A Liberal Senate - Macleans.ca

A Liberal Senate

Why Ignatieff’s proposed changes would increase the Senate’s legitimacy and effectiveness as a deliberative body


Continuing in the new Liberal tradition of proposing actual policy alternatives to the Conservative government, over the weekend Michael Ignatieff served up his own ideas for how to reform the Senate. He’d limit terms to 12 years, and look at passing the appointments through some sort of arms-length board or commission.

This is, I think, a better proposal than Harper’s current plan, which – assuming he isn’t just dicking around – seems to be to stack the Senate with incompetents, blind partisans, and other pieces of ambulatory play-doh, and hope that when he figures out what he actually wants to do, they’ll be more than happy to play along.

A few remarks, sort if in response to some good comments under Aaron’s post:

Yes, the Liberal-dominated Senate asked to send Harper’s bill establishing 8-year limits to the Supreme Court. But the 12-year limit might have a better chance of passing as a unilateral (i.e. non-constitutional) change, since that is pretty much the actual average tenure of Senators. The bonus is that it would have the effect of equalizing Senate appointments.

I like the idea of a public appointments commission, but I wonder if it might actually make the chamber more effective if it retained some provision for partisan appointments as well, like the hybrid system for appointing life peers to the  House of Lords. Conquest’s second law has it that any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing. Maybe, but given what we know about bureaucracies in Canada, at the very least the appointments commission will be open to the charge by the government of the day that it has become politically compromised. A mechanism for some partisan appointments will help offset that charge, while giving the Senate a healthy representation of partisans.

Together, Ignatieff’s proposed changes will have the effect of increasing the Senate’s legitimacy and effectiveness as a deliberative body, which I think ought to be its primary function. With legitimacy will come a sense of political responsibility, which means that these might need to be accompanied by a third change, viz., some attenuation of the Senate’s powers, assuming we want to retain the more-or-less unicameral character of our system of responsible government.

Cripes, the Senate is a can of worms. Still, I think that Ignatieff’s proposal, though sketchy, already has more promise than whatever it is Harper hasn’t in mind.

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A Liberal Senate

  1. I'm not so sure Ignatieff's proposal is any better in reality, or practicality. I suppose it all depends on how this arm's length commission operates. On what grounds would they reject an appointment? Would they reject non-pols (Demers, Greene) or are those the type of people they'd actually hope to attract? Could they reject someone simply because the then PM had appointed too many of his or her own party? My concern is an arms length commission would probably approve Mike Duffy.

    • That's the part of Iggy's idea that needs to be thought about and expanded upon. Would they have subjective/objective criteria to apply? Would they be asked to create a body that is reflective of the Canadian population? To what degree?

      I looked at my kids' text book on Canadian government the other day and it says the senate has limits – age, realestate, wealth – so that they are independent. Shoudl there be similar consideration given to criteria relevant to this day and age that would also serve to make senators independent?

      • That was my thought. Just have it so that the senator you appoint/elect is sixty or so, and you'll have an automatic fifteen year term. With no re-election possible, if we go that route. My biggest objection to elected senators is re-elected senators, so that would solve that. (I mean having senators worried about how the voters would view this or that instead of focusing on what is good for the country.)

        • Brilliant.

  2. "when he figures out what he actually wants to do, they'll be more than happy to play along"

    Geez, you'd think Potter would actually know the Conservative platform by now.

    Anyway, who's gonna put up a post about a Canadian premier fleeing the best health care system in the world for the worst one? And paying for it to boot! Some of use are more equal than others, I guess.

    • Is there a link to this Conservative platform? Last time I looked for one, all I found was a Harper photo album.

    • Oh those Progressive Conservative politicians…always doing such crazy things.

  3. Anything But Canadianhealthcare

  4. The dumbest thing about Iggy's idea is that there is no provision for the obvious scenario to occur. All the appointments will be blocked if the opposition holds a majority on the committee.

    How on earth is some sort of appointed commission supposed to give legitimacy? The problem is that they're appointed, and the solution is more appointments?

    • I would assume it wouldn't be a Parliamentary committee.

    • Maybe try reading the proposal or understanding how appointments are currently made?

      First, most people in Canada are not so easily and simplistically divided between left and right. It is a fiction of the ideolog that all people think the way they do.

