The Senate reference: the feds argue every which way

Paul Wells looks at the political strategy behind the legal argument for Senate reform


(Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

The federal government’s factum in its Supreme Court reference on Senate reform is a fascinating piece of work.

Signed by veteran Justice Department lawyers Rob Frater (who tried his best on the Insite case) and Warren Newman (who had better luck with the Secession Reference), the factum — the text of the feds’ legal argument — continues the Justice Department’s attempt, no doubt at the PMO’s behest, to lowbridge this entire debate.

Having already asked the court to accept no new legal arguments (the Supremes rejected the request) and having asked the Quebec Court of Appeal to voluntary suspend hearings in its own Senate-reform reference, launched by the Quebec government (the Court of Appeal rejected that one too), the Justice Department lawyers once again urge the top court not to worry too hard about the whole business. Can Parliament unilaterally change Senators’ term in office, make terms renewable, abolish the property requirement for Senate membership and use consultative elections as a guide to appointing Senators? Yup, says the Harper government. Are seven provinces with half the country’s population enough to abolish the Senate outright? Yup. Much of the rest of the factum is devoted to pre-butting any argument that things should be more complicated.

Lest the Supremes be tempted to ponder these questions in the abstract, the Justice Dept. lawyers hasten to remind them that there is a bill before Parliament — the very Senate-reform bill that led to this reference. The will of Parliament often guides judicial decisions, although it seems hard to argue that a bill that hasn’t yet become law represents Parliament’s will. Then there is the aforementioned Secession Reference, which laid out several “unwritten principles” which should guide major constitutional reforms? Irrelevant here, the federal lawyers argue, because there is no uncertainty in the letter of the Constitution and therefore no vacuum which unwritten principles could help fill. Those “unwritten principles” include democracy, federalism and the protection of minority rights, each such an essentially contested concept that it is impossible to predict how they’d affect the Court’s opinion if allowed into the debate.

The Justice Department lawyers refer to ample precedent for simple Senate reforms, most of which predate the 1982 amending formula and are therefore almost useless as a guide to how reforms could be accomplished today. They avoid reference to the 1996 regional veto law passed by the Chrétien government after the 1995 referendum, a law that would require the approval of five “regions,” including Quebec and British Columbia, even for amendments under the so-called “7/50” rule.  (It may be possible to get around the regional veto law by having a backbencher, rather than a Minister, introduce the proposed amendment, but that escape route hasn’t been tested against court challenge.)

Anyway, blah blah blah. The common theme here is that the feds, plainly, devoutly wish they did not have to seek the Supremes’ opinion. They are seeking the broadest possible latitude to do whatever the federal government wants with the Senate, and the smallest possible amount of input from any other government or other actor in society. I do not blame them for this, but they will be lucky if they can get the top court to buy their arguments. And so far already in this Reference they have not been lucky.

What’s striking is that the broad political strategy being defended in this factum — a strategy of modest incremental reform to the Senate, without abolishing the place — was Stephen Harper’s game plan, listlessly pursued, years before Nigel Wright cut a cheque for Mike Duffy. But that strategy now seems like a relic from the past. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and, more significantly, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair are both arguing for the Senate to be abolished. The piecemeal reforms Harper once pursued, the reforms the Justice Department lawyers defend here, seems timid in comparison. Even if the feds wrangle a Supreme Court opinion they like on these proposed reforms, it may not do them much good. The political debate has already moved on.


The Senate reference: the feds argue every which way

  1. What we’ll have…..no matter what Harper does….is a Triple I Senate

    Ineffective, Inefficient and Incompetent.

    • EmiiilyOne.

      • Well your misspelling just proved you are all 3 as well. Congrats.

        • You didn’t get it. Others did.

          • Good for you…..now find somebody else to bore. Ciao.

          • At Macleans, time stands still; always the same same. Lame!

          • You want lame, go back to CBC. I used to read Macleans all the time years ago, but now back and find it much more refreshing than CBC (Canadians BSing Canadians). CBC is a liberal-statism focused on the dysfunctional.

    • The Senate is a direct reflection of the people that lead it. The Senate Leader should be removed from her seat as should anyone that broke the laws. It is easy to blame all Senators, but rest assured a large percentage take their job very seriously and don’t try to cheat the system the way the like that Duffy, Wallin, and Harb did.

      • Have all the senators been audited?

      • This kind of thing happens on a regular basis….but I wouldn’t remove an entire layer of govt because of a few bad apples.

