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Proposals to stage senate elections and impose limited terms were revealed to be little more than red herrings, as arguments percolated in the Supreme Court of Canada yesterday. The federal government’s own lawyer declared that such elections aren’t binding in any way, and that term limits would make little or no difference since the average length of tenure is only 11 years anyway.
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines the term ‘red herring’ as ‘a deliberate or sometimes unintentional diversion which distracts from a line of inquiry under discussion’. Originally, it referred to the practice of drawing an old (and therefore smelly) dried up herring across a fox’s path to destroy the fox’s scent and thoroughly confuse the hounds. Elections and term limits certainly pass the sniff test when it comes to being red herrings. Happily, the Supreme Court justices easily detected the facile attempt to distract from real senate reform and stayed on point.
The real issue is independence. What we should all be working toward is a system that preserves an independence of thought similar to that exhibited by Supreme Court justices. For that, and as a bare minimum, we need an appointment process untainted by political rhetoric and bombast.
Posted On Nov 13 09:58AM
With respect—and I may be asking the impossible—I think we need something more than mere independence of thought. If the people in the Supreme Court and the Senate think along lines that are more or less the same as those in the House of Commons then how likely are they to expose anything novel and useful? Why should an ordinary Canadian care about the opinions of a bunch of appointed legal experts in any case?