      Second, it would be a standing commission and not one that is formed ad hoc as an appointment was needed. So the make-up of the current Parliament would not dictate the appointments, or at least not all of them.

      Third, many functions in our system and the US system are administered by independent bodies. The US budget office is a good example and was the model for the Canadian budget office, the one Harper tried to politicize after he established it because it turned out to be too independent for his taste.

  5. The Liberals had many years in power to change the senate but it was their key to power.Going back as far as P.E.T inequities that could have been fixed Nova Scotia 10 senators New Brusnwick 10 senators Alberta 6 B.C 6 .Now that the west is the power broker they better sit up and take notice.Separatism is still on the minds of many in the west when they see the unfairness of the system..What we need is one party in all of the west representing the ideas of all federal parties.Can you imagine the power of that one party in Ottawa The west must give up its party lines and form one party it would take every seat.

    • Like some sort of Reform party?

    • You're dreaming…"the west"is far more diverse politically than you imagine…your politics of grievance will never fly. There are at least as many progressives out west as cranks like you.

    • You forgot to say something nasty about the Separatist Bloc.

    • "The west must give up its party lines and form one party it would take every seat. "

      Current single-party states

      The following list includes the countries that are legally constituted as single-party states as of 2009 and the name of the single party in power:

      * China (Communist Party of China) – Eight minor parties are acceptable and Hong Kong, Macau are excluded.
      * Cuba (Communist Party of Cuba)
      * Eritrea (People's Front for Democracy and Justice)
      * North Korea (Korean Workers' Party leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland)
      * Laos (Lao People's Revolutionary Party leads the Lao Front for National Construction)
      * Syria (Baath Party leads the National Progressive Front)
      * Turkmenistan (Democratic Party of Turkmenistan)
      * Vietnam (Communist Party of Vietnam leads the Vietnamese Fatherland Front)

      See also:


  6. "arms-length board or commission"

    Exactly, the term arms-length suggests it would be one more unaccountable bureaucracy. Great. Even less democracy. And I suppose we'll eventually need another commission to appoint the commission that appoints the senate.

    • And we'll have to pay them all a huge salary.

    • Bingo!

      And its the Senate….its a political body supposed to make political decisions not some wise man council. Ignatieff has been reading too much Plato.

      Adding councils of vetters etc is just pushing peas around the plate. Term limits are fine, although stricly unconsitutional, but you might get the SCOC to rule at some point in time in the future that a convention is now in place. Who knows when and it would require some senator to decide to break the alleged future convention.

      All very silly. Besides the Senate, the GG etc are all going to be part of the grand bargain if and when that day comes that we do major reform. Until then, term limits so vestigal tails of previous governments eventually fade and legislation can be reasonably passed.

  7. The senate exists to give certain people favors. It has outlived its usefulness ages ago. Even if it performed some useful task of improving legislation or giving valuable feedback, this could be done somewhere else cheaper. The senators are a waste of my tax dollars. Why not eliminate them all? We will remedy bad legislation by choosing different politicians in the next election. We pay too much for guys to fly around first class and get meals & accommodation paid for, etc. for minimal productive work. Pare back the waste and cut the senate to zero. By the way, the Gov General is an unnecessary function as well. Ant mayor can cut a ribbon as well as a million dollar figurehead …

    • Right.

      A PM like Harper, who had the support of 22% of eligible voters, or even Chretien who had majorities but had the support of something like 30% or so, should be allowed to do what he wants without any checks or balances.

      Right. Some democracy that is.

    • Oh god…

    • It's very good of you to keep an open mind, in this case, however, I think you opened it so far your brain fell out.

      Once you've had a chance to put it back in, you might see if you can make it stick by keeping your mouth closed until such time as you've done enough research to learn what the hell you're talking about.

  8. Only a dumb Liberal would give credit to Mr. EGO Ignatieff. This guy is an intolerant jerk who thought that we Canadians would jump at replacing Harper for him. I guess the over blown Russian journalist expects us to bow down and kiss is derrière whenever he puts on his Cheshire cat smile. There is only one action that needs to be taken and that is with a boot.

    • The average person is not tall enough to both bow down AND kiss Iggy's derriere. Not to mention, bowing down to someone's back could be considered a mockery; one doesn't usually bow down in mockery AND kiss fuzzy cheek.

