Why P.E.I. is standing in the way of Senate reform - Macleans.ca

Why P.E.I. is standing in the way of Senate reform

Politics trumps idealism for Premier Robert Ghiz


Robert Ghiz. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Prince Edward Island, that picturesque clump adrift in the Gulf of St Lawrence, is home to some 145,000 souls. In addition to being mostly lovely people—I’ve been there plenty, I know—they are collectively the most politically powerful in Canada. They have the most elected and non-elected representatives per resident in the country. And because of this, they stand firmly in the way of Senate reform.

As you’ve probably heard, the Senate isn’t at all popular these days. A Nanos Research poll conducted in the thick of last summer’s Duff-gate extravaganza suggested 94 per cent of Canadians were unsatisfied with the Senate status quo—including 41 per cent who want it abolished outright.

These are drool-worthy numbers for would-be Senate abolitionists, among them Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Though he has notably dragged his feet on the subject, preferring instead to appoint Senators with the addled pace of your average Liberal prime minister, Harper would like nothing more than to see the curtains close on the Senate. If nothing else, his appointees have made the red velour chamber an embarrassment to the Conservative brand.

Yet Prince Edward Island stands in the way. The Constitution guarantees PEI four unelected senators, and P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz will be gosh-darned if he’ll give them up. Don’t get him wrong: Ghiz said he understands the Senate is unpopular. He’s even in favour of a broad reform of the upper house.

Alas, for Ghiz, politics seemingly trumps idealism. “I would be a fool to give up any of the influence that we have in Ottawa, and I’m not going to let that happen,” Ghiz told the Globe and Mail’s Campbell Clark. His obstinacy won’t change, Ghiz added, even in the event of overwhelming, countrywide referendum results.

The premier’s chutzpah is impressive. With one senator for every 37,000 residents, you might say Islanders are a bit spoiled already. (By contrast, Alberta’s ratio is roughly one senator for 608,000 residents.) And even though numbers suggest it is well served by its patronage appointments, the scandal that is Mike Duffy has cast a lasting pall over Island politics.

Duffy isn’t what an Islander would call an Islander. His heedless ambition kept him rooted to Canada’s mainland for more than half his life, though he was never above waving his P.E.I. credentials when it suited him. At best, P.E.I. was an occasional vacation stop. At worst, it was a convenient address when Harper was handing out Senate appointments.

Most Islanders, who seem as disgusted by the Senate’s chronic overindulgences as everyone else, rightfully disdain Duffy. At a recent recording of CBC’s Q in Charlottetown, the audience erupted in a chorus of boos at the mere mention of Duffy’s name. Good on them: Duffy is exactly the kind of patronage boogeyman P.E.I. politicians need to reconsider their Senate addiction.

Other provinces are certainly doing so. Like P.E.I., Quebec worries about the exploding population in the western provinces, and what effect it will have on its political power. Yet the NDP is pushing ahead with its plan to abolish the thing entirely. Because the party’s power base is in Quebec, it is seemingly a huge gamble. Yet NDP leader Tom Mulcair, to his credit, is so sure of Quebecers’ collective disdain for the upper house that he’s pushing ahead regardless.

Ghiz, a Liberal, might take some inspiration from his orange-hued federal counterpart. The prettiest province in the country shouldn’t be an obstacle to the will of its own people, or Canadians in general.


Why P.E.I. is standing in the way of Senate reform

  1. Wow. Provinces fighting to retain the political power granted to them by the Constitution.

    Who could have predicted talking about constitutional reform would lead to this?

    • It’s like they were elected to represent the interests of a province or something.

      Geez, great article.

      • Up next, how amazing it is that Quebec elects PQ members when separatism is unpopular outside Quebec.

      • If only the Senators were elected, we wouldn’t be debating it.

        • I’m sure we could find ways to be angry about it. And remember the western alienists are were about the “triple E” stuff until about last week, so there would still be grumbling about population disparity.

        • Nope. Can’t get to senate elections without negotiating constitutional reform.

          • Easier for the west to seperate then force the whole useless Ottawa issue. Why fix the senate when you can fix all of Ottawa?

            But our western premiers are hand picked to assure “the dominion” colonial is pro-Ottawa.

          • Actually, the senate can’t be reformed in any way, shape or form without a constitutional amendment. Any change to the appointment process can be challenged by the provinces, just like term limits were overruled by the QC supreme court.

            Of course, Canada is the only country in the developed world where people get hysterical about a constitutional amendment.

            The senate is like religion: people cling to it out of a blind obligation to tradition. Most supporters are Liberals supporters. They will find out the hard way what the senate is really like when they face a Conservative senate in 2015, which will be the most obstinate and activist in history.

          • People do not get “hysterical”. Try toning down the rhetoric.

            We have had two attempts to amend the constitution. They both failed and polarized the country in the process, leading to a referendum in Quebec that almost succeeded.

            If you are going to be honest about reforming the senate, you must also be honest about the risks involved. If people chose to go through the process knowing the risks, that is perfectly fine. My quarrel is with politicians like Harper and Mulcair who conveniently forget to mention the need to engage in constitutional reform when they tout senate reform/abolishment.

            I prefer the liberal position because they are actually being honest about the process.

        • That’s what the PM has tried to do.

      • Represent the provinces or extort other Canadians in the tax greed fest?

      • “It’s like they were elected to represent the interests of a province or something.”

        Clearly you are not talking about the senators themselves, which makes your point doubly absurd.

