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Why the Senate should be abolished

In the face of patronage, scandal and futility, getting rid of the Senate is a better option than doing nothing at all


 

Let’s begin with a trivia question for constitutional experts: name all the federal states worldwide with a single, or unicameral, legislature.

It’s commonly held that federations—countries marked by overlapping powers of national and provincial or state governments—must have upper and lower houses in their legislatures to ensure effective regional representation and prevent power imbalances. And yet some federal states manage to govern without a second legislative body.

The answer to our question? United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Micronesia, the Comoros Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis. Oh, and don’t forget Canada.

Canada does have a Senate, of course. And yet this is a distinction in name only. On a daily basis evidence piles up that reveals our upper house to be neither useful nor necessary. An incessant string of scandals and disgraceful conduct by senators has turned the red chamber into a national embarrassment. Its functionality has been eroded to nothing with little prospect for change, despite claims from the Harper government to champion Senate reform.

While the Senate may have been a good—perhaps even critical—idea during the founding of Canada, today it serves no real purpose other than to bring itself into disrepute. From a practical perspective, Canada already has a unicameral legislature. Why not make it official?

During the Quebec Conference of 1864, which set out the future structure of Canada’s political system, John A. MacDonald, then attorney general and not yet a Sir, observed, “In order to protect local interest, and to prevent sectional jealousies, [Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes] should be represented in the Upper House on the principle of equality.” In fact, the shape and power of the Senate was one of the main topics of consideration at Quebec City, occupying six of 14 days.

It now seems ludicrous to imagine the Senate should take up even an hour of serious discussion. Rather than a place for sober second thought or regional balance, the upper chamber has become a repository of political cronies, former media personalities and many other depressingly unserious characters.

Consider the legal troubles of Patrick Brazeau, recently charged with assault and sexual assault. Or the sad affair of recently resigned senator Joyce Fairbairn, declared legally incompetent as she dealt with Alzheimer’s disease but still allowed to vote. Or the ongoing residency and travel expense scandal in which various high-profile senators have had trouble identifying where they lived. Or the fraud conviction of former senator Raymond Lavigne. Or, or, or . . .

Of course the Senate has long had a reputation for cronyism. And it’s no stranger to impropriety. Witness the Beauharnois scandal during the 1930s, in which two Liberal senators personally benefited from the government’s construction of a hydro dam on the St. Lawrence River. Lately, however, the pace of scandal has picked up at the same time as the Senate has found itself with even less do to.

The dramatic centralization of power in Ottawa into the hands of the Prime Minister’s Office means the Senate can no longer play any significant role in the mechanics of Canada’s political system. Where it was once conceived as a forum for providing scrutiny and financial oversight of government business, the rise of public watchdogs such as the auditor general and the Parliamentary Budget Office has entirely supplanted this role. And the Senate’s lack of democratic legitimacy prevents it from pushing back against government initiatives in the name of regional fairness.

Added to all this is the popular perception, fuelled by the current expenses scandal, that senators seem to work their hardest when maximizing their take from the public purse; finding new and inventive ways to claim travel and living costs or otherwise skirting the rules.

Such a situation is troublingly ironic, given that Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power in 2006 promising to make the Senate relevant and respectable again by ending political appointments and implementing a process to elect new senators.

Unfortunately, and despite the appointment of two elected senators from Alberta, Harper appears to have been seduced, as were all his predecessors, by the prospect of using the Senate to reward friends and consolidate his own political power. Where he once derided the Senate as a “dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister” Harper has thus far made senators out of a passel of failed Conservative candidates, several major party donors, his former communications adviser and various others who appear out of their depth, such as Brazeau and former newsman Mike Duffy.

