A fundamental question about Justin Trudeau's Senate move - Macleans.ca

A fundamental question about Justin Trudeau’s Senate move

Emmett Macfarlane on the difficulties associated with non-constitutional reform of the Senate


(Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press)

Justin Trudeau has created a big stir with his announcement that all Liberal senators would be effectively removed from caucus to sit as independents, and that, as prime minister, he would appoint senators as part of an “open, transparent, non-partisan process.”

I was asked by the Liberals to provide my informed opinion on the constitutionality of some of their ideas with respect to the Senate (something I would happily do for any political party), particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s deliberations in the ongoing reference case on the constitutionality of the federal government’s proposals to impose term limits for senators and to establish “consultative elections” for senatorial selection.

The Liberals are on the record as opposing outright Senate abolition, which is almost certain to require the unanimous consent of all 10 provinces (another thing the Supreme Court will clarify in its reference decision). With respect to today’s announcement, a fundamental question concerns what meaningful reforms are possible without requiring a constitutional amendment.

Given the nature of my involvement, I do not feel it would be appropriate to explore any ideas or proposals that may have been discussed but were not part of today’s announcement, but I thought I would share my thoughts on the difficulties associated with non-constitutional reform of the Senate and on what the Liberals put forward today.

As I noted in the“Guide to the Senate Reference” I wrote for Maclean’s last fall, the Court is likely to find that consultative elections require the approval of provinces under the “7/50 rule” because it constitutes a change to the “method of selecting senators” under section 42(b) of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Despite the fact the prime minister would retain formal discretion under the law to refuse to appoint the winner of an advisory election, it is reasonable to believe that a convention would emerge that would effectively constrain this discretion in practice – there would be considerable pressure on future prime ministers to appoint elected senators.

But does a similar logic apply to any process a prime minister might put in place to appoint senators? A lot will depend on how much emphasis the Court places on the distinct nature of an electoral process as the thing that binds discretion. Informally, it must be remembered, a prime minister can currently choose senators in any way he wants. If Harper wanted to appoint only people who were members of the Order of Canada, or only his friends, or pull names out of a hat, there’s nothing to stop him from doing so.

The issue becomes much more complicated if a prime minister attempts to formalize a particular process in law. This is where Trudeau’s pledge of an “open, transparent and non-partisan process” gets interesting. On my reading of the amending formula and what we might discern from the Supreme Court’s hearing on Senate reform, it makes a big difference whether he promises to act in a certain way if he were prime minister than if he attempts to entrench a specific process into law (particularly a process that could be said to bind the PM’s discretion).

Appointing senators only as “independents,” and removing Liberal senators from caucus, raises its own issues. For example, the Supreme Court was asked whether Parliament could impose term limits on senators. A key issue is whether that affects the “powers” of the Senate – which the Court is likely (though not definitely) to interpret as anything affecting the “essential features” or “character” of the institution. If it does, then provincial consent is required under the constitutional amending formula.

So there’s a good chance Parliament could not pass a law by itself to forbid partisan affiliation in the Senate, if we believe that the removal of party caucuses affects its essential characteristics. However, there is nothing plainly unconstitutional about the parties – or individual senators, obviously – from deciding not to organize in that manner. The Senate enjoys institutional independence, and so the organization of its internal affairs and procedures are largely left to it to decide.

So nothing about Trudeau’s announcements raise significant constitutional concerns, in my view.

Politically, however, the announcement has already made waves. I have seen some suggest that independent senators are unworkable – that they somehow go against the whole idea of responsible government and that Senate committees, etc. will be unworkable. This is, to be blunt, nonsense. While I agree a non-partisan Parliament would be a tricky thing to operate, the idea that there cannot be a functional Senate opposition composed of independent members is a misrepresentation of how the institution works.

In the short-term, the Liberals might face all sorts of challenges from this relatively risky move. Some have suggested there may be implications for how the Senate funds non-partisan senators. And other have pointed out that the Liberal Party’s constitution states that the “‘Caucus’ means those members of the Party who are members of the House of Commons or the Senate of Canada.” Oops? (I suspect these are manageable problems).

Longer term, some have suggested a Senate composed of independents is unworkable because the government would never be able to get bills through the upper house. This too seems to be a bit of red herring. The Senate, in this scenario, would remain unelected. It is unlikely to suddenly become terribly obstructionist. And new prime ministers have faced a Senate composed of mostly opposition party members in the past, and haven’t had too much trouble getting their agenda through.