        • Ummm, clearly GFMD was referring to the premiers.

    • Has to do with size. By your logic why not just make everyone a senator or MP?

      (Here is a hint, government produces nothing but BS and you can’t eat BS). PEI has one of the biggest political waste footprints in the country only second to territories.

      • I live in the NT and hear little or nothing beyond the usual moaning about politicians in general. People seem to like the direct connexion to their mlas.I see mine almost daily in the summer[ lots of hibernating up here] and she’s one of my main customers. If you’re info on PEI is of the same quality as on the Territories, or the role of govt in general, i suggest you read a book or two.

      • I am not sure you understand my comment.

    • The provinces have no power or representation in the senate. The senate has been stacked with partisan crony appointments since Confederation. Originally, it was an upper chamber of upper-class aristocrats who could keep a lid on democracy. Now it is nothing more than a corrupt mess mired in partisan politics.

      Either elect senators like the rest of the developed world so the provinces have actual representation at the federal level. Or get rid of it. It’s ridiculous to pretend an undemocratic senate performs a vital role in our system of democracy.

      • Sigh…

        The provinces certainly do have representatives in the senate. That is the way the institution was designed.

  2. With 145,000 people PEI should not be a province. 4 Senators? That is ludicrous.

    • agreed,

      Ft. McMurray should be a province

      most people from PEI work there anyway

  3. This seems like a much more specific piece of the same drivel Coyne was pitching.

    The Senate is screwed up. The Provinces are a challenge to fixing it. Lets take the Provinces out of the equation.

    The problem with this clap-trap is: who is responsible for the miserable state of the Senate? Well most agree on that: it is the short-sighted appointments by generations of Prime Ministers. Harper of course stands at the top of the list, but they all share the blame. So now, Coyne and Martin would have us turn complete control over to the Prime Minister to unilaterally determine reforms. That would be akin to giving the Mayor of Toronto unilateral control over their council’s code of conduct.

    Coyne and Martin are cleverer than the above. We could have a referendum. Who would set the terms (and timing) of such a referendum. Why the PM of course.

    • IMO, the miserable state of the Senate is the result of its anti-democratic nature:
      1) Senators are appointed by a single person; not a non-partisan committee; and certainly not by the people they are supposed to represent. That this arrangement would lead to problems should not be a surprise to anyone. You can blame individual PMs if you like, but it’s the system that’s set up to result in a fair chunk of less-than-stellar Senators.

      2) Senators are appointed to age 75, and are thus unaccountable to the people they are supposed to represent.

      And if the 2 options are the status quo or having Harper set the terms (and timing) of a referendum, I’d take the latter any time. At least, for once, Canadians would be having a say on the Senate; and the worst thing that could happen is that the referendum would fail and we’d be left with the status quo.

      My 2 cents.

      • 1st, the senate is no more anti-democractic than our justice system is. After all, Supreme Court judges are also appointed by the PM, and also sit until 75 years of age. Yet for some reason, nobody ever seems to complain how it’s anti-democratic, even though it can be easily argued that the Supreme Court can have a lot more effect over the laws of our land than the Senate can.

        You seem to forget that the single person senators are appointed by is the single person who parliament, our house composed entirely of elected representatives, have agreed is the best person to lead them. If we don’t like who he appoints, then the fault is ours, not only for electing him so making him able to take that position, but for electing *every other representative* that put him into the position. That’s entirely democratic.

        Hell, partisanship is entirely democratic. That’s the part of the truth about democracy.. it’s ugly. If anything, you can argue that *less* democracy.. such as that non-partisan committee you spoke of.. might be a good thing in appointing senators.

        As to your 2nd point, that’s a feature, not a bug. If all you want is another populist based legislative body, then there’s no need for the senate at all.

        If, on the other hand, what you want is a body that can look at the long term effects of things, and has no reason to allow others to influence them, including what they might do after their senate service, then you want them appointed for a long period of time.

        • The fact that Supreme Court judges are indeed appointed by a single person is IMO an issue as well. However, we were talking about the Senate.

          And as for “If we don’t like who he appoints, then the fault is ours …”, no the fault is not ours. We did not have a say in the appointments. We elected people to represent us and by and large future Senate appointments were the last thing on our minds when making the decision on who to vote for. Have you ever heard a single person say that they do (not) want X for a MP because he/she could result in such-and-such a Senate appointment? Of course not, the immediate issues are the economy, health care, education, the environment, taxes, etc. These are what we think of when electing a MP because these are what the MP has at least some say on, not Senate appointments.

          You want a body that can look to the long term? Fine, an elected Senate where Senators are limited to a single 9/10/whatever year term.

          Seriously, if anyone were designing a Senate in the 21st century, do you really think they’d come up with this abomination to democracy?

          • Really? You’re arguing that because people are too dumb to consider the full ramifications of their decisions about our country’s leadership, they should be making *more* of them? Do you want to maybe reconsider that?

            As for your “single 9/10 year term” thing, perhaps you didn’t read the line “including what they might do after their senate service”. If you want to see the reality of this, just look at the US Senate. Trent Lott is a particularly egregious example.

          • It is not being too dumb to realize that future Senate appointments are way, way, way down on the list of things that an MP will be dealing with, or have influence over, and to thus give little to zero weight to that consideration vs the MP’s stand on issues such as the environment or the economy, or whatever.

            Do future Senate appointments really factor into your voting decisions? Have you ever had a voting decision hinge on this issue?

