Reform or bust

by Aaron Wherry

In response to Stephen Harper’s proposed Senate reforms, the Quebec government says it will see the Prime Minister in court. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty suggests it would be best to simply abolish the Senate. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says reform has to involve the provinces, but equally wonders about the Senate’s reason for being.

“My position on the Senate in the past has been that I think the House of Commons is elected for the purpose of representing the people of the country,” he said. “The upper house is not necessary.”




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Reform or bust

  1. Abolish the senate, and move on.

  2. I think that the Senate’s original purpose is a good one. In it’s current form, it’s definitely unnecessary. That’s why the Senate needs to be reformed, to become something relevant and useful again.

    • It’s original purpose was to allow ‘people of substance’ to oversee the ‘rabble’ and make sure nothing untoward was done.

  3. Quebec as usual is out of step with Canada and is bluffing.the changes Harper wants to make are cosmetic .. They have already changed the date for retirement of senators and these changes are no different.It is time the gutless Premiers in the west who have less senate seats than the east coast provinces with 6 times the people  started  speaking out instead of sitting on their hands.

  4. The provincial legislatures  seem to do just as well in handling legislation as the federal parliament without the need of an upper chamber. They don’t miss it. It’s not needed. It’s a waste of time and money. 
    I don’t think the chamber of sober second thought has resulted in any sign of excellence in legislation which is missing at Queen’s Park or elsewhere in the provincial capitals.

    • Provincial legislatures have the benefit of working within the framework of federal laws.  These are where the most contentious issues are, and where we need not only checks and balances against the power of the executive in office, but also where we most strongly need a group of people not beholden to the election cycle and the need to pander to keep their jobs, and to become our government’s institutional memory — who are more likely to know why certain laws exist or do not exist because they were there at the time.

  5. What I like about the senate is that it’s not politicized in the same way that Parliament is. Senators are supposed to be free to vote their conscience on laws just as judges are free to rule on them. I think it’s worth noting that our senate still has Progressive Conservatives on it, which I think is a statement in its own way.

    • If you believe Conservative platforms past, MP’s are also supposed to be free to vote their conscience. How’d that work out, anyway? Did the entire CPC caucus go out and buy the same conscience?

  6. The Senate is vital. Under the system of parliamentary democracy in which the PM functions as an elected autocrat, the Senate is the only check (however imperfect) against potential excesses by the Commons or otherwise well-intentioned PM. If anything, the role of the Senate should be expanded to include powers relating to transparency and accountability currently done in a conflict-of-interest mode by the Commons.

  7. A couple of points:

    a) Abolishing the Senate would not be the simplest thing to do, since that would require a change to the constitution. In fact, the simplest change would be to  allow Harper’s Senate reform bills to pass. Otherwise, the absolutely simplest thing to do would be to allow it to fester as a house of unelected patronage appointments, which probably suits Liberals just fine.

    b) Interesting to see how it’s the country’s left that is opposed to seeing an elected upper chamber in our Parliament, essentially making us an exception among modern democracies. Unelected checks such as judges and bureaucrats seem to be OK, elected ones in a reformed Senate not so OK. Again, interesting.

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