Amending the Constitution to keep the Senate from vetoing the House - Macleans.ca

Amending the Constitution to keep the Senate from vetoing the House

The Prime Minister apparently has a plan

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A year after it was suggested he might be working on something in this regard, Conservative Senator Bert Brown explains how the Prime Minister might seek to amend the Constitution to limit the Senate’s ability to block legislation passed by the House.

Mr. Brown said he has since presented the Prime Minister with a mechanism dubbed the Elton-McCormick Override — named for two Lethbridge political scientists — and that Mr. Harper read the plan with interest. The override says if senators want to thwart a House-approved bill, they can do so, but only if the move has the support of a majority of senators in each of seven provinces representing 50% of the population (much like the requirement to amend the constitution itself).

If successful, the House could either “fix [the bill] or forget it,” Mr. Brown explained. The Senate could not, however, force a non-confidence vote or even cause prolonged gridlock because the override only gives senators one month or 12 sitting days to muster the votes for a veto.

The future of the Senate in this regard is particularly interesting given the fact that after 2015, there could be an NDP government in the House and a Conservative majority in the Senate: something the New Democrats have been considering.

It’d be interesting to know when Mr. Harper started to think that limitations might be placed on the Senate’s ability to veto legislation. Presumably it was sometime after Conservative senators killed the Climate Change Accountability Act in 2010.

None of this would be of concern if the Senate was abolished.