Unelected representative democracy

Dale Smith sings the praises of the Governor General, then goes ahead and makes a case for the Senate.

Our political life is richer for having someone like Michaëlle Jean in it. It’s the same for the makeup of the Senate – we have a far more diverse, representative slice of Canadian society in the Upper Chamber because of its particular makeup than we do in the Commons because as it stands, our electoral politics still self-selects toward the model of the authoritative straight white middle-aged man. But rather than denigrate it like many Canadians do, we need to embrace it for what it offers us, and the way that it can help us to connect to our political culture.




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Unelected representative democracy

  1. Quick question:

    at what point was the decision made at Macleans blog, to approach almost any issue entirely from a purely leftist/progressive prospective, and in a manner that not only ignores views from other side of the political spectrum, but shows complete contempt for them?

    As far as I can tell, the above applies to almost every blogger here, the difference being only one of degree.

      • 59% turnout. TAKE THAT ELECTIONS CANADA!

    • Um, the NDP wants to abolish the Senate, and this quote is about how great the Senate is. Are you saying the NDP isn't leftist/progressive?

      • I can't believe you responded to biff's question with "facts" and "logic". You're just playing in to his paranoia!

        Facts and logic each have a well know liberal bias.

    • Probably around the same time conservatives made the decision to become tiresome boors.

      • diversity isn't a virtue. It's a noun, not a verb.

        • well you seem to arguing it on a technical level, but I (unimportant) and others (more important) would disagree as evidenced by common usage. for exampled a specific '"diversity is a virtue"' google search nets like almost 2K hits, even for a specific clause. and while most are in the positive, even your fellow regressives (given y'all are objecting to the overly progressiveness of this place) allow for the technical possibility that is a virtue: the specific '"diversity is not a virtue"' google search generates about 400 hits, most referring to “Diversity is Not a Virtue.” Wall Street Journal, (25 November 1994: a8) by Mark Helprin.

          also see other nouns pulling double duty as virtues here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue

    • I don't think Dale Smith is a Macleans blogger dude. Wherry is just linking to a point of view we may not have seen.

      And anyway, if this is an argument for the Senate or GG it's pretty lame. "We should keep them because they're more likely to be female and non-white than the ones the public selects to rule". Great. Forget competence, let's just select rulers based on skin colour and gender.

      • Perhaps part of the problem is that you see them as rulers, and not as people who are specializing in public policy development.

        • Since government by definition governs, and the top ranks of government are the Members of Parliament and the Senate, it follows that Senators are rulers.

          So yes, I view them as rulers who are neither elected nor specialists in anything but political patronage.

          Now, if they were appointed for their expertise in public policy that might be different, but they aren't. It's a sinecure.

        • Since government by definition governs, and the top ranks of government are the Members of Parliament and the Senate, it follows that Senators are rulers.

          So yes, I view them as rulers who are neither elected nor specialists in anything but political patronage.

          Now, if they were appointed for their expertise in public policy that might be different, but they aren't. It's a sinecure. Furthermore if they were appointed for expertise of any kind then skin colour and gender would be irrelevant. Unless, of course, you believe that wise non-white females, with the richness of their experience, are more likely to make good decisions than wise white males.

        • Since government by definition governs, and the top ranks of government are the Members of Parliament and the Senate, it follows that Senators are rulers.

          So yes, I view them as rulers who are neither elected nor specialists in anything but political patronage.

          Now, if they were appointed for their expertise in public policy that might be different, but they aren't. It's a sinecure. Furthermore if they were appointed for expertise of any kind then skin colour and gender would be irrelevant. Unless, of course, you believe that wise non-white females, with the richness of their experience, are more likely to arrive at good decisions than wise white males.

        • Since government by definition governs, and the top ranks of government are the Members of Parliament and the Senate, it follows that Senators are rulers.

          So yes, I view them as rulers who are neither elected nor specialists in anything but political patronage.