      But I digress – Potter's assessment of Iggy's proposal is fairly reasoned. I don't think that it will fly either (for various reasons, most of which are posted above by others) but I'm not about to slander him – or Ignatieff – for it.

    • Relaxitude

  9. Ah come on ! The Liberals had decades and decades to change the way the Senate appointments wee made. Harper's way is simply the Liberal way that suited the Liberals fine for so many years.

    Who does Ignatieff' think he is fooling? Certainly not the voters!

    • Stop it with the "Liberals did it first" excuse, will you? It's lame and about as logically valid as a pig on Neptune. You can't have it both ways: either the 20th century Liberal way was wrong, and you're wrong to continue its pattern, or the 20th century Liberal way was right, and you're right to continue it. (If you believe the latter, I wish you luck selling that to voting Canadians.)

      • Admit to the incredible hypocisy of it and it will stop. The argument isnt that the tories get to do it because the libs did it, but more one of questioning just how sincere the criticism is and why the call for a rule now…..riddle me that in a reasonable manner and you might see less of it.

        • But we have admitted to the wrongs done in prior years.

          For myself, I wasn't pollitically aware in my younger days. I guess I really started paying attention with the Adscam nonsense, and did what every reasonable Canadian did, voted the bums out.

          But that only got me different bums, who seem to have taken every bad example from the last hundred years or so, and turned it into their policy. And did it on a platform of accountability and transparency. And I'm the hypocrite?

          • I am not defending the other actions based on the past, which is a shibboleth used to shut down debate. It doesnt address the fundamental question I point out. Understand that it is reasonable to question the sincerity of many when they say now this is a problem when it wasnt a problem before. So overcoming that is the problem…..heck even Ignatieff wont rule out Prorogation completely…as I believe he shouldnt…..and criticisms of prior Senate appointments? Honestly, do you really believe the criticism is genuine or would happen if the party, and its supporters, with the deepest history of this was in power?

            Right now this the equivalent of a pack a day smoker tellign their kid to stop smoking. It might be the right answer but you sure would question the sincerity or depth fo belief of the message. You can try to understand where the credibility question comes from or not, up to you, it still exists

          • Well, I'm fairly certain that Iggy doesn't want to piss all over Chretien like Harper's done to Mulroney. It's just not classy. I think we agree that prorogation, used responsibly (when a legislative agenda is complete, for example) isn't a bad thing.

            But it is when it's used to avoid responsibility, it is: Harper and Chretien (and, if my reading is right, Rae, too) have each prorogued under shady circumstances. Chretien has the excuse that he had a new Prime Minister to orient, but he sowed that field himself. Harper has the excuse that he needed to recalibrate Senate committees, but self-interest suggests he would do so to avoid difficult and damaging questions. Rae? Well, he governed through a recession. But I'm not sure yet what that had to do with his prorogation (still reading…)

            I'm fairly skeptical of any party coming forward with changes that impact constitutional conventions or dictum – not only do they have a history of going the way of the Dodo, they get this country so up in arms it's hard to see what the point was in the first place. Nonetheless, it's an idea, and for what it's worth, let's take a look at it before we write it off completely.

          • Yes we do agree that prorogation used responsibly isnt a bad thing. My follow on point is that responsible use has to be judged, as it is being judged. So that people are upset and voicing an opinion on it corrects its use. There is no need to restrict its use formally, the electorate is making its feelings known, and while I have one opinon I would never say that the people are wrong.

            I would be surprised if you see it used this way for some time, and even then the circumstances will be different.

          • My belief is also that a formal restriction is unnecessary – and so was Ignatieff's, until this week (his own writing in that facebook-townhall-whatever that he held so indicates). That's why it's odd to hear a proposal like this coming from him.

            I wonder if there isn't some sentiment that things are getting out of control, though, and this "emergency" legislation, if you will, is a response to that. It's the same idea as "Harper has a hidden agenda" circa 2006, just now it has a specific issue pegged.

  10. Make it Effective, Equal and Elected or just get rid of the institution. It is no more a sober second thought than it ever has been. Just a bloated overpaid place to park partisan sycophants.

    • Try reading about what it actually does, rather than just assuming you know.

