MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Debate on Main Estimates – SENATE

Masse Questions Senate Not Passing Bill C-290, Single Wager Sports Betting

Hansard – Debate on Main Estimates – SENATE

June 8, 2015

 Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP) 

    Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to ask the parliamentary secretary about a bill that was passed here three years ago in the House of Commons, Bill C-290, the single sports betting bill. It would delete one sentence in the Criminal Code and would allow provinces to, if they wanted to, negotiate to have single sports betting.

    The bill has been in the Senate for three years. It was passed here unanimously. It went through the House of Commons. The member actually agreed with it. Why has the bill not been passed by the Senate? It was democratically approved by the House of Commons and is now being blocked by Liberals and Conservatives in the Senate. It is costing jobs, employment and a series of things related to organized crime benefiting, as well as offshore betting, but it has not been passed. It has been three years in the Senate.

     I would like the parliamentary secretary to understand and respond to us directly on Bill C-290. Why can he not get that passed in the Senate? Why has the Senate denied it? I would like to know.

 Mr. Paul Calandra 

    Mr. Speaker, I believe, if I am not mistaken, that the bill is with respect to betting on single sporting events. As to whether I agreed with it, the member might have to look carefully at that. I do not recall actually voting on that bill.

    Having said that, I know that the New Democrats might not like the fact that there is a constitutionally mandated second chamber that has to review the work we do here, but that is the Constitution of this country, and that is something we will continue to fight for and support. We have a constitutional obligation as a government to support the Constitution and to make sure that we pass laws in accordance with the Constitution.

    I know the NDP's philosophy is to unilaterally eliminate it, breaking the Constitution and what the Supreme Court has said. We will not do that. We will protect the Constitution, because that is what a government must do. Until that body is reformed, we will continue—

 Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP) 

    Mr. Speaker, the reality is exactly what the member for Winnipeg Centre has said, which is that we are voting on $57 million of expenditures for the Senate. It is up to members to figure out after the vote whether they want to show up for work.

    The fact is that the Senate has not passed motions and legislation from the House of Commons. Therefore, why should we spend $57 million more? What is the $57 million reason for Canadians?

Mr. Pat Martin 

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians may be even more concerned that the total budget for the Senate is more like $90 million. The House of Commons gets to vote on the $57 million in vote 1, which is the appropriation for the Senate, but some of its funding is in fact statutory.

    The fact is that Canadians are wondering why they are paying anything for it. Not only has there been a pattern of abuse, but it serves as an undemocratic barrier to the will of the people as expressed by those elected representatives in the House of Commons, time and time again. There are 133 examples that the researchers at the Library of Parliament found for me where bills were vetoed by the Senate which were passed in the House of Commons.

    Nobody elected those guys to make legislation. Senators should have no right to interfere with the will of the House of Commons, and they certainly should have no right to generate bills.

    More and more bills that we are dealing with in the House of Commons, as members know, are not called Bill C-51, for example, but rather Bill S-6, Bill S-13, or Bill S-33. The bills are originating in the Senate. Here we are dutifully debating bills that are generated in the other chamber. It is completely upside down. It is completely absurd. If Canadians think about it, this is an affront to democracy and everything that is good and decent about our notion of democracy.

    When Sir. John A. Macdonald first crafted the Senate, to cut him some slack, he was two years away from the American Civil War. He was looking south of the border thinking that he could not give too much authority without some checks and balances or God knows what could happen. North America was traumatized. However, that happened not in the last century, but the century before that.

     We do not need to be bound by the limitations of John A. Macdonald's thinking when he made that terrible quote about how “We must protect the rights of minorities, and the rich are always fewer in number than the poor”.