          Now, if they were appointed for their expertise in public policy that might be different, but they aren't. It's a sinecure. Furthermore if they were (hypothetically) appointed for expertise of any kind then skin colour and gender would be irrelevant. Unless, of course, you believe that wise non-white females, with the richness of their experience, are more likely to make good decisions than wise white males.

          • I certainly believe they are likely to bring experience to the table that their white male counterparts are unlikely to have. This is why we have a table, and why diversity is important, so that all aspects of the Canadian experience, not just the white male ones, can be accounted for in developing policy that governs all Canadians.

            Incidentally, you may want to learn the difference between governance and rulership.

          • I certainly believe they are likely to bring experience to the table that their white male counterparts are unlikely to have. This is why we have a table, and why diversity is important, so that all aspects of the Canadian experience, not just the white heterosexual male ones, can be accounted for in developing policy that governs all Canadians.

            Incidentally, you may want to learn the difference between governance and rulership.

          • Everyone has different experience to bring to the table. Their skin colour does not change this fact. In any case, the Senate is a sinecure rather than a body of people appointed for their experience or expertise.

            As to the "difference between governance and rulership" I point you to exhibit A, the primary definition of "govern":
            "gov⋅ern  [guhv-ern]
            –verb (used with object)
            1.to rule over by right of authority: to govern a nation.

            If there's another one that you think we're using, please provide it. Otherwise cut the snark.

          • Everyone has different experience to bring to the table. Their skin colour does not change this fact. In any case, the Senate is a sinecure rather than a body of people appointed for their experience or expertise.

            As to the "difference between governance and rulership" I point you to exhibit A:
            "gov⋅ern  [guhv-ern]
            –verb (used with object)
            1.to rule over by right of authority: to govern a nation.

            If there's another one that you think we're using, please provide it. Otherwise cut the snark.

          • Everyone has different experience to bring to the table. Their skin colour does not change this fact, nor does it diminish the worth of their experience compared to someone else's. In any case, the Senate is a sinecure rather than a body of people appointed for their experience or expertise.

            As to the "difference between governance and rulership" I point you to exhibit A:
            "gov⋅ern  [guhv-ern]
            –verb (used with object)
            1.to rule over by right of authority: to govern a nation.

            If there's another definition that you think we're using, please provide it. Otherwise cut the snark.

          • Of course everyone has different individual experiences, but since we can't have everyone at the table, it makes sense to try and assure that we get the broadest range of experiences in the people we have. I would submit that people of the same gender, class, and race are far more likely to have a commonality of experience which is different from that of those of a different gender, class, or race. We may not like it, but that is the way that it is in reality. As such, it makes sense to have representatives from these commonalities all present.

            As for governance, let's look at the definition that Canada uses: "Governance is exercising authority to provide direction and to undertake, coordinate, and regulate activities in support of achieving this direction and desired outcomes." http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/fmi-cgi/foundation-fonde… (I like to cite my references so people know I'm not just making crap up).

            The key words you need to be aware of here are "in support of". Governance is the act of setting policy or direction in support of something. Rulership is the act of causing something to be done. The difference is subtle, I'll admit, but it is a huge difference. To suggest that you or I are "ruled" by the senate or GG is quite obviously a lie — if only because none of them have the power to do anything to you without the will of Parliament, who we elect. The best they can do is act "in support of" certain things.. ie.. not rule.. govern.

          • Of course everyone has different individual experiences, but since we can't have everyone at the table, it makes sense to try and assure that we get the broadest range of experiences in the people we have. I would submit that people of the same gender, class, and race are far more likely to have a commonality of experience which is different from that of those of a different gender, class, or race. We may not like it, but that is the way that it is in reality. As such, it makes sense to have representatives from each of these commonalities (or at least as many as possible in proportion to the general population) all present.

