Xtra
2 min

The other problem with that Senate ‘reform’ bill

The premier of New Brunswick continues his
rather perverse musing that he’ll draw up Senate “consultative elections”
legislation, possibly by next year – never mind the fact that Harper’s Senate
“reform” bill is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Liberals’ new tactic – on top
of pointing out that this bill is unconstitutional – is that it leaves the
Western provinces grossly underrepresented in a newly empowered institution. There is a collection of quotes from academics on the subject here – and most oppose
Harper’s bill. Maclean’s John Geddes parses much of this as Harper’s attempt to destabilize the status quo so much
that it gives him a lever for future constitutional negotiations.

If I might comment for a moment, I won’t
deny that we should look at rebalancing regional distribution in the Senate
(albeit by means of a constitutional amendment), but I don’t
agree that we should give equal seats to each province (per the “triple E”
model that some people espouse. After all, the Senate is not a “house of the
provinces” as some people erroneously suggest – it is a regional body designed
to counter the influence of representation-by-population in the Commons.
Initially, it was designed as the “three kingdoms” of Ontario, Quebec and the
Maritimes, which expanded as Canada grew. That’s not to say that we can’t
rebalance the regions in a new way, so that Alberta and BC aren’t so
disadvantaged, but that’s a constitutional process that needs to be discussed
and undertaken – along with any other “reform” measures that might be taken (of
which I think there should be exceedingly few).

Senator Sharon Carstairs, meanwhile, resigned her seat early last week in a move some are calling a surprise (but
it wasn’t one really, considering she’s been broadcasting her intention to step
down for months now). On her way out, Carstairs warned against Harper’s Senate
“reform” plans, though she does believe in shorter term limits. Carstairs was
the Liberal provincial leader in Manitoba who basically revived the party there
before she was appointed to the Senate. While in the Senate, she has
recently championed causes such as reforming Canada’s Access to Medicines
Regime and palliative care.

There are allegations that Senator Mike
Duffy’s staff may have tried to interfere with the PEI provincial
election, while Flaherty and other ministers were sticking their fingers into
the Ontario election.

Senator Percy Downe asks about the possible
changes
 to the Act of Settlement, which would affect the rules of succession
for the monarchy.

The process for returning Omar Khadr to
Canada has begun.

And here’s an interesting piece by Colby
Cosh of Maclean’s on voter turnout,
which is some interesting food for thought when it comes to the correlation of
fixed election dates and declining voter turnout – you know, exactly the opposite
of what people said would happen, leaving one to wonder if perhaps the lack of
a “narrative” for fixed elections keeps more people away from ballot boxes.

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