Topp on democratic reform

by Aaron Wherry

Brian Topp’s latest policy paper covers democratic and parliamentary reform, including a move to mixed-member proportional representation, limits on the prime minister’s ability to prorogue Parliament and the Senate.

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.




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Topp on democratic reform

  1. Amazing.  For once Topp made sense, then he had to pour stupid over everything by treating senate reform like a childish game which won’t be pursued if the Senate “plays nice”.  
    The Senate should be abolished, that’s a slam dunk.  We’ve got 2 premiers from large provinces aboard, we only need 5 more, and they can be influenced.  No federal money for any province which would hold the Canadian people captive in a profoundly undemocratic political structure.

    • You’re right, because not having all provinces on board for
      the first time around worked so well for us …

    • Hardly a slam dunk. I had a rather large posting on how there’s absolutely no sense to removing the senate here but it seems Maclean’s has closed comments over there. (Why closing comments means none of the old ones can be viewed, I have no clue).

      So.. lemme see if I can find it again in my history and I’ll repost:

      Ah. Here we are:

      I can think of only three possible reasons: 
      1. It’s not democratic,
      2. The cost involved, and
      3. The cronyism of it.

      All of these reasons can be rebutted, however.

      To the non-democratic nature of it, I will again point out judges who interpret the law, and police, who enforce the law, have far more affect on the lives of everyday citizens than senators — who can only refuse the law or force the house to re-examine it — yet nobody is saying their appointments should be more democratic.  The senate is no different.. it’s a non-democratic institution that acts as a check and balance on our democracy which, let’s face it, has done some pretty stupid things throughout history — slavery, eugenics, racism, sexism, etc.  And while it obviously doesn’t catch everything stupid coming through, it’s non-democratic nature means that the senate does not have to bend to the often fleeting and fickle winds of public sentiment. (such as the over-reaction immediately after 9/11)

      To the cost involved, I’ll merely point out that parliamentarians are often not experts at drafting legislation, with the most egregious example being the crime bill, which the safety minister himself tried to amend after the bill had already been closed off, with those amendments already being proposed in committee and rejected because of our democratically elected house representatives. The senate, especially in it’s current incarnation of being a position for life, allows these people to gain the necessary experience to deal with legislation, and to understand far better how to craft intent into law.  I’d be willing to suggest that rather than costing us money, I would not be surprised if these guys end up saving us money by keeping the government from having to deal with costly law-suits enabled through bad legislation.

      As to the cronyism, I suggest that this is a feature, not a bug.  The House of Commons acts as a reflection of the will of the Canadians at that time.  The senate, however, serves as a reflection of the will of Canadians throughout the last few generations, with each individual appointment reflecting who we chose as leader at the time.  Those chosen to be senators serve as both our conscience and our penance for the House that we elected.

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