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Speech in Senate Chamber: Bill to Amend—Third Reading Bill C-586—An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (Reform Act)—Motion Adopted

Reform Bill, 2014

Bill to Amend—Third Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Tannas, seconded by the Honourable Senator Oh, for the third reading of Bill C-586, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act (candidacy and caucus reforms).

.  .  .

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to the amendment to Bill C-586. I would like to correct what seems to me a wrong or erroneous opinion about senators in respect to reviewing certain bills. It may not be known to many newer senators here, but it has always been a practice that when senators are debating and considering bills that have come from the House of Commons, respecting the redrawing of riding boundaries and constituencies — in the old days we called it gerrymandering — in the review of those kinds of bills there has always been a sense of Senate deference to the House of Commons because invariably those boundaries and those constituencies were entirely the interest of the members of House of Commons.

Respectfully, I would like to inform Senator Batters that this chamber has a lot of traditions that would do her well to study and to understand. Senators have always accepted the fact that in respect to the election of this country, the House of Commons—

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.

The Hon. the Speaker: Order!

Senator Cools, you can make your point in a vigorous fashion without having to point to your colleagues in an aggressive fashion. I know you are a little more benevolent than that.

Senator Cools: Honourable senators, these motions, these amendments have been willfully kept for weeks to ensure that Michael Chong's Bill C-586 will die. I don't think that is fair play. This has been done willfully. I sat in the Rules Committee on June 2, three weeks ago. There, senators indicated that they were letting the bill pass, be adopted in the Rules Committee, so that it could be defeated here in the chamber. Senator Wells gave ample warning that he was planning and had planned to move amendments to Bill C-586 just three days ago. He chose to hold these amendments until after the House of Commons adjourned for the summer.

Honourable senators, I do not believe for a moment that all senators are not all aware of the circumstances around this fact about which I am speaking. I have no problem with what Michael Chong said about rubber-stamping. Maybe he was a little youthful and anxious. I can understand and forgive that. I think that he made a valiant effort on this bill. This chamber has always been respectful of the Commons in regard to matters that touch the elections of members. We senators have never had any doubt whatsoever about that.

Honourable senators, I wish to correct Senator Batters' misunderstanding about that, if I could. In any event, colleagues, there is a strong will in this place for this breath of fresh air that Senator Smith has talked about. Some of us have served in caucuses for many years. Some of us know the reality of caucus life. It is not as noble Senator Batters puts it. Senator Batters said that the Prime Minister is not an elected position; but she described that as a technicality. Well, I have news for all of us; it is the caucus and the members of the House of Commons who determine who the Prime Minister is. Let us not fool ourselves about that. That is the law.

Honourable senators, I am supporting this bill and I urge all senators to vote now on this Bill C-586.

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates are available here.