senator Quinn’s amendment to Motion No. 165, I do not support Motion No. 165 in its entirety. Thank you.

Senator Plett [ + ]

Hear, hear.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Are senators ready for the question?

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

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

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

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

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

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

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Speaker: In my opinion the “nays” have it.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

I see two senators standing.

Is there agreement on the length of the bell? An hour? Call in the senators for a vote at 8:05 p.m.

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