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, June 28, 2015

Senate Reform Redux

With a small minority of senators under the spotlight for spending irregularities and the Duffy trial adding a further spotlight on how the unprincipled nominated to that body can cheat the system (such as it is) there are the predictable calls for it to be abolished. NDP leader Thomas Mulclair is one such individual, he has said that if elected he will consult with the Premiers to try and come to an agreement to do so, I call this simply political expediency! He knows full well that it will be almost impossible to obtain the unanimous consent of all provinces plus the majority of the House and the Senate required to abolish this institution. He also says that he has yet to meet anyone who does not support his position on this...... what bloody nonsense! I wish politicians would not lie to make their point, whilst there are no doubt many folks that subscribe to his point of view on this some of us look at it in a somewhat more practical way and want major reform, clearly defined rules, and a non partisan way of selecting senators.

My own particular opposition to the elimination of the senate stems a great deal from the Harper Regime's actions regarding legislation since they have had a majority, whilst we know that they have a majority in both the House and the Senate and thus have basically forced bills through with little debate and no regard for the many thoughtful amendments put forward in both houses the senate has at least added to the discussion and given a little time for “second thought”. Imagine if there were no Senate and a majority government (of any stripe), what then would be the restraint upon an ideological government such as the one we have now from ramming through self serving or clearly anti-Canadian or pro foreign corporation legislation without restriction. It would bring us even closer to a dictatorship than we are now!

Although now that the brown stuff has hit the fan Harper insists that “As you know, the Senate is an independent body and the Senate is responsible for its own expenses. The Senate itself commissioned the Auditor-Generals’ report and the Senate itself is responsible for responding to that report,” we know that currently that is not the case and it is for the most part a highly partisan body not known in recent years for its independent thinking.

YES, the chamber needs reform, the way of selecting members needs to be changed (Harpers choices have clearly demonstrated that) but in my view we DO need a chamber of “sober second thought”, it just that right now we have a chamber of partisan appointees some of whom have no regard for either the taxpayer or the need for the independence of the senate. I have said before on these pages that the best solution (without reopening the can of worms that opening the constitution would involve) is to have the PM voluntarily select Senators from a short list provided by the provinces, it seems that Brian Mulroney agrees with me (or I agree with him, that would be a first!). I all so happen to agree with him that some kind of independent panel / commission needs to review and establish some set rules for the way the Senate operates. As with the Liberal proposal to “create a new, nonpartisan, merit-based, broad, and diverse process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments” the problem will be of course who appoints the panel and will Parliament and the Senate adopt any rules proposed?

One final word on this, if we were to do away with any government institution that broke the rules, whose members spent public moneys with little or no oversight and who set their own rules as and when they thought fit, then the PMO, the House of Commons and the Conservative caucus in particular would be high on my list. Last year, when Green Party Leader Elizabeth May proposed the AG come look at MPs’ books, Tory MPs vetoed her request however now all parties say they are open to the idea but have yet to actually request said audit!

Its not the Senate (or the House of Commons) thats the problem, its those self righteous appointees that are in it who have no moral compass and who do not understand the word ethical!
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Anonymous said...

I have a radical idea for Senate reform. It stems from my belief that ordinary Canadians have more commonsense and ethics than most politicians. For these reasons, I think a revamped Senate should be filled with 'elders' from all walks of life. If a senator is selected from each constituency, in a fair and impartial manner, we could get a wise and responsible group of people with no agenda except to serve fellow Canadians. I could see a system where any citizen could apply: with life experience (over the age of 50, perhaps), moderate intelligence (minimum of high school or proven responsible positions), and the desire and ability to travel to Ottawa to be the voice of sober second thought. Candidates in each constituency would be chosen by draw. Each senator would serve for only a few years, with some mechanism of overlap so the Senate would always have some experienced people. I'm pretty sure it would beat the current system of well-off, appointed partisan hacks.

Rural said...

As an "elder' myself I can see some merit in you suggestion, Anon. However whilst age does give 'life experience' it does not ensure the morality that is missing from some of those elders currently in that place.

Anonymous said...

Agree. It's the morality that is missing in many of these people. Why is that? Most of the senators have not lived their lives working at ordinary jobs, amongst ordinary people, in rural settings or small towns or cities. I suspect the numerous compromises many of the current senators must have made over the years mingling with the power elite, have eroded their ethics. As well, by their actions, most senators indicate a surprisingly fierce (often unnatural) loyalty to the one who appointed them, always a bad situation. Elected senators would likely come from the same pool. In my opinion, a collection of random elders would be much better for the country.

Rural said...

I shall put my application in! LOL