The proposals, however, will not convince those who think the only meaningful options are elections or abolition. For those who think there is still some value to an unelected upper chamber, however, what Trudeau seems to be pushing is for more of a cultural change. A move away from patronage and partisanship – even if just through new practices rather than formal legal change – is a good objective, and it might demonstrate that the Senate could be improved without the mess of a major constitutional battle.

Emmett Macfarlane is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo. You can follow him on Twitter @EmmMacfarlane


A fundamental question about Justin Trudeau’s Senate move

  1. How committees are organized and members are funded doesn’t threaten to make the Senate unworkable, but it is something that will have to be sorted out.The issue of gridlock in a ‘non-partisan’ Senate would at the very least require a substantial change to the rules unless at least one Senator is chosen to represent the government as its Senate leader – to introduce and identify items of government business and answer questions on behalf of the government. It would be particularly important, I think, to ensure that the government has the tools it needs to ensure that government supply gets approved in a timely manner.Don’t disagree that there doesn’t seem to be any constitutional impediment to what Trudeau is proposing to do, though obviously the details could be important.

    • But elimination of the senate is so simple that Ottawa might get it right. No need to talk for another 100+ years and get nothing done.

      • I disagree (and suspect Emmett might disagree) that the elimination of the Senate would be simple.

        • Easy mechanism, difficult implementation. As opposed to the CPC plan, which is difficult (possibly even unsound) mechanism, difficult implementation.

  2. Whether something is do-able or smart to do, are two different issues.

    Of course, Trudeau can turf the Liberal senators from caucus. But with that will come a number of political problems. Party discipline will slide. Message discipline will slide. Message amplification will slide. The Liberal Senators won’t be there in caucus to listen to the Leader’s tactical and strategic musings and directions and thus be able to stay on the same page. The media should have fun getting opposing answers on issues of the day, if they choose to act as real media and not lapdogs.

    Who will choose the Liberal leader in the Senate? If there’s a dispute in the ranks of the Liberal Senators over any management issue how will it be resolved? How will Senate budgets be awarded and on what basis to former Liberal Senators? What is there are multiple ‘Liberal’ caucuses formed? Which one is real? Who can toss a Senator from using the Liberal tag?

    In short, it’s an empty tactical move which even Cowan says won’t mean much (until, of course, his authority is challenged). Trudeau the Younger would have been far better off to have committed to specific Senate reforms after the next election.

    UNLESS, the audit has found Liberal Senators other than Harb playing fast and loose with their budgets and expense accounts and this is a Hail Mary to dissociate Trudeau from the guilty parties. Possible, but unlikely. Too transparent.

    It’s more likely Trudeau wants a third option he can call his own, and he thinks this polls well. After all, Mulcair and Harper have well-defined opinions on the Senate; Justin wanted one, too. But do people really want free agent Senators, especially if appointed? Or would Canadians readily elect free agent Senators, not knowing what they’d be likely to do?

    It looks like a dumb move, and in Question Period today Trudeau was the proverbial deer in the headlights. It’s no wonder he has avoided the House of Commons more than any Party Leader in history. Can’t think on his feet and looks more lost than a flukily elected NDP teenager. Indeed, any of the NDP flukes would perform better as Liberal Leader.

    • This proposal has the useful property of not requiring protracted constitutional negotiations requiring unanimous provincial approval. Harper and Mulcair are both in fantasy land with their Senate proposals. This proposal is to neutralize the Senate and stuff it full of nice, respectable Canadians that are not particularly political rather than the PMs toadies and fundraisers.

    • so ‘its an empty tactical move’

      what then, was the suspension of Duffy and Wallin other than smoke and mirrors?

      Conservatives cannot seem to get their lies straight anymore.

      • Harper kicked out all the corrupt Conservative senators, all 3 of them, and Trudeau kicked out all the corrupt liberal senators, all 32 of them.

    • The funny part of all this is that just about every negative you mention that might result from Trudeau’s move is at least plausible. Indeed i think some of them will hamper the party as you say. Yet for all that this could still be a winning move for Trudeau. Sometimes you got to sacrifice a few senators in order to move the Queen down board. Even the chess master might appreciate the move eventually, although he’ll never say so.

    • “But with that will come a number of political problems. Party discipline will slide.”

      That’s not a problem, that’s the GOAL. A Senate which is (eventually) non-partisan and comprised of thoughtful informed respected Canadians who are not beholden to Party Whips and spinmeisters might finally live up to the lost intent of being a chamber of sober second thought.

      (The fact that those people would naturally have differing ideological views is not an issue. Canadians are not required to think alike.)

