Here are my favorite bits from the rebel Tory Senator's speech opposing Bill S-8, the Harper government's latest attempt at an elected upper chamber:
An election identifies the people's choice. It is the culmination of a competition that produces the most popular candidate. This house should be made up, if possible, of popular people, but more importantly, of competent people. That is why the Fathers of Confederation devised a system in which the Prime Minister retains full responsibility for recommending to the Governor General the nominees best qualified to serve as senators.
Under the guise of bowing to popular democracy, Bill S-8 is contrary to what the Fathers of Confederation had in mind.
The popularity shown by an election is certainly something appropriate, but it should not be viewed as a fundamental consideration for determining whether or not an individual Canadian should be nominated to this place.
In recent history, this chamber has seen its work influenced by a number of senators. Senator Keon retired just a little while ago; a few years ago, it was Senator Beaudoin. I will name only these two, given the time I am allotted. I know Senator Beaudoin very well and I got to know Senator Keon. Senator Keon told us that he would never have run in an election because he did not feel the need to be popular in order to be efficient. He would have opposed the passage of Bill S-8.
We have here several French-speaking senators from outside Quebec, including Senator Mockler from New Brunswick. Do you think that the people of New Brunswick, most of whom are English-speaking, would have voted for Senator Mockler, an Acadian?
Why are there more Aboriginal senators than Aboriginal members of the other place? Because they are in the minority. All across Canada, except in the territories, Aboriginal Canadians from various reserves and of various origins are in the minority. Do you think that in a popularity contest, people would be willing to put the names of Aboriginal candidates and then vote for them? The answer is no. Should we have Aboriginal senators in this chamber? Yes!
I do not agree with giving up the "E" for effective for the sake of the "E" for elected. That is not what we are here for. We are not here to replace the House of Commons, but to complement it, to add effective second thought to the legislative process initiated in the other place. We are not here to replace the work of the members of Parliament, but to complete it.
Honourable senators, this much-sought-after effectiveness takes aim at the so called legitimacy that being elected could provide us, because electing senators does not guarantee effectiveness. The only thing "E" for elected will get us is popularity. Popularity is what they have in the House of Commons. We are not the House of Commons. The Senate of Canada offers Canadians effective work.
This effectiveness results from our individual and collective expression of the independence that the current process allows us. Any honourable senator may act in good conscience in the interest of Canadians, independently of pressure exerted by the House of Commons and of his or her political affiliations. Any independence resulting from electing candidates to the Senate is certainly not going to make the Senate more effective.
Senator Brown: Does the honourable senator know why the Canadian media unanimously have called this place illegitimate for over 100 years?
Senator Nolin: Senator Brown, we do not have much time so I will be brief.
First, I do not agree that all media and the entire population have said that. Recently, I saw numbers to indicate that the split is 50/50 between those who want an elected Senate and those who do not. The key question is not about legitimacy coming from an election. At the end of day, senators will be judged on their effectiveness, and not in terms of whether or not the media like the Senate. Effectiveness is the key word. Can senators be effective only when they are elected? I doubt it. Elected senators can be effective, but being elected should not be a prerequisite. Independence from the other place is the tool that provides efficiency and effectiveness to senators. What the media thinks, I do not really care.
Senator Segal: Honourable senators, I am fascinated by Senator Nolin's citation of the original intent of the Fathers of Confederation. I want to get a sense from the honourable senator of how far that original intent should constrain our ability in this chamber to try to improve the legislative framework which, at the present time, has one third of our national legislators unelected, Senator Brown notwithstanding.
Senator Nolin: Honourable senators, my answer will be brief. I am not saying that this is the last word or that it is the end of the world. I am only saying that it is there, and I do not think Bill S-8 adds to that.
The intent is sober second thought, as expressed by the framer Sir John A. Macdonald. I do not think being elected will add to the principle of sober second thought. Quite to the contrary, I think it would create havoc between this house and the other house because we would try to be more popular and more democratic.
That is not what the population in 1867 needed, and it is not what the population needs now. The population needs a second chamber that will add to the quality of the work of the first chamber by giving sober second thought to the work done by the first house, without concern for glamour, popularity or beauty contests. We have a job to do, and we are free and independent. We can do it without being pushed by the people in the other place. Let us use that. We are not using it. We must be independent; then we will be effective.
Here, on the other hand, is a link to John Baird shrieking. Which makes you feel more proud to be a Canadian?