Fixing the Canadian Senate

The NDP has convinced itself that Canada does not need a Senate. I have been a “leftie” for more than 55 years and belonged to the party in the 1960s and 1970s. I do not agree with them on this issue. I believe we need the Senate.  You need only to look at Harper’s government to see why: it is secretive, arrogant and careless with democratic niceties (as John Ibbitson said in his Globe and Mail article of May 27, 2013).  Can you imagine what this government would get away with without a chamber of sober second  thought?

The Senate, supposedly nonpartisan, can initiate discussion and legislation on issues that political parties find too hot to handle. It can hold up and send back to the House of Commons legislation that the government has rushed through using closure. Note that while they can amend Commons legislation and send it back, they cannot overturn it, contrary to what NDP leader Thomas Mulcair suggests, and they can send it back only a limited number of times. What they contribute is the time for both houses to look more closely at those all-inclusive omnibus bills favoured by Harper’s government.

But to do this job the Senators have to be truly nonpartisan. Senators need to exercise unbiased opinion, mature judgment and  free conscience.  They owe Canada their  industry and sound judgment. They betray Canada if they  relinquish their judgment  to a party platform.  I was appalled when I read that Harper made all his appointees to the Senate swear allegiance to the Conservative Party platform. An elected Senate either first past the post or proportional system would involve political parties  and parties requiring their members  to vote in accordance with the party line on significant legislation, on pain of censure or expulsion from the party.

In The Globe and Mail of May 27, Tom Flanagan offers a possible solution based on “the Mother of Parliaments, the original source of our own Constitution.” I like the idea of a prime minister at the beginning of his term (perhaps in his oath of office) committing to “seek advice for all future Senate appointments before recommending them to the governor-general… as is now done with appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada.” Of course, you cannot have the recommendations reviewed by a House of Commons committee, but you could have them reviewed by the province the individual senators are supposed to represent.

About thebows99krug

Hi, I am Eric, a retired librarian. I was born in St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto and raised in the downtown area north of the Art Gallery, south of the University of Toronto. I went to Orde Street Public School, Harbord C.I., University College at the UofT and the UofT's Faculty of Library and Information Science. I meet my wife Patricia at FLIS; our first date was on November 15, 1968. We were engaged February 14, 1969 and married on June 21, 1969. Our family includes son, James; daughter-in-law, Erin; (both writers), grand-daughters, Vivian and Eleanor; and Sonic, a very friendly ginger tabby. My beloved wife died January 7, 2017 and our 19 year old cat Pooka died January 8, 2017. I would like to hear from any other class of '63 alumni of Harbord C.I. and class of '67 alumni of UofT's University College.
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2 Responses to Fixing the Canadian Senate

  1. Mark Podolak says:

    I don’t really agree with you on this. The reality is that the senate is mostly an ineffective dumping ground for politicos that the government of the day wants to get rid of. If anything were done to make it legitimate and effective our government would be even more bottlenecked than it is now. The only useful thing that it does, is carry out a detailed review of Supplmentary Estimates and that task could easily be taken on by the bloated commons (we are adding another 30 members to it at the next election). My understanding is that the term “Sober Second Thought” really derived from the fact that a lot of the original members of the Commons were heavy drinkers if not outright alcohlics and that there really was a need for sober thought. (I recently came across an anecdote that during the Charlottetown conference, Sir John A was found wandering the halls of the hotel, drunk, naked and reciting Shakespeare). I say that we should dunp the institution, get rid of 105 useless politicians and several hundred staff and rent out the red chamber for bar mitzvahs and weddings

  2. There is no doubt the Canadian Senate needs reform. I just had a thought; why not let the provinces choose their own Senators by whatever means they decide is best?

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