            As for governance, let's look at the definition that Canada uses: "Governance is exercising authority to provide direction and to undertake, coordinate, and regulate activities in support of achieving this direction and desired outcomes." <a href="http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/fmi-cgi/foundation-fonde…” target=”_blank”>http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/fmi-cgi/foundation-fonde… (I like to cite my references so people know I'm not just making crap up).

            The key words you need to be aware of here are "in support of". Governance is the act of setting policy or direction in support of something. Rulership is the act of causing something to be done. The difference is subtle, I'll admit, but it is a huge difference. To suggest that you or I are "ruled" by the senate or GG is quite obviously a lie — if only because none of them have the power to do anything to you without the will of Parliament, who we elect. The best they can do is act "in support of" certain things.. ie.. not rule.. govern.

          • Of course everyone has different individual experiences, but since we can't have everyone at the table, it makes sense to try and assure that we get the broadest range of experiences in the people we have. I would submit that people of the same gender, class, and race are far more likely to have a commonality of experience which is different from that of those of a different gender, class, or race. We may not like it, but that is the way that it is in reality. As such, it makes sense to have representatives from each of these commonalities (or at least as many as possible) all present.

            As for governance, let's look at the definition that Canada uses: "Governance is exercising authority to provide direction and to undertake, coordinate, and regulate activities in support of achieving this direction and desired outcomes." <a href="http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/fmi-cgi/foundation-fonde…” target=”_blank”>http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/fmi-cgi/foundation-fonde… (I like to cite my references so people know I'm not just making crap up).

            The key words you need to be aware of here are "in support of". Governance is the act of setting policy or direction in support of something. Rulership is the act of causing something to be done. The difference is subtle, I'll admit, but it is a huge difference. To suggest that you or I are "ruled" by the senate or GG is quite obviously a lie — if only because none of them have the power to do anything to you without the will of Parliament, who we elect. The best they can do is act "in support of" certain things.. ie.. not rule.. govern.

          • Oddly enough, the Parliament can't do anything to you without the will of the Senate, whom we don't elect. And neither of them can do anything to you without the support of the police force. Nonetheless the Parliament and the Senate do rule the country. Or govern the country if you prefer. They don't just provide direction, they send the police to your home if you disobey their dictates. That is rulership, and in the case of the Senate it's unelected and largely incompetent rulership.

            As to links, it doesn't help us verify that you're "not just making crap up" when the link doesn't lead to the definition you quote. Mine came from dictionary.com, since I take dictionaries as the authoritative guide on language rather than government.

          • Oddly enough, the Parliament also can't do anything to you without the will of the Senate, whom we don't elect. And neither of them can do anything to you without the support of the police force. Nonetheless the Parliament and the Senate do rule the country. Or govern the country if you prefer. They don't just provide direction, they send the police to your home if you disobey their dictates. That is rulership, and in the case of the Senate it's unelected and largely incompetent rulership.

            As to links, it doesn't help us verify that you're "not just making crap up" when the link doesn't lead to the definition you quote. Mine came from dictionary.com, since I take dictionaries as the authoritative guide on language rather than government.

          • Oddly enough, the Parliament also can't do anything to you without the will of the Senate, whom we don't elect. And neither of them can do anything to you without the support of the police force. Nonetheless the Parliament and the Senate do rule the country. Or govern the country if you prefer. They don't just provide direction, they send the police to drag you from your home if you disobey their dictates. That is rulership, and in the case of the Senate it's unelected and largely incompetent rulership.

            As to citing references, it doesn't help us verify that you're "not just making crap up" when the link doesn't lead to the definition you quote. Mine came from dictionary.com, since I take dictionaries rather than government as the authoritative guide on language. Nine times out of ten the government doesn't know what the hell it's talking about.

          • Oddly enough, the Parliament also can't do anything to you without the will of the Senate, whom we don't elect. And neither of them can do anything to you without the support of the police force. Nonetheless the Parliament and the Senate do rule the country. Or govern the country if you prefer. They don't just provide direction, they send the police to drag you from your home if you disobey their dictates. That is rulership, and in the case of the Senate it's unelected and largely incompetent rulership.

