Saturday, August 29, 2009

Alternative reform to the Senate

To hear Stephen Harper say it, one assumes there is only one way of reforming the Senate, through elections to the Senate. However, there are alternative ways to reform the Red Chamber that would be more in line with the Senate's purpose: to be the house of "sober second thought".

Making the upper chamber elected could, in most aspects render the Senate a second House of Commons. It would be more likely to have proportions of senators similar to the House. In other words, depending on when elections were held, it could become obsolete, a simple rubber stamp to whatever legislation is put forward by the House.

Instead, one could change the Senate's powers, so that it does not have a veto as it does now. Instead, it could take on more of the characteristics of the UK's House of Lords, which only has the power to delay legislation for a 12-month period. This would eliminate the Senate's current absolute veto on legislation, while ensuring that it could limit the powers of the government.

This, I think, might be more in line with what the Senate was designed to do, as it could give the nation reason to think about the legislation it wants pushed through, instead of becoming a passive chamber without much power. Then those senatorial salaries really would be a waste of money.
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  1. "To hear Stephen Harper say it, there is only one way of reforming the Senate, through the triple E: equal, elected and effective."

    I have never heard Prime Minister Stephen Harper say he supports the Triple E Senate. All I have ever heard him support are these meaningless little "reforms" he keeps touting (but not really trying to pass).

    He wants his base to believe he supports Triple E, and maybe he even does, but if he says that he will have to admit he needs a constitutional amendment.


  2. "Triple E: equal, elected and effective"

    Get your facts straight. Harper is specifically NOT advocating a triple-E Senate at this time, that would require a constitutional change and he has ruled that out.

    "... it could become obsolete, a simple rubber stamp to whatever legislation is put forward by the House"

    Well I don't think that is what would happen, but if it did it would be an improvement over what we have now. Remember the HoC passed Senate reform legislation to elect Senators, but the Liberal Senators have prevented the bill from becoming law. They're not elected, but they have full veto over our elected representatives. I don't know how anyone can get behind that perversion of democracy.

    "One could change the Senate's powers" - that would require a constitutional change, you might be the only one to want that.

  3. Reading your posts on Senate reform made me think of an paper I wrote earlier this year, and in it I made a reference to how we could reform the Senate, one that I am sure has been given due consideration.

    In the Russian Federation, all bills must be passed by both the Duma and the Upper House, the Federation Council. The Fed. Council cannot make any changes to a bill coming from the Duma, and can only pass or reject the bill. If rejected, the two Houses can then form a joint Committee and work to pass the bill with amendments. If the Duma insists on passing the bill as-is, another vote with a 2/3 majority is required and can override the Fed. Council's rejection.

    That is something I think can quite easily be applied to the Canadian Senate. Its a practical process in itself, so I can't see much opposition to it.

  4. Exactly. There are many more alternatives out there, and they are more readily compatible with the Senate's role as "sober second thought".


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