        The Senate has no purpose, it’s simply not needed. It never was.

        • Yep, no one can cite where they have every been effective. It is really a high wage part time political hack patronage club of waste.

      • I understand the AG is going to be looking at the expenses of most Senators. Let’s see how that turns out. I suspect all of them and I mean all of them have been living off of taxpayers for many years.

        • Umm, you “suspect” all of them. . . have been living off taxpayers for many years? It is a fact. ALL of them have been doing that. It is how they get their paycheques.

          • Finally, hollinm’s brilliance explained in a way even I can follow… thanks tped.

        • And all this time I thought they were volunteers. You should leak this to Bob Fife.

    • Now that was funny. I used to support EEE senate but after thinking about I came to the same sentiment as you did, just an excuse to widen the governemtn bloat and make it even more ineffective, inefficient and incompetent, we want elimination or EEE, but will get III pay more taxes for waste.

      • The Senate is no place for partisan politics. The HoC has more than enough of the useless talking points. The level of debate has to improve.

        Just fix the appointment process, stop appointing people based on party loyalty.

      • I don’t understand why Cons…..who claim to be keen on reducing the size of govt, AND cutting spending….would want to keep the stupid thing.

        Abolishing the Senate means a massive saving, and one less entire layer of govt

  2. What nonsense to conclude that the debate has already moved on. Says who? Says Paul Wells who is one man with one voice (his own) and one vote.

    Paul Wells, why won’t you do a follow up on Justin’s proposed legalization of pot. When most provinces won’t even trust their own citizens to buy alcohol from non-government outlets, how would the provinces agree to have pot legalized??? Would Justin want to tell the Premiers that in order to have pot for sale, he will bypass the provinces………….What a joke!

    • Harper is bypassing the Provinces, What makes you assume that others want to follow his example?

      • So you feel that every province must agree to abolish senate rather than just 7/50% of vote?

        So if we somehow passed a law now that alberta had veto over any change and alberta got 50% of all senate seats in any future senate (and alberta would always veto any change to this), then alberta must always have 50% of seats, even 1000 years later?

        If you want to compare how other countries treat their minorities, how about France? Alsace-Lorraine was german speaking but was given no choice on becoming part of france and its citizens were forced to become french rather than german. ETA territory, similar story even today.

        • France is a unitary state, Canada is a federation.

          And yes, if a law was passed giving Alberta that type of Senate representation (which would require every province and the parliament to be in favour of it), then it would certainly be a valid arrangement. Adherence to the Rule of Law being fundamental to a functioning society and all that.

          Any province which entered confederation did so with certain rights guaranteed under the constitution. The absolute security of these rights is fundamental to the proper functioning of any federal society.

        • Your post shows exactly why we have a constitution. A PM cannot make drastic changes to the confederation without broad support.

          If your post is serious (it is not), another PM could somehow take away Alberta’s veto and seats. It would not last 1000 years, it would be constantly changing.

          Yes, every province should be on board for this huge change. Can you imagine a PM from outside of Alberta using the 7/50 rule to take away all of it’s seats? This is why we need this safety net.

        • Which time? Alsace was nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire, was invaded by Sweden in the 1600s and traded to France for favours received, at which point they were allowed to keep their laws, language and religion. They were invaded and annexed by Germany in 1870, invaded and repatriated by France in 1918, invaded and re-annexed by Germany in 1941, and back to La Republique after the war. Alsatian is still taught in the schools and spoken widely in the region.
          It is true that at no point were they allowed a referendum to express their preferences, but that could be said for pretty much every constituent region of any large European country and many of the smaller ones, given how those countries grew out of the marriages, invasions, alliances, and horse-trades of their princes rather than by popular assent. Not a good parallel.

      • She is right. Is the government going to set up pot stores so that pot can be bought like anything else? Trudeau maybe making noise but this thing is far from a done deal even if in the unlikely event he wins power.

        • “Unlikely event”

          Sounds like CPC wishful thinking to me.

          • If you think that they can win then tell me where they are going to get 155+ seats. Not much in the West, B.C. will split the progressive vote and Ontario will be a 3 way split with progressives splitting the vote there as well. He will win a few more seats in Quebec but the NDP are not going down without a fight. Of course the Maritimes are only interested in getting their EI payments and so any party that proposes to keep the gravy train rolling will be their choice.

          • The LPC is currently leading the polls in most regions. You’d have to be in denial to suggest it is very unlikely that that could translate into an electoral win. Wishful thinking, even.

