Senate Reform

7 01 2010

Senate Chamber

The Harper Government has announced its intention to re-open the issue of Senate Reform. I have a few quick thoughts about this.

1)      The Governments of Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba, which have nearly half the country’s population, are in favour of the outright abolition of the Senate. Unicameralism seems to work well for the provinces. The last province to abolish its unelected upper house was Quebec. No province is considering reintroducing bicameralism at the provincial level. We should consider Senate abolition. Senate abolition has been discussed more or less continuously since the 1920s. Let’s act.

2)      According to the amending formula entrenched in the 1982 constitution, changing the Senate will require the consent of the provinces. What will the provinces ask for in return for going along with this?

3)      Canada’s House of Lords Senate is only one of the more objectionable parts of our constitutional inheritance from Britain. As I showed on this blog, the visit of Prince Charles prompted a great deal of discussion about the future of the monarchy in Canada. Most young Canadians think that Canada should become a republic. One could argue that changing our head of state is more important than changing the upper house. Senate reform is a largely symbolic issue, but the head of state is far more important symbolically. We don’t have pictures of the Senate on our coins. If we are going to scrap or change the Senate, maybe we should deal with the monarchy at the same time.

Update: Jeffrey Simpson has a very good article on this issue in today’s paper.


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One response

9 01 2010
Fat Arse

re: “Senate reform is a largely symbolic issue, … If we are going to scrap or change the Senate, maybe we should deal with the monarchy at the same time.”

With respects, Senate reform is not a ‘symbolic’ issue and, at this juncture, doing away with a benign and antiquated monarchical head of state will not cure what ails us. Senate reform 1st, abolition of the monarchy yes… but not today.

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