Harper’s Senate Reform Act, introduced in 2011, proposed to appoint senators elected through provincial elections and limit terms to a non-renewable nine years. Both are sensible suggestions that would go a long way to repairing the Senate. Yet it was only last month, with the Senate rocked by a string of scandals, that Harper went to the trouble of asking the Supreme Court for an opinion on the obvious constitutional problems associated with his proposed changes. As Maclean’s Ottawa Editor John Geddes’s lengthy investigation into the practicality of Senate reform makes plain (see “ ‘Contempt for the whole institution,’ ”), Harper’s reforms will likely require the approval of seven provinces comprising at least half of Canada’s population. It’s a stiff requirement.

It is already the case, however, that provinces other than Alberta, notably New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, have already passed or are in the process of considering Senate election legislation. Nonetheless Harper continues to grind out appointed senators in these provinces rather than encouraging elections by offering to cover the costs. Two months ago, for example, Harper named Denise Batters, wife of deceased Conservative MP David Batters, as Saskatchewan’s newest senator. Adding a further dash of irony, Batters was chief of staff to the provincial justice minister when Saskatchewan’s Senate election bill was passed.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that Harper’s passion for Senate reform has been severely compromised by his seven years in power. This makes intuitive, if disappointing, sense. Regardless of any expressions of idealism when in opposition, what sitting prime minister would want to create a truly equal, elected and effective Senate that would have as its main purpose to counterbalance or limit his own powers? From this perspective, Senate reform may simply be an outsider’s preoccupation, doomed to be abandoned once power is achieved. If so, then real, constructive Senate reform is not just a remote prospect, but an absolute impossibility. Is there a way out of this trap of hypocrisy?

It’s worth noting that Harper’s court reference also puts forth the option of abolishing the Senate altogether. The Supreme Court has been asked to consider three possible methods of achieving this: inserting an end date, eliminating all mention of it from the Constitution or simply taking away its powers. It’s a strategy worth a serious look.

On paper, abolition appears as constitutionally difficult as reform. But at least it holds the promise of being attractive to the ruling party, since it does not entail any loss of political power. As such, it exists within the realm of possibility. And given the ongoing legacy of patronage, scandal and futility, getting rid of the Senate looks to be a better option than doing nothing at all.


 

Why the Senate should be abolished

  1. All these articles on abolishing the senate are a waste of time.

    There is absolutely NO WAY that either Ontario or Quebec will agree to this, which means it is dead in the water.

    Honestly, can we discuss something relevant for a change?

    • I must admit i’m starting to be seduced by the abolish it argument. Why is it that those two provinces in particular would say no? I don’t see any advantage that accrues to either of them. After all the senate has no legitimacy in electoral terms.

      • I’m obviously pro-senate–though I want it appointed meritoriously–but still, I think there are some really simple reasons that neither abolishment nor democratic enhancement will happen.

        While indirect and weak, the senate still represents a regional safe-guard of Ontario and Quebec’s interests at the federal level, one in which they have the bulk of the representation.

        Still, it makes sense that they don’t want it equal to their influence, ie they don’t want it elected.

        It also makes sense why they would never want it to be “equal” regionally ie. equal seats for each province dilutes their own region’s influence.

        I don’t know KCM, seems to me its pretty simple political calculus from the perspective of the premiers of Ontario and Quebec.

        The only thing that would sway them I’ll bet is massive overwhelming demand from their populations, but given the split between those in favour of abolishment (ie the ultimate weakening) VS those in favour of an elected senate (ie. the ultimate empowering) I think it’s pretty unlikely.

        Besides, people have more important issues they’re concerned about, and senate renewal is probably at the bottom of that list.

        • should be at the top of the list? Why, 100million $ plus a year and counting, that’s why

          • I agree. The senate is a colossal waste of taxpayer money. More like $300M/yr down the drain. In this era of government cut backs and declining job prospects, it is an appalling abuse to dole out $132,000/yr to partisan hacks and cronies. Time to give these fat cats their pink slips and stop the gravy train once and for all.

        • Senators do not represent regional interests. They represent the prime minister who appointed them. How exactly does The Duff represent PEI? The province doesn’t even believe he lives there!

