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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

reforming canada's senate...

A number of things have been going on over my brief sejourn from the blogging world.

Senate Reform... Prime Minister Harper has put forward a Bill C-43: The Senate Appointments Consultations Act, Senate reform package which would allow Senators to be elected through preferential elections.

I don't oppose Senate reform, but I do have unanswered questions about some of the outcomes, mostly because I don't think many Canadians have thought about "what are the political concequences of having an elected Senate?"

I agree that the appointed Senate which Canadians currently have is an antiquated and archane method of chosing an Upper House, but it's more the consiquances of an elected Senate that I'm interested in. Reforming the Senate could completely redefine Canadian politics and has the potential to remove power from the House of Commons. Not to mention that I'm not sure the Senate as a House of Parliament will be any more effective if it became elected (*cough*a la House of Commons*cough*)

The eight year term which the Tories propose seems like a number drawn out of a hat, it's alot better than "for life" but still quite random. Will a Senator be allowed to run for re-election? Should Senators be elected through a province-wide elections or through large district elections? (Will Ontario elected 24 Senators from Toronto?)

I'm very interested to see how a move like this will effect the power of the provinces on a national scale, who will be the voice of the Provinces in Ottawa? As most proponants of Senate reform and Triple-E Senate reform would say, having an elected Senate would give the provinces a better voice in Ottawa. But would it? Would Senators displace Premiers as the voices of the Provinces in Ottawa? Would Senators be federal politicians representing their province in Ottawa or provincial politicians representing their Provincial government in Ottawa? I'm sure there are some Premiers who may not like one of the results...

Also, would political parties collect public funding from the votes their recieve from Senate elections similar to what they recieve in House of Commons elections? $1.75 per vote?

If anyone would care to take a stab at answering or if you have any other questions, pop them in the comment box...


docsanchez said...

Cart ahead of the horse?

First the question should be asked: what is the goal (or point) of the Senate? Perhaps the NDP have it right in calling for it to just be abolished. Second the balance between provinces needs to be adjusted. Alberta and BC together have the same size population as Quebec but have half the seats. Is the senate to be rep by pop or is each province to have an equal number of seats?

Either way fixing these issues would require a constitutional amendment, which would never pass.

Because of this doesn't bill C43 seem more like a really expensive band-aid? (Elections (aka consultations) ain't cheap you know.)

daveberta said...

Yes, it may be putting the cart ahead of the horse, but this is the type of stuff that wanders through my head on any given day.

I don't think C-43 is as much a band-aid as a backdoor in edging towards the type of Senate reform that Harper probably really wants. I'm sure he had to give up a lot for ground in terms of having a minority government and a hostile Senate (on both sides on this issue I would imagine). And I don't think his government is in any shape to play ball by opening up a constitutional debate, however badly needed.

Chris Young said...

I'm not sure it's a "backdoor", but it's certainly a step in the right direction. You are correct that some questions remain as to details, but I am confident this move will improve upon the present state of the institution.

I agree with the above comment that the current distribution of seats in the Senate must eventually be redistributed. That, of course, may be the most contentious element of any reform.

Will the Senate take power away from the House of Commons? I don't necessarily think it will be robbing power from the House, but making the Senate "effective" is just another way of conveying the need to give it some form of real power, and thus relevance.