Canada, Senate Debates, “Report of the Committee Entitled ‘Certain Aspects of the Canadian Constitution’”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (9 June 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 2487-2488.
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SENATE DEBATES — June 9, 1981
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ENTITLED “CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE CANADIAN CONSTITUTION”
Hon. Martial Asselin: Honourable senators, if I may, I would like to put a question to the chairman of the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. This evening, the Leader of the Opposition referred to a statement by the Right Honourable Prime Minister concerning certain changes which would be made to the Senate in keeping with his plan or ideas for changing federal institutions. Since a Senate committee was set up one year or one-and-a-half years ago and sat for many days or rather many months, even during the summer, under the chairmanship of Senator Goldcnberg and his associate, Senator Lamontagne, has a report been tabled in the Senate following the work of this committee which has not been completely discussed?
Hon. Maurice Lamontagne: Not at all.
Hon. Royce Frith (Deputy Leader of the Government): It was tabled in the Senate, but not discussed.
Senator Asselin: You are right, it was tabled in the Senate, but not discussed.
Could the chairman of the committee tell me, or if not, could he ask Senator Lamontagne, whether the Prime Minister has seen this report and discussed it with him? If so, what was his reaction? Of course, if Senator Goldenberg has not done so, I am asking this question indirectly of Senator Lamontagne, who is partly responsible for the report.
Hon. H. Carl Goldenberg: I did not discuss it with the Prime Minister. We tabled the report of the Senate committee, Senator Flynn adjourned the debate, in November as I recall, and he has done nothing about it since.
Honourable Senator Asselin has referred to the comments made by the Prime Minister—and Senator Flynn had already spoken about them—about a possible reform of the Senate. I noted in one of the newspapers this morning that the Right Honourable Joe Clark, Leader of the Opposition, also spoke about a reform of the Senate yesterday and suggested that he would agree to having the approval of the provincial premiers for Senate appointments or an elected Senate. Both leaders have therefore spoken about this.
Senator Asselin: But that does not mean anything.
Senator Goldenberg: No. In answer to your question I can tell you that I did not discuss it with the Prime Minister and I do not see why you should think that I was supposed to discuss it with him. We were supposed to debate the committee report here in the Senate and I am waiting for Senator Flynn’s speech.
Senator Asselin: Well, since you did not, may I ask the deputy chairman of the committee, considering that he has been special advisor to the Prime Minister on constitutional matters, whether he has had an opportunity to talk this over with the Prime Minister? I am asking this question because I need to have answers more specific and clearer than those given to me by the Leader of the Government.
Senator Lamontagne: Senator Asselin, I believe there is a dual error in your question because I never was the deputy chairman of the committee. Neither have I ever been, like Senator Tremblay, the advisor—
Senator Asselin: I said “instigator”.
Senator Lamontagne:—advisor to the Prime Minister on constitutional matters.
Senator Asselin: How humble you are tonight!
Senator Lamontagne: However, I tabled a report in the Senate, with the co-operation of Senator Goldenberg, as the Senate had asked us to do. I explained the contents of that report in a speech before the Senate in late November. Senator Flynn adjourned the debate and has not seen fit, since then, to resume the debate and contribute, as quickly as possible, to a reform of the Senate.
Hon. Jacques Flynn (Leader of the Opposition): On a question of privilege: I adjourned the debate but I have never stopped anyone from speaking.
Senator Lamontagne: But you yourself never spoke on the issue!
Senator Flynn: Because I had nothing to say in the light of the position taken by the Prime Minister, at least at the start, in his proposed constitutional reform where he wanted to limit the power of the Senate to 60 days so that he could eventually abolish it, that is all. Since then, he has had a change of heart and once again, he has new ideas. So, I am waiting; if anyone wants to reopen the debate, he is free to do so. I have never prevented anyone from doing so.