            I know nothing about Trent Lott, and I’m not familiar with what you’re getting at re the US Senate. I can say the US system seems to be broken due to campaign financing laws that for all intents and purposes seem to allow corporations to buy Congressmen and, to a lesser extent, Senators, but that’s a different issue.

          • So now you’re arguing that because something isn’t a top-of-mind issue with the voting public, it’s anti-democratic if the politicians do exactly what it’s specified they have the power to do with regard to that issue. Tell me. Is CETA anti-democratic? Is futzing with mortgage rules anti-democratic? What about adjusting Arts funding? Oh hey.. what about appointing the head of the RCMP? Is that anti-democratic?

            LOL. Man, that doesn’t work at the best of times, and even LESS so when you remember that Harper’s original 2006 campaign held the promise that he would not appoint an unelected senator. So unless you think that promise meant absolutely nothing to anybody.. that Harper was just wasting his time with it.. your thesis is blown right there. I mean, obviously he mentioned it because he thought it would matter to people, right? Either that or because he’s a complete idiot and enjoys wasting his and our time. Take your pick.

            As for the US senate issue, you’d do yourself a favor to do what I said and look at the US Senate and Trent Lott. In a nutshell, a lot of what he did during his time as a senator was to set himself up so that’d he’d have a comfy position after *leaving* the senate. That’s exactly what your 9/10 year, no reappointment plan would import here.

          • I am arguing that’s it anti-democratic if the people who are supposed to represent people are not elected by them and are not accountable to them.

          • Then you’re arguing against yourself from the original comment, where you want the PM to dictate the terms of the referendum, because he’s just as anti-democratic as the rest. I mean, I didn’t vote for Stephen Harper. I didn’t even have the option.. to vote for him or against him. His appointment as PM is as anti-democratic as any of them.

            Or is it just you’re okay with something being “anti-democratic” when it ends up with your guy in control?

          • I did not say I “want the PM to dictate the terms of the referendum”.

            I said “And if the 2 options are the status quo or having Harper set the terms (and timing) of a referendum, I’d take the latter any time.”

            There is a big difference and I’d prefer if you did not misrepresent my position in the future.

            PS, Harper is not my guy.

          • I’m afraid I don’t see the difference the difference between people appointed by elected representatives making laws for us and a person appointed by elected representatives making a referendum for us as clearly as you seem to.

            Seriously though, your definition of anti-democratic is so all-inclusive as to be meaningless. Judges are anti-democratic because they’re appointed by the PM, not elected by the people, and accountable to none.

            The PM is anti-democratic, because he’s elected by the house, not by the people, and is accountable to the party, not the people.

            The MPs are anti-democratic because the candidates are chosen by the party leadership, and only a small plurality elects them, not the people. They are accountable to the party leader first and foremost.. not the people.

            When the entire system is “anti-democratic”, why you’d pick at the one section of is that has the *least* effect on us is beyond me.

          • Judges are not supposed to represent us. They’re supposed to represent the laws and the Constitution. That, and other reasons, is why I don’t favour them being elected.

            Our MPs do represent us, and are directly elected by, and accountable to, us. I’ll be the first to admit that using the FPTP system in a multi-party environment is rather braindead, but it’s better than not voting.

            Granted, the case of the PM is less clear since only a subset of voters elect him/her (as a MP) and directly hold him/her to account (as a MP). Nonetheless, the population as a whole can turf the PM via a general election that results in the PM’s party not gaining government status. Thus there is some course grained accountability.

            Senators are supposed to represent us. They are neither elected by us nor are they accountable to us. There is absolutely no way for the people to turf a Senator that they do not want. The Senate is different from the other cases.

            My notion of democracy includes the idea that people are able to choose who represents and leads them, and are able to hold those folks accountable on a reasonably regular basis. Canada’s Senate allows none of this. Thus it fails this basic test. YMMV.

          • There’s no reason why MP’s couldn’t have a hand in nominating a person for senatorial consideration. Right now it seems to be done by the few insiders in the PMO. An MP committee, consisting of members from all parties (including the one Green) should also have the responsibility of selecting Supreme Court Judges. These judges, as suggested, really have more control over our laws than does the Senate, and so should seem to be impartial. How can they when the PMO is riding herd over them?

        • Dup deleted

          • You can’t seriously want to see Judges elected? A glance south, just once, is enough for me.

            As for an elected senate – it would have to be subservient to the Commons anyway. I just don’t see the point. I’d even prefer to see an appointed senate come from the ranks of municipalities and ex provincial pols then see a second partisan house, which would still be beholden to the Commons party system in many ways.

          • I didn’t say I want to see Judges elected. I said IMO it’s an issue that they’re appointed by a single person. I agree that electing Judges is not the way to go.

            You seem to be suggesting an appointed Senate that would be unaccountable to the people it would be representing. As such, I cannot agree.

          • I did ask? not assume. Glad to hear it anyway.
            I’m afraid an elected senate with a well thought out process for avoiding political gridlock with the Commons would be my bottom line. Even then there’s the fact the political parties would be after even more money from us as donors…look how that’s going? I’m constantly hit up by my party; sometimes i think they’re just trying to sell me something.
            My preference would be some kind of senate of independents if it were possible to forbid a senator from joining an established political party – which it clearly isn’t – at least i don’t think so.
            I’m stumped. But i like the changes the Brits have made. That at least would be a start and an improvement on the status quo.

