Until now, our disagreement concerning Bill C-7, An Act respecting the selection of senators and amending the Constitution Act, 1867 in respect of Senate term limits, has pertained to the merits of that legislation and I have had no reason to accuse you of any dishonest or fallacious comments.
I would obviously like you to respond to the legitimate objections expressed by the Liberal opposition: that having two elected chambers, with no mechanism for resolving disagreements between them, would encumber if not paralyze Parliament; that Alberta and British Columbia would be unfairly under-represented in such an elected Senate; that Parliament does not have the constitutional authority to change the nature of the Senate unilaterally, without the agreement of the provinces; and that it is incongruous to ask the provinces to pay for and organize elections for the purpose of choosing federal parliamentarians.
However, two days ago, you made a statement that was completely inaccurate. You claimed that the opposition had been endeavouring to block Bill C-7: “I have asked that they stop stalling it and let it come to a vote”, you told The Guardian in Charlottetown on July 30, 2012.
In fact, it is the government that has chosen to move other priorities ahead of the debate at the second reading of Bill C-7. Had you decided otherwise, this proposed legislation would already be debated in committee.
To be more precise, the government tabled the proposed legislation in the House on June 21, 2011, and brought it to second reading for debate on September 30, October 3, November 14 and December 7 and 8, 2011, as well as on February 27, 2012. On those occasions the opposition participated in the debate on C-7 without obstructing it in any way. You cannot prove otherwise.
My concern is that you have fabricated this false version of the facts so that you can justify in advance shutting down debate in order to impede the committee’s deliberations. You know full well that the vast majority of experts would come to express the same objections as the Liberal opposition.
In my opinion, there is no piece of legislation currently before Parliament that is more fundamental than C-7. It is a tenet of political science that the problems of tomorrow are often the result of institutional reforms that are poorly conceived today. I am convinced that this is the case with C-7. Many other Canadians share this point of view, and you have a duty to delay no further and to respond to it.
It is also important that the government not attempt to muzzle the committee and that it finally allow the fundamental debate to which Canadians are entitled to take place, with full participation on your part.
Yours very sincerely,
Hon. Stéphane Dion, P.C., MP
Liberal Critic for Democratic Reform
Official letter on letterhead to follow.