Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, I hesitate to jump into this debate because so much has been said already. I agree with much of what has been said in every quarter of this august chamber.
I want to say that we all, every single one of us, represent Canadians. We represent our regions. We are here to do work on behalf of Canadians and on behalf of our regions.
Senator Housakos, I agree with you; we’ve completed some amazing inquiries. I’ve been privileged to be part of a number of them, and it has been very rewarding work.
I feel very strongly — and I’m in agreement with Senator Bellemare’s amendment to the motion — that if members of this chamber move from one group to another, they should be able to take their committee seats with them. We’ve had rulings from prior Speakers on this. I go back to June 9, 2007, long before I was in this chamber, where that was upheld by the Speaker in a ruling.
I do feel very strongly, though, that every senator in this chamber has a right to speak their mind and have a vote. With that, Your Honour, I hope we can have this vote next week when the hybrid model is up. I appreciate that some of our colleagues are not able to be here because of health concerns or health concerns in their communities or rules in their communities, and we should give them the opportunity to participate.
Senator Saint-Germain spoke of the principle of fairness, and I applaud the principle of fairness. I think this enhances the principle of fairness. We’ve talked about the principle of equality. I believe having the vote when everybody has an opportunity to speak and to vote is that equality.
I do not accept this motion, as originally presented, as one of equality, and I do not happen to see the motion, as originally put forward before the amendment, as one of modernization. Quite frankly, I see it as regression. I don’t understand how denying individual senators their right of individuality is constructive reform. If we’re really talking about reform, we have to talk about what the roles of senators are. So I can’t accept the original motion, but I certainly accept the amendment.
Some countries are building walls. Let’s take a look at those walls. I don’t believe walls encourage debate. I don’t believe that walls encourage understanding. I don’t believe that walls encourage arms out around the world to make this place a better place. In fact, for me, walls do not conjure positive meaning at all.
I worry that, without Senator Bellemare’s amendment, we’re beginning to build walls in this place, and I don’t think that helps us do the work of Canadians. I would hope that the Senate of Canada would not consider building this wall but would instead consider building a positive environment in which we all can do our work constructively.
I came here to work across the aisle. We’ve managed to do so. I’m proud of the ad hoc groups we’ve had during the pandemic and I think that has shown the collegiality in this place. At the same time, groups of us from all over have been able to draw attention to regional and sectoral challenges during the pandemic we face.
Colleagues, I feel now is the time to underline the principle of fairness, equality and the freedom of association enshrined in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s a fundamental right for all of us to be able to have freedom of movement, and if we as a chamber can’t enhance and live up to that freedom of movement, I don’t think we’re giving the proper tone to our colleague Canadians.
I agree with the words that Senator Cordy wrote in The Hill Times article, and I do feel that Senator Bellemare’s amendment will help us and will ensure modernization underlining equality, fairness and proportionality. Thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question!
Senator Mercer: Would you accept a question?
Senator Bovey: Yes.
Senator Mercer: Everyone talks about fairness and representation. I look around here. I’m from Nova Scotia. We have 10 senators from Nova Scotia. How many people here are from Nova Scotia? One. How many people are here from New Brunswick? I see two. How many people are here from Prince Edward Island? Three. And how many people from Newfoundland and Labrador? Three. We have about seven or eight from Atlantic Canada.
One of the frustrations I had by not being here was for the first while, I was in isolation in Nova Scotia. When I returned, I had to go into isolation for two weeks. I’m going to stay this week and be here next week, but when I go back, I have to spend two weeks in isolation there. It was okay to be in isolation in the summertime. I live in a nice area on a nice lake, and I could isolate in a boat in the middle of the lake if I wanted. That was fine.
Is it really fair that we have a group of people here voting, on a regular basis, on rules and laws that affect all Canadians when certain regions, because of geography and local rules in provinces where isolation is required, are disadvantaged by not having people here to vote? The reason the hybrid version that we’ll have next Tuesday is a big deal for us is that instead of having one Nova Scotian voting here on Tuesday, I suspect that we’ll have seven or eight, and that means that my province is going to be much better represented via hybrid. That applies to the other Atlantic provinces as well. I didn’t do the numbers for all of them.
Senator Bovey: I agree with you, and I think we have to realize our senator from the Yukon is not here and the difficulty, so I feel very strongly that you are correct. For fairness, we need to give everybody the opportunity to vote, and hence the hybrid model that we’ve agreed to.