            As to links, it doesn't help us verify that you're "not just making crap up" when the link doesn't lead to the definition you quote. Mine came from dictionary.com, since I take dictionaries rather than government as the authoritative guide on language. Nine times out of ten the government doesn't know what the hell it's talking about.

          • Oddly enough, the Parliament also can't do anything to you without the will of the Senate, whom we don't elect. And neither of them can do anything to you without the support of the police force. Nonetheless the Parliament and the Senate do rule the country. Or govern the country if you prefer. They don't just provide direction, they send the police to drag you from your home if you disobey their dictates. That is rulership, and in the case of the Senate it's unelected and largely incompetent rulership.

            As to citing references, it doesn't help us verify that you're "not just making crap up" when the link doesn't lead to the definition you quote. Mine came from dictionary.com, since I take dictionaries rather than government as the authoritative guide on language. Nine times out of ten the government doesn't know what the hell it's talking about.

          • Oddly enough, the Parliament also can't do anything to you without the will of the Senate, whom we don't elect. And neither of them can do anything to you without the support of the police force. Nonetheless the Parliament and the Senate do rule the country. Or govern the country if you prefer. They don't just provide direction, they send the police to drag you from your home if you disobey their dictates. That is rulership, and in the case of the Senate it's unelected and largely incompetent rulership.

            As to citing references, it doesn't help us verify that you're "not just making crap up" when the link doesn't lead to the definition you quote. Mine came from dictionary.com. Hardly the final authority on the English language but definitely a better one than the government. Nine times out of ten, government twits don't know what the hell they're talking about.

          • Everyone has different experience to bring to the table. Their skin colour does not change this fact, nor does it diminish the worth of their experience compared to someone else's. In any case, the Senate is a sinecure rather than a body of people appointed for their experience or expertise.

            As to the "difference between governance and rulership" I point you to exhibit A:
            "gov⋅ern  [guhv-ern]
            –verb (used with object)
            1.to rule over by right of authority: to govern a nation.

            If there's another one that you think we're using, please provide it. Otherwise cut the snark.

    • At what point did senate reform become an ideological issue? I know it's a partisan issue. I know it's Reform Party populist boilerplate, and that the former Reform Party is now the backbone of the Conservative Party. But those are all just, you know, parties. I don't think other democracies have enjoyed similar right-wing upper-house reform movements. In fact, in some countries it is "leftists" who oppose Senate reform.

      • Partisanship is the new ideology. Don't you get that? "My view right or wrong" is the mantra.

        So stop confusing poor Biff.

      • Whenever a government body is formed from political cronies with few genuine qualifications, it becomes an ideological issue as to whether said body should be supported and obeyed by the citizenry.

        Silly, I know. But there you have it: there are people out there who don't like the idea of handing authority to someone who is less competent and more expensive than we are without at least having a say in the selection process.

      • Whenever a government body is formed from political cronies with few genuine qualifications, it becomes an ideological issue as to whether said body should be supported and obeyed by the citizenry.

        Silly, I know, but there are people out there who don't like the idea of handing authority to someone who is less competent and more expensive than we are without at least having a say in the selection process.

  2. That would be a nice idea…

    If, together, they didn't cost us $110 million dollars, I would probably agree.

    • $3 each to have somebody read the laws before they're enacted seems pretty cheap to me.

      • On a per-capita basis, the Senate is definitely cheap. Elections are cheap, too. $10 each, for a free and fair election? That's one hell of a good deal.

      • Now if only the House would listen to them sometimes when the Senate tells them what's actually written in some of the laws they passed!

      • I'd rather have the $3.

        Furthermore, I live in Toronto, so I need to save every penny I can because most of my future income has already been earmarked for ensuring that garbagemen can continue to live upper-middle class lives.

