Amending the Constitution or an asteroid hit: What’s more likely?

Tease the day: Nick Taylor-Vaisey considers the odds

by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

AP Photo/NASA

Today, we’re confronted with that age-old question: Is a constitutional amendment more likely than an asteroid plunging into our planet? This morning, we learn that Prime Minister Stephen Harper might seek the former, and that Planet Earth will barely—in astronomical terms—escape the latter. One of Harper’s Senate appointees, Alberta’s Bert Brown, says he presented a plan to the PM a few years ago that would allow the House of Commons to maintain supremacy over an elected Senate. The PM was interested, says Brown. The catch: implementing the plan would require a constitutional amendment, and that means convincing seven provinces representing 50 per cent of Canada’s population that it’s all worth the trouble. Expect the usual humming and hawing, plenty of references to the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, and predictions of the virtual impossibility of messing around with the country’s Constitution.

Oh, and about that asteroid: The Ottawa Citizen‘s Tom Spears tells us that the chunk of rock, which is apparently half the size of a football field and would explode in our atmosphere “with the energy of a nuclear bomb” if it ever got so close, actually won’t hit the planet. But it will come pretty close: 27,700 kilometres, the width of a cosmic hair. There’s a chance the asteroid will make a return trip to our vicinity in 2047, sixty years after the Meech Lake Accord was first introduced to the Canadian public. Take bets below on whether or not an elected Senate will be nervous about that asteroid’s potentially devastating visit.


What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with three stories: the pursuit of international terrorists using Canadian passports; a crack-down on bribery of foreign officials; and the removal of dairy tariffs as part of free-trade talks with the European Union. The National Post fronts Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hope for a constitutional amendment to facilitate Senate reform. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with a Syrian girl’s harrowing experience in the middle of that country’s civil war. The Ottawa Citizen leads with Conservatives admitting they were behind robocalls to Saskatchewan voters about proposed riding boundary changes. iPolitics fronts U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming efforts at peacemaking in the Middle East. CBC.ca leads with the return to Canada of airline passengers apprehended on a flight from Halifax to the Dominican Republic. National Newswatch showcases the Citizen story about Conservative robocalls in Saskatchewan.


Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Tax evasion. The RCMP testified to a House of Commons committee that the Canada Revenue Agency should have more power to share taxpayers’ finances with Mounties.
2. Child-care. For-profit daycare operations are on the rise, accounting for over 28 per cent of all child-care spaces in 2010—even as few new public spaces are opening up.
3. Blockade. Members of the Attawapiskat First Nation are blockading a winter road to the nearby De Beers diamond mine, a protest to be discussed at a band council meeting.
4. Caffeine. Small energy drinks must conform to new Health Canada regulations that limit the total caffeine content to 200 mg per serving, or about the same as a large Tim Hortons coffee.




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Amending the Constitution or an asteroid hit: What’s more likely?

  1. Time to abolish the senate. It has been polluted with partisan appointments since Confederation. It has become a cash-for-life lottery for hacks like Brazeau, who at 37, will be collecting a fat pay check for another 38 years, doing nothing of value for voters or taxpayers.

    It would be better to legislate voting reform like Preferential Voting (which the Liberals support,) then have all-party committees go over legislation with a fine-tooth comb raising concerns from the public. This would serve as an actual institution of second sober thought, putting existing MPs to work while getting rid of the deadwood.

    All that’s required to ditch the senate is a national referendum winning 50% in 7 provinces.

    • I wouldn’t mind an upper house that balanced the interests of regional voters with varied interests over the bloc of urban voters who largely have the same politics and interests.

      But the abolishing of the Senate would be an improvement.

  2. If we open that damn constitutional can of worms that asteroid’s gonna hit us fer sure. Slap bang in the middle of our notwithstanding clause.

    • A referendum on abolishing the senate would not open up any can of worms. It’s the simplest and most effective kind of senate reform.

      The senate is an emblem of aristocracy modeled after the UK House of Lords. Like First-Past-the-Post, it is antiquated and undemocratic. Like Mike “The Duff” Duffy, it is a big, fat joke at taxpayers’ expense.

      Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Denmark are some of the nations that got rid of their “upper houses” decades ago. Now’s a great opportunity to get rid of ours.

      • Now now, there are other fat jokes at taxpayer’s expense besides Mike Duffy.

        You only hate him because you are engaged in a cosmic struggle with the forces of evil, which you associate with people like me. Even though, ironically, people like you have caused the most net harm to the world and human welfare.

        • People like me? You mean Keynesian centrists? Try again. People like me, created modern living standards in the post-war era which were unprecedented in human history. During that time, Using the economics of people like me, governments paid down most of their debts.

          Crackpots like you, over the past 30 years, have squandered all the economic advantages created during the post-war era with flaky free-market ideology. It caused debt and inequality to soar and culminated in a global economic meltdown we have yet to recover from.

          • You only follow Keynes in that you believe the government should steer the market, and ignore the rest.

      • A referendum that does not get 50 % plus one vote (I guess) in each province is not likely to produce an agreement from 10 provinces. A referendum is non-binding.

        • The “general amendment procedure” for amending the Constitution is a 7/50 referendum. That’s what Mulroney used for the Charlottetown Accord. It is most certainly binding.

          • I should add, according the constitution, the Senate would also have to vote in favor of its demise (like what happened in other countries.) It would be ironic, but the senators would have no choice (because they are appointed, not elected.)

          • Section 42 of the Constitution Act of 1982 requires that modification of the Senate’s powers be done according to Section 38(1) of the same law, which stipulates two cumulative requirements: (1) Resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons; and (2) resolutions of at least seven provincial legislative assemblies representing at least 50% of the Canadian population.

            As you can see, the word referendum does not appear. The Charlottetown Accord referendum was basically a gentlemen’s agreement between the Feds and the provinces (except Quebec), to put the question to the population and then to follow through on what the results would be.

            Technically, no referendum is legally binding. There is no referendum mechanism provided for anywhere in the Constitution (neither in 1867, nor in 1982). The only obligation Parliament and the various provincial assemblies would have to follow through on a referendum result would be a moral obligation, but not a legal one.

          • That would be a democratic obligation. If 7 of 10 provinces voted “yes” to abolishing the senate and none of those provincial governments stood in the way of the will of the people, then that would meet the requirements.

            It’s not like a few crazies, with an unjustifiably sentimental attachment to the corrupt institution, can chain themselves to the senate doors and stop democracy from happening.

      • That’s a funny there Ron.

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