  3. “I have seen some suggest that independent senators are unworkable – that they somehow go against the whole idea of responsible government and that Senate committees, etc. will be unworkable. This is, to be blunt, nonsense.”

    …and isn’t it exactly what Stéphane Dion, Trudeau’s own critic on democratic reform, said back in October? That’s what the NDP says:


    That makes today’s dictum complete reversal from what the Liberals were saying a mere few months ago. What motivated this 180, I wonder?

    • The NDP motion seemed to be suggesting measures to *outlaw* partisanship in the Senate. That is different that a party – or individual senators – deciding to act differently. So I’m not sure Dion’s statement contradicts the distinction I’m making here. (But seriously – has anyone asked HIM about this yet?)

      • In that case, the NDP is grotesquely misrepresenting Dion’s words. Which doesn’t surprise me, I guess…

        • Obviously freedom of association makes any law or prohibition against partisan affiliation subject to Charter challenge.

          • Freedom of association doesn’t imply an obligation to welcome everybody in their midst. Every political party that I know of doesn’t accept as members person who are already members of another party, for example.

          • We’re not disagreeing. Parties can say who is not allowed to be a member, but Parliament can’t make a law forbidding association (with a party), as this would violate the freedom of association.

          • But could Trudeau for instance stipulate that liberal senators[ who are members] not be permitted to raise funds for or campaign for the LPC? This is what puzzles me about Trudeau’s move. Surely to be consistent he has to draw a line somewhere there too?

      • Would it be true to say that it would be unconstitutional for the House to tell the Senate how to conduct it’s business?

      • That, in the opinion of this House, urgent steps must be taken to improve accountability in the Senate, and, therefore, this House call for the introduction of immediate measures to end Senators’ partisan activities, including participation in Caucus meetings, and to limit Senators’ travel allowances to those activities clearly and directly related to parliamentary business.
        22 Oct/13

    • Could be the upcoming auditor’s report?
      Nah, Justin said it had nothing to do with that, and anyone with hair THAT nice would never lie….

  4. A cunning move the public will see through.

    Junior Trudeau does not hold himself to a high bar on personal political gain.
    As soon as he threw his hat into politics he DOUBLED HIS SPEAKING FEES.
    Perhaps not illegal as nobody could prove Quid Pro Quo as in you hire me at double my normal rate and I will repay you once I have control of government money; but hardly moral.

    The amount involved was probably several hundred thousand dollars.

    And this guy wants us to trust him.

    PR Stunt.

    • That sounds like a simple case of the economics of supply and demand, and not uncommon for a public speaker whose popularity is suddenly on the rise.

      • He charge those fees to Charities. MP’s routinely publicly speak at such events as part of their jobs. People with name recognition also routinely speak for Charities pro bono to help raise funds for the needy.
        Trudeau, on the other hand, took badly needed funds (ten thousand a pop) from Charities when he was already being paid as an MP – worse yet, when he is independently wealthy and didn’t need a further red cent.
        Morally repugnant to be sure.

        • The real problem is that the single complaint about it was likely made by a CPC MP leaning on the board of the charity. Now instead of giving charities the opportunity to increase their funding and take on new projects like Trudeau was doing, there are all sorts of ugly questions about the CPC interfering in charitable activities. It will make it harder to fundraise if they have to worry about the CPC going after them, esp. when the CPC is now in power and controls many of the levers of government.

          That’s what’s truly sickening.

          • Please…..
            All Justin was doing was making an end run around Canada’s campaign finance laws that prohibited liberal friendly organizations from donating to him.
            These were political donations disguised as speaking fees.

            And if charities want to use Justin as a hook for fund raising they still can, they just shouldn’t be paying him to do his job that he is already paid to do.

          • sure, thats it

            there is no lie that the conservatives will not tell in order to try to slander someone who is clearly more in touch with Canadians – and more willing to get things done – than the criminal Harper

          • Stealing from charities is ‘clearly in touch with Canadians’?
            Who knew?

          • Please…political donations from such immensely powerful and all controlling fiends…Charities! The shock! The horror?

            At least get your tp straight. He took some money from union friendly sources – that clearly was over the line imo. That money he would have been wise to return voluntarily. It was a mistake i imagine he regrets since he did apologize.

          • But he didn’t return the money….

          • It’s not a MP’ job to fund raise for charities.

        • yeah, then Trudeau offered to reimburse ALL of them

          not a SINGLE charity took him up on the offer

          • They were clearly intimidated. It’s all part of his dastardly plan according to Charles/kody.chet/biff here. He plan to have charities on the end of a little string, implementing his progressive agenda in every nook and cranny of this land. It’s time to take a blow torch to Liberal Ottawa before it is too late!