          • Yes you did ask :-)

            And agreed, the possibility of gridlock would have to be addressed somehow. Looking south shows why. Perhaps the Senate could delay (how long? 6 months?) but not block the HoC? Such a delay could give grassroots opposition time to coalesce and be heard if the legislation being delayed was indeed truly unpopular.

            To be honest, I dunno. I just believe that what we have now is the worst of all worlds. Reform it, abolish it, but for Zeus’ sake don’t keep it as is.

          • Not a bad idea on the delay. Agree something has to give.

          • Actually, while judges are appointed by a single person, the vetting process includes peer review, and a judicial selection committee made up of other judges, government representatives and lawyers.

            At least that is what used to happen. Harper took out the judges and replaced them with cops and other interested parties. Which makes the process a lot less credible.

          • This is a very important point about how Harper sees the idea of good government as defined by Canadian values, history, traditions, precedents, and customs. The idea that cops should be picking who judges are (that the law enforcement arm is qualified to vet the side that goes through many years of University followed by the requirement of the bar is patently back asswards) and is also illustrative of the contempt Harper has for the concept of due process (not to mention those that place educated thinking/learning/reasoning as an important part of governing and due process).

            As I am sure you remember Gayle I kept saying what made Harper so dangerous for power was his utter contempt for the way we have traditionally governed ourselves on the process side, and that he would corrupt and destroy as much of the traditional processes of our governing systems as he could and replace them with his own crazy values, many of which come from the far right of our American brethren. Which since even the mainstream left in America falls into centrist right side on the Canadian political spectrum shows just how far outside anything remotely resembling Canadian values his notions truly are. Harper in opposition was all for checks and balances on the power of the PM and the governing party, but once in power he took flipping to the other side of that to levels no prior leader in opposition who ended up as PM ever has,, or even considered doing.

            The Canadian system as it existed prior to the rise of Harper to the PMO (I say this because I am fully convinced that there have been many more changes that have not yet managed to crop up on the radar then people are aware of that we will be years untangling once Harper is out of the PMO) was for all its failings a fairly reasonable balance of checks and balances to provide good government regardless of political ideology. Our civil service was seen as one of the most professional in the world, something I really rather doubt is the case now given all the damage Harper has done there. The fact that his lawyer at the Supreme Court this week advanced arguments like the PM should be able to make fundamental changes to how our system of government works without having to deal with the pesky Constitution which is only the fundamental defining document for that shows that Harper being allowed to have anything to with reforming the system is far worse than the status quo could ever be. That is not based on his political ideology but on his far more basic naked contempt for Canadian due process as it evolved from both the left and right sides of our political spectrum since Confederation.

            There is a reason I still refuse to call the CPC Tories, and especially refuse to call Harper a Tory, because he and they clearly are not. Tories valued our processes of government, Harper does not. Tories recognized that there is such a thing as good government and government being a positive value and element in Canadian society, even in the economic sphere, Harper and his party clearly does not. Harper has deliberately worked to undermine the legitimacy of Canadian political processes at every chance he has had from electoral, to legislative to judicial, such as what you noted about the judicial appointments review process, and that was one of his lesser ones, although it was one of the more far reaching and damaging to making sure we had a profession ethics first driven judiciary. We have in Harper a Prime Minister that not only is power mad, he is also driven to use that power to corrupt and destroy as much of the process system that took 146 years to create, which is what makes him such a threat to Canada and Canadian s across the political spectrum. Ironically enough many of those that will in the end be most victimized by his actions are those on the right/conservatives who actually value the idea of fundamentally conserving our history and heritage within our political system.

            As you well know Gayle I could go on and on about this. I know you remember how I spent years in vain trying to get across that Harpers true hidden agenda and danger was not ideological, not religious, it was process rooted, and that it would be there that he would do his most severe damage to this nation and the citizenry beyond anything mere partisanship could ever manage. Canadians have taken for granted that the processes that gave them such a peaceful healthy political environment that they could afford to be utterly ignorant of it without fear, that it would stay the same and could not be easily changed without it being obvious. Well, when we were dealing with leaders and politicians who were motivated by good faith belief in the underlying system of government whatever their political agendas that was true, but our system was alas almost totally unprotected against someone of bad faith who would want to damage and destroy it. One of Canada and Canadians biggest weaknesses was our belief in the fundamental decency and honour of even our politicians, well Harper has taken that and rode it into power to do that which no one aside from a tiny few percentage of Canadians would ever want to see whatever the political beliefs/place on the spectrum.

            Sorry Gayle, I know you know all this, it just really frustrates me that so many fail to see this, and not just from his supporters but also many of his opponents politically seem to miss this too, especially those that gravitate to the NDP side of the political reality. What makes Harper Canada’s worst PM ever is his contempt on the process side, far more than any ideology or policies (such as he has them, this is one of the most visionless governments I’ve ever seen in power when it comes to overall ideas and ideals) he has had and/or implemented. Just look at the way he totally redesigned how Parliamentary processes are to be used from the Committees to the media scrums to the abuse of closure rules to the massive use of Omnibus legislation that has not undergone even cursory vetting against the existing active legislation and Constitutional (ie Charter) body of law for compatibility. It is not just that Harper offers bad law in terms of content, he offers it in a corrupted process which undermines basic due process and the legitimacy of government itself, arguably an act of treason from any public official, let alone a sitting Prime Minister.

            Sorry Gayle, pushed my own button yet again once I started writing this, hope you can forgive me.