      As a hint, Hansard is a good place to start.

  11. Back in the early 1980's (I think it was 1983) Allan MacEachen brought forward a Senate reform package on behalf of the Trudeau Liberals. It was a response to the failed plan for a Council of the Federation, which had been declared ultra vires by the SCC.

    The MacEachen proposals called for a new appointment system and fixed terms of nine years for senators. Needless to say, it sounds an awful lot like Harper's proposed reforms which the Liberals apparently now oppose.

    Now, to be fair, there's probably not a lot of institutional memory left in Liberal ranks now that Jerry Yanofsky has passed on. After all, in the early 80's M Ignatieff was resident in the UK and R Rae belonged to another party (a party that favoured abolition of the Senate, although that may no longer be the case).

    • So why did it fail?

      • It was never put into legislation. These were the fin-de-regime days for the Trudeau Grits. In the end, Trudeau followed the tried-and-true route and loaded the Senate with a bunch of chums (MacEachen included).

        • If you can't beat them, join them.

  12. 'More specifically, Ignatieff proposed a 12-year term limit on Senate positions and an arms-length committee tasked with vetting candidates."

    i cnfess more than a passing ignorance re. the senate. So, who would nominate the candidates if not the PM?

  13. you know, I am a little tired of partisan reporting. It would be nice if reporters or commentators actually had more neutral views. It is so obvious what this particular commentator's political stripe is.

    • You talking about Potter? If so, you don't know what you're talking about. He frequently criticizes the libs. Even if he didn't it wouldn't make you comment any less perverse…i don't think he has a high regard for neutral.

    • By "neutral" I think you might mean intellectually neuterered.

  14. [cont]
    The appointment body for judges is another good example of a body that vets the basic quality of a list of appointees. Again, Harper has tried to politicize this by appointing members to the commission who are ideological with no roots in the legal community, but because of the appointment process, he has been stymied. And they are pretty good at picking judges, especially Supreme Court judges, who have the necessary skillset and experience and qualifications without going beyond their mandate and screening based on what their decisions might be (which is properly the pervue of the PM). I think this is the model for the commission Iggy is contemplating.

    It is also not different from the public appointments commission that Harper promised and he has not bothered to implement.

    • You are very naive. Ideological? What's ideological to one person is independent and bipartisan to another. You cannot define independent. No matter what happens, people like you will be claiming some politico corrupted the process because people actually have opinions and take sides. The idea that you could create such a commission and it would somehow be "independent", which is a term that cannot be defined, that is absurd. These things being political has nothing to do with Harper at all, that's where you're dreaming, that is naive. These things are political because there is power involved. Everything involving power is political.

      The CBO is a bad analogy. It has no power. None. All it does is budget estimates. Politicians can ignore it if they wish, and they can twist their legislation to make the CBO produce the numbers they like. An apt analogy would be the appointment of the supreme court. And guess what? It's extremely politicized.

      • Look who's naive. Or a poor reader. Or both.

        Independent doesn't mean free of opinion or bias. It means it is free from political interference by the government of the day. You are also naive to think that everyone sees the world in left and right ideological terms as you do; nothing could be further than the truth.

        The appointment process for judges is in fact a good one. The vetting that is done by the appointments committee is not politicized. They take the lists of proposed nominees given to them – certainly a political step – and vet them against fairly objective qualifications for competence and qualifications. Are they licensed attorneys in good standing? Have they met the written criteria: residency, criminal record, years in the profession, etc. that rarely change year after year and are proposed by law societies across the country. The process is definitely not political. Which is not to say that the nominees to the list or those selected from the vetted list is not political, though in the vast majority of cases it is not in fact political in the sense of parties or ideologies. If one were to look at facts and reality that is.

        • There is absolutely no need for a special committee to do what you're suggesting. We already have thousands of civil servants ready to do background checks and resume checking. That's not at all what Iggy is talking about.

        • The only fair way to seat a senator is by election, anything else would be manipulated by the government of the day.

  15. It sounds wonderful, until the next Conservative government comes in and accuses the arms length appointments board of being full of patronage-driven ideological hacks and immediately replaces them with an arms-length committee of its own choosing. Sorry, but this just gets us around the mulberry bush once again. Harper has brought an era of absolute hyper-partisanship to our government. The guy honestly believes the Supreme Court, every board, agency and regulatory body of the government and every public servant is a Liberal hack. He, or his neo-con successors, would eventually treat this arms length body exactly the same way, dismantling it and stacking it to get the same kind of result that he's pushing now. To think otherwise is extremely naive.