          • Would it be importune to note that Trudeau had his paid speaking engagements vetted by the House ethics committee before doing them?

          • I like Biff’s scenario better…more fun. Trudeau as ruthless enabler for take no prisoners charities that plan on ruling us all with a rod of iron once he gets in…Mmmwahhaaa…

          • Sorry – in the court of Trudeau bashing that would be ruled out of order. Now if you want to bring up his history of excessive drug use, take as much time as you need.

          • The same ethics committee that approved of the unions giving NDP Pat Martin 5 million in ‘gifts’?

          • Because they were giving him the money as a political donation.
            Why would they give it back?
            They got away with an end run around the campaign finance laws.

    • so what then was suspending those crooks Harper himself appointed, Wallin and Duffy, if not smoke and mirrors?

      youre basically saying Harper did a good job kicking the crooks out (that he hired) and lambasting Trudeau for doing something visionary – exactly what I would expect from a Harper conservative

      I am a real conservative, and Harper’s crew is anything but

    • So Trudeau has been bought off by all those charities…is that what you’re saying?

  5. I was asked by the Liberals to provide my informed opinion on the
    constitutionality of some of their ideas with respect to the Senate

    So, were you aware of the final decision prior to its announcement today?

    • No.

      • Any personal concerns that you were advising a political party on a topic (senate) that is the top partisan issue in the country? (This is different in my books than commenting on SCC decisions or particular policy decisions after the fact)?

        • Concerns? Why wouldn’t I want to be able to advise decision-makers? If other parties wanted to consult with me, I’d happily speak with them too.

          • The Stephen Maher piece on this suggested all very hush-hush and a very limited number of individuals involved.
            I’m not an academic, nor a gen X/gen Y, so perhaps my views are dated. The other options (in this example – say Mulcair’s earlier proposal that JT voted against) would have been to offer say the G&M or Macleans an op-ed for public consumption, or write a paper for a policy journal.
            Coyne, who might also be in similar positions on occasion (though paid for his opinion – not an academic) says that whatever he offers in private/semi-private, he then shares with readers at the same time.
            You can’t even discuss what other options were considered/discussed for fear of breaching whatever confidentiality agreement was in place. Not something, I suspect, would be offered to just anyone, given the high stakes involved.
            So I, as a reader, would have no idea what other options, in your opinion, weren’t feasible.

          • The fact it was small group is irrelevant to my involvement – they were free to consult whoever they wanted. The fact I didn’t announce to the world they were planning policy around the Senate is pretty basic professionalism: ‘we’re in the planning stages, please don’ tell anyone’ seems like a reasonable position, and I’m not a reporter, I’m an academic who was asked to consult. I’ve written on Senate reform a lot before all of this, and I will continue to do so. My views are public record. And I’ve detailed my involvement and thinking here, in a public forum. Beyond my own views, it’s not my job to “expose” what a party may or may not be thinking behind the scenes.

          • I take a fundamentally different view.

            Prior to the advent of twitter where feedback is continuous and instantaneous, who ever heard of you beyond academia?

            So, your comments on a range of issues (not limited to your expertise) is exposed to a wider growing group of individuals and media etc. Which is good. This leads to more opportunities to provide op-eds in places like here. Also good.

            And as an academic, you are also free to consult with whomever you wish.

            The potential problem is when you attempt to combine both – providing independent and objective commentary while occupying a position in one of our public institutions of higher learning, and advising one of the main political parties, in confidence. Because now I will look at your op-eds through a different lens (many will not).

            You state:
            Given the nature of my involvement, I do not feel it would be
            appropriate to explore any ideas or proposals that may have been
            discussed but were not part of today’s announcement,

            So, your ability to freely detail “my involvement and thinking here, in a public forum” is limited on this particular topic. In some “professions” this would require you to recuse yourself from further related discussions.

            Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that i have no basis for suggesting bias in any form, based upon my limited readings of your work.

            Why I originally asked whether you had any “personal concerns”. Apparently not. I would have. But perhaps that’s just me.

          • That assumes consulting or confidentiality changes my opinion or hinders my ability to speak publicly on the issue themselves (as distinct from whatever details party X may be doing). Neither is the case. I was still free to write about Senate reform even while not talking about the Liberals working on a plan.

            It’s true some will view my work as partisan even though I’m non-partisan and open to consult any party. But frankly, I refuse to govern my actions to lowest-common-denominator thinking.