        • What is it about the Senate that makes every reformer-at-heart believe ‘we can fix that!’ Trust me, you’ll die trying. Or make it even worse. Meanwhile the gravy train just keeps on rolling.

        • 1. All they do is sign the bills that are passed in the lower house.
          2. They almost never veto bills and nor should they have the power to since the senate is not democratically elected.

          They should be abolished to save money.

          • They did veto a bill that was passed by the elected house, without debate: Bill C311, Climate Action.

      • Neither province has the smarts to know any better.

    • Yes, one can make a false statement true by simply EMPHASIZING PART OF IT in capital letters…

  2. By similar reasoning, as power concentrates around the PM & cabinet, and omnibus budget legislation, prorogation & other tactics make the House of Commons increasingly powerless & irrelevant… shouldn’t we just abolish both chambers and resign ourselves from the democratic process entirely? Or perhaps, rather than abolishing the senate because it is terrible, why not recognize what it could contribute to our system, and reform it so it is good?

    • Good luck with that. Once there snout is in the money trough, there is no way they will back away from it.

    • This argument is silly. The senate is not a democratic institution. It is comprised of corrupt partisan appointments. There is no way to reform it so it is good. A triple-E senate (elected, equal and effective) would cause unnecessary gridlock; seat distribution is absurd and unchangeable. Any reform of the appointment process would create ineffective politicians who don’t represent voters and have no authority to accomplish anything.

      The best system of “second sober thought” is what we already have: Commons committees. They are comprised of elected representatives who are accountable to voters.

      The best way to prevent abuses from minority parties with unfettered power is with simple electoral reform: Preferential Voting. This merely requires that MPs earn their seats with a majority of the vote. That will prevent all the power from being concentrated at the top.

      • Of course the senate is a democratic institution: its members are appointed by an elected representative. Its as democratic as the cabinet. Arguably this is a tenuous & indirect sort of democracy, but it remains a democratic institution & as such it’s worthy of reform.

        I also don’t think empowering an improved senate would necessarily lead to insurmountable grid-lock. Obviously we could think of means to resolve differing views in parliament, and developing a way to do that might be a better alternative than just canceling out the alternative view all together.
        There are plenty of ways to organize an effective bicameral parliament.

        Last but not least, you said the best way to prevent abuses from minority parties is with the implementation of preferential voting. Electoral reform could be an improvement for voter choice, but it won’t do much for abuses of power. Perhaps the best way to prevent abuses of power is to reverse the trend in which the PM/Cabinet’s scope of influence is perpetually expanding. Perhaps it should not be within the PM’s power to increase the scope of his power.

        How about watch-dogs that are not subordinate to the offices they are supposed to be overseeing, as the PBO is?
        Or what if the advertising budget was managed by a non-partisan group, rather than being a convenient source of advance campaign-funding for the current government (see action-plan adverts)?
        Or perhaps actual restrictions on omnibus budgets, and politically convenient prorogations & early elections?

        Perhaps an alternative method (by civil jury rather than the all powerful PM) of selecting non-elected representatives would lead to reduced cronyism, incompetence, corruption & the like?

        The senate could be useful if Canadians would be willing to demand more of it, and simply abolishing it and introducing a preferential vote isn’t going to do much to remedy the many democratic deficiencies present in our system of government. Much more could be accomplished with reform, and not just in the senate.

        • PV stops minority parties from getting absolute corrupt power. That stops all the power from being concentrated at the top because political parties will have to work together to bring in legislation. In minority situations, Commons committees will be able to give legislation proper scrutiny and stop omnibus bills and other abuses. This is because a minority party will not have the power to interfere with their efforts.

          • No, it doesn’t — as I have explained in detail above. It only creates a dangerous *illusion* of majority support by corralling the unwilling votes of those who actually prefer some other party.

          • You are mistaken. In our system of democracy there are 308 elections on election night. People vote for a person to represent them who is associated with a party. FPTP doles out the seat to the leading candidate. This is a slipshod system because the leading candidate may not represent a majority. (Democracy means rule by the people; since the people are divided on how this rule should be accomplished, things are decided by a majority.)

