3 min

Reform without a vision

Since the Conservatives have a majority government, they’ve been talking about Senate reform again. Mind you, it's being done in their usual clumsy, uneducated way, which seems to assume three things: their reforms actually have a vision, they wouldn’t require a constitutional amendment, and they actually know what can of worms they’re opening. And so, with their term-limits bill, they are signalling that they might be willing to amend their idea from an unworkable eight years to maybe 10 or 12. This is still ridiculous from a constitutional standpoint, but at 12 years, they might be able to get around the constitutional amendment requirement, because it’s less likely to alter the character of the chamber. I will stress, that’s a might.

The new minister of state for democratic reform, Tim Uppal, has made comments that really concern me. He said the Conservatives want term limits to make senators accountable to electors (assuming their preposterous “Senate elections” bill could ever pass the constitutional smell test, which it won’t) and limits of 12 years wouldn’t jibe with the party’s “goal” of an elected Senate. This makes my alarm bells go off: it’s pretty clear that this has nothing to do with trying to reform the upper chamber because of concerns for improving democratic representation in this country, but rather that they want change for change’s sake, and they think it’s good politics. But this way madness lies.

It’s clear that pretty much everyone who is talking reform has no idea what they’re actually talking about because they don’t even know what the Senate does. And no, it’s not a resting place for party hacks to nap while collecting a salary. A lot of good work happens in the Senate that goes unrecognized by the media and the country in general, yet people think that monkeying around with a cornerstone of our democratic institutions is somehow a harmless exercise. It’s not. People need to actually understand what the Senate does before they start trying to come up with a vision of how it will look under their reform ideas – and this has to happen before they start trying to make this piecemeal change. But hey, it’s not like the constant undermining of our democracy is making anyone lose any sleep, right?

Oh, and Quebec would take any of these reform measures to the Supreme Court, as well they should. These are unilateral actions that require a constitutional amendment, let alone an actual vision of what a reformed upper chamber would look like (and there isn't one). This doomed exercise needs to be killed with fire.

Harper, meanwhile, made a trip to Kandahar. He paid tribute to our troops’ good work and declared the threat of terrorism from Afghanistan over. Um, really? Does this feel like a “mission accomplished” moment to anyone else?

On the topic of the Canadian Forces, we now have our first female admiral. She is in charge of the reserves and cadets.

Here’s a look at some of Harper’s cabinet committees, with the interesting note that the full cabinet rarely meets, while the Priorities and Planning Committee seems to be where the real action takes place. This is one of those moments when one wonders about the usefulness of Harper’s bloated cabinet and the need of having so many ministers.

In the National Post, Liberal MP Scott Brison offers some suggestions on party rebuilding.

Here’s a look at William and Kate’s upcoming tour of Canada.

Kady O’Malley looks at the policy resolutions at the upcoming Conservative Party convention, and yes, there is a resolution about how the party supports the definition of marriage as one man and one woman.

And Elizabeth May has been sworn in as an MP. She is negotiating to be recognized as a party leader (and be afforded a bit of extra latitude because of that) rather than as an independent, which, technically, she is under House rules.
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