          • It’s perhaps worth noting that many academics consult without any public disclosure of the relationship.

          • I see no problem so long as an academic isn’t being paid outside of his/her institution. It is the moonlighting for media companies, political parties, corporations, etc., that brings the whole profession into disrepute. Mr. Macfarlane is being paid (by students and taxpayers) to be an academic, If Macleans is paying him (even an ‘honorarium’), or the Liberals are paying him, then we have problem. Of course the other problem is that more and more journos are being shunted aside by “cheap” content provided by well-funded academics. The universities love it (good PR!), as does Rogers (save $s!), while the journos get hit. And, like it or not, if someone writes occasionally for a magazine/newspaper, even as op-ed, people will ID that person as a journo, too…It’s a hat they now wear, like it or not.

          • Academics are paid to do research, publish, teach, maintain professional standing, and be engaged with the broader community, in varying combinations depending on the particular context.

            He’s already stated that he was not paid by the Liberals.

            The pratice of professors having side projects that pay (consulting, speaking, royalties from published books, etc.) is not so easy to dismiss as you make it. Generally, it’s fair to say that the activities they engage in outside the university have far greater benefits than simply PR for the institution. Students benefit from professors with “real world” experience that is ongoing. Research is often informed an inspired by relationships forged in the course of such work. Writing for “lay” audiences tends to help one’s ability to express ideas with clarity (which again, benefits students). There are cases where paid work contributes to research projects that benefit the field, the institution and students.

            As for academics “already” being paid by the institution – work like Macfarlane does is above and beyond his responsibilities to the university. Why shouldn’t he get paid?

            Do you have evidence to support the assertion that journalists are being pushed aside for cheaper copy provided by academics? I don’t believe that for a second.

          • I’m confused. Is it his role as an academic, his Twitter-fed fame, or his penning of op-ed pieces that you feel prevent him from ever entering into confidentiality agreements with clients?

          • It’s his role as an academic providing the public (through Macleans or G&M) independent objective expertise.

            If the Liberal Party strategists wanted to consult with an equivalent person (I’m sure there are many in academia) who doesn’t also write op-eds, I wouldn’t have any problem with that.

            Then presumably EM would critique the latest move unconstrained, as he has previously. (I have a lot against twitter – but in this case, it has made his views/services/expertise more widely known. Which is probably why he was consulted in this case).

          • Would you care to point out what part of the Liberals’ actions and proposed appointment procedures contravene either a) constitutional law, or b) the effective function of either chamber? That’s Macfarlane’s area of expertise, and that’s precisely the lens this piece examines the policy through. He does consider alternate perspectives, but happens to disagree. All in all, he’s being pretty darned transparent and objective.

            As for your suggestion that Macfarlane was hired primarily on the basis of Twitter fame – I’d have to question your familiarity with the field. Governing from the Bench is a formidable business card, and his experience writing about the constitution and poltics in an intelligent and accessible way makes him a fairly obvious choice to consult.

          • Your first part is a circular argument. If his views were widely known, and public – then no need to consult. If his privileged discussions did not touch on areas of his expertise – then no need to consult – he adds no value.

            You mis-characterize my comments about twitter. It’s, amongst other things, a marketing tool for consultants/academics. And provides a potential client better insight to the individual’s views on a wide range of issues. And convenience in contacting. It’s no secret that in the case of some media, they often quote academia who are active on twitter – just because it’s easier.

          • His EXPERTISE is widely known. His particular take on the consitutional and practical implications of specific policy options under consideration (what you call his “views”) were not.

            If your intent is to call Macfarlane a Liberal hack, then why don’t you come out and say so? If you want to argue that academics should stay cloistered, go ahead and argue that. If you think his opinion pieces are too biased to be of worth, then don’t read him. Or better yet, provide a rebuttal.

            But as it stands, you’ve taken some serious swipes at the integrity of a scholar with nothing more than your own convoluted suspicions to back it up.

            That’s distasteful enough, but to talk about the pubic reputation of Macfarlane from behind the cover of anonymity is beyond the pale.

          • I suspect the discussion I have engaged in would be no different than what occurs across campus faculty coffee lounges on a daily basis.

          • So to be clear, you are criticizing him for writing about the advice he gave the party, and why he supports the advice he gave. Despite the fact that he fully disclosed he gave that advice to the party.

            You really do not understand what it means to be credible.

          • I have no opinion on EM’s work. This was simply a process question/concern. Nothing more.

          • more conservative bafflegab nonsense

          • A prognostication to lighten up your mood, from Carnac the Magnificant:

            A: A rock, and a hard place.

