Honourable Senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our former Speaker of the Senate and our former colleague: the Honourable Noël Kinsella.
I would like to focus on one topic – about which he had spoken several times and into which he had obviously put a great deal of thought – that being Senate Reform.
Senator Kinsella’s opinion regarding Senate reform is to be respected and much is to be gained from careful consideration of his words.
In a speech last fall to the provincial Speakers of the Legislative Assemblies – at the 52nd Canadian Regional Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association – Senator Kinsella spoke about possible ways the Senate might better serve in its role.
I respect Senator Kinsella’s position on Senate reform and I think that there is much to be gained from careful consideration of our former colleague’s words.
He stated, and I quote, “A campaign of internal restoration, external education, and cross-country conversation would be a useful approach.”
I fully agree with Senator Kinsella that we should be improving internal policies and protocols to enhance transparency and accountability.
Additionally, increasing public awareness of the work that is done by Senators in the Senate will undoubtedly benefit this institution.
However, we must also be receptive to the public’s input when we consider the role that this institution plays in our democracy.
For example, if the majority of Canadians believe that they would be better served by elected Senators, then that should be part of the conversation as we consider reform.
Senator Kinsella believes and I agree that we, as parliamentarians, can be the leaders in a national conversation on Senate reform.
This process is not one that is meant to diminish the good work that the Senate does, but to improve it in ways that will better serve Canadians.
Senator Kinsella made an interesting point when he spoke to Senator Nolin’s inquiry into the role of the Senate.
He suggested that a dialogue between Senators and provincial MLAs could lead to the discovery of a common view; which may even meet the constitutional test that would make structural reforms to the Senate a possibility.
As we move forward, I would ask my colleagues to consider Senator Kinsella’s words, and keep an open mind regarding Senate reform.
The Supreme Court ruling on this matter has provided us with a road map for reform. Should public interest in the Senate continue, a constructive national conversation could be facilitated.
We owe it to our former Speaker and to Canadians to carefully consider how our institution can best serve our democracy.
Senator Kinsella, thank you for your great leadership as Speaker in this place and thank you – for your valued contributions – to the topic of Senate reform.
I congratulate you on your well-deserved appointment to the – Queen’s Privy Council of Canada – and I wish you and Mrs. Kinsella, all the best.