            So Preferential Voting, which is the system all federal parties use to elect their leaders, ensures representatives are elected with a majority and therefore have the right to represent their constituents.

            To say MPs would not be elected democratically under PV is the same as saying party leaders are not elected democratically. That is obviously not the case. The reason there is exhaustive ballot voting or preferential voting (which is instant exhaustive ballot,) is because all voters’ first choices usually don’t decide the issue. (The leading candidate doesn’t get a majority on the first round.) Therefore the only way to ensure the leader/MP has the support of a majority is to factor in voters’ alternative choices.

            So there is no dangerous illusion of democracy. PV is a standard method of ensuring democracy.

            Granted PV is unfair to fringe parties whose small percentage of votes is spread out across the nation, leading to few seats. But it still allows Green voters to vote Green without worrying about vote splitting (the Green vote dropped from as high as 10% in the polls to 3.8% on election night in 2011 because Green voters were afraid vote-splitting would cause an anti-Green majority. PV would eliminate that problem.)

            The NDP would be a viable alternative to the Liberals under PV. Under FPTP, many people don’t want to waste their vote on the “losing” party, so they vote for the major party. Under PV, there is little difference to the voter if they choose 1) NDP, 2) Liberal (or vice versa); but collectively these choices can lead to the NDP pulling ahead of the Liberals if voters are more impressed with their platform.

            So in short, PV is a giant leap forward for democracy in Canada by making our existing system democratic. I believe PR is superior, but we need a majority of Canadians to get on board or else it’s worthless. Trying to torpedo PV as a lame strategy to weasel in PR is a dangerous gamble with Canada’s future given the neo-Cons are poised to become Canada’s new natural governing party. The safest bet is to legislate PV first; then build support for a winnable PR/PV referendum, cutting corrupt and undemocratic FPTP out of the picture.

      • On the surface, if you don’t stop to think about the implications, preferential voting seems like a wonnnderful unicorns-and-rainbows solution.

        When you look at it closer, some serious questions arise. In fact, it changes very little. The majorities it enforces (assuming an Australian-style obligatory exhaustive ranking) are still false majorities obtained by forcing voters to choose second and third choices and so on that are not their *real* choices.

        In First Past The Post, at least voters have the option of dissent and refusal to endorse candidates (in reality, parties) other than the one they truly prefer and hope to see win an election. Of course, the usual result is that the majority of voters end up with a government they did not wish to see in power.

        With an obligatory exhaustive ranked ballot, under normal circumstances with an essentially three-party system, you can expect either the first-past-the-post party or the second-past-the-post one to garner enough second- and/or third-rank ballots to gain an absolute majority in each riding it wins and ultimately a majority of all votes in the Commons. That is wonderful propaganda material for the winning party: it can claim a “clear”, even “overwhelming” mandate from voters to enforce its electoral platform and reduce the opposition parties to the same irrelevance as they currently “enjoy”.

        The problem is that apart from the (in all probability) extremely rare cases of “toss-up” votes, it cannot honestly be assumed that the top-up votes that gave them their majority translate the same level of endorsement as their first-count votes, the only ones that can truly be counted as sincere, enthusiastic votes for their party. Nor is there any way to tell, with an ordinal 1, 2, 3… ranking, how much a voter really cares for their forced second choice relative to the first, their third choice relative to the second, and so on. This will almost certainly vary between each pair of choices and between voters. For one voter, the choice between N and N-1 may well be a toss-up; for another, N-1 will be an extremely grudging choice; for a third, ranking all but their first choice will be a painful exercise in being obliged to rank candidates they simply would never cast a vote for if they were not forced to, knowing that the ones they assign to #2 and #3 may well win because of those votes, when they simply want nothing to do with them. And then there are all the other voters distributed in between these three scenarios.

