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There is No Such Thing as an Official Opposition in the Senate

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: I rise on a point of order.

Your Honour, in the same way that you have admonished us at the start of the new session to watch our comportment, to watch our decorum and to watch our words, I would like to raise a profound issue I have with the use of a term that undermines the meaning of our institution, which is not captured in our Rules of the Senate of Canada or in the Parliament of Canada Act, and which is fundamentally deeply insulting to many senators. This is the idea that there is such a thing as an official opposition.

We heard this phrase used three times during Question Period, just a few minutes ago — once by Senator Plett and twice by Senator Housakos — and it is intended, with no justification, to give the impression that there is a small group of senators here who are more worthy than the rest of us.

I will point out that there is the use of the “official opposition” in the House of Commons, but it is not used in the Parliament of Canada Act for the Senate or in the Rules of the Senate of Canada, and the fact that it is not used in the same way in the Senate should tell us something about what it means to be the opposition in this chamber.

In a more independent, less partisan chamber, all of us should have the same rights and privileges, and we should not be second-class citizens in the way that is implied by the term “official opposition.”

So all of the questioning, Your Honour, around whether some of our colleagues who have been appointed to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, are worthy to be there because they are not part of the so-called official opposition is an insult to those members.

Your Honour, I would ask that if honourable colleagues Senators Plett and Housakos choose not to withdraw those comments from Hansard, that you provide us with some clarification on the use of this term.

Thank you.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett : Let me first of all start off by saying I certainly will not withdraw anything that I have said. I have used the term “official opposition,” because that, in fact, is the term. I am the leader of the loyal opposition in the Senate.

You can shake your head all you want. That is the term.

And I am quite happy, Your Honour, to have you take under advisement whether supposed senators appointed by Justin Trudeau have the right to come in here and start changing the titles of what we, in fact, have gone by. You can call yourself “liaison” and “representative” and whatever you want. When it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Senator Gold is the Leader of the Government. As was decided by the previous Speaker in a ruling that he made, Senator Gold, in fact, is the Leader of the Government, even if he doesn’t want to call himself that.

So if your point of order, senator, is on whether we are officially the opposition, you may take this as an insult, but I would like to say that’s a ridiculous argument. We are the official opposition. You can complain about us using the wrong terms when we talk about others. I didn’t besmirch any senator in this chamber. I was attacking the Prime Minister for making partisan appointments to NSICOP, because that’s what they are. They are his senators that he appointed to this chamber and then appointed to NSICOP to help him there.

I will stand on the position that we are the official opposition, Madam Speaker.

The Hon. Speaker: I am ready to rule on this. I would like to read the definition of “Leader of the Opposition,” that is in the Rules of the Senate of Canada. The “Leader of the Opposition” or “Opposition Leader” is:

The Senator recognized as the head of the party, other than the Government party, with the most Senators. The full title of the Opposition Leader is “Leader of the Opposition in the Senate”.

I would ask senators to govern themselves as such.