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Good move by the Conservatives (no this title is not a typo) on Senate Reform

Yes, I’m going to give Harper credit on something this morning, and that is the apparent decision to refer the Government’s proposed Senate reform bill to the Supreme Court of Canada, and ask the High Court for their decision on whether its constitutionally valid or not:

Since 2006, the Conservative government has called for all new senators to be selected through provincial elections and to serve under a fixed term, with the latest version of the legislation proposing a nine-year mandate…experts said they feel it is appropriate to check on the constitutionality of the Senate reforms before they are put into place, instead of passing the legislation and then letting a province go to its court of appeal to challenge their validity.

This is a rare instance where the Conservative government has decided to not ram something through and actually get some consultation on this. Now, the article says that’s probably partly due to the fact that some of the Senators Harper has appointed oppose the fixed-term limits in his proposed bill, which may have forced his hand (would look rather embarrassing if his own caucus in the Senate were the ones who would be killing the Senate Reform bill), but I’ll overlook that for now.

It’ll be interesting to see the proceedings on this, i.e. whether outside parties (such as the provincial governments) are able to obtain intervenor status to present their point of view to the Supreme Court on the government’s proposed Senate reform bill. Also, it’ll be interesting to see if the court were to rule all of or parts of the bill were not constitutional and Senate reform needed to be done the “proper’ way as the Constitution spells out, whether Harper would actually try to go that route or if he would declare Senate reform “dead” and ditch the whole idea.

UPDATE @ 3:22 pm: In a news release earlier this AM, Stephane Dion of the Liberals notes that Liberal Senators recommended in 2007 that the Conservative government take the referral route, but it was rejected at the time. He notes correctly if the Conservatives had taken their advice, they wouldn’t have wasted 5 years on this file.

1 comment to Good move by the Conservatives (no this title is not a typo) on Senate Reform

  • A. Cynic

    While this is indeed the correct route to take, I can’t help thinking how they (Cons) objected when The Liberals put the Clarity Act through the Supreme Court of Canada before passing it.

    If memory serves, at that time they were claiming how parliament through the “elected members was “supreme”.

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