Mr. Speaker, this evening I will be talking about the main estimates. The government keeps talking about how it wants to shrink the bureaucracy and save taxpayers' money.
Well, the NDP has a solution that will help the government save $90 million per year. The money saved could be used to enhance the programs we have been talking about this evening.
How would the NDP save $90 million? Well, it is very simple. We would abolish the Senate, which is an archaic and undemocratic institution. Why are we paying $90 million per year for an institution made up of unelected members who are accountable to nobody?
Since 2011, 369 residents of Brome—Missisquoi have written to me about the Senate or have signed a petition calling for the Senate to be abolished. I am speaking on their behalf this evening.
Canadians work tirelessly to make ends meet, but the senators sit only 70 days a year. They are only asked to work three days a week, and that is when they even bother to show up for work.
In 2005, the Prime Minister said that the Senate was a relic of the 19th century, but since 2006, he has appointed 57 new senators, 51 of them former Conservative Party backers. Senators are completely unaccountable. They represent only the party that appointed them. They do not represent their regions or even the Canadian people.
It seems to me that, over the years, the Senate has turned into a gang of publicly funded lobbyists disguised as provincial representatives.
On April 18, 2014, the National Post reported that one-third of senators hold positions on either public or private boards of directors. Thirty-four of the 96 senators are board members. According to the National Post analysis, senators earn a lot of money from their membership on boards.
I would like to know how they can wear so many different hats at the same time without being in conflict of interest. Senators sit on boards of companies in financial services, mining and energy, and real estate. This makes me wonder how impartial they really are when they are debating our bills.
Let us not forget that, in November 2010, under a minority government, the NDP passed Bill C-311 through the House of Commons. That bill would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions to below 1990 levels. That was a much more ambitious target than the one the government announced at the Copenhagen summit. The bill was passed by elected representatives in the House of Commons and killed by the Senate.
When asked to justify this strategy, the Conservative Senate leader at the time retorted that the government, which did not support the bill, was not going to miss an opportunity to get rid of it.
One of my colleagues introduced another bill to protect transgendered people, which was passed by this House in April 2013 and is currently being held up in the Senate.
The Senate has never had a problem quickly passing the omnibus bills that this government pushes through here with its majority and time allocation motions.
What other bills passed in the House will the Senate kill in the future?
The NDP has long been calling for the Senate to be abolished. Originally, the Senate was designed to be a chamber of sober second thought. It has become a haven for donors, fundraisers and other friends of the Conservative and Liberal parties.
Canadians are becoming increasingly frustrated with the scandals in this undemocratic, unelected Senate that is currently under investigation. The senators continue to abuse Canadians' trust. That is why now, more than ever, this antiquated institution must be abolished.
We are not the only ones who want to abolish it. Manitoba and Quebec got rid of their senates many years ago. Their unicameral legislatures work just fine. People in New Zealand did the same with their upper chamber. Saskatchewan MLAs recently adopted a motion to abolish the Senate. I remind members that Saskatchewan has a Conservative premier.
Here in Ottawa, the Conservatives and Liberals refuse to take action. The NDP has proposed some practical solutions to make the Senate more transparent now, such as the following motion:
That all funding should cease to be provided to the Senate beginning on July 1, 2013.
The Liberals voted against this motion. Then, in the fall, we moved a motion to make the Senate more accountable to Canadians. The NDP was optimistic that the old parties would reassess how they use the Senate and support our motion. Our measures would have prevented senators from participating in partisan activities and using taxpayers' money to participate in activities that are not directly related to their parliamentary work.
The outcome of the vote on that motion shows that they are all talk and that transparency and accountability are not really that important to them. It was particularly disappointing to see the Liberals join forces with the Conservatives to defeat this motion. The Conservatives and the Liberals keep swearing that they really want to change things, but as I said, they vote for the status quo at every opportunity.
Canadians now know that the NDP will continue to defend our democratic values and fight for the Senate to be abolished. Why are we paying $90 million a year for an unelected, unaccountable Senate? Abolishing the Senate would save millions of dollars, and that money could be invested elsewhere in the estimates.