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Same Old, Some New, Ideas on Senate Reform
Posted By Senator Elaine McCoy Mar 30 2010 11:39AM

Mr. Harper has, once again, trotted out term limits for senators.  His latest attempt is known as Bill C-10.  Presumably he's introducing it in the House of Commons this time because he's more confident he can control its progress in that chamber.  But the same old arguments against the bill will prevail. 

Term limits are (as I've said elsewhere) a red herring.  The real push behind Bill C-10 and all its predecessors has been this simple:  you can't have elections without term limits.  What Mr. Harper truly wants to create is 105 additional backbenchers that he and his counterparts can control.  Forget the historic agreement balancing regional interests against the tyranny of a majority that an appointed Senate represented in 1867.  Forget the wisdom of our forefathers who conjured up an appointed Chamber that would act as a counterweight to excessive executive power in the PMO.  Forget all that, and forge ahead down a path designed to entrench authority in a one-man show.

Avoid, too, any kind of national dialogue about the health of our federal democracy.  Mr. Harper's intransigence ignores recent calls for an adult conversation in this country about strengthening our central institutions.  Even Roger Gibbins, CEO of the Canada West Foundation, believes we should revisit this issue.  I have endorsed his call for a contemporary dialogue – not least because I believe the quintessential complaint about senators is prime ministerial patronage. 

Yesterday, another voice weighed in on the conversation.  Brian Marlatt's thoughtful contribution suggests that the Governor General take advice on appointments from the entire Privy Council, not just the PM.  As he says,
"Charges of patronage and partisanship would be overcome; there would be no risk to national unity, as would happen if senators were accountable to their province; and senators would not be subject to party discipline, as they would be if elected. Senators would not be just more politicians."

Regardless of the bill's progress through Parliament, and with or without a national dialogue, however, Bill C-10 and an elected Senate will face stiff opposition from some of the regions.  Thankfully, Mr. Harper does not get to play alone in Canada; we are a federation not a playpen for aspiring monopolists.



Comments
Posted On May 01 03:19PM   
dreddman

Harper's ideas on changing Canada's Senate borders on Treason. He wants to fundmetally change the basic operations of our federal System. For this fact alone he should be tossed to the curb before he can do any more damage to our Canadian way of life.


Posted On Mar 31 11:41AM   
legislatrix

Harper's just POd because many of the Senators he opposes will be around longer than he will be!  And there's not much he can do about it.

Time to start a 'pink slip' movement for Harper -- let's all give Harper 'the slip'! 

Into all things politics, policy and parliamentary.


Posted On Mar 31 11:20AM   
maitressedelouest

According to Serge Joyal's book on the topic of Senate Reform (see the Appendix charts), the *average age* a Senator sits anyway (by choice) ranges from 10-12 years -- so 8-year term limits are really not an imperative reform!

Total red herring, as you say, Senator McCoy.  It will look as if he's doing something, when there will be little real change at all (assuming it passes).



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