CIVICS PORTFOLIO ESSAY
DUE: JUNE 6TH 2011
Teacher: Mr. Griem
Should the Canadian Senate be left alone, reformed or abolished?
By: Shakir M. Lakhani
Final Civics Essay
June 6th, 2011
Shakir M. Lakhani
Topic: Senate Reform
Do you feel your government is fair? Does it manage the issues properly, with careful thought, and an open, objective mind? Is it effective? Do you feel that the Senate is a “sober chamber of second thought?” Do you feel that the best interests of the Canadian public are always preserved in the current model of our governance? If so, you’re mistaken. Under our present governance, we have two houses, the House of Commons, and the Senate, the reform to the latter being the main topic of this essay. The notion, or the concept of having the Senate in Canada is indeed a very powerful one, provided it functioned on the principles of the Triple-E Senate, whereby it would be Equal, Elected, and Effective. Even more importantly, it has to have the support and the respect of the Canadian Public, whose interests it exists to serve. The following paragraphs elaborate on some of the concerns with the current model, the potential options to address these concerns, and the preferred way forward to reforming the Senate.
Presently, the Canadian government is run by Stephen Harper, a man who has been promising to reform the senate, primarily for the purpose of making it an Elected Senate. After some six years in power, we have yet to see any meaningful initiatives to reform the Senate. If anything, what we have seen are numerous examples of partisan appointments to the Senate that seriously pose the threat of extreme bias in the Upper House. So, is there a need to reform the Senate? Of course there is, and fast. The public must reform the Senate, and lessen its influence, without abolishing the Senate, or severing ties with the British Upper House, where our model of government originated.
The people want an elected and an un-biased Senate. What we have seen is a repeat of what the previous Liberal leadership has done, with an overwhelming majority of its appointments. Continuation of this psyche does not assure the Canadian public that every legislation will have been debated and deliberated upon with its best interests at heart at all times. The reason is simple. The party politics, various IOU’s, and other strings attached invariably influence the disposition and integrity of the Senate.
Presently, the Senate is ineffective (seen as a “rubber stamp chamber”) and in the views of many, biased somewhat, as seen in the recent addition of 3 Conservative Senators in May 2011, and Senate appointments over the last few years, especially those of Prime Minister(s) Stephen Harper and Brian Mulroney. To be specific, all 38 Senators that have been appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper were Conservative, a majority of whom were Conservative candidates that lost in their own constituencies. The Senate has little or no public support, it’s seen as a useless body, and overall serves little or no role at the moment.
On top of this, the Senate has a poor reputation for its work ethic. As recent as 2009, Senate attendance rates were shown to have a third of Canada’s Senators being absent for a quarter to half of the time, yet still being paid. According to intelliegencer.ca, 29 of the 91 Senators (at the time) had attendance rates ranging from zero to seventy five percent, even though they only worked 70-80 days a year, and they were entitled to 21 days off. At that point in time, only two senators had attendance rates above 90% (63-72 days or more). Attendance rates have apparently been going up, though Senate attendance records are now kept confidential. Perhaps this is to conceal the real truth, and dissuade any criticism? With this level of absenteeism, how is this body, the Upper House of the government, ranking above the House of Commons, which if anything, has to function...
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