Get rid of it: so easy to say, so popular among the shoot-from-the-lip crowd, and so clever a strategy by those who want to govern without actually forming government !
But the Senate SHOULD be retained. And reformed.
Now that the “hang ’em” mob reaction and excitement related to the spending excesses of a few sleazy-looking Senators has calmed down …at least a bit … we should take a hard look at whether the Senate should indeed be abolished, or reformed.
Bi-cameral Parliament has been around since two distinct Houses were initiated during the time of Edward III (1312-1377) in Britain; and not only Canada, but even the U.S. … despite its revolutionary rejection of so much British … have retained the second chamber, and for good reason.
Not the least of which is to provide a place to question, challenge and even reject decisions of the tyranny of the majority in the House of Commons.
How dare I say that ANYTHING but the majority should rule!!! To the Tower! Or the guillotine?
Not so fast! hear me out …and if you REALLY think about it, you should agree there IS indeed a role that could be played by the Senate … but NOT the one we now have.
A House of Commons, in an ideal political world, should work fine. But let’s keep it real: our House is not ideal; debate of legislation today is almost meaningless under the whip system; its committees do not function as a place where ordinary MPs’ views and regional visions can be honestly accommodated or amendments effected; and, there simply is not enough time to do serious studies of serious issues.
And things gets even worse when there is a minority government: with ONLY a House of Commons, you could actually have very heavy and restrictive LAWS imposed on Canadians by those who were NOT chosen to form government!
Impossible? Well, it actually happened … in Canada … not very long ago … and ONLY our Senate prevented the travesty from being rammed through.
I’m referring to the issue I wrote about in this blog in April 2010, when a New Brunswick NDP MP introduced a Private Members Bill calling for ALL new Supreme Court Justices to be EXPERTLY bilingual … to hear complex legal arguments even on technical issues and not just use translation services, like they do now.
Not hard to see how that would disqualify MOST Western Canadian lawyers and judges from ever being considered for Supreme court, while giving many Eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick (aha!) prospects, where bilingualism is much more prevalent, a distinct advantage.
The NDP MPs (including BC’s NDP sellouts) were all in favour; so was the Bloc Quebecois and enough Liberals to push the Private Member’s Bill through the Commons, overcoming the Tory minority government … and PASS.
It was indeed, the tyranny of the majority, where those NOT chosen by enough Canadians to govern, could actually impose discrimination and second-class status on most of the country.
It would have become law …but for those dinosaurs, those patronage appointees, those pompous privileged partisans … in the Senate!
The Senate rejected the proposed law … and saved the West from yet another permanent, crippling disadvantage at the seat of power in Ottawa. Every Western Canadian owes the Senate some true gratitude. (Even though many would hate to acknowledge it.)
Clearly, though, the Senate HAS problems … not the least of which is the way its members are chosen: almost always appointed for all the WRONG reasons: a public payoff for party work; rewards for staff loyalty in office; just being friends of the right people; and cynical regional political or ethnic vote-getting attempts.
What we need is Senate reform: Yes… triple E … Equal, Elected, and Effective.
That will not come all at once … because Western Canadians, who are most abused under the current system, don’t have the backbone to take on Central Canada and the Maritimes and DEMAND change to give us FAIR REPRESENTATION in an elected, reformed Senate … or start looking at walking away (like Quebeckers have done so effectively for decades).
Not just pretend …but actually look at doing it.
Instead of just accepting we will always be second class in a country that sees us for nothing else but our resources.
An elected Senate really representing the regions, while still providing a second perspective on Bills passed by the Commons, would be really good thing for BC, the West and the country as a democracy.
Abolishing it would just make things even worse for BC and the West.