#43 – A constitutional house cleaning.

People challenge you when you tell them you want to have a constitutional assembly. They want to know what it is you want to change. They want to know if you agree with them on one aspect or another. The only problem is there is so much detritus from almost 150 years of Canada’s nationhood, you can be at a loss as to where to begin.

Most people mention doing something about the Senate of Canada. They think the senate and its occupants should fill the first shovels full going out the door onto the lawns in front of the parliament buildings. Despite knowing many of the fine people who have sat in the pews of that chamber over the years, there is certainly a need today to dispense with or dramatically change the process of choosing senators and their function for the people of Canada. We can thank Prime Minister Harper for making it clear to all Canadians that the old process is no longer functional. In packing the Senate over the past while, he has made a mockery of what the Senate is supposed to represent. It is no longer a chamber of ‘sober second thought’ but now a chamber of ‘Harper thought.’ Packing the senate has always been an option for a Prime Minister facing an obdurate senate but he has no excuse for such action when he does not have a majority in the Commons. That he is being allowed to do this is to the shame of all Members of Parliament.

Other interested people question what should be done with the governor general. They eye you and are ready to pounce on your answer. Many fear that Canada will go the way of the United States of America with an imperial form of president as head of state. Some would like to see the role of the head if state as a ceremonial role such as governor general fulfills today. The other side of that is a highly politicized role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and being the third leg of the administration, balancing a house of representatives and a house of the provinces And others want something in between. Also charging into this fray will be some monarchists. They might not matter.

There are those who have strong opinions on the Supreme Court, its participants and its powers. A few want to curtail the ability of the court to determine the rights of the citizen under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And there are others who want to strengthen it.

At the deep end of the pool is the question of our provinces. Are they sacrosanct? Does Prince Edward Island rate a minimum of four Members of Parliament? Are our northern provinces-cum-territories a fait-accompli? What does Quebec want? What should Quebec get? What rights does any province have in the new world of the 21st Century?

And there is even the question of change itself. Does change require a super majority of 60 per cent approval or is approval still 50 per cent plus one? Do all provinces have to agree or just all Canadians?

All of these questions need rational discussion. They are unlikely to be resolved overnight. Telling a friend in the senate of these ruminations, he was asked if he had any problems with the possible demise of the senate. He responded that he has six more years before retirement. He knows he will be long gone before any constitutional change can take place. In his honour, we should start now.

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