Among its suggestions for improving the Senate, the NDP proposes that senators stop aligning themselves with party caucuses.
The NDP has long protested the fact that senators are able to campaign and do party work, and it once again demanded senators be prohibited from partisan work. This would mean senators would no longer join party caucuses, do fundraising or organize for a political party, said Charlie Angus, the party’s ethics critic.
“As appointed officials, they need to stop using their position to further the political interests of the old mainline parties,” he told reporters. “Senators should not participate in party caucuses or do the fundraising organization or the advocacy to pursue the narrow interest of a political party.”
Partisanship is too easily denigrated in the discussion about what ails our politics, but there might be something here. At least in the theoretical world of fantasy Senate reform. And at least so long as there is going to be a Senate.
There is some precedent here. The legislative assembles of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories function without formal parties. And Nebraska’s state legislature is also non-partisan.
Could you legislate a ban on party affiliations in the Senate? That might prove tricky, though party affiliations do seem to be somehow out of bounds at the municipal level in Ontario. If it were somehow feasible, even as an accepted convention rather than a legislated impediment, an appointed, but non-partisan Senate might be somewhat less objectionable than the current Senate and closer to the ideal of sober second thought that apparently justifies its existence. Particularly if you could somehow design a non-partisan appointments process.
Presuming, of course, that you could stand an appointed chamber of any kind sitting in judgment of a democratically elected chamber.