Senate still needs to change
Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 03:08 pm
The Canadian Senate is an anachronsim left over from Canada’s founding days and needs to be reformed to bring it into the modern era. It’s also one of our county’s founding institutions of government and the Supreme Court of Canada made the right decision in saying any changes to the senate must follow constitutional rules.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled the senate was created under the Canadian Constitution and can only be changed under rules for constitutional amendments. The court ruled establishing term limits and consultative elections, as done in Alberta, would require support of the House of Commons, the Senate and at least seven provinces that make up at least half of Canada’s population. Abolition of the senate would require the approval of all 10 provinces.
Senate reform has been a goal of the Conservative Government since the days of the former Reform Party. Prime Minister Stephen Harper sought to make changes with proposed legislation to set term limits for senators and open the door to expanding the Alberta model for electing senators. After watching the details of the recent senate scandals unfold, the desire for change is stronger then ever. And, make no mistake the senate needs to change.
However, making changes to the senate by legislation is not the right way to do it. Changes to the foundational institutions of our government need to be made in consultation with the provinces and Canadians.
Sen. Scott Tannas may have it right when he says it’s up to senators to drum up public support for change. It could help senators show Canadians why the upper chamber of parliament is important and can show provincial governments it’s time to change the senate for the modern era.