You would think that a bit of basic civic
literacy might be a requirement for the minister of state for democratic reform. Okay, maybe the only skill that qualifies a government member for the job is the ability to
parrot talking points, but still… Case in point: Tim Uppal says that people
are unsure about a “reformed” Senate because they don’t want what
happens in Washington to happen up here. He wants to assure them that it won’t because the powers of an “elected” Senate wouldn’t change. Except that’s
actually the problem.
The Canadian Senate has a vast
amount of power at its disposal. It has an unlimited veto against
bills coming from the House of Commons. While it may not be a
confidence chamber, and it can’t initiate money bills, senators can keep sending bills they don’t like back to the Commons whenever they're so inclined. But Canadian senators,
realizing that it would be unseemly to wield such veto power as an appointed body unless absolutely necessary, almost never use such powers. An elected Senate would not feel such a need for restraint. In fact, senators would be more
likely to use that power to justify their existence once they’re elected –
especially in the event that the composition of the Senate is different
politically from that of the Commons. And lo and behold, we'll get the kind of
gridlock you see in American government without a constitutional mechanism
to break it up.
For Tim Uppal to go around reassuring Canadians that they have nothing to fear and that an elected Senate wouldn’t be an issue, he’s either completely naive or completely disingenuous. Either way, it’s a dangerous falsehood that he’s
spreading, and, sadly, populist sentiment around the Senate and gross civic
illiteracy is leaving this largely unchallenged.
Elsewhere, it has been determined that
Jack Layton will lie in state in the foyer of the House of Commons today and
tomorrow. Nycole Turmel, meanwhile, vows to remain on as
interim leader until the party can hold a leadership convention (likely in the new year). She insists that the party is united.
On his day trip to Resolute, Harper talked search and rescue in light of the plane crash there earlier this week.
Incredibly, the government says we can’t
afford to participate in Expo 2012 in Korea. Not even after we’ve saved at
least a million dollars by cancelling Harper’s Arctic photo op? I didn’t realize that we are now Iceland rather than one of the strongest economies in the G7.
Remember the old Parliament building they’re digging up in Montreal? Here’s a story about some of the objects they’ve
uncovered and the history of the building.
And here’s some video from Scott Brison’s
annual barbecue in Cheverie, Nova Scotia.