          • No need to apologize. I totally share your frustration.

            Great post!

      • I wouldn’t trust ANYTHING Harper did. He’s too much like Rob Ford, a pathological liar.

    • Hear ! hear ! Just what Canada needs, dictatorship.

      • Yep. So you can clean up the rot, garbage, waste, bloat and bailout buddy system that use taxpayers as economic slaves.

        A dictator wouldn’t tolerate so much corruption and waste.

        • Mugabe refutes you.

        • So I take it, you didn’t mind the Justin Trudeau comment ?

    • If you’re looking for someone to blame, look at PET and the likes of Peter Lougheed. They brought the constitution home, didn’t fix known problems in how the Senate functions, but did see fit to give Aboriginals and Metis ‘special’ status in so doing. That was another big mistake.

      • Yeah, cuz it would have been so much better to have left them sitting in the back of the bus or still in Residential schools, where they could enjoy they status as second class citizens.

      • No. Blame Canada. We were all represented at the table. All by 1 province agreed.

    • A referendum is meaningless. It will not compel the provinces to consent.

      Harper, and to a lesser extent Mulcair, have been trying to pretend they can accomplish reform without painful, protracted, and potentially divisive negotiation.

      Instead of polling on Senate reform, poll on whether people want to go through the constitutional reform process, again. Last two times we did this if did not work out very well.

      • Not surprising democracy is meaningless to people who support senate status quo.

        Actually, Mulroney did not attempt a constitutional amendment. He tried bringing in a package of amendments in order to get QC to sign on to the 1982 Constitution Act. That issue is dead and done with. QC’s signature wasn’t required in 1982; it’s not required now.

        You can bet the Supreme Court is not going to rule QC needs to sign on to the Constitution Act before the senate can be reformed or abolished. Like the senate debate itself, the hysteria over constitutional amendments is predicated on ignorance.

        • Can you read? Did I say democracy was meaningless, or even that I support the status quo?

          Well, I can see that being factual does not matter to you. I mean, on one hand you say Mulroney did not attempt to amend the constitution, and in the very next sentence you say he did. And then you fail to mention that the result of his attempts lead to a referendum in Quebec, that nearly succeeded.

          Do you really think there will be constitutional negotiations that do not involve provinces arguing for more power? Do you really think PEI is going to give up its 4 seats willingly? Or that Ontario and Quebec are going to happily cede more power to the west without seeking some assurances in return?

          Someone here is being ignorant all right – but it is not me.

    • A lot is riding on the SC’s decision. Why should the guy who threw a bunch stink bombs into the senate and then yelled: ‘ fire! And we really need to clean this joint up!’ Why should that guy after pocketing the change from the bombers shilling on behalf of his party [ no, not even primarily carrying the torch for his reform agenda. But openly campaigning for Harper on our dime!] Why should that guy be allowed within a ten mile radius of future senate reform and or abolition questions?

      It’s like asking an arsonist to draw up plans for a new house after he’s been accused of stuffing all his combustible garbage in the basement.

  4. What’s worse for PEI? Being ruled by a dic-tater, or being reduced to spec-taters?

    • I thought it was reduced to social welfare from too much governemtn waste and tax suppression for the local economies and debt.

  5. PEI:
    # of Senators: 4
    Population: 4,656,006
    Pop/Senator: 36,441

    # of Senators: 6
    Population: 145,644
    Pop/Senator: 775,001

    Question: WTF?

    [Numbers taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senate_of_Canada%5D

    • Yep, and why I say BC, AB, SK and MB should form a Republic of Western Canada and tell Ottawa to take a hike, call us when you want a more efficent, effective and economical governemtn.

      It it why I even support Quebec leaving, it will force Ottawa to clean up or face total shutdown. Ottawa and myopitc provincial leaders are not going to fix the imbalances, they are unreasonable greedy people that lead us. What is right for us isn’t on their radar.

      Until then we have a really messed up system.

      • Interesting idea. What will you give the remaining provinces in order to secure their signature to such an arrangement?

      • You know it really pisses me off how easily some folks say let Quebec go without a care in the world for the over 2 million fellow Canadians they are sacrificing, you know, those that live in the Atlantic Provinces who are at the mercy of the Quebecois separatists in that scenario? I am old enough to remember that one of the main economic negatives this region has had to deal with (yes, not the only one, but it is a real one that too often gets overlooked) came about once the PQ first formed government and started the process for the Separation referendum. After all, what businesses would want to invest resources in an area that may lose its physical link to the rest of the nation? This regions economy gets hammered every time the Quebec separation issue gains strength, and worse, instead of any consideration for that ugly reality far too often we see attitudes and comments like yours. Well we are Canadians too, indeed arguably we have been Canadians longer than any from the West and Pacific coast given that we have two of the 4 founding Provinces down here, so is it too much to ask to remember that we exist and maybe would should be considered for the collateral damage we are in the event the Quebecois nationalists ever succeed? Is that really too much to ask for?

        Seriously, this is something that matters to a lot of us down here on the East Coast, the level of disrespect for all of us inherent in the “let Quebec go, Canada would be better off” crowd completely ignoring what could happen to us down here despite being fellow loyal Canadians is truly disgusting. I can well appreciate the frustration many have with the Quebecois nationalists and wanting to be at an end of their actions, indeed my home area knows that pain more than the rest for the reasons I pointed out already, but that does not make it right to forget that there are a lot of innocent Canadians that will be thrown into limbo in the event of such a situation, and there has been no thought given to what happens to them. Is that truly honourable, is that truly Canadian regardless of what you political beliefs may be? I would hope not, but I have to say I am finding it harder and harder to recognize the Canada I grew up in and that my family throughout the generations lived and died in these days when this sort of disregard so freely exists.

