A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Senate Reform Bill C7

What with all the other stuff going on, not the least of which is the Budget Omnibus Bill which
guts environmental regulation and leaves much of the outcomes subject to ministerial overrides, I missed the Senate Reform Bill C7 until I read that Quebec was challenging it. Upon reading it I at first thought that we were getting a step in the right direction with the PM recommending candidates from a list provided by the Province involved, however I then read that “The list of Senate nominees for a province or territory is to be determined by an election held in the province or territory” which immediately put up a red flag. No choice here, it would seem that nominees selected by the provinces by some other means would not be considered, the province MUST chose their list by an (expensive?) election.

The minute we publicly elect these nominees then there is a real danger of the whole process becoming highly political and partisan (not that is is not now), in other words a mirror image of the current mess in the HoC. In the 'Framework' it says “To be a candidate for election as a Senate nominee in a province or territory that has registered provincial or territorial political parties, a person must be nominated by a registered provincial or territorial political party as the party’s official candidate or be a person who, after the issuance of the election writ, declares himself or herself to be an independent candidate and is nominated to stand for election.”

I further note that in the 'Basic Principles' Framework it says “Senators to be appointed for a province or territory should be chosen from a list of Senate nominees submitted by the government of the province or territory.” Once again that sounds good but for the fact that the actual legislation says “If a province or territory has enacted legislation that is substantially in accordance with the framework set out in the schedule, the Prime Minister, in recommending Senate nominees to the Governor General, must consider names from the most current list of Senate nominees selected for that province or territory.” Lots of wiggle room there, perhaps necessary in order to get around reopening the constitution and getting provincial consensus, which is what the Quebec challenge is all about as I understand it.

All in all I am not totally against this move, it probably is an improvement if the current and future PMs abide by the spirit of the 'framework'. I am concerned however that it would lead to the squeaky wheel getting the job as it were, in that it will no doubt result in a concerted effort by some, if not all, political partys to sway the vote with partisan advertising. We know where that has led us in regard to the election of members of parliament. Further it does not oblige the PM to select ANY of those individuals thus put forward!

how and when such election should take place and the legislation sets a term limit of 9 years or reaching the age of 75.

Senate reform topics always bring some responses, and on this one I expect no less. I really don’t know if the good outweighs the bad or vice-a- versa on this one. It is all rather academic anyway because even IF it passes and IF the provinces duly hold elections to nominate individuals and IF the PM of the day selects exclusively from those lists it will be years before we get rid of the overwhelmingly partisan and increasingly intransigent lot we have now. By the time the Harper Regime has finished ramming through its attacks upon the environment protection, the charitable and social support sectors, and indeed our very democratic system of checks and balances there may well be, as he promised, no recognizable Canada left. I would be nice if the Senate did their job on the current mess and sent it back to the house as a number of separate bills, removing the non budget items from Bill C38, but don’t hold your breath the the Harper yes men contained within that body will have an independent thought.

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