Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reform the Senate but do it constitutionally

As reported this morning by the Canadian Press and posted at HuffPo, Québec is serving notice that if Harper continues with his plans to unilaterally "reform" the Senate, it will seek to have such a bill declared unconstitutional.   The province argues that under the current amending formula (which, oddly enough, it has objected to for 29 years) it takes seven provinces with at least fifty percent of the population to change the way Senators are selected.

That is absolutely correct, and it shouldn't even have to go to a court challenge -- all it would take is for the House of Commons Speaker to declare the bill out of order, just as the Chair has on so many occasions when it has tossed out appropriations or tax bills introduced in the Senate (they must be introduced in the House).

One thing Québec might consider, however, is agreeing to changing its Senate boundaries.   In the other provinces and the territories, a Senator can declare he or she represents a certain geographic area but in reality they do represent that province at large.   However, Québec has 24 Senate districts based on the old Legislative Council seats of Lower Canada pre Confederation, meaning large portions of the province (the near and far north), annexed after the federation was formed are not even represented.   And the population shifts from rural to urban means the periphery of the North and South Shores have more power than Senators from Montréal and Québec City.  It's worth pointing out too, the Salle Rouge was abolished in 1968.  So there's really no need for this anachronism of an anachronism to continue.

Don't abolish the Chamber.   Make it elected, but ensure fairer regional balance.   And have fixed, six year terms so it's not subject to the whims of the election cycle of the lower chamber.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.


bubba said...

The PM can appoint anyone he choses to the senate. If he makes a commitment to let provinces elect senators then appoints them it woul be hard for future PMs to not do likewise.If provinces don't elect then PM will chose for them. If senators sign in on taking office to end their terms at 10 years an follow through then no problem. I just dont understand why anyone would be against these changes. They both make total sense and if we can avoid opening the constitution great.

The Mound of Sound said...

Bubba misses the point. This isn't about a prime minister's authority to appoint senators as he sees fit. That has always been the case. If Harper wants to make his choice based on someone else's choice, it remains his choice.

Harper, low life that he is, has already established a precedent - he's the first prime minister ever to appoint only those of his own party. Ever. That's just how weasels are.

And, any constitutional change would indeed require renegotiation with the provinces. The maritimes would probably vote as a bloc to protect their advantages. Every other province would also have a "price" Harper would have to pay for their consent. Our Ruler doesn't play well with others when he can't control them.

Larry said...

Wow, Mound.

Just a tad upset are you that you Libs were decimated in the last election? Or is it the current 15% standing that has you spitting venom.

BlastFurnace said...

I can't speak for the other commenters here, I will say for myself I have supported an elected Senate for the better part of twenty years -- anything to get rid of the part timers club. Senators should be full time people committed to their jobs like those in the lower house and not hold any outside directorships under any circumstances.