            Q: What do you find between Hey Goof’s ears?

          • It’s possible to assume different roles in different circumstances. That’s part of being a knowledgeable, competent academic.

          • Yup, it’s just you.
            Surely part of the competence of an academic is to consider various perspectives, and comment on matters in their sphere of expertise from various points of view. One does not have to apply a personal bias or preference to offer analysis and commentary on a particular issue. One of the reasons we consult academics for comment is our belief (perhaps naïve) that they can distance themselves from immediate events to provide a more objective analysis. Doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s better than blatant partisanism.

          • Put on the hat of a political party strategist.

            EM, in all likelihood will comment publicly on the policy decision by the Liberal leader. He has done so in the past. So, why not consult with him upfront? Then you get the opportunity to hear his criticisms, and can address them in advance, or be prepared for them if he comments on it.

            From my perspective, he should now recuse himself from commenting here on this specific policy issue here, or elsewhere as he was involved in its development, directly or indirectly. And whether or not he supports or is ultimately critical of the final policy. This is not a new concept.

          • Emmett,
            I’m sure you are familiar with Journolist in the US, where a group of Journos, regularly met to advance the interests of the Dem party, in conjunction with Dems.
            It’s well known that the media has a dramatic leftward tilt stemming from Journalism school and the culture of journalism generally. That active coordination with parties on the left is occurring should surprise no-one who has been paying attention.
            There is a reason why Gallup has be tracking a precipitous drop in the credibility of the media. Long ago journalists stop being “informers” to the public and started being “difference makers”, with the difference being advancing a “progressive” way of life.
            It is further not surprising that you see nothing wrong with entering the playing field for the Liberals while at the same time purporting to “report” fairly and impartially as a journalist.

          • See, here you are again. This time you are combining lies and paranoid conspiracy theories.

            God forbid we hold conservatives accountable for the conservative things they do. Why do that, when you can blame the media when things do not go the conservatives’ way?

          • Let me try to clear this up for you:

            I DON’T claim to “report” fairly and impartially as a “journalist”.

            I AM NOT A JOURNALIST.

            I write the occasional op-ed on stuff related to my areas of expertise. I am not “reporting” but giving informed opinion.

          • excuse me? so Harper appoints crooks to the senate and were supposed to be happy he kicks them out of caucus

            then Trudeau expels all senators to allow them to vote their conscience, and this is somehow a bad thing?

            complete nonsense and hypocrisy from the right

          • Go watch Ezra Levant, he supports your world view.

          • Oops, Glen MacGregor, not Maher piece.

      • As long as we are grilling the author, I would be interested to know who else the LPC consulted. Can anyone in the know provide any insight.

  6. This article really says nothing. The
    Senate has the correct amount of powers now (effective ‘E’). A Province-wide
    election of the Senate done during a federal election under Elections Canada is
    the way to go, and would deliver the (elected ‘E’). The final ‘E’ (equal) would be best done as a compromise.

    Give each Territory one Senator. Give each Province an automatic
    base of four, and then top that number up for each Province with a cap of one
    Senator per 800,000 population.

    Using that formula, current population results yields
    NFLD–4, PEI–4, NS-4, NB-4, QC-10, ON-16, MB-4, SK-4, AB-5, BC-6, YK-1, NWT-1,
    NVT-1 Senators elected 64, a more manageable, dynamic, and fiscally responsible size.

    The NDP want to abolish (impossible and unwise), as they hope someday they will have absolute power with no other body to put a check on their socialist nightmare. The Liberals have never been very democratic, as they love the idea of control, so they will be against real Senate progress, and they have already shown a negative approach to change proposals. All the naysayers seem to have some special interest to protect.

    The Charlottetown Accord was a disaster, and thankfully enough Canadians saw
    through that twisted agenda. Time and right, is on the side of the present Conservative move for Senate updating. Those against on this one appear to have biased special interests to protect.

    • Absolute power? Like when the PM gets to pick (and does pick) senators to do his bidding?

      Harper won’t change anything. He never intended to.

    • Don’t forget the constitutional amendment. Stop making this seem like something that can be accomplished by a few strokes of a pen.

      Personally, I have no interest in reopening the constitution. The last two times were expensive and non-productive and led to a vote on separatism that Canada came pretty close to losing.

    • “Those against on this one appear to have biased special interests to protect”

      You mean like the Supreme court…which is pretty much what the PM said in Calgary to the party faithful. Everyone with an opposing opinion is shilling for special interests, except you…gotcha!