        We can only guess, or perhaps extrapolate from opinion polls, what the average true weight of second- and third-place choices is compared to first-place choices. In any case, we can be *sure* that the average weight of these choices, as you go down the ranking, is lower than the first-place choice of voters, and probably low enough that if the true weights given by voters to their non-first choices are calculated, the chances of a party gaining a majority would be noticeably lower than if all top-up votes are (mis-)treated as equal in value to first-choice votes.

        There is a serious, two-headed problem of democratic legitimacy here:
        • first, voters are *forced* to vote against their conscience and, like it or not, denied their freedom not to associate themselves with a particular party (both arguably violations of their section 2(a) and (d) Charter rights);
        • second — certainly no less serious than the first — they are given no way of expressing *how much* they prefer one candidate relative to another: the vote-counting algorithm makes the decision for them.

        One way to remedy the antidemocratic effect of equal weighting would be to give voters the option whether they want to make any second, third etc. choices or not, and how many lower rankings they want to make — the partial ranked ballot used in some Australian states. For many voters, this would come out to the same as the way they currently vote: they would check of the single candidate they want and reject the rest. Others might use it to take advantage of expressing extra choices in the hope that someone whose party at least *partially* corresponds to their preferences might win if their first choice doesn’t.

        Another way would be to let voters actually vote by giving each candidate on their ballot a numerical score (say out of 5 or out of 10) rather than an absolute ranking. Score voting allows voters the freedom to express how much they prefer candidate N-1 relative to higher choice candidate N and so on up and down the line. In this system, eliminating lowest polling candidates and transferring voters’ second, third choices and so on to the appropriate candidate is not the only possibility: instead, raw scores could simply be added up instead, with the highest overall scoring candidate declared the winner.

        Neither of these systems would be as likely to produce true majority winners as Obligatory Exhaustive Ranking (OER) with vote transfer, but they would give a much more accurate picture of the democratic will than OER preferential voting. A party would be more likely to win power with a minority of total votes and seats than under OER, but its true support base would be transparent as opposed to the false picture of support generated by OER.

        A House of Commons could be converted to some kind of “preferential vote” chamber, but with any such system — and especially the inescapably undemocratic Australian OER variety — there would need to be some kind of democratic counterweight. And this could be a Senate elected under proportional representation. Not party lists for each province, but something that allows for some sort of regional representation within each province (at least the larger ones), in other words a more effective version of Quebec’s Senate divisions.

        A proportionally elected Senate would have the democratic legitimacy to counterbalance and check a government party elected without a *true, legitimate* democratic majority, as will be the case most of the time no matter what the voting system, whether FPTP or any of the flavours of PR and/or PV. With proportionality, it’s well-nigh impossible it could be a US-style two-party Senate: a broad range of parties would likely be represented. The likelihood of bipartisan deadlock would be low: instead, a proportional Senate would have a dynamic of shifting alliances among the parties making it up that would lead to varying results with controversial Commons legislation unlike the kind of deadlock that is a recurrent feature of the US system, based as it is on rigid bipartisanism, FPTP and easy gerrymandering.

        Of course, giving smaller regions and/or provinces and territories a strong voice in defending their interests could easily be achieved by weighting the vote of their provincial/territorial delegations and making certain readings of a bill member-based votes and others weighted delegation-based votes. You could even do something like this in the Commons.

        This is just one possibility for reform, but one that might help to balance off the desirability of governments with a strong, coherent platform with the desirability of a Parliament that overall reflects the true democratic will of voters.

        • “On the surface, if you don’t stop to think about the implications, preferential voting seems like a wonnnderful unicorns-and-rainbows solution.”

          Actually, PV is not an idealistic solution. It’s a practical one.

          It is entirely inaccurate to claim it would make little difference. Take the experience in Australia. In that country there is an Anyone-But-Labor voting coalition among 4 right-wing parties, which ensures the right wing vote goes to right wing parties.