        We in Atlantic Canada are no less Canadian than anyone in the center or the West, and we deserve to be considered as equally important when it comes to serious issues like this, as opposed to being treated like we count for nothing. After all, when you don’t even consider the ramifications for an Independent nation of Quebec for those caught on the other side of that border from the rest of the country you clearly don’t think we are real Canadians. Oh, and to anyone that says I am overreacting or being a drama queen or such similar sentiments, kindly explain why I am based on the fact that I have said nothing false, nothing controversial (unless you consider wanting to be considered as fellow Canadians to be concerned about in the event of succession by Quebec controversial, in which case you are too far gone from reality to talk to) and nothing unreasonable. We really are in a very uncertain position in the event of a successful Quebec succession from Canada, we really have no way to influence this on our own, and we really don’t seem to be considered whenever people say things like let Quebec go, the country would be better for it. So it seems rather difficult to be overstating just how contemptuous we are being treated by our fellow Canadians who seem to believe that Quebec should just leave, despite the fact we have nothing to do with the nationalists and their aims. So why should we be treated so poorly?

        Yes, this really angers me, and I know I am far from alone down here about it, it is just that most people down here being the nice Canadians that they are don’t make a stink about it by pointing it out. It doesn’t change that reality though does it.


        • Well said, and I’m sure that the people east of Quebec agree with your position.
          But, until we here in BC recently became a “have not” province and now have to rely on the rest of the “have” provinces for equalization payments, we were, along with Alberta, Ontario, et al, sending support money to NS, NB, PEI and NFLD for your virtual survival. For many, many years. We (here in BC) are in your shoes, for the moment at least, until we figure out how the hell to get rid of our present government, and get back to becoming a “have” province once again.
          You might consider the frustration it has been for my family, long time residents of BC, to continually help pay down your expenses because of the lack of any spirited economy in the far east of Canada. I believe that this is part of the feeling we have when the far Eastern provinces, and the people living there, for some part, don’t feel the urge to migrate to areas of Canada where employment is more available. This is not to say that a lot of them have not done so. Half the miners in BC come from the Eastern provinces. Half the people working in Fort Mac are probably from there as well. A lot of these workers are sending support money to their families living in the east. But, until you become economically viable as provinces, you are not going to be accepted as full partners with the rest of Canada. Sorry, but that is how I feel and I think a lot of Westerners feel as well.

          • Maybe, but then a lot of westerners would be narrow minded and uneducated too (speaking as a born and bred Albertan).

            Did you know that for decades the Maritimes were the “have” provinces? Do you see the hypocrisy in your comment considering BC is now a “have not” province? As someone in a “have” province should I now be telling you to get lost and make your own money instead of spending mine? Should Newfoundland tell you that too? And if that is how we manage things, what happens to Alberta when we return to “have not” status.

            Short sighting selfish myopic thinking is not particularly productive.

            Not to mention the fact that you are not “sending” money to other provinces. You are paying federal taxes, just like everyone else in the country.

          • W.O,W.

            To be honest with you my first response when I read this was along the lines of “well F you too”, because you completely ignored any value we have as Canadian citizens in that little speech of yours and it felt like you were telling us to F off. So we are supposed to abandon our homes because you think we aren’t worth it, since when is that a Canadian value? How will you feel when that same logic is applied to you and yours when you find yourselves in a similar position (and the wheel always turns you know, that is why this nation developed the equalization process formally after having such informally for some time prior, indeed our social contract as a nation is in no small part based on the helping of those on the downside of the wheel when it is their time there) I wonder? Will you just meekly go “yes sir, of course sir, your needs, your values, your regions are more important and trump ours as Canadians sir, because that *IS* the underlying logic of what you just wrote you know, and to be brutally honest it is severely intolerant at best.

            I notice that aside from the pro forma agreement in the beginning you then went and excused the behaviour I decried, you undervalued any contributions to Canadian society we make here aside from economic, and that in many ways underscores how intolerant and unCanadian your statement is. As well, lets just take your argument ahead for a moment, if we did all move out west then we’d be accused of taking all the good paying jobs from the “real” westerners (given I’ve heard this sort of language before used to those who left here to work in the West it is clearly going to happen when more than a small fraction do so but the entirety as you appear to think should happen). Worse, as Gayle noted you completely overlooked all that we contributed into the Canadian economy from Confederation to the end of WWII where this region was the economic core of the nation, and then it shifted for a half century to the central Provinces, especially Ontario. The “West” would not be the engine it thinks it is nowadays were it not for a massive amount of natural resources to sell beyond anything anywhere else was and the spin-offs that come from it, so watching people like you get on your high horse as you just did simply because your region got lucky in that way is quite frankly more than a little sickening.

            You think I am being unfair, that there are many other industries and such developing the Western economy? Here is a question for you then. Go back over the past few decades of economic development in the West. Remove the oil sector and all first order spin-off developments/businesses from it (arguably I should have you take it farther than this but just this far should make the point). Remove them from the overall economic realities of your region, and then approximate whether you would be anywhere near the economic power that you have become. This is not just for Alberta I might add, the spillover effect of Alberta’s energy sector reaches throughout the West, not least for B.C., and without it the entire region wouldn’t be a whole lot better off than mine on balance, somewhat better yes, but nowhere near enough to start acting like we only exist to service you.