  7. From The Parliament of Canada website:
    “Q: What is the Senate?
    A: The Senate is an essential part of Parliament.”

    “Over 135 years ago, the Fathers of Confederation agreed that Canada should have a Parliament to make Canada’s laws. They wanted to be sure that everything decided in Parliament be carefully thought through by not one, but two houses, so they created an Upper House, the Senate, and a Lower House, the House of Commons …. Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, called the Senate a place of “sober second thought.”

    Cynical commentators aside, Mr. Trudeau’s announcement today was not about accountability by senators for their expenses. He seems to be proposing reforms to The Senate that might return The Senate to its intended role as a place of “sober second thought”. By taking partisanship out of senate appointments, as he proposed, that ideal might be realized in time. The Conservative position of an elected senate guarantees The Senate will continue to be a partisan “rubber stamp” for the party in power.

    One can see the the ultimate ineffectivness of an elected senate by looking at the American Congress where their elected Senate is a purely partisan house that is perennially deadlocked, and has contributed to an increasingly ineffective and dispespected political system. Not much sober thought, much less “sober second thought” going on down there!

    • Exactly!

      What is the point of our current system, where Senators vote the way the party leaders tell them to vote. What kind of sober second thought is that?

    • To be fair, the need for a sober perspective is less now than when MacDonald was PM. :)

      • But if Justin should become PM we might have need of a different kind of joint altogether.

        • and that would be a bad thing?

          grow up conservatives – your time stealing our money and running the country into the ground is coming to a close

      • Why … or why not? Do you have a problem with a spirited discussion?

  8. Oh, let’s see what really happened here :)

    1) Mr Trudeau was going to see a bad report card on his Liberal senators. Cut them lose before any of their ‘badness’ can be attributed to him

    2) Ottawa media now can spend days going over – basically nothing – telling us it’s X kind of move (good or bad, etc)

    3) Why ‘basically nothing’. If you’re getting killed on the sports field losing 100 to nothing (you cannot stop any bills going through as an opposition in the senate), then there really isn’t any harm by disbanding your team and telling them to go home.

    Personally I know the PM (regardless of party). I would not know the members of this ‘independent panel’. So, no thank you Mr Trudeau, I’ll stay with the devil I know vs. the devil I do not – until we have full elections for our senate.

    • I’m not sure Duffy would approve of you calling him a devil. Although he might be swayed if you happen to have a $90,000 cheque in your back pocket.

  9. Trudeau must now demand Senators turn in their Liberal party memberships to make it
    official. Otherwise they are still in the caucus.

    • You will find that not everyone with a LPC membership is in the LPC caucus.

      • He does need to amend the LPC constitution, though – currently says that the National Caucus is composed of members and Senators who are members of the Party.
        By convention, though, I think it’s long been the case that members and Senators can be expelled from Caucus without actually surrendering their memberships. Senator Kenny would likely be a good, recent, example.

    • That might well contravene someone’s charter rights.

    • did Harper do that with Wallin and Duffy? just curious..

  10. I am beginning to warm up to Trudeau Jr, he is brining action and results to the table and not just cheap talk.

    He needs to do more to get this conservatives vote, but given the ethically corrupt Conservative party is a statism party of deceit and waste, I might vote for him anyways.

    Sorry NDP, in your dreams as your economics has ruined everywhere it goes. Re-mortgaging 11+ times on a 6 digit salary tells me economic buffoonery and tax greed permeates the NDP. But an NDP vote would be a good way to trash Canada’s already weak economics and cause Ottawa waste and bloat to collapse.

    Fact si we do need better choices ont he ballot other than who gets more of our money for less back to us. Hey, tax me more, I might spend less on your job.

    • Listen, I hate to rain on your parade, but, if you do warm up to Trudeau, and you do vote for him, then you will have voted for the same guy as Emily and kcm—–I hope this doesn`t ruin your day.