    • Ap did suggest some leeway for a PM to correct for that. If you are right, what is the solution?

      "Harper has brought an era of absolute hyper-partisanship to our government"

      given we seem to inevitably follow US trends this was probably inevitable. You could argue even Trudeau was just following a US trend. I sure hope we get no more of the more reprehensible US political habits.

      • Maybe – but Trudeau's treatment of the PC Opposition, as well as third parties in the House, whether while in a majority or minority government, wasn't remotely comparable to Harper's, nor did he embark on an all-out purge of the institutions which he inherited, or accuse the judiciary, foreign or public services of being hacks of the other side.
        Come to think of it, the only Senator from my home town was a Tory, appointed by Trudeau. (admittedly one of his rare such appointments,m but nevertheless…)

        • Ulm Mark, he didnt need to purge anything. Its not like there had been any significant Conservative time in office that would have seriously affected the civil service or courts.

        • I'm a Trudeau fan…no comparisan to Harper…for all his arogance Trudeau was a tue democrat alongside of Harper. I waas commenting on our tendency to pick up US political traits…in Trudeau's case it was the presidential style and centralizing of power in the pmo…yet even here his governing style was collegial by comparisan to Harper.

          • Just watch Me

            War Measures Act

            MPs are nobodies

            Zap Your Frozen, and then implement the exact policy

            I wouldnt on about Trudeau as the ultimate democrat. But I think Trudeau would be bothered by anything that allows the Bloc to vote on federal government appointments, and would prefer a Senate based on popular sovereignty rather than flitered through the partisan sausage factory of a committee, no matter who constituded.

    • You outline what would happen well. A commission makes no sense. This is all about incremental change when a fundamental one is required. Why the heck do we want to have more non-elected people put in some form of faux enhanced legitimacy based on a commission. Why should it be of Parliament, in a majority it would be no different than the PM appointing, and in a minority….oh yeah, more things for them to fight about that have nothing to do with legislation and policy.

      Oh I so look forward to the inevitable litmus test questions that somehow MP's will decide all senators must pass, an Ottawa consensus of sorts.

      The best and one of the few things you can do is limit their terms so they turn over, that is until we do the proper thing and settle a proper senate that is direclty acocuntable to the people and has its power enumerated and balanced with the House. These committees are mistakes, so yes the Bloc now gets to vote on who goes in the Senate…..another big yay!

      • Groan…a twofer. Two elected houses. Just how would they complement each other – rather than compete?

        • Even if the considerable powers that the Seante has now were made legitimate, ie respecting how are original systeme of government was designed, is a good starting point. But you raise a good question that quickly cuts to the big swamp….what government do we want, what are its principles that should be reflected in its institutions etc etc. This just comes back to my point that pushing peas around the plate is not reform, and if reform is what we want are we prepared for the process that is a necessary part of it.

          This is the danger if incrementalism and our continual trashing of our system. We have adapted it into something we dont like, reform is difficult, and yet every step takes us further into the swamp. Term limits is an obvious and welcome symptom mitigation, that at least you no longer freeze in amber a previous governemnt. But anything beyond that doesnt bring new legitimacy to the House, it just hides the partisanship behind a veil of faux thoughfulness. It isnt a serious proposal, and I dont know if we need a serious discussion right now because you need to discuss it all, head of state, role of provinces, judiciary etc etc.

  16. Legislating a term limit would be a non-constitutional change. But… wouldn't it also be UNconstitutional? Seems to me it doesn't matter whether we're quibbling over eight or twelve years or anything in between. I thought the only way Harper got the term limit out of recent recruits was over a handshake, since anything else would have been out of order. No?

    • You may be right…didn't the SC rule unanimously on this question? Hands off the senate i seem to remember.

      • Not sure. What was the question the SCOC got?

    • You might establish a convention if enough senators do it, voluntary term limits, for enough time. How many and for how long is another question.

    • And there's he rub. I have a feeling we're about to spend a lot of time arguing back and forth about who's totally unconstitutional and completely unenforceable plan to "reform" the Senate is better.

