Ideas to reform the Senate seem to be the Canadian version of the Holy Grail. This week, you’ve seen not calls for reform, but calls to abolish it with the behaviors coming to light of a couple of Harper-appointed Conservative Senators in the form of Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau.
I’m against abolition – I think the Senate can perform its constitutionally designated role – helping to represent the provinces as it was intended to do if it was given some legitimacy, and the patronage appointment power of the Prime Minister (or technically the Governor-General) removed. Of course, that means I’m for electing the Senators, but you can’t do it [...]
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 [...]
It seems a new poll is out that says Canadians are more then willing right now to re-open the Constitution to do such things as Senate reform:
After almost two decades of constitutional peace, Harris-Decima survey conducted for The Canadian Press indicates a majority is now willing to risk re-opening the constitutional can of worms to accomplish some specific goals…For instance, 61 per cent said they’re prepared to re-open the Constitution to reform or abolish the appointed Senate. And 58 per cent said they’re willing to offer constitutional amendments in a bid to finally secure Quebec’s signature on the Constitution. Fifty-eight per cent also said they’re willing to open up [...]
Here’s a wonkish-type post from me today on Senate reform, since there’s another poll out today (h/t Harperbizarro)that shows many Canadians in favour of an elected Senate.
In my opinion, If you’re going to do reform, Harper’s piecemeal way isn’t the way to go (it may not even be constitutionally legal); you need to open the Constitution and hammer out an agreement with the provinces. It’s more difficult to do it that way, but if you’re serious about it and not just trying to use it as a wedge issue for stirring up your supporters, then that’s the way you do it. If you fail, you drop it and [...]
It’s been rather amusing pointing out the hypocrisy that Harper has engaged in with all these crony appointments to the Senate in recent days and comparing them to his past statements, but let me say that I also want to mirror Jeff’s blogpost in saying that if Harper were actually to propose real Senate reform, I’d go along with that. What is “real Senate reform”, you might ask? Jeff’s definition will do nicely:
..real and meaningful Senate reform means a constitutional amendment. It means the amending formula. It means sitting down with the provinces and negotiating regional representation, and elections, and term limits, and the balance of powers between House [...]