Three takes on Trudeau's Senate reform - Macleans.ca

Three takes on Trudeau’s Senate reform

The critics are… split

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Independent MP Brent Rathgeber is cautiously optimistic about Justin Trudeau’s decision to remove senators from the Liberal caucus.

The greatest criticism of our current democratic state is not the unelected senate but the concentration of power away from Parliament and inside the Prime Minister’s Office. Our system needs more, not fewer, checks and balances on growing executive power. However, the Senate has lately been operating as a PMO branch plant, sanitizing an audit to protect a valuable asset and then throwing that Senator under the bus once he became a liability.

For a chamber to provide sober second thought, it must do so from some notion of objectivity. A Senate full of partisan and government cheerleaders serves no purpose. As long as the Senate remains appointed (which I fear is indefinite), appointees should be selected on the basis of merit, accomplishment and expertise not partisan pedigree. Accordingly I am cautiously optimistic about attempts to depoliticize in the interim.

Former Reform leader Preston Manning says true independence should come through election.

“A far more solid, independent representative is someone who ran as an independent and got elected as an independent and feels accountable to the public to maintain and stay an independent,” Manning said. “This creation of independence by the fiat of a leader, you can do that on paper and do it on a press release, but there’s a lot more solidity to it if the public themselves actually choose to be represented by independents.”

And Stephane Dion Of Eight Years Ago questions an independent appointment process.

As for the often made proposition, revived by Professor Flanagan, to submit senatorial selections to the scrutiny of supposedly independent and apolitical commissions (composed of Members of the Order of Canada, for example), I remain sceptical about it. I find the notion elitist – and frankly, not very democratic – and believe that Canadians would perceive it as such. It risks watering down the Prime Minister’s accountability. He selects senators – he should bear the responsibility for his choices.

As for himself, Justin Trudeau argued his case to Peter Mansbridge last night.