Former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion has waded into the debate on Senate reform, arguing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to update the upper chamber is out of touch with his home province of Alberta and neighbouring British Columbia. In an op-ed article, Dion sides with B.C. Premier Christy Clark and former Alberta premier Don Getty, who have both voiced criticism of the federal Conservative plan. Harper wants to pass a law to limit Senators’ terms and encourage provinces to hold elections to fill their vacant Senate slots. Those votes would be voluntary and a prime minister would still have the final say on appointments. The Tory proposal does not tackle the current imbalance that favours smaller provinces, leaving Alberta and British Columbia with far fewer senators than their populations warrant. “Alberta has 9.1 per cent of members of Parliament, but only 5.7 per cent of the senators,” Dion writes. “The gap is even larger for B.C., with 11.7 per cent of MPs and only 5.7 per cent in the Senate.” The op-ed is written with the characteristic factual precision that first drew attention to Dion when he used cold, relentless logic as then-prime minister Jean Chrétien’s point-man on constitutional issues to become a constant annoyance to Quebec separatists. Now, as Liberal critic for democratic reform and intergovernmental affairs, he seems to be employing the same tone and technique to undermine Harper’s bid to overhaul the Senate.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011