Friday, August 28, 2009

Why not abolish the Canadian Senate?

I’m pleased to see Prime Minister Harper abandon his goal of reforming the Canadian Senate. Clearly his 27 appointments this year is a signal that Senate reform is no longer on the table.

Modeling Parliament after the U.S. Congress with two separate and independent elected bodies is a costly initiative that would not necessarily produce better laws. Though retaining the current system is not necessarily better. I think Canada would survive just fine without a Senate.

The Fathers of Confederation saw the Senate as serving two purposes. First, it was to provide for a "sober second thought" regarding the decisions reached by the elected House of Commons. Second, it was to provide for equal regional representation. However, the Senate fulfills neither role and is totally irrelevant. As a chamber of "sober second thought" it is irrelevant because in a democracy, decisions regarding policy ought to be made by elected officials. As a regional representative, it is irrelevant because senators owe their allegiance to the prime minister who appointed them rather than the province they represent.

An elected Senate is not the solution. In the Canadian system, under the principle of responsible government, since cabinet is responsible to the democratically elected members of the House of Commons, there is no separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. This reality makes it difficult to give the Senate any effective powers, regardless of whether or not it was elected.

And do we really want equal representation from each province? Based on some of the proposals floating around, the six smallest provinces and territories representing only 11 per cent of the nation's population would hold a majority in the Senate, while the two largest provinces representing 62 per cent of Canada's population would have 12 of the 66 seats in the Senate. That’s not very democratic either.

The solution to regional representation is to properly divide responsibility between the federal and provincial governments and ensure taxation is fairly distributed. Let’s face it, it’s all about money. The provinces don’t like being told how to spend transfer payments.

So save the taxpayers’ money by abolishing the Senate. These patronage appointments are just too costly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, abolishing the senate only makes sense. Their destroying Bill C-311 undermined the work of the elected representatives and is a slap in the face for younger generations. People should have been outraged whether they supported the bill or not. This is not a democracy. We do not need these elderly parasites.