            Yes, your comment really pisses me off, it is disgusting how you reduced our complete worth as Canadians to only your idea of economic value, do you think all those that fought in two World Wars were fighting for the economic worth of citizenship, or did they have more fundamental values attached to their idea of what being Canadian was and why it was worth fighting and dying to protect?. Being a Canadian citizen is about more than economic worth to the nation, that you failed to understand that and came back with what you did shows a lot of what is wrong with many of you in the West, and your arrogance towards us not even being worth any consideration. Also, as Gayle noted we contributed a hell of a lot economically to Canada including your developing regions for many decades while your regions were still developing that we didn’t get to keep, but we considered it part of the grand social contract of being Canadians. That for you this concept has no value or merit, that all we contribute to Canada beyond just dollars is considered without value is an attitude at least as if not more corrosive to the idea of Canada as a nation than what I’ve seen come out of the Quebecois nationalists. Frankly jackal you really sickened as well as infuriated me with your response, because you basically said that you and yours are right to be so arrogant and dismissive of us because in your minds we really aren’t equal citizens because we refuse to abandon our region to come work as your servants for your benefit. Just go back and read what you wrote with and see how what you said can be seen as what I just said for anyone reading it who does not share your POV.

            Do you even understand the concept that Canadian citizenship is more than simple economic worth? (I’m not saying economic value has no part in the definition, but it is clearly not meant to be the total amount or even the primary, only fascists and corporations/businesses see citizens of a nation in that kind of absolute economic terms) Do you not understand that our history as a nation includes the social contract which depleted our region so that other regions could develop and grow strong in their turn, and that we have a mutual complex web of interdependence because no one ever stays on the top forever? Do you not understand that there are other values than purely dollars that come from citizenship? I mean really, what I read from you was so anti-Canadian values at heart it is truly frightening, I actually find more traditional Canadian values within the ideals of the Quebecois nationalists than I did in what you said about my region and you and yours basis for demeaning us the way you did, which I might add I find more than a little wierding me out to have to say.

            You really showed a level of selfish,greed, and arrogant contempt in that little statement of yours that is breathtaking in nature, and contrary to core Canadian values as have been understood throughout our history. I truly do wonder how many of our surviving War vets would agree with what you said, let alone those that died to protect this nation. This is not meant as a cheap shot or hyperbole btw, I mean this in a very serious manner, because every combat vet I ever heard spoke about why they fought had nothing to do with economic worth and value but far more basic human worth and values. Not only did your demean and devalue my region and our citizenship, you demeaned and devalued Canadian citizenship as a whole with that little statement,


          • Again, well said. From your comments I would guess that you might be a Scotian lawyer. You might just as well have said, as you did, FU, and be done with it.

            I joined the RCN more than a half century ago and arrived from a farm in Alberta into NS. The first thing I noticed while on a short ride to my destination to Cornwallis was a Scotian farmer ploughing his fields with oxen. In the year I spent there trying to impress the young lasses in my spare time from training, I also noticed a peculiar parochiaal bent among those locals that I met. Seems that hasn’t changed.

            In the years since moving to BC, although I could well afford it, I have never had the desire to visit there again, although I have watched with interest the shows on Knowledge Network on your region — Over Nova Scotia, etc. I am equally aware of the one or two well established universities that you have there with an outstanding reputation — (with the slight newsworthy item recently). We have also accepted a couple of exchange students in our home from your area as well as a few young people who wanted to see what orcharding was like in BC. That doesn’t, by any means, make me an expert on on your social or economic contributions to the rest of Canada.
            BC has had its separatist movement as well as Quebec. For a while there, we were quite ready to join the States. But in my old age now, I’m glad we didn’t. And I am also glad that Quebec, so far, has decided to stick with Canada. But not necessarily because what it would mean to you. Quebec has a history and culture that, to me, is a significant part of Canada, whereas…..
            I don’t particularly want to carry on this argument.

    • you just shrunk BC and really boosted PEI.
      Number of mountains in PEI : 0
      population: 145,644
      pop/mtn : 0
      number of mountains in BC approx 8,000
      pop: 4,656,006
      pop/mtn: 582

      Question: are there any skiers from PEI on the Canadian olympic team ?

      WTF ?

      • Using the above numbers, PEI has a pop/mtn of infinity.

    • Boy, did you screw those numbers around. I’m sure you didn’t get them from Wikipedia.

  6. So get rid of the provinces and have 5 regions instead.

    • Strangely enough, PEI might be better outside of Confederation. No Ottawa taxes for nothing but Ozawa bloat.

      • No jobs either.

    • A formal Maritime Union should be sought after with more enthusiasm and even consider an Atlantic Union if Newfoundland wished.
      Getting the governments within region to collaborate above the currant levels could see a number of efficiencies boosted.

      • I have always agreed with that….unfortunately the Maritimes don’t, and Newfoundland would probably have hysterics.

        Canada has never jelled as a country…..we have ten nations here instead of one.

        • Too many fiefdoms with personal axes to grind involved, I will agree.

          • Yeah, it’s depressing…..we could be brilliant as a country, but we spend all of our time arguing….mostly about stuff from nearly a century ago at that.