          If the country had FPTP, right-wing vote splitting would mean perpetual Labor fake majorities.

          In Canada, an unofficial Anyone-But-Conservative coalition would form which would stop vote-splitting and perpetual Conservative majorities. (The two right-wing parties in Canada united to stop perpetual Liberal majorities. This deal didn’t turn out well for moderate conservatives who are shut out of the new Con tent. Now Canada is controlled by a 30% minority of hard-right conservatives. PV will stop that. That is not a little difference. That is a giant leap forward for democracy in Canada.)

          I support Proportional Representation and would vote for it in a PR/PV referendum. I happen to think it is the superior system. That doesn’t mean a majority of Canadians feel the way I do. So as an electoral reformer, I will promote both systems: PV which makes our existing Westminster-style system democratic; PR which ensures parties get the same percent seats they get in the vote.

          The best strategy is to first legislate PV directly (changing the ballot is a minor upgrade, like fixed election dates, which doesn’t require a referendum.) Then work on a fair and winnable PR referendum. PR ideologues in Canada have rolled the dice 4 times already in provincial referendums and lost. They have one more shot. That means not rolling the dice until the outcome is known beforehand. Otherwise PR is toast in Canada. (The Toronto Star has already declared PR dead, having been loudly and clearly rejected by Canadians.)

          • PV is a practical solution, yes. But my problem is that it is sold as something that will “improve democracy” (which is what my unicorns and rainbows comment was meant to satirise).

            If what is meant by this is nothing but the Australian-style Obligatory Exhaustive Ranked Ballot, I have yet to see evidence of anything but the contrary. It will improve the chances of certain parties, yes, but at the expense of voters’ ability to exercise their franchise freely.

            That it works a certain way in Australia (where, as you point out with the “anyone but Labor” coalition, it was put in place as a way to skew the system in favour of the right-wing parties) does not mean it would work the same way in Canada. We have not only a “left/right” divide here, but a true three-party system with the further complication of regional and language divides (and in Quebec, a very different dynamic, either between four parties or at least a different three) that influence voting patterns. It is far from obvious that forced alternative choices would play out according to a simple “left/right” dynamic.

            Of course, no change requires a referendum. We are a parliamentary democracy and there are no referendum requirements in our constitution — just in certain provinces when it comes to deciding on constitutional amendments (or any issue at all in Quebec, as long as it’s really about separating from Canada). It’s up to Parliament to decide. That’s why we elect representatives.

            I agree that the most democratic system would combine some kind of preferential voting (but not the Australian ballot) and the proportional principle. Of course, the nature of the system would have to be tailored to Canada’s particularities, but some kind of PR is essential to counter the regional distortions in representation that make it seem (falsely) as if whole regions of the country “do not vote for party X and always vote for party Y”. And of course, anyone who has *really* done their homework is quite aware of the flimsiness of the charges that PR means “you have no local representative” or that even with local representatives, top-up representatives will only be “hacks responsible only to their party”.

            But… PR “ideologues”? I’m a Fair Vote Canada member, and all I know in that organisation are ordinary people convinced of the value of PR — precious few if any in the organisation who strike me as ideologues. And let it not be forgotten that the citizens’ commissions who proposed MMP or STV in the various provincial reform initiatives, as well as the well-educated legal experts on the Law Commission of Canada who concluded that MMP would be a desirable choice for Canada were people who honestly weighed the evidence for and against various approaches…

          • FVC is comprised of PR true-believers who don’t represent Canadians on electoral reform. Many Canadians like our existing Westminster-style system of government and prefer to see it made democratic with the ranked ballot.

            Yet instead of promoting this system but saying PR is better, FVC has decided to wage a war on PV, spreading lies and misinformation about the system, to try and take away the choice from Canadians.

            If FVC had taken the democratic approach to electoral reform (instead of the dictatorial) they might have gotten somewhere on the issue.

