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, February 10, 2013

The Senate is not the problem

Its not the institution, its the self serving and partisan people appointed to it....

Recent events have once again brought calls for the senate to be abolished or reformed and whilst the latter is no doubt needed, the former is not IMHO on the cards if for no other reason than it takes time for the process to take place. There is nothing in the constitution that forces the Prime Minister to appoint conservative hacks to warm the seats, there is nothing to stop the Prime Minister from asking the provinces for their 'recommendations' as to new appointees to represent that province and to follow those recommendations (to be fair Mr Harper has asked the provinces to do just that). There is no rule that says that senators must slavishly follow the dictates of he who appointed them no matter which Party they were 'rewarded' by with a lifetime income. As with the House of Commons it is the quality of the individual that counts, we need those who put the good of the country before their own greed, individuals who think for themselves, people who actually read and understand the implications of the legislation before them and do not rely upon the PMO's crib notes and directives. There are a few such folks in both houses but they are rare and all too often overwhelmed by the cacophony of partisan rhetoric coming from the rest of the flock.

"The Senate could easily be fixed, without any constitutional amendment, by a prime minister brave and principled enough to announce that he or she will no longer select Senators for their partisan political credentials but for the experience and wisdom they can bring to the country’s chamber of sober second thoughts." 
Peter Russell, Canada's foremost constitutional expert.

The PM has asked the Supreme Court of Canada on a ruling regarding some proposed changes to the Senate. I would suggest this is simply a distraction from the real problem which is the choices that Mr Harper and his corrupt regime have made since coming to power, not that previous governments have not made partisan appointments but they did perhaps generally appoint a better class of citizen. It is clear without waiting for the court to rule that any major change to the senate will require the agreement of the provinces and so if change is to take place then put a proposal before them and get on with it. Meanwhile how about seeking non partisan knowledgeable citizens who fall within the current rules – like actually living within the province that they represent for instance – for future appointees. Unfortunately there is little we can do about those already filling these seats under false pretences, even Herr Harper cannot toss them out of the Senate once appointed although he can it seems decide that they are no longer 'conservative' senators before being convicted of anything.

It is a reflection of Harpers modus operandi that Senator Brazeau, who we know is not exactly the best senator in the upper chamber, was tossed out of caucus before he was even charged with anything. We have seen before this reaction to MP's in his caucus whilst at the same time those in his inner circle can do no wrong and can lie, cheat, defraud the taxpayers and break the law with impunity.

So let us not be too hasty in calling for the ablution of the Senate and in doing so put even more power into the hands of any majority government to ram flawed and partisan legislation through. Let us first examine where the real problem lays, with the those who have been appointed to the upper chamber and he who does the appointing! As Scott Tribe points out other countries with parliamentary democracy’s have succeeded in creating systems that solve many of the problems that some say that an elected senate would bring, but as he also points out it is the partisan nature of Canadian politics that is the stumbling block.

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