It's a real shame about the Senate

Opinion Jun 18, 2015 Dundas Star News

Pity the poor Senate. So much maligned, so misunderstood.

Canadians have complained for years that an unelected body, comprised largely of partisan hacks, has any say in the laws of the land. They’ve been frustrated by the fact that any move to reform or abolish the Upper House has consistently gone nowhere thanks to the fact that no one in Canadian politics wants to reopen the can of worms which is the country’s constitution.

Of course its members don’t do the Red Chamber any favours. The recent spending and bribery scandals are only the latest in a long list of embarrassments that have plagued the Senate.

In short, the Senate is easy to loathe.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As it was initially designed, the Senate was supposed to be a place of “sober second thought” which would be free from all the pressures to do what is popular over what is right. A senator could ask the difficult question or stand on a matter of principle without fear for his or her job. Yes, the Prime Minister or party leader has some influence over their senators, but, thanks to appointments that last until age 75, their actual coercive powers are quite limited.

And that long-term appointment that can be another boon for the Parliamentary system. MPs come and go every election, but having senators serve long-term allows them to build up institutional memory that can help steer the ship of state away from the rocks that could threaten it. It should also force senators to think hard about the consequences of their decisions as they may still be around to have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

In truth, there are many good senators and much good work done by the body as a whole, but few would say that the Senate has lived up to its potential.

It’s time to change that.

If there’s one thing that both Conservative and Liberal Prime Ministers have been good at of late is appointing excellent Governors General and Lieutenant-Governors. The men and women they chose represent some of the best and brightest Canada has to offer, people who do the nation proud. Those are the very sort of people that Canada needs in the Senate.

Ideally, they should be non-partisan to allow for open and in-depth debates and discussions that could actually produce meaningful changes to legislation, for the good of the country.

Best of all, this change could be made without the need to amend the constitution. Any Prime Minister could do it at will.

All that’s needed is the will to make the Senate what it should have been all along.

It's a real shame about the Senate

Opinion Jun 18, 2015 Dundas Star News

Pity the poor Senate. So much maligned, so misunderstood.

Canadians have complained for years that an unelected body, comprised largely of partisan hacks, has any say in the laws of the land. They’ve been frustrated by the fact that any move to reform or abolish the Upper House has consistently gone nowhere thanks to the fact that no one in Canadian politics wants to reopen the can of worms which is the country’s constitution.

Of course its members don’t do the Red Chamber any favours. The recent spending and bribery scandals are only the latest in a long list of embarrassments that have plagued the Senate.

In short, the Senate is easy to loathe.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As it was initially designed, the Senate was supposed to be a place of “sober second thought” which would be free from all the pressures to do what is popular over what is right. A senator could ask the difficult question or stand on a matter of principle without fear for his or her job. Yes, the Prime Minister or party leader has some influence over their senators, but, thanks to appointments that last until age 75, their actual coercive powers are quite limited.

And that long-term appointment that can be another boon for the Parliamentary system. MPs come and go every election, but having senators serve long-term allows them to build up institutional memory that can help steer the ship of state away from the rocks that could threaten it. It should also force senators to think hard about the consequences of their decisions as they may still be around to have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

In truth, there are many good senators and much good work done by the body as a whole, but few would say that the Senate has lived up to its potential.

It’s time to change that.

If there’s one thing that both Conservative and Liberal Prime Ministers have been good at of late is appointing excellent Governors General and Lieutenant-Governors. The men and women they chose represent some of the best and brightest Canada has to offer, people who do the nation proud. Those are the very sort of people that Canada needs in the Senate.

Ideally, they should be non-partisan to allow for open and in-depth debates and discussions that could actually produce meaningful changes to legislation, for the good of the country.

Best of all, this change could be made without the need to amend the constitution. Any Prime Minister could do it at will.

All that’s needed is the will to make the Senate what it should have been all along.

It's a real shame about the Senate

Opinion Jun 18, 2015 Dundas Star News

Pity the poor Senate. So much maligned, so misunderstood.

Canadians have complained for years that an unelected body, comprised largely of partisan hacks, has any say in the laws of the land. They’ve been frustrated by the fact that any move to reform or abolish the Upper House has consistently gone nowhere thanks to the fact that no one in Canadian politics wants to reopen the can of worms which is the country’s constitution.

Of course its members don’t do the Red Chamber any favours. The recent spending and bribery scandals are only the latest in a long list of embarrassments that have plagued the Senate.

In short, the Senate is easy to loathe.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As it was initially designed, the Senate was supposed to be a place of “sober second thought” which would be free from all the pressures to do what is popular over what is right. A senator could ask the difficult question or stand on a matter of principle without fear for his or her job. Yes, the Prime Minister or party leader has some influence over their senators, but, thanks to appointments that last until age 75, their actual coercive powers are quite limited.

And that long-term appointment that can be another boon for the Parliamentary system. MPs come and go every election, but having senators serve long-term allows them to build up institutional memory that can help steer the ship of state away from the rocks that could threaten it. It should also force senators to think hard about the consequences of their decisions as they may still be around to have to clean up the mess they’ve made.

In truth, there are many good senators and much good work done by the body as a whole, but few would say that the Senate has lived up to its potential.

It’s time to change that.

If there’s one thing that both Conservative and Liberal Prime Ministers have been good at of late is appointing excellent Governors General and Lieutenant-Governors. The men and women they chose represent some of the best and brightest Canada has to offer, people who do the nation proud. Those are the very sort of people that Canada needs in the Senate.

Ideally, they should be non-partisan to allow for open and in-depth debates and discussions that could actually produce meaningful changes to legislation, for the good of the country.

Best of all, this change could be made without the need to amend the constitution. Any Prime Minister could do it at will.

All that’s needed is the will to make the Senate what it should have been all along.