            Andrew Fransen

          • That’s harsh, hollinm. Seriously. You’re denigrating an entire part of the country by suggesting the population somehow only votes to maintain pogey. I’m not from Atlantic Canada, but I find that kind of attitude insulting on their behalf. Harper suggested the same thing, and he was wrong, too.

          • So where will Justin get his 130 extra seats??

          • BC, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. Not so hard when you’re sitting in the high 30s in the polls. He doesn’t need 130 more seats anyway. 100 more would be enough for a Liberal minority, which would be a pretty big win.

          • You need 156 seats to win an election? Harper had the helm for longer than he’s had more than that number of seats from an election…

          • More int he next election. Harper has setup more bickering fools for par-lame-ment in the next election. Because we have to keep smaller provinces with too much representation, he needs more seats to balance out the ruse of democracy.

            I say ruse, as while we have 3 major options on the ballot, they all represent more Ottawa waste and more taxes. No option for less government and less taxes exist.

          • It is not true that the smaller provinces are over represented. This was the deal to form a confederation.

            This court reference is a waste of time and money. The government is trying to give an excuse why it is not following through on one of its main policies. They always new it would needs broad support.

            This “Stephan Harper Government” does not know how to build consensus. This is the failure, not the amending formula.

          • I am from the Maritimes. If its not about Ontario its about Quebec if its not about Quebec its about Alberta if its not about Alberta its about BC. Just a bunch of BS.

          • Yep, but inequality defines Canada.

          • Sorry if I hurt you sensibilities. However, you are entitled to your opinion as I am mine.

          • And it confirms the opinion I have held about you, prairie oyster.

          • Yep, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But that is why CBC gets over a billion of corporate welfare a year, to brainwash people that money for nothing programs are good.

            We are more mind controlled via media than we know. And nothing a statism supporter would like is to shut up free thinking.

        • The federal government has to consult the provinces for major changes.

          If you really think that ending prohibition is a major change, what makes you think this?

          • What does ‘pot’ have to do with the Senate and the Constitution? I can understand the connection to alcohol… But not the former.

          • Not one that I know of. That is what I am questioning!

          • And I am questioning Wells as to why he thinks the debate has moved on. Has it moved on? I don’t think so.

            And I think Wells (and others) are giving Justin a free ride when it comes to his pot proposals. How, according to Wells (and others) will Justin implement his new pot proposals? Why never question Justin’s proposals but always be negative about whatever the Harper government proposes? That is my point!

          • I support provincial rights, without them there is little to hold the country together. This will lead to a federal government without a confederation.

            I understand your desire of less attacks. Let’s get back on topic.

          • You mean ‘provincial rights’ as the Premiers exercised last week when they were demanding to step into federal power’s………?

            Come on: the provinces want it both ways.

          • It is a two way street. One cannot dictate to the other.

          • Tell Harper that

          • Which federal powers are you talking about? Education is provincial; it’s the Feds who are trespassing with their new jobs training strategy.

          • Maybe the country should ditch Ottawa and form 13 new countries? Can’t say Ottawa adds much value for the cost in my life. People complain about pennies in gas prices but ignore the real cost of Ottawa and how little they do for $280 billion of taxes. As a average worker would you pay $17,000 or more for what Ottawa does for you and your family if given a free choice?

            Taxation has become modern day slavery. As no options on your rigged ballot will give you less taxes and less government waste.

          • So have you now abandoned your hobbyhorse of Justin Trudeau’s speaking fees to take on his proposal to legalize marijuana? I suppose we can all look forward to your blather on the topic for the next four months or so until something else about him strikes your fancy?

          • Have been waiting a long time for Harper to say or do something that strikes my fancy rather then always pissing me off.

          • Harper doesn’t propose or debates he just does. Funny think never see the man is he in hiding or does he only make speeches on foreign land.

          • I bet more than a few senators have smoked pot.

        • Actually, in B.C. (which is ground zero for this war) there is a serious movement to move this forward – former AG’s, former mayors of Vancouver, criminologists like Neil Boyd (an old prof of mine), very credible health experts, police etc. If the Cons think (which they seem to) that Trudeau is appealing to young ‘stoners’ only they are sadly mistaken and will get blown out of the water soon if they keep up the idiot response they’ve given so far. Personally I hope the Cons continue on with the ‘if gays are allowed to marry, everyone will want to marry a dog’ level of debate.