      We may as well be talking about which leader has the better plan for legislation reuniting Quebec and Ontario into the reconstituted united province of Canada.

    • The issue is how much power the constitution gives the federal government to reconstitute itself. Remember, the last change to the constitution was when the retirement age of senators was altered, and that was done by a vote in parliament.

      I would like to see it go to the Supreme Court and think the government has been remiss by not having a reference decision.

      • And a follow-up: just what is the "it" you want referred to the SCOC?

  17. Lets assume you actually had a good arms-length committee that was not compromised, or biased (big assumption). They could pick out good senators, but would that necessarily translate into an effective senate? A body of 105 people is more than the sum of its parts – you could probably think of 105 great people that would be utterly unable to work together. Partisan hacks are, yes, crappy people (do we really want to waste our best and brightest on the pathetic senate anyway?0, but they can be herded. Moreover, without overt partisanship you could often have a situation where the senate was hostile to the Prime Minister. I'm not sure that is something we want to have on a regular basis.

    Lets just abolish the waste of space (an elected senate would be a disaster that would give voice to petty regional interests, and impose American-style gridlock on Canada).

    • Good last point. I there no way a senate bereft of party affiliations could function effectively? Perhaps we could even give ordinary Canadians a much bigger role in making appointments, or have an effective recall mechanism as suggested elsewhere by thwim.

      • Non-partisan legislatures can function reasonably well – for instance many city councils operate on such a basis. I think the problem is the combination of a non-partisan upper house with a partisan lower house – they aren't likely to be able to collaborate. Worse, de facto partisanship may emerge in the upper house, but be if a different sort than that in parliament. So only the narrow agenda of parliament agreed to by the narrow agenda of the senate would get through quickly.

        I think a recall mechanism would be overly clunky, particularly for a body that isn't elected in the first place. Giving Canadians a role in the appointment process would bring legitimacy to the senate which is, in my view, a bad thing. The more legitimate the senate, the more it can stall legislation – and the more attention it would get. Because the senate is based explicitly on a principle regional representation, moreover, we would be creating a forum for where politics is framed regionally. By contrast, parliament is dominated by national parties (MP's represent a riding, but are really trained seals) with strong brokerage incentives.

        • Just from your post i'd say the best case might be an elected senate with no party affliations…a senate of independants. i know you don't like an elected senate[nor i] but i wonder if this would work. I certainly agree the upper house should be seen to be subordinate to the lower. So the problem seems to rest with who gets to pick unelected senators. If only our PMs could resist the urge to reward cronies…taking away that power seems to make sense. Now, who do we know to be less partisan than the PM? MPs???

          • 1. I could envision a system where the premiers selected senators, but it would be horrible. Not only would their picks be partisan, but they would pick the worst kind of regionalist handout-grubbers. I could see senate appointments being allotted to an all-party commission based on parliamentary standing. You could get good senators there as a result of compromise, though not in a majority parliament. I can't imagine a fair and unbiased "learned council" – there is just no way to set it up. If you fill it with academics they'll pick Liberals. If you fill it with businessmen they'll pick Tories.

            2. The closest example of a senate of independents can be found in weak party legislatures like that in the US (since 1994 the GOP seems to have gotten better at control). Without party discipline, you have very little in the way of national vision, and you have to add pork to legislation just to get swing votes. It also means that relatively few pivotal members can end up deciding the policy (look at the healthcare debate). It is a terrible system.

        • No need for it to be clunky. Just a list of senators presented during each federal election. If one gets a majority vote of the voters, that senator's gone. Pretty simple. Leave all else the same.

          The PM gets to choose — eliminating the problem of a senate directly against the PM
          No extra legitimacy is conferred to those appointed — they maintain mostly the power of the pulpit, and in fact a recall mechanism lessens their ability to make significant changes to legislation without the risk of losing their position.
          It doesn't add any more importance to the regional nature of appointments.
          And, of course, it provides a means for people to ensure those who abuse the perks of the position don't do so for more than a few years.

