'The Special Committee for Democratic Improvement' - Macleans.ca

‘The Special Committee for Democratic Improvement’


The NDP has tabled a motion, to be debated tomorrow, that calls for a referendum on abolishing the Senate and a study of proportional representation.

(b) the House call on the government to (i) propose amendments to the Referendum Act in order to allow the holding of a special referendum at the same time as the next general election, (ii) put a simple question, as written by the Special Committee for Democratic Improvement, which would allow Canadians to vote to abolish the Senate;

(c) the House appoint a Special Committee for Democratic Improvement, whose mandate is to (i) engage with Canadians, and make recommendations to the House, on how best to achieve a House of Commons that more accurately reflects the votes of Canadians by combining direct election by electoral district and proportional representation, (ii) advise the government on the wording of a referendum question to abolish the Senate

Full text of the motion is here (scroll down to Business of Supply).


‘The Special Committee for Democratic Improvement’

  1. Yes to abolishing the Senate, no to PR.

    The NDP should have separated the two.

    However this won't go anywhere anyway, so I suppose it doesn't matter.

  2. Two thumbs up!

  3. Yes and Yes! Unfortunately, we all know that this is only symbolic, because neither the Cons nor the Libs could stomach either idea. But still, Yes and Yes!

  4. "… allow the holding of a special referendum … allow Canadians to vote to abolish the Senate …"

    Just like the Conservatives, the NDP ignores the Provinces' and Territories' role in constitutional reform.

  5. Couldn't hurt but won't happen.

  6. Sounds good to me.

  7. I don't see why we need a Special Committee for Democratic Improvement. The position of Minister of State for Democratic Reform has solved all these issues since the position was implemented, right?

  8. PR…..

    The NDP assumes the Liberals would rather form a coalition with them, when in fact, the LIberals and conservatives are much more closely aligned in ideology than the LIberals and NDP.

    The Liberals only play left field under "first past the post"…

    In Proportional rep……even the Liberals know that NDP influence would cause lasting damage.

  9. Perfect NDP response and very well played indeed … a perfect squeeze play and sets the stage for more to come. Here we have Harper on one side clearly after stuffing the Senate as he has and attempting change from the inside to be an elected House with term limits and Jacko on the other side recomending abolishment – and what's left how can the LPT even comment as all they would be seen as more hypocriticial than usual.

  10. In non-proportional rep, you can get 30% of the vote and form a government, or get 16% of the vote and lose party status.
    That's just silly.

  11. I propose an amendment to vote on abolishing the monarchy while we're at it.

  12. The Liberals might be inclined to form a coalition with the NDP and vice-versa, but the NDP are under no illusions that they share philosophies. Layton shares with Harper a desire to destroy the Liberals in order to replace them. You might have noticed that while he votes against the government, he attacks the Liberals every chance he gets.

  13. Since when is pointing out we have a constitution and provinces to consider, hypocritical?

  14. I'd rather have the NDP give a firm commitment toward supporting proportional representation–not just committing to a study. This proposal is not good enough for me.

  15. To be fair, did the NDP ever actually claim that the vote would lead to the abolition of the Senate? Maybe they just mean the vote to be cathartic. They're only saying that their motion would allow Canadians to vote to abolish the Senate, which it would.

    The fact that said vote would have no legal impact on the potential abolition of the Senate is a separate question entirely.


  16. The NDP can recommend abolition until the cows come home. They can even hold referendum after referendum on the subject.

    What good does any of that do us if we're just ignoring all the things that would need to be done to ACTUALLY ABOLISH THE SENATE???

    Being in favour of abolishing the Senate is great, but the next thing I'd like to see is a plan that deals with actually doing something about it.

  17. Shouldn't what they have labeled as points "b, c and d" actually be ordered "c, d, and b"? Why does their bullet point establishing the Committee come AFTER their bullet point giving the committee its first assignment?

    Also, do the NDP further intend to establish a committee to write the wording of a referendum question to allow Canadians to finally vote on saving unicorns from the horrors of the annual unicorn hunt? 'Cause such a referendum would be as constitutionally relevant to the question at hand as this one is!

  18. As long as we're holding referendums on things that can't be changed by referendum, I have a long list of questions I'd like to ask Canadians!

  19. I agree, but some might define "hurt" more loosely than you or I.

    After all, other than catharsis, what's the point on spending money on a referendum, the results of which are constitutionally moot anyway? A referendum on whether or not we should invade Alpha Centuri "wouldn't hurt" either, but I can see a logical argument against wasting money on it.

  20. It's actually only symbolic for another reason too.

  21. Quebec can't separate by referendum either, but that hasn't stopped them. What would you like to change? I'd like the provinces to give up all the territory they didn't have when they joined confederation. More smaller provinces would create a stronger country, but then I'm a centralist.

  22. Quebec can't separate by referendum either, but that hasn't stopped them.

    No, but Quebec's National Assembly can negotiate separation with the federal government and other provinces, and they can hold a referendum to decide whether they're going to.

    A referendum to abolish the Senate could be pointful, but only if the provinces and feds were prepared to listen to its results and amend the constitution accordingly. Which is not likely.

  23. Exactly. At least vis-avis separation a referendum is a necessary part of the process towards separation, even if it's not wholly sufficient. Holding a referendum on abolishing the Senate is not only insufficient on its own, it's not even a part of the amendment process at all.

  24. Got a better idea for getting the ball rolling? Ah forget it, the only people who could actually do something about it won't. As an aside though, I liked David Lewis's idea off voting to reduce the Senators' pay to a nominal $1 per year.

  25. I dunno. If a clearly worded referendum (Do you think the Canadian Senate should be abolished?) came back with a strong majority voting "yes", it would get a political ball rolling. It doesn't need to lay out all of the constitutional hurdles in the way of abolishment, nor explain all of the legal pitfalls that could stand in the way. It doesn't need to be as insanely complicated (and divisive) as the Charlottetown Accord referendum, for example. It also doesn't need to be legally binding to be important (assuming a strong majority of voters wants the trough removed, of course). It could set the mood, forcing the hand of the parties that traditionally line the trough.

    I do think that this is pure political maneuvering by Layton, and that it won't actually lead to meaningful or progressive change. That doesn't mean I don't like the idea, in principle, even though I know this particular motion won't get us anywhere.

  26. MostlyCivil noted:
    "In non-proportional rep, you can get 30% of the vote and form a government, or get 16% of the vote and lose party status. That's just silly. "

    No, a little unfair perhaps, but not silly. If we used PR, we'd get the same crap they get in Italy…..elections every few years, and so many fringe parties you can't get any work done.