  3. Quick question to Biff:

    Since when is support for traditional institutions of our country a "leftist/progressive prospective" rather than a conservative one?

    • Since Conservatives stopped being conservative.

  4. Lorraine and others denying the premise:

    take a gander at the link.

    As a blogging conservative, I am almost always at odds with the premise of the posts here (as well as the supportive commenters).

    This is not a spurious correlation. The proof is in the pudding. A post goes up. Liberal/progressives rally to defend it, while a few conservatives who disagree with it are challenged by the collective of progressive commenters (and occaisionally the blog host).

    It's happening real time, right now.

    While I disagree with Mr. Mclelland on most political subjects, I appreciate his straight forward candour here.

    • that exactly captures what happens every time andrew coyne posts

    • Since when did "progressive" become a word with negative connotations?

      —–
      pro·gres·sive (prə-grĕs'ĭv)

      adj.

      1. Moving forward; advancing.
      2. Proceeding in steps; continuing steadily by increments: progressive change.
      3. Promoting or favoring progress toward better conditions or new policies, ideas, or methods: a progressive politician; progressive business leadership.
      4. Progressive Of or relating to a Progressive Party: the Progressive platform of 1924.
      5. Of or relating to progressive education: a progressive school.
      6. Increasing in rate as the taxable amount increases: a progressive income tax.
      7. Pathology. Tending to become more severe or wider in scope: progressive paralysis.
      8. Grammar. Designating a verb form that expresses an action or condition in progress.

      n.

      1. A person who actively favors or strives for progress toward better conditions, as in society or government.
      2. Progressive A member or supporter of a Progressive Party.
      3. Grammar. A progressive verb form.
      —–

      Seems like a compliment to me.

      • Since when did "progressive" become a word with negative connotations?

        When progressives started using it to denote their sense of superiority.

      • Since when did "progressive" become a word with negative connotations?

        When "progressives" started using it to denote themselves and their holier-than-thou sense of superiority.

        • That pretty well nails it, left/lib commenters take note.

        • That's about right. It's when a certain group of people hijacked the word to denote their policies, which are "regressive", by any sensible interpreter, because they attempt to apply an ideology that has long been discredited by empirical evidence.

  5. I am almost always at odds with the premise of the posts here

    Maybe the problem is YOU. (lol, j/k)

  6. If I am not mistaken elections in a democracy are a recent invention are they not – I seem to recall something about that Greece place and where the citizens were chosen by lottery and had to serve for a fixed term and then did their duty and went home – no re-elections no pensions a few perks though but the focus was on that illusive creature – civic duty and the like then again I might be wrong.

    • That's called a republic, as is any system where rulers are chosen (via vote or lottery or whatever) and then entrusted with authority to make decisions on behalf of everyone else. In ancient Greece a strict democracy was a society in which all decisions were voted on.

      Technically our system is a Constitutional Monarchy, operating via Parliamentary Democracy. In practical terms we operate like a republic, and increasingly like a strict democracy as candidates begin to run more on their intended course of action than on their personal qualifications to be leaders.

  7. Both the House of Commons and Senate would be more representative of the people if we had some form of proportional representation in each.

    The members of the House of Commons as a whole do not effectively represent me culturally or politically.

    The members of the Senate do not represent me because not one is elected by some form of proportional representation. In fact, not one is elected. It doesn't matter if they look like Canadians culturally. They do not represent me.

    BOYCOTT THE NEXT HOUSE OF COMMONS ELECTION until its members are elected by the citizens through some form of proportional representation!

    BOYCOTT ALL PROVINCIAL AND TERRITORIAL ELECTIONS!

    BOYCOTT ALL MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS!

    Canada needs proportional represention. At the rate we are going, Iran and China will become more democratic than Canada.

    BTW: the governor-general doesn't represent Canadians; she represents the queen. I didn't choose the GG or the queen.

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