          • I doubt whether B.C. at large is prepared to support legalization of a harmful drug. However, you are entitled to believe what you want. There are so many other issues that need to be dealt with I doubt the election is going to centre around legalization of pot.
            As for your slur on the Conservatives about gays. You are making it up.

      • Getting 12 provinces and three territories to agree on something is like winning a lottery without buying a ticket…just isn’t going to happen.

        Harper should move more unilaterally on lots of issues. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t vote Harper last time and not likely ever to do so again, as this conservative is big time disappointed in Harper.

        But I will not be critical of him for trying to so some progress for the money we pay to Ottawa. As Ottawa is a cesspool of waste.

  3. “the structure of the federal Parliament to which the federal power to legislate is entrusted under s. 91 of the Act.

    The Senate has a vital role as an institution forming part of the federal system: one of its primary purposes was to afford protection to the various sectional interests in Canada in relation to the enactment of federal legislation. The power to enact federal legislation was given to the Queen by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and the House of Commons. Thus, the body which had been created as a means of protecting sectional and provincial interests was made a participant in this legislative process….

    Authority of Parliament in relation to the Upper House, [1980] 1 S.C.R. 54
    Date: 1979-12-21
    The 1982 Constitutional Act did not change that

  4. Further…” although s. 91(1) gave the Queen the power, with the advice and consent of the Senate and the House of Commons, to alter the “Constitution of Canada” except in certain expressly designated areas, it does not confer a power to amend the B.N.A. Act. The word “Canada” in s. 91(1) does not refer to Canada as a geographical unit but refers to the juristic federal unit. “Constitution of Canada” does not mean the whole of the British North America Act, but means the constitution of the federal government, as distinct from the provincial governments. The power of amendment conferred by s. 91(1) is thus limited and it relates to the constitution of the federal government in matters of interest only to that government; the continued existence of the Senate as a part of the federal legislative process is implied in the exceptions provided in s. 91(1).

    While s. 91(1) would permit some changes to be made by Parliament in respect of the Senate as now constituted, it is not open to Parliament to make alterations which would affect the fundamental features, or essential characteristics, given to the Senate as a means of ensuring regional and provincial representation in the federal legislative process.”
    The 1982 Constiutional Act did not change that.

    • Your opinion on your quotes is?

      Mine is that as long as the “reforms” respect the provinces representation in the Senate, the legislation would likely be constitutionally valid, even without formal consent. Even better if the legislation gives more voices to Canadians (including the 60-70% of voices usually not represented in a majority government) and functions better as a chamber of “sober second thought” without the partisanship traditionally seen.

      • Eliminating the property requirement would seem to be forbidden then. One could argue that Wallin and Duffy never represented Sask and PEI, and were only appointed to represent the CPC, but the PMO could point to their property holdings.

    • Like most wishy washy law, it is ambiguous to interpret and employs lots of non-value added judges and lawyers to eventually get things done.

      And if we are a independent country, no need to consult the queen or British parliament. Part of why I support Western separation is to ditch the feudal parliament royalty junk for once and forever. Parliamentry system was deliberately designed to give the perception of democracy while the real power is in the back room dirty deals done in privacy. Its why Canada has lagged in political development and awareness.

  5. My new shot in the dark theory after a brief read of the factum is that a substantial change to the senate’s “legitimacy” constitutes a change to its powers, making unanimous consent of the provinces necessary to abolish it or establish term limits.

  6. Abolishing the non-elected Senate. Great. Do it now and replace it with a council of big city mayors who meet seven times annually for 72 hours to review proposed government bills and either accept or reject them — the rejected ones being allowed to pass after three consecutive rejections, meaning at least two or three months have passed, allowing the Commons to review the new messes they are proposing.

    As for anything urgent, like a declaration of war, War Measures Act action, declaring a major economic overhaul in the event of a global depression, etc., well, all these things can also wait a couple of months. Nothing is so big or so complicated that it can’t be delayed or run away from!

    • Ya, why should rural Canada have any representation at all?!

      • Rural Canada is already over-represented in the HoC.
        Vaughn Ontario’s 109,000 people receive the exact same representation as the 48,000 from Souris-Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

        • Fantino is an MP for two ridings? WTF! That’s outrageous! He barely represents himself, never mind 156,999 others! And how about that travel allowance?

  7. I have no evidence to suggest this is in any way possible, but I wonder whether PMSH would even consider dropping in plans to move toward Senate abolition in this throne speech.

  8. EmilyOne
    Or a triple-U Senate: Unaccountable, Undemocratic, and Useless.

    • Much like Harper!

