Canadians have little patience with partisan politics in the Senate or anywhere else – or so says a recent national survey I commissioned by Nik Nanos. It’s likely no surprise that Canadians want to see Senators conduct themselves differently, given recent audit findings and headline grabbing legal battles – and justifiably so. We can do better; much better. But what may be surprising to many is the extent to which Canadians want change. And the kind of change they’d like to see.
For starters – Canadians care about the Senate, and about federal politics generally. Almost 9 out of 10 Canadians say they follow federal politics closely or somewhat closely. A whopping 70% of Canadians say that Senate reform is an urgent or somewhat urgent priority.
Pundits and politicos are often fond of saying Canadians don’t know what the Senate does or how it works, but that turns out not to be the case, at least according to Canadians. 83% say they are familiar or somewhat familiar with the role of the Senate in the federation. So far so good.
But it gets even better. When asked how they’d like to see the Senate function, Canadians signaled they're ready for a sea change. Almost no-one supports Senators belonging to a political caucus and voting along party lines – that's so yesterday. Instead, there's a wave of support for an independent Senate.
74% of Canadians want to see Senators sitting outside a political caucus and voting independently. Their message is loud and clear: the partisan status quo will no longer do in the Senate. As Pink almost said, it’s time to get this non-partisan party started.