          • The problem is that most of the laws within our constitution were made more than a century ago and that politicians over that time were reluctant to change them. But as population moved towards the west, as well as the discovery of the West’s significant resources, it should have been up to Ottawa to at least try to understand the changes needed and go about doing something about it — but they haven’t.

          • Well, a constitution isn’t a constitution if you can change it at whim. OTOH one that never changes for hundreds of years isn’t much use either.

            However, the west joined confederation, and our constitution was changed in 1982. I have no idea what oil has to do with it

  7. Well, if we had real leadership in Ottawa they would tell P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz to pay for his over allotment and excessive representation.

    But we don’t have any leadership, just people managing people for government. PEI is also a huge debtor by population, its why there are no good jobs and lousy after tax pay.

    • PEI has good jobs….they’re just seasonal.

      And getting rid of Ottawa doesn’t change anything for anybody. You’ll still have to pay for healthcare, education, border services, military, transportation and all that stuff. Doesn’t matter if you pay it to Ottawa or Vancouver or Edmonton or Regina or St Johns…..it’s still taxes.

      There’s no way you’re going to get rid of taxes Dave….it’s the price of civilization….so stop trying to rearrange the country for your personal benefit.

    • Economy’s change. Populations and their politics will change with the economic winds.

  8. At least Nunavut and NWT are relatively honest, they have government jobs paid to do nothing but socialize and they get other people to pay for it like PEI.

    • You know sweet bugger all about the NWT or Nunavut.

  9. Firstly; Ghiz isn’t going to let opinion polls and the electorate sway his opinion. He’ll listen to his donors. It’s Island politics in it’s basic form.

    Two; It would be political suicide to give up the bloated representation that PEI acquired as an enticement in joining confederation.

    Three; Ottawa or the PM will ignore our interests as it pleases. Duffy is “from away”, a general insult understood by people who take their politics seriously here.

    Regional parity might be a valid pay-off in a renovated Senate, as would a vast reduction in overall seats.

  10. So why shouldn’t Ghiz say “ok I don’t like the senate either, but I don’t want my province to be shafted. Why don’t we calculate the percentage of seats NS has in a combined senate and house, and make that % the new minimum of seats for NS in the new single chamber parliament? Don’t like it? Well I don’t have to sign your paper, either.”

  11. Well, we can tell what Martin Patriquin supports, but what about the will of the 49% in that same Nanos poll that support reform of the Senate? Is not PEI representing part of the will of THAT plurality which Martin seemed to conveniently ignore here – I sucked at math in high school, but 49% is larger then 41%, last I looked. To skip over that part of the poll is skimming out facts unfavourable to Martin’s narrative.

    Also, there are more provinces then just PEI who dont support abolition. Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne for one – she has reversed Dalton’s stance and now supports reform. For that matter, last I looked, there were really only 3 or 4 provinces officially in favour of abolition at the Supreme Court refererral – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and maybe BC? (and maybe Quebec, but only if Meech Lake conditions are brought in to reform the constitution – and thats under a Liberal government if it manages to get elected).

    So, Martin may not like PEI or Premier Ghiz, but there are more provinces and a larger plurality of people who prefer reform to abolition that are out there (and thats been consistent in several polls from several polling orgs on the issue over the past few months) .. stop picking on poor PEI.

  12. Abolish the Senate.

    Transfer the regional vote requirements to the House of Commons.

    Have all bills on Third Reading be approved by a majority of the voting MPs representing EITHER a majority of the provinces/territories over those opposed, OR a majority of the “national communities” (English Canada/Quebec). Note: ties or no-votes within a province/territory/”national community” would count neither in the affirmative nor negative. In practical terms, most bills would require the support of a minimum of 52 to 55% of the MPs.

    Also, lets elect our MPs by a system of proportional representation.

    • Don’t forget the lengthy and likely divisive constitutional negotiations we have to go through first. I do not think it is appropriate for political parties to propose simplistic solutions without also informing Canadians of the risks involved. If Canadians choose to assume that risk then fine, but it is dishonest not to include them in the pretty speeches about the utopia we will find once we abolish the senate.

  13. PEI is still the most politically backward province in the country. Patronage still reigns supreme and the government subsists on Federal Transfer Payments, while doling out jobs and contracts to its own supporters. There’s not an institution in the province that is not rife with corruption thanks to whatever political party is in power. Excepting the NDP of course, which has never achieved any electoral success there.
    Personally, while favouring a referendum and then pressure on the premiers to respect the majority opinion ( I believe abolishment), I also like Carol Goar’s starvation idea. If all political parties promise as a commitment during forthcoming Federal election campaigns, to never appoint another senator, the place will wither on the vine.
    Problem solved – case closed.

  14. The federation is in trouble. We just need to get rid of it and start all over again. For one, we don’t need a federal government since it has merely become a money hoarder. The Feds are cutting back on transfers for health and education, increasing more transfers to corporation via tax cuts …so why do we need the Fed. The new federation will make the federal government serving at the direction of the provinces. It will be funded by the provinces.

  15. This is exactly why senate reform cannot require unanimous consent of the provinces.

    • The SCC will not decide this case on that basis. They will decide it based on the law.

      • If the law were clear it would not be before the SCC

  16. One senator for 37000 resident? The picking with very small, no wonder that Mike Duffy was chosen he was the most famous PEI resident weather they like it or not.

  17. The best method for reforming the senate is select senators by a lottery. Being a senator is like winning a major prize in 6/49.