          • Political parties could provide a list of names they think their supporters should recall during every election (the ones from other parties), which would turn the recall process into a de facto election (it may also inhibit your efforts at creating a non-partisan senate). Embattled senators would have a strong incentive to campaign against their removal as well. That kind of election (tacit approval is still a kind of approval) would confer legitimacy on the senate, which would have problems for our political system. The senate isn't weak or powerful because of law, but because of convention and perception. Once upon a time things were different – we even had a Prime Minister that was a sitting senator (not an MP).

            If you want to get rid of bad senators, give parliament the power to impeach senators with say, a 2/3rds majority vote.

  18. Despite my rather negative thoughts on this proposal, stated above, I do think one thing is worth noting. Potter points out, quite correctly, the Liberals are now proposing policy…you can agree or disagree (as I have in this case) with all or some of it. But it beats the crap out of Wafergate. All hail Donolo

    • maybe we should give some credit to Capp?

  19. Potter makes a very important balance about achieving a balance between competence and partisanship in the senate appointments. while a lot of folk seem to desire some sort of post-partisan version of politics, partisanship is an important ingredient of our democracy (which is not to say that it can't get out of check). some have made the point that partisanship is to parliamentary democracy what competition is to the free market. an effort to reduce or eliminate partisanship in the second chamber will not serve us well.

  20. So, Ignatieff attacks prorogation as an attack on democracy, but would have bureaucrats select senators. His party, of course, is famous for denying the will of Albertan's when given a properly elected Senator-candidate.

    The affront to democracy is that Ignatieff would rather have bureaucrats selecting candidates instead of the properly elected Prime Minister.

    The Liberal party doesn't believe in democracy.

  21. Over in Aaron's "Idea Alert," I have pasted the relevant (as far as I could see) sections of the Constitution. For your relief of insomnia.

  22. Why did this particular thread get so many trolls? Why did they all come at around 9:00ish?

    • What makes you think there's more than one?

  23. Andrew, what a bunch of bs you're spewing. Ignatieffs proposal is nothing but playing for who will hold the ulitmate title of senate reform.

    Look, one of the main reasons Harper'senate proposal got nowhere (and might never get anywhere) is because it is proposed by him and his former affiliation with the Reform party.

    Canadian politics is one big heap of central Canadian elitists' gabberdash, an outdated group that cannot stand, nor can they acknowlegde, that anything coming out of the west, be it a PM or a proposal for senate reform, will be implemented. Period!

    Take a closer look at things, please!

    • More western angst and self pity…you're on your way to being as big a bunch of cry babies as Quebec.

  24. Canada without it's genuine head of state. Canada with an appointed senate. Canadians must feel very secure being treated like little schoolchildren.

    And we pretend to be tackling our so-called democratic deficit. Give us all a break!

  25. Why we don't even elect the dog-catcher! We clearly live in Communist Russia.

  26. I am angry. I am no longer angry that senate reform might never happen. So be it.

    But this constant spewing of opinion makers about tweeking a little here, a little there; the so-called "experts" jumping aboard instantly with dire predictions that senate reform is impossible because of constitutional bounderies.

    But guess what.: Ask the people of this country if they want real senate reform. Ask them if they want an elected and effective senate, and by god, ask them if the senate should be equal and consider the Canadian constitution ours, because it is!!!!!!!

    I've had it with this going around the mulberry bush. It's pathetic. Why don't we have opinion makers in this country who have something real to propose? Why the constant talk about nothing, nothing, nothing….

    • Half the people on this blog ouldn't agree on how to reform the senate. Yet the people know. No they don't. Unless, that is you only equate democracy with elections…which seems to be a bit of a sport among cons these days.

  27. Here's my convoluted solution to the Senate:

    elect Senators (as long as that electing of Senators is constitutionally legal) , but only allow 2 back and forths of proposed amendments between the 2 chambers if they disagree on the legislation.

    If the Senate fails to pass the 2nd House bill proposal, have a "Parliament of the Whole" – the Senate and House come together in full session and let the 2 bodies vote together both on the original bill and amendments. That vote determines whether the bill passes or fails.. and if amendments pass or fail.

  28. equating democracy with elections a con thing…these days……

    Much better to go out on the street and protest against prorogation, ahah since the request for prorogation is a PM's right, unless ofcourse, the PM doesn't come to the same conclusions as some experts have come to. But then the PM is the PM and the experts aren't. They are not accountable to anyone. Hear, hear and let's hear some more.