The form and function of the Senate are not academic issues. When we form government in 2015, it will be an immediate problem facing our government, since we will be confronted with a second chamber composed of Conservative and Liberal appointees. These senators may feel free to oppose the policies on which we will have been elected. I propose that our party ask for a mandate in the next election to abolish the Senate. I then propose that an Act be introduced early in the life of the next Parliament amending the constitution to do so.
The urgency with which this matter is then pursued with provinces (who will have to consent to this modernization, which was adopted in all provincial legislatures long ago) should then depend on the conduct of the Senate during the next Parliament. If the Senate provokes a constitutional crisis by blocking a budget or other important legislation, Senate abolition should be pursued as an immediate and urgent priority. If the Senate returns to its traditional role and subordinates itself to the House of Commons, then the matter can be pursued more deliberately over the course of the next Parliament.
The NDP and the Conservative Senate already have history: two years ago, the Senate defeated the NDP’s Climate Change Accountability Act. Last year, the NDP called for a national referendum on the future of the Senate.