            It’s better to broaden the scope of electoral reform to get Canadians more engaged. Once they are debating the issue, PR has a better chance of winning on its merits. Implementing PV on a party platform can also help PR’s chances because people will get direct experience with voting reform.

            FVC’s position that “societies rarely change their voting systems” so it’s best to take the all-or-nothing approach doesn’t factor in that Anglo-Saxon countries are different than European ones. In Europe, PR swept through decades ago. In Anglo-Saxon countries electoral reform is as slow as molasses.

            Why? Probably because Anglo-Saxon countries have a strong upper class which controls the media and has a strong influence over government. PR would take that away, which is why the media in Canada wages a war against PR (even the Toronto Star.)

            So we need to take the incrementalist approach here. If PV is legislated directly on a party platform, it’s a minor change that doesn’t decide the issue once and for all. It would certainly be better to have a PR/PV referendum than a PR/FPTP, given 4 referendums have lost already and what’s at stake (the neo-Cons changing Canada beyond all recognition.) We need to stop gambling with Canada’s future.

  3. Oink, Oink, Oink, Oink, there is no way you are going to get them out of the pig barn.

    • Actually, all that’s required to get rid of the senate is simple majorities in 7 of 10 provinces (7/50 formula.) If a national referendum gets those kind of results, the senate’s fate is pretty much sealed. Any politician that stands in the way of democracy will feel the wrath of voters.

      • 7/50 = seven of the provinces whose population together is at least 1/2 the population of all the provinces combined. (The territories don’t enter into the equation.)

  4. It’s an entirely unjustifiable waste of taxpayer money doling out $132,000 a year to partisan “hacks and bagmen” who contribute nothing of worth to the process of government. The real work of “second sober thought” is done in Commons committees, which are comprised of elected MPs who are accountable to voters. It’s time to cut out the duplication and deadwood and put a stop to the gravy train.

    • And the only time it’s visible is when it’s an embarrassment or an outrage.

  5. I think being selected to the Senate should be like being selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame…a list of candidates should be drawn up by the Prime Minister and then voted on by our own version of the Baseball Writers of America (something like the Political Analysts of Canada) and if you receive 75% of the vote then your in, if you receive less than 5% then you are permanently banished from entry…sure would make things more interesting.

  6. Abolish the PMO and let parliament and the senate pick up the slack…let MP’s make up their own talking-points.

    • What do you mean, “parliament and the senate”? The Senate is one of the three components of Parliament. I invite you to consult the 1867 Constitution Act, easily available online, to find the other two.

      • I’ll take your word for it Christopher. Do you believe that, in a majority situation, most of the power of the Government of Canada, has shifted away from the HoC towards a mostly unelected, unaccountable, office of the PMO?
        That might be okay when your friends are in power but sooner or later someone else will be wielding that power.

        • It already did in a *minority* situation. Two years ago, journalist pundits were speculating that Harper’s autocratic pulling of power to the PMO was merely a survival reflex to make the best of a minority government situation. Of course, they were mistaken — as his critics already pointed out at that time.

          I agree with you about the power being vacuumed into the PMO.

          I certainly don’t think it’s OK, and I think abolishing the Senate would be a terrible elimination of an essential counterweight. I’m in favour of Senate reform instead of abolition, but not without a fundamental examination of the relation between the two houses, between the Commons and cabinet, these and the Crown, and the system used to elect or choose Commons MPs and senators. There are too many “solutions” out there that decide that one and only one “problem” is all we need to pay attention to.

          • Thanks for the reply.

  7. The senate has and does serve a vital function in our system as a house of sober second thought. Perhaps there needs to be a committee to pick the brightest and best to be in our senate irrespective of political leanings. The appointment of Duffy and others simply play into the hands of those who do not understand the role of the senate and are too quick to leap into the fray like rabid jackals.

  8. As long as there are people in areas of lower population density, who are convinced that when their interests collide with the interests of those in areas of higher population density, their interests are over-ruled – there will still be a need for the Senate.

    Injustice meted out by the majority is still injustice.

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