  9. None of this is a surprise from a government that doesn’t know how to consult or collaborate with its partners. They will spend millions of our dollars going down blind alleys in the hopes of finding a loophole that lets them act unilaterally. This is about as far from its grassroots reform roots as it can get!

    • How so?

      Should the government not find out what its options are?

    • “in the hopes of finding a loophole that lets them act unilaterally.”
      Umm, that’s EXACTLY what Pierre Trudeau did when he launched his patriation reference to the Supreme Court back in the early 1980s. I guess that means that Harper is just like Trudeau and vice-versa, right?

      • Harper has been copying out of the Liberal playbook since he first came to office.

        It’s a shame he and Chretien never ran against each other. They’re both cut from the same cloth and would have made great sparring partners.

        • I agree there are a lot of similarities. Chretien was obviously more likeable and easygoing around other people. It is a testament to the shortness of peoples’ memories though that they fail to see how similar Chretien and Harper’s approaches are: people rightly skewer Harper for his approach to Question Period, but I remember Jeffrey Simpson writing a very critical column about Chretien’s approach to Question Period, in which Simpson said Chretien never actually answered a question put to him by the opposition — Chretien either cracked a joke, changed the subject, or insulted the questioner. Sound familiar?

          • SHHH!!!! we Tories have known this for a long time now !!! don’t give all our secrets away :(

      • So the best argument you can come up with is “But moooomm! They got to do it!”

  10. Look lets face it, now that Harper has Stacked the Senate with more appointments than any other PM in Canadian History he doesn’t want to abolish the Senate at all. What Harper wants to make sure of is when the present “so called Conservative Govt”. is booted from office , he will have a stacked Senate of his minions, to hold up and deny the will of Parliament Bills passed in the House that the Conservatives deem “not in favour of”.

    • Jean Chretien, Pierre Trudeau, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Robert Borden, Wilfrid Laurier, and John A. Macdonald all appointed more Senators than Stephen Harper has.

      I’ll just assume the rest of your comment is equally nonsensical.

      • Yes, but pro-Liberal/anti-Conservative commentators reserve to themselves the right to make baldfaced lies on these comment boards, in the hope that nobody like you busts them on it.

        • And that would differ from the pro-CPC commenters…how?

          • I agree that the hard-core partisan tub-thumpers on both sides are bad that way. On the Conservative side, Rick told a whopper the other day in response to my point that Dutch youth smoke less marijuana than their Canadian counterparts. Rick responded by claiming that instead, Dutch youth consumed way more “hard drugs” (as though that amounted to some sort of refutation of my point). I then supplied a data link showing that Rick was lying. I received no response from Rick.
            What I really don’t understand, though, about the Liberal partisans is why they think they HAVE to lie. Isn’t there enough damning factual stuff about Harper without having to make stuff up?

          • I see a lot more of it from the CPC supporters than the rest, but I agree – neither side should (deliberately) lie.

            Sometimes, though, people make assertions they believe to be true but aren’t (I know I have; I trust my memory rather than fact-check more often than not, and my memory isn’t always perfect – and have gotten called on it more than once, to my embarrassment), or exaggerate to make a point.

            Exciteyboy’s claim was begging for a rebuttal; statements like that [purely factual ones that can easily be refuted with a quick Google] are bound to be called out if wrong. So why make them?

      • Divide by years in power .. or don’t. Doesn’t
        really matter, eh …

  11. I suggest the Harper supporters actually take the time to read Bill Clinton-7. It does not give Canadians the ability to elect Senators, but only to elect people who the Prime Minister must consider appointing to the Senate. you get to vote, the PM can choose someone else anyway.

    If only six candidates run for the Senate and six Senate openings come up, the candidate that came in dead last could end up in the Senate.

    Bill C -7 also has a term limit for Senators, one term. You could be the best Senator this country has ever seen or the worst, you still get your one 9 year term. The ability to remove people from elected position by choosing to not re elect them is how we supposedly keep them accountable, there is no such tool in C -7. Just show up enough times a year to maintain your Senator status and you get your cheque and after nine years you’ll get your pension.

    Oh yes, the pensions. Every nine years we will have a new crop of 105 ex Senators who will be eligible for 27% of their Senate wages in pension. We should all be so lucky.

    Keep in mind that Bill C -7 is being brought to you by the same people who thought Mike Duffy would be a good choice for the Senate.

