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Senate reform still desired over Senate abolition or status quo

Despite the Senate scandal deepening, it appears that for now, Canadians still prefer reforming the Senate over abolishing it, as indicated by this Ipsos-Reid poll from a couple of days ago. 49% of respondents indicated reform (and the Ipsos question on reform is worded as “..reformed to make it for example an elected body“) while 43% preferred abolishing it. Only 8% preferred the status quo – leaving it as is.

All discussions on what should be done with the Senate are on hold until the Supreme Court of Canada rules on the government’s referral on what can and can’t be done with the Senate, and what amount of consent is needed, but there are warnings in those numbers. The NDP are heavily invested in trying to campaign on abolition of the Senate, but so far, every poll I’ve seen, including this latest one, from different polling companies over the past several months shows that the largest plurality of voters still prefer reform of the Upper House – and make no mistake, when people think of “reform”, the majority of them are thinking of reform as the Senate being “elected”.

That also spells danger for the Liberal Party too though – when continuous polling shows the status quo is in the single digits, the idea of just promoting “better” Senators as reform if the LPC was elected isn’t going to cut it – with all due respect to Mr Dion and Mr Trudeau, both who have been publicly in favour of keeping the Senate, but not supporting “radical” change to it that might involve Constitutional talks to do so.

I doubt that advocating “appointing better people” or better Senators as your Senate reform is going to be acceptable after this mess, and I hope Mr Trudeau and the leaders in the party will reconsider that position soon. If there is a fear of electoral deadlock between the 2 bodies, there are ways to make sure a dispute settling mechanism is in place to prevent that (I’ve written about that before). If the Senate provinces/regions have imbalanced representation, you come up with numbers to fix that as well. If you fear constitutional talks would go nowhere, Pierre Trudeau had a tougher task repatriating the Constitution, but decided it was worth the risk of failure and undertook it – and succeeded.

I think the country has matured enough that we don’t risk a breakup of Canada a la Meech Lake if the attempt at Senate reform fails.

1 comment to Senate reform still desired over Senate abolition or status quo

  • Ottlib

    Two problems with these polls. The questionnaires do not define reform beyond the very general and they do not indicate just what would be involved in really reforming or abolishing the Senate.

    I am certain that if a pollster would ask a question if Canadians would agree to open up the Constitution to reform or abolish the Senate the estimates would move downwards while the status quo would move upwards.

    Most Canadian realize that opening up the Constitution would be opening up a can of worms that could make the current scandal pale in comparison.

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