      • well what we wont be voting for is the crook that gave us Wallin and Duffy, said he personally vetted their expenses, and only when confronted with evidence of his crimes did he expel them from caucus

        Harper is a coward, criminal – worst PM in our history

  11. Since i couldn’t find an answer to the only real hitch i see in this move isn’t readily apparent to me in your post, i have a teaser for you Emmet.
    I’m fine with removing party affiliation from senators, having then sit as independents[ at least in theory] but what happens come E day? Are Liberal senators [who are members] to be permitted to canvass and raise funds for Trudeau’s Liberals? Can he even prevent it? And if he could would it make sense, since they wouldn’t be banned form attending convention or policy planning for instance – or would they? This to me is where the biggest loose end appears to be. Perhaps this is the unintended consequence or cost of not consulting the senators themselves? There are always cost of course, it is unavoidable. And always winners and losers when difficult decisions are taken. To be fair to JT he did say[unless i misheard] that the ties would be completely cut. But how would this work without trespassing on the charter rights of Liberal senators to freely associate? And it seems the senators themselves may not have completely heard the message.
    Otherwise i agree, the move has more symbolic political value in terms of positioning for the Trudeau’s Liberals, and a challenge to the long time cultural values of the senate and its place within Parliament.Not a bad thing at all really.
    Opposition leaders can mock away,but it is Trudeau that has now carved out a populist position for himself alongside the equally dubious ones occupied by the deluded abolish it crowd on one side, and the constitution shouldn’t prevent a PM from doing unconstitutional things one the other. When you drill down into populist positions it isn’t uncommon to come across a big streak of underlying nonsensical assumption. At worst Trudeau has simply staked out his right to have one too! Fair’s fair. Really, it is us that ought to be mocking the lot of them.
    Maybe this guy provides some of the answers to my question? He certainly approves of this as a master stroke for JT. It has me thinking too, since i too think this was Trudeau’s intention…a sort of palace coup against his own ball and chain – Liberal senators. Maybe it is brilliant after all? And maybe it is a very clever way to try to dodge the AG’s coming wroth? Certainly ballsy.

  12. The dogs are now cats.
    That is all.

    • Unfortunately for Justin calling a dog a cat does not make it so.

      Also unfortunately for Justin saying they aren’t part of caucus doesn’t make it so either. The Liberal Constitution defines the caucus as Liberal Party members who are Senators or Members of Parliament. So they are by definition in the caucus whether Justin wants to lock the door and keep them out of meetings or not.

      The only way the Senators are not part of the Liberal caucus is if they either quit the Senate OR cancel their Liberal Party membership. I don’t think 32 canceled Liberal Party memberships is going to look very good on baby Trudeau’s resume.

      The Senators have of course reacted as expected. They are not revoking their Liberal Party memberships and are continuing as to represent the Liberal Party in the Senate.

      So this is all theatrics. Much ado about nothing.

  13. It’s bad enough immigration in 2015 said they will be bringing more immigrants over for jobs no one wants including immigrants here and Canadian citizens are looking for jobs Justin Trudeau announce in 2015 he will be bringing then foreigners from other countries to help Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party with jobs over minimum wage well immigrants here Canadian citizen are not qualify or adequate to help with the Liberal Party unless it’s free and now Justin Trudeau wants to pick his own senate in your dreams the plane boss the plane he must of did A bong before you came up with this one what happens if he doesn’t get in magic Harper Andrew Horvat Elizabeth May or any of them be able to pick their own senate they’re selling out Canada as it is why even vote

    • Nobody enjoys a good run on sentence more than me but – geezus!

  14. Ether The Hairdo is very worried about the upcoming auditor’s report, or like Harper he has kicked out the corrupt senators, all 32 of them.

  15. Dogs are now cats.
    That is all.

  16. I absolutely agree with Justin Trudeau about the Senate. All senators should be independent and not partisan hacks that Harper made them to be. This senator Gerstein (I believe that’s his name) admitted at the Conservative Convention that he is their “Bagman” raising money for the party. Well, I hate to see my tax money going to pay his salary and expenses in the Senate for him to raise money for Harper’s party.
    Also Senators could be selected as suggested by Justin Trudeau by a kind of independent committee of prominent Canadians, something like the Supreme Court Judges are suggested by a committee of legal experts. This would be perfectly acceptable to most Canadians. If the Senate is to provide a “sober second thought” it clearly needs to be independent.
    As to Harper, I find him despicable because he is constantly lied to us. First he said that he would not appoint any Senators unless they are elected, and then appointed the most of any Prime Minister. Then he reduced the Senate to a subsidiary of his PMO while telling to us that they are actually independent, and finally he lies that he did not know anything about payment of $90,000 to Duffy. How can anyone respect such a Prime Minister?

  17. Has anyone considered abolishment of the senate without constitutional amendment by a series of PM`s refusing to appoint senators? If Harper hadn`t appointed his 59 as he had originally promised we would be a lot closer to abolishing the senate as most of the senators would`ve aged out or died off with no replacements. Future PM`s could actually stick to this promise if the public sentiment is overwhelmingly in support of abolishment and make it an important election issue and we can abolish the useless institution without getting unanimous consent of the provinces.