On second thought

Having been appointed to the Senate 18 months ago on a solemn promise to reform it, Tory Richard Neufeld now finds he rather likes the place the way it is. And lest you think that’s just the self-interest talking, well, just listen to all the arguments he has for not electing senators:

“The appointment process is quick and cheap. You can have regional representation and do all kinds of things. You can get a cross-section of the people that you want in this place.”…

He said he’s the first senator ever to hail from northern British Columbia. If he’d had to seek election for the job, he doubted he’d have garnered many votes in Vancouver and the populous southern portion of the province.

Now, all of these points may well be true. But as arguments against electing a legislative body, they surely apply just as well to the House of Commons. Appointing MPs would indeed be quicker and cheaper than the current process, you could get a better cross-section of the people “you want,” and some people would get in who could never get elected. Indeed, were MPs appointed, and were it proposed to elect them, I don’t doubt we’d hear the same arguments. “Do we really want that sort of American-style circus? It would be impossible to get good people to put their names forward. etc.”

But these practical points in favour of autocracy run up against a rather more fundamental principle: government by and with the consent of the governed. The only people qualified to enact laws for a free people are the people they freely elect — to whatever house or assembly. If that means we might be deprived of the services of, say, a Richard Neufeld, well, there’s always the Governor General’s job.