Senate Reform

Upon the Harper government’s failure this week to fast-track their oft-resurrected Senate term limits, they again pursue the myth that “the Liberals” oppose Senate reform. We don’t, of course. But we do think that it should make sense.

Senate Reform: Canadian-Senate Chamber

Canadian Senate Chamber © S Ashmarin 2007

Imagine that with an appointed Senate and eight-year terms, Mr. Chrétien would have appointed the entire Senate at least twice. And, depending on how individual terms were offset, in his nearly five years in office Mr. Harper himself would have by now been able to appoint better than half.

Regardless of what you think of the Senate now, nothing would render it pointless so fast as having the bulk of it appointed by a single government. As governments come and go, shifting from one party to another, longer terms help maintain balance.

If we want to change the Senate let us by all means have that discussion, and understand what we’re doing. An elected Senate, for example, is a more viable option – at a price of profoundly changing its nature; making it far more political and powerful. Fair enough if that’s what we want, but let’s be serious about it.

If Mr Harper was truly serious about Senate reform, in his five long years in office he would have initiated such a process, which could have been well along by now. Instead, he insists upon short-cuts that arrive nowhere, even trying to circumvent debate by appointing Senators on condition that they do his bidding, and always seeking scapegoats for the failures of his ill-considered tinkering.

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