Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise and speak to the motion that is before the House.
Let me make it very clear that the motion we are debating is with respect to the government's giving $57 million to the Senate. The average hard-working Canadians, the taxpayers who keep our institutions going, must be really wondering why, in light of the media frenzy, we have a government that is saying that we should give that House $57 million more. I am opposed to that for a number of reasons.
To put it into perspective, we have a Prime Minister who absolutely believed in the abolition of the Senate and failing that, wanted to make it more accountable and all of those things. Yet, the Prime Minister has carried on the Liberal tradition of appointing senators. The Prime Minister has appointed 59 senators.
As we read reports in the media, the reports we get and the information that is before us right now, those appointments are very partisan. Not only that, once they are appointed, the senators are doing partisan party work.
My colleagues at that end of the aisle, the third party, their leader decided that the Liberal senators would no longer be members of their caucus. They can call a thorn any name they want or they can change the name, but unless they change the substance, a thorn is still a thorn. I will argue that the Senate has become a thorn in the side of Canadians.
It was interesting that when the senators met, they named themselves the Liberal senators. They still have a caucus that is very Liberal, and carries the name Liberal. My understanding is they still attend some of the partisan events. They are still running around collecting money. They have learned well from the Conservatives. They have learned well from each other.
They are going around doing all of these things. I hear from the party at the end how committed they are to reform and how we should make the Senate more accountable. When it comes to that party, however, I have always looked at their actions rather than the promises they make. They always make these grandiose promises, but once they are in government, and now in opposition, they suddenly do not reflect what they want to reflect when they are outside of the House.
With the media, the televised debates and social media, it is getting more and more difficult for members of that party to hide from the positions they take in this House.
There is a motion that was moved by my colleague, the hard-working member for Toronto—Danforth, on October 22, 2013. This will show that we are not dealing with a new problem. This has been going on and on. I am not going to expand on everything that has happened with Mr. Duffy, because all of that is out there. I just want to focus on what we needed to do.
The NDP is a pragmatic party that knows how to compromise when it has to, and then sticks to something that is good for Canadians and does not compromise on that. Our position on Bill C-51 is one example. Canadians' freedoms and privacy, and the invasion into their privacy, cannot be compromised away just because it is convenient for electoral purposes.
Let me get back to the motion that was voted on in this House on October 22. This is what the motion that was brought forward by the NDP said:
That, in the opinion of this House, urgent steps must be taken to improve accountability in the Senate, and, therefore, this House call for the introduction of immediate measures to end Senators' partisan activities, including participation in Caucus meetings, and to limit Senators' travel allowances to those activities clearly and directly related to parliamentary business.
It can hardly be argued that this was a revolutionary motion. This was a very well thought out motion that was put forward to address some very specific concerns. This is the kind of motion that would pass the nod test. Quite honestly, I think this would even pass the kindergarten or grade one test. If we were to explain to the children that these are the senators, this is what we do not want them to do and this is what we want them to do, kids are smart and they would say, “That's good, isn't it”, but not my colleagues across the way.
What really shocked me after all the public grandstanding was that the third party—and I want to be very clear on this—would not support a motion that would limit senators' partisan activities. The Liberal senators were kicked out of caucus, so to speak, but that is just window dressing. The Liberals were not willing to end senators' partisan activities, so they formed a coalition with the Conservatives to vote this down, just as with Bill C-51, the Liberals formed a coalition with the Conservatives in order for that bill to pass through the House. This makes me wonder what the difference really is between the third party and the party in government. I see very little difference these days.
The New Democrats wanted to limit senators' travel allowances to those activities clearly and directly related to parliamentary business. Surely, nobody in the House would have voted against that. However, the Conservatives did and, guess what, they were supported by the third party, their new-found friends across the way, the new Liberal-Con coalition.
When I look at all of this, nobody can say that the NDP, with the long-standing position of getting rid of the Senate, has not attempted to bring about accountability. I know the government across the way is allergic to accountability, transparency and answering serious questions, but it opposed the pragmatic solutions we put forward. If that motion had carried and the government and the Liberal Party of Canada had supported it, we might not be in this grandiose—I do not know what word to use, but I will say it is a crisis that we are in right now. It is an absolute embarrassment to be in my riding and try to explain to people all that is going on.
The leader of the NDP has been very clear. He is a lawyer. He knows how constitutions are changed. He also knows agreement is required from all the parties. I have not seen Mr. Harper meet with all the premiers that often, never mind consult them. We are prepared to consult them and move forward, but in the meantime, pragmatic solutions are required to fix the grandiose mess that exists in the Senate.