Senate Reform

Topics: Canada, Conservative Party of Canada, Stephen Harper Pages: 7 (2136 words) Published: October 22, 2010
On July 1st, 1867, Canada confederated into a nation and committed to uphold democracy “From Sea to Sea”. As stated in the Constitution of our nation, Canada would be governed through a Parliamentary system, with both an upper and lower house of legislature. The lower house, the House of Commons, would include elected members from across the country. Conversely, the upper house, the Senate, according to Section 24 of the Constitution Act (1867), states: “The Governor General shall… summon qualified Persons to the Senate; and… every Person so summoned shall become… a Member of the Senate.”[1] This has amounted to almost 800 Canadians being appointed to the Senate since Confederation. However, as Canadians have grown to demand transparency and reject government action without accountability, the Senate and its antidemocratic actions have allowed it to become an easy target for public cynicism.[2] Former Prime Minister John Turner expresses his criticism (1993) towards the Senate when he says “The Senate has outlived its usefulness and has become a superfluous appendage on the Canadian political system.”[3] In fact, the Canadian Senate is of the last Westminster-based parliamentary chambers to remain unreformed.[4] The fact that the 2009 Senate continues to operate in a fashion accepted in an 1867 democracy is worth discussion. There have been several attempts at Senate reform within the past quarter-century, none which have been implemented.[5] As it stands, the Canadian Senate is obsolete, and should reform to the “Triple E Senate” model to re-establish its constitutional requirement to act as Canada’s chamber of ‘sober second thought’. This model would be more beneficial, especially in regards to the vitality of democracy, as it would call for an elective, effective, and equal Senate. Currently, Senators are appointed by the Governor General without public forum or debate. This appointment process does not reflect Canada’s democratic principles and requires reform. According to current convention, the Senate does not serve its purpose as defined by the constitution in Canada, this ineffectiveness too requires reform. As Canada’s upper house, the Senate needs to give greater equality to the current divisions of Canada, namely the 4 Western provinces. The East, West, and Central Canada should be equally represented within the Senate. This essay will focus on the aspects of the Canadian Senate that require reform. The “Triple E Senate” model will be proposed as a viable tool for Senate reform, stressing the importance of an elective, effective, and equal Senate. The history of the Senate will first be analysed to demonstrate the superfluous nature of the chamber in a twentieth-century democracy. The following paragraph will then examine the Senator appointment process, arguing in the defence of an elected senate. Following that, the effectiveness of the Senate will be criticized proving a lack of accountability within the system. To finalize argumentation, an equal Senate will be pushed for so that regions of Canada don’t face alienation from federal government policies. The Canadian Federal Senate, when first established in 1867, was patterned after the British House of Lords.[6] Members of the chamber were to be appointed for life, each Canadian region (divided into Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, and the West) would receive 24 Senators, and the Senate was to provide as a ‘sober second thought’ to legislation passed by the House of Commons.[7] The Senate also enjoys a legislative veto, but not necessarily for the assumed reasons. The Senate was intended to protect the wealthy Canadians from potentially ‘risky’ legislation passed by the elected people’s chamber.[8] Thus, with the power of a veto, appointed Senators (usually business elites) were able to use the law as a tool in maintaining their economic interests. To this day, the Senate remains in its original structure, only with minor modifications. The...
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