The Triple E Senate of Canada
Public interest in the Senate is currently stronger than it ever has been. Nearly everyone agrees that our present Senate is unsatisfactory. Political parties such as the New Democratic Party want the outright abolition of the Senate while others such as the Reform Party want to elect it. Since the Senate has not been considered an effective forum for regional representation- which was one of the reasons for its creation-many Canadians have wondered what reforms would allow it to perform that role better. The objectives of Senate reform are based on one idea, that of enhancing the quality of regional representation of politicians within national political institutions. Through the implementation of a Triple E Senate (Equal, Effective, Elected), a federal principle can be constructed into the national government and therefore provide a check on the majority in the House of Commons.
A major function of second chambers is legislative review. This means that bills coming from the other house are examined, revised and sometimes delayed. Unless regional representation is included, the legislative review function does not examine the purpose of proposed legislation, but instead attempts to improve it technically. In federal systems, the legislative review function of the Senate is only secondary to their role in providing for representation for various parts of the country in the national legislature. Representation is selected in favour of the smaller regions, in contrast to the first chamber, where representation is always based on population. Therefore the functions associated with the Senate are legislative review and the representation of the various regions on a different basis from the lower house.
The Fathers of Confederation originally intended for the Senate to play the legislative review role. As sir John A. MacDonald said, the Senate was to have "the sober second thought in legislation" and should not be "a mere chamber for registering the decrees of the Lower House". They also agreed on a particular qualification of Senators, which was intended to help them act as a check against the majority in the Lower House. This qualification has remained unchanged since 1867, but its practical meaning has long been discarded.
The other major role meant for the Senate was to preserve what MacDonald called "sectional interests". It is believed that this agreement about representation in the Senate was the main factor that allowed the Canadian federation to be formed. The Senate has functioned quite effectively as a house of legislative review up to the present time, but its intended role in regional representation has not been as effectively performed. seventy-five), the Senate's ability to represent the regions of Canada has been weakened. During long appointments, the responsiveness to the views and concerns of the represented is not always guaranteed. There is also no obligation to account to their respective regions and their representation is not put to any public test. Even if Senators did perform an adequate role as representatives, the public might not see it in the light.
The implementation of a Senate which is elected rather than appointed would ensure that representatives were more responsive to the public. It would also give the Senate the authority to exercise the substantial powers given to it by the Canadian Constitution. Any political institution can obtain formal or legal powers, but if the public does not want them to use it, these powers may not be exercised. In addition, most Canadians have reservations about appointments to a legislative body for such a long term in this, a more democratic age than when the Senate was established.
Senators in our Upper House do not really represent anyone except for the one who appointed them-the Prime Minister. It is because of this reason that they cannot effectively express the views...
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MacGuigan, The Hon. Mark. Reform of the Senate: A Discussion Paper. Ottawa:
Publications Canada, 1983.
MacKay, Robert A. The Unreformed Senate of Canada. Toronto: Oxford University
Toronto: Dundurn Press Ltd., 1991.
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