Motion to Affect Committee Membership—Amendment by Senator BellemarePublished on 28 October 2020 Hansard and Statements by Senator Pierre J. Dalphond
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I did not intend to speak to this subject today, but a lot of things have been said, and I have really enjoyed hearing the comments on both sides of the issue. I noticed that all of this can be summarized quite easily. On the one hand, we are talking about principles of interpretation.
Some people, who are not legal experts, are saying that under the principles of interpretation, the exception takes precedence over the rule. Honourable colleagues, I would like to remind you that rule 12-2, which is based on rule 60, was adopted in 1982, over 40 years ago. That rule is clear. Rule 12-5, which Senator Woo is hoping to use to remove senators that he doesn’t want from his committee, was not adopted until 1983, 18 months after the main rule.
The main rule is the one that must guide us. Why is it the main rule? Because the mission of the Selection Committee, once it is appointed, is to recommend men and women from this chamber to sit on the various Senate committees, once they have been appointed, that is. They are not appointed by the Selection Committee or by the groups that made representations to the Selection Committee. They are appointed because the Selection Committee’s report was tabled here in this chamber and adopted by the Senate. Rule 12-2 is very explicit about that.
Senators shall serve for the remainder of the session. You are appointed by the Senate because the Senate trusts you are able to do the job on the following committees. Then you are appointed to serve until the end of this session. Normally, sessions don’t last four years as in the previous Parliament, but that’s the rule.
You’re not appointed by your group to a committee. That’s something I’m shocked to hear, as a matter of fact. Senator Woo said that seats are obtained from the groups. No, Senator Woo, they’re not obtained from the groups. They might be obtained through the mechanism of the groups, but they are not obtained from you and they are not obtained from your group. They are obtained from the Senate as a whole, the Senate as an institution. And the Senate vests the trust and the Senate can remove the trust, not the leaders. That’s the basic principle of rule 12-2.
As a matter of fact, we can look at the practice in the other place and, yes, there are many parties in the other place. Do you know that in the other place, once you have been appointed to a committee by the House of Commons, you cannot be removed by your leader? You can be replaced, but it’s meant to be a temporary replacement, and once you are able to resume your function because you were out of town, you were sick or otherwise, you resume your seat. Only the House of Commons can replace you, and that means a report from the appropriate committee will come back to the floor, and then the House of Commons will vote on it. We know this.
We saw some members from the other place cross the floor. One crossed from the Liberal to the Conservative side. I’m sure they were very happy. In the Martin times, we saw one leaving the Conservative side to go to the Liberal side, and I guess some other people were happy that day. I can give you the name of an NDP member from Repentigny who crossed the floor to join the Bloc. They have remained on their committees — for six weeks, a month or three months — until there was a report from the select committee of the House of Commons proposing they be replaced. And until this report was voted on and adopted by the House of Commons, these people remained on their committees. This is the principle.
But here, through a desire to grab power to the ultimate limit, some leaders are seeing the exception in the rules as being the guiding principle. This is a complete perversion of the text.
Rule 12-2(3) is the principle, and that is the principle I’m standing up and speaking for today. This principle rests on the thinking that this place has invested its confidence in a person, when that place has appointed that person on a committee, and that place is the one that can remove the trust — not the leaders, not the groups.
I think if we are going to move forward in a reformed Senate, it’s a Senate where there should be more independence. I was asked to come here. I took time before accepting the appointment because I wasn’t sure about this place. I wasn’t sure about the old practices, the old duopoly and if the time had come to reform the Senate. I took a week before I said yes to the Prime Minister. I don’t know how many of you took a week before answering, but I did. Finally, I said yes, I am going because I believe this place can be reformed, because it has a role to play that it didn’t play in the past because it was under the duopoly, under the dictatorship of the parties.
This should stop. This must stop. The independence of each of us is critical for our future as an institution. What has been proposed by the leadership of the ISG runs exactly contrary to what we are trying to do in reform.
I’m so disappointed to see that the leadership of the ISG is like the leadership of the old Conservatives. So this is moving, transforming that group into another group that defines itself as opposing the Conservatives but being similar in functioning.
The time has come for all of us to make a choice. Do we believe in the reforms? If we do, we have to support the amendment proposed by Senator Bellemare. Thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Plett, do you have a question?
Senator Plett: Senator Dalphond, you were quite clear that nobody appointed you to any seat when you were a member of the ISG, that Senator Woo did not. Indeed, Senator Woo said you ran elections. So I guess that’s a valid argument there.
Does the PSG have elections to see what committee you may or may not serve on, when all of this is done, to start with? We know you want the right to take it with you, but how about the first time around? Do you have the right to demand one as well? Or will somebody suggest that you serve on a particular committee? I’m assuming it may be Legal; maybe not. Would that be appointed? How would you get that position?
Senator Dalphond: Thank you, Senator Plett, for the questions. I’m sorry to realize you didn’t read the op-ed written by Jane Cordy, our leader. She has explained clearly that we have, as all the groups should have, some kind of mechanism to find out who is interested in what and to go along with the short list when they go to the Selection Committee. But this is not selecting people. We have the advantage of being a small group, so we can collegially decide who wants to go on which committee. Perhaps it’s more difficult when you’re 20 in number; maybe it’s more difficult when you’re 44. I understand it’s part of the internal mechanism, but the fact remains that it is only an internal mechanism. It’s not appointing people. It’s really making some recommendations. The Senate makes the appointment.
Senator Plett: You also made it clear that you want complete autonomy. You don’t want to be beholden to anybody. You don’t want to be told what to do by anybody. Yet you chose to go and sit in a group. If you couldn’t get along with the ISG, why didn’t you do what you claimed you wanted to do and sit as non-affiliated? But you decided to join a group.
Again, when there is a group, there’s a certain amount of — I don’t know; more than camaraderie — order that needs to be in any organization. Surely you, as a jurist, as a judge, would most certainly agree on some order. I’m assuming that may be why you wanted to join the PSG. But if you want complete and total autonomy, why would you not just sit as non-affiliated? Then nobody would be able to give you any direction.
Senator Dalphond: I don’t know if this is really linked to the motion in the amendment we have before us, but I can tell you that, in our group, it’s not a problem. I feel quite comfortable to share my views with my colleagues, and they share their views with me. We’re not whipped in any way, and it’s no problem.