Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kenney: Senate Reform Major Priority

Jason Kenney announced today that Senate reform will be a major priority when our new majority government convenes in 2 weeks. The way we can do this without re-writing the constitution is to have provinces hold their own Senate elections and have the winners appointed to the chamber by the government. If Premiers Brad Wall and Darrel Dexter are angry about the latest appointments, I would encourage them to put Senate nominees on a ballot next time they hold provincial elections. The nominees need not be affiliated with any political party, and once elected they will represent those provinces in the upper chamber.

Evidently it would have been acceptable to some critics if the Prime Minister had appointed people who did not run for Parliament. By selecting people who lost their bids to be MPs, it is said that Stephen Harper showed contempt for the voters in the ridings. Sure, 51,000 people voted for Verner, Smith, and Manning, but they don't count. Verner and Manning were both within 3.3% of winning their ridings, and have won elections previously. It is not as though the PM selected losing candidates from Senate elections over winning candidates in Senate elections, or over-tuned the result. Liberal Scott Andrews is still going to represent the people of Avalon in Parliament.

Those people musing that the PM appointed those Senators in order to deliberately create chaos and thus demand for Senate reform, give your head a shake. You are trying to be too clever. I believe it had more to do with re-establishing majority control before committee chairs are chosen, which is happening soon. In any event, we will have term limits soon enough and once the provinces start electing Senators, those elected will become Senators. Personally I don't see what the big deal is, but that's just me.


  1. Although it's an interesting way to avoid a Constitutional amendment, frankly I think this is a terrible idea. We can't have national offices being parceled out on the basis of ad hoc provincial elections without a formal legal basis.

    Would Harper appoint 24 separatists if Quebec chose them? Would a future Liberal (or even NDP, if it comes to that) prime minister accept a pile of Conservative appointments from the Prairies? What if one province decides to hold riding-based elections and another decides to have proportional representation? What if a province elects 3 NDP and 3 Conservatives? Does the PM get to pick only his own party from the list when the first seat opening comes up?

    Saying it's just going to be up to the provinces, and maybe the PM will choose the Senators they elect and maybe not, is the sort of decentralization I do not expect from a nationalist government. Elections are the most important part of a democracy. We need a properly run national system for them.

  2. Then let's assemble all the Premiers at Meech Lake and work on changing the constitution...

  3. I'm not sure if you're tongue in cheek or not (I assume so), but the reality is, I don't see how we can build a solid Senate election system without at least some sort of formal national basis for it.

    If that makes it impossible in the current political climate, so be it, although there may be a lot of conservative governments by this time next year willing to at least talk about it. My point is, if we're going to have an elected Senate we need to do it right, and just telling the provinces to figure out what elections to hold and when is going to just create a mess out of what should be a central democratic process.

  4. ''Would Harper appoint 24 separatists if Quebec chose them?''

    The Senate is supposed to represent the interest of the Regions.
    And I would hope the 24 Senators representing the West are equally about 'what's good for the West' as the seppies are about Quebec.

    Perhaps if we had a triple E Senate, the NEP would never have been passed .

  5. In a perfect world Senate elections would be done in a more structured framework, but amending the constitution is extremely difficult, bordering on impossible. There are a number of Premiers who would rather abolish the Senate than reform it. Getting the Provinces to agree on constitutional matters is very tricky business. Good luck trying.

  6. William in Ajax said...

    "how we can build a solid Senate election system without at least some sort of formal national basis for it."

    Hows about basing it on elected regional(provincial) representation, something sadly missing in our system.
    The provinces need the senate to temper the demands of Federal politicians intruding into areas of Provincial jurisdiction.
    They also need it to properly navigate the equalization setup, at present its designed to pay for socialist experiments true free societies have deemed un-affordable.
    The senate should be made up of elected provincial representatives.

    PM Stephen Harper is doing what's necessary to accomplish senate reform, using the only constitutional method available, a (MAJORITY) of like-minded senators to carry the vote.

    We are a federation of provinces, for the last 60 years some provinces have been more equal than others, a provincially focused senate would change all that!

    Real senate reform is comming, the Liberal panic we're seeing and hearing confirms it!

  7. That's a fairly clever move:

    1. Make some senate appointments.
    2. Get the loyal opposition claiming they were "anti-democratic".
    3. Make a proposal for an elected senate.
    5. If Jack supports it, Harper looks like a statesman responsive to the concerns of Canadians. If he opposes it, Jack looks like a hypocrite.
    6. Either way, Harper gets credit for democracizing the senate.

  8. Can anyone imagine the outrage if PMSH had not appointed 2 senators from Que, and left those seats vacant. We had a plurality in the Senate and now we have a majority, and new Chairmanships will soon be appointed. Libs could have maintained some of them with a plurality, and regardless if the PM appointed several more to give him a clear majority, the chairs would not change. They can only be changed after an election or prorogation.
    Now all we have to worry about is getting on of ours elected as speaker. With one oppositin member in the running and 4 conservatives, she culd win on the first ballot. If the winner needs 50% plus one. The govt can't take a chance on a second ballot. They better decide among themselves who they want.

  9. The anti-Harper universe continues in their failed strategy--nitpicking the PROCESS, while not offering up a reasonable alternative POLICY. Jack can adovcate abolishing the Senate all he wants, but we all know that is practically impossible to accomplish.

    As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day ...
    Harper's Senate reform plans will eventually be in place, voters in some provinces will get used to the senator election process, and advocates like Bert Brown will be vindicated for all the hard work they have done.

  10. "We are a federation of provinces, for the last 60 years some provinces have been more equal than others, a provincially focused senate would change all that!"

    No it wouldn't. Have you seen the seat distribution in the Senate lately? Some provinces ARE more equal than others.

    The fact that so many people think we can just allow the provinces to decide whatever ad hoc system of elections they want to run, hold them whenever they want, and then maybe (or maybe not) the PM will pick someone off their list is ridiculous. That's a horrible way to run a democracy and is just inviting abuse -- if not from the current PM, then a future one. If another country ran elections that way, we'd mock them for it, and rightly so.

    I realize Constitutional reform is hard, and I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. There are plenty of options for holding elections on a national standard for national offices. A strong and courageous prime minister would discuss those options, not just send out an underling to say the provinces can do whatever the heck they like.

  11. It is also sad that professional radio hosts, like Michael Harris(CFRA), called these new senators "the three stooges". He professes that he like intelligent debates, but, resorts to attacking at a personal level, like a child.