    Some countries require that elected officials swear an oath to defend their Constitution, ours does not. Should we be able to abolish the Senate with a simple act of Parliament? This is the road that the current government may be opening up for the future. Why stop there? We could banish the Monarchy the same way.

  12. What an intriguing turn of events. From day one this file has been Harpers personal favorite and then with all the scandals every pundit and harper hater claimed this would doom him and it’s game over – and now if anything this has given him better cards than he held before! If anyone can actually do soemthing with our Senate it will be harper – which no doubt will drive the haters to new extremes of idiocy as usual!

  13. Canada is rotten to the core and reeks, to high Heaven of corruption. Canada is no longer a Democracy. Canada is a, one man Dictatorship show. If anyone thinks they have any say what goes on in this country? Just you try it.

    The American Police will be forced upon us, whether we like it or not. Communist China will be forced on us too. Nor does it matter, what anyone says of the senate. Dictators rule and control, absolutely everything. Anyone knowing of Harper’s earlier political past, would see and understand Harper’s plots.

    • Jesus, go take your meds.

  14. So now we have what two main parties will do with the senate,
    guidance from the courts or abolish it outright. What is Mr.Wells bestest buddy Justin Trudeau’s (AKA Paris Hilton of Ottawa) thought on the senate……..Blah, Blah, Blah with a mix of the same tired Harper is bad talking and mean points which equals out to nothing more than nothing of a position of substance. My 2 cents, is simple…..let the people decide through a referendum!! Senate, YES or NO….majority wins!!

  15. So now it would appear the Conservatives and the NDP are onside and want it gone, the Liberals want to keep it. Primarily I gather according to Justin, because it benefits Quebec.
    Can’t wait for him to go cross country and defend that in an electin campaign. Especially if Harper puts the question in an accompanying referendum.

    • Why would the Conservatives want to abolish the Senate now that they have a majority in it? In fact, it is in their interest not to abolish it, and reform it so that they continue with their majority for a time (even if they lose the next election), not allowing another party to have a majority in it again, but also to ensure the Senate is no longer able to arbitrarily block bills if they come to power again.

  16. Democracy demands suspicion. The framers of our government understood that fundamental fact. Democracy leaves a door open to unbridled populism and an attendant risk that voters may elect a scoundrel, or worse a team of scoundrels.

    Yes, the notion of an appointed body over-ruling an elected one seems offensive today, but the fact remains that our system has checks and balances of which one is the Senate; it isn’t just a check against a government, but democracy too.

    It isn’t surprising that people these days, so influenced by republicanism inherent in American culture, find the notion disturbing, but the Senate is just what it is supposed to be. The notion of reform or abolition is ridiculous.

    The Senate is supposed to function by a collection of cronies and hacks who are supposed to feel somewhat independent of party politics, or an allegiance to the PM who appointed them. Naturally, one assumes that their thankfulness for the perks and pay maintains their loyalty, but thankfully too, politicians are not moral creatures. They are scoundrels, as they are supposed to be.

    The problem isn’t the Senate. The problem is the unwillingness of politically astute observers and pundits to understand the purpose and role of that great institution. It is doing just what it is supposed to do. Our system of government is dependent on several ironies; this is just one of them.

    The underlying assumption is counter intuitive, but true. Democracy rests on power and the natural tendency for it to corrupt decent people. That insight, written so long ago by Baron John Acton (1834-1902), expressed a widely understood political reality in a letter to Bishop Mandell Chreighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and “Great men are almost always bad men.”

    Today, people consider such an opinion negative or cynical, but Baron Acton was more right than he knew. A democratically elected, majority government can be just as tyrannical and corrupt as the worst of European monarchs who ruled by war, oppression, and privilege. The institution of the Senate brings balance and essential second thought on legislation passed by the Lower House, which steadies Democracy in uncertain times; at least that was the peculiar notion that the framers of our political system imagined when they envisioned it.

  17. Harper is not so anxious for Senate reform and an elected Senate now after he finds out what a problem it can be, even with a Conservative majority! i.e. Hugh Segal and even others Harper himself appointed.
    He is just protecting his rightwing base by making these references, with no answer expected from the Supremes until after the next election. As PM he doesnt want the other house to be able to derail any of his legislation.

  18. I am sure Ottawa will find the least effective most expensive way to fix it. Lots of grown up idiots trying to be ineffective as possible is all I see.

    Why not just be 100% effective and eliminate the senate?

    Watch, they will declare success with changes that will make no difference. Just do as most politicians do, deceive us and tax us more.

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