Posts Tagged ‘Constitutional Conference’

The Constitution Conundrum.

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

It takes two things to fix Canada’s constitution. It takes ideas and leadership. Without suggestions as to how we will fix it or people to lead the parade, it is rather silly to take polls as to how people feel about our sorry mess.

As it stands to-day, Canada is tied in a constitutional lock-down. Giving petty dictators running provinces the power to deny Canadians a better future is undemocratic and a failure in negotiation. It will only be when we can all see the potential for Canada’s future that we might come to agreement.

The first step in the process is to convince Canadians that a constitutional conference needs to be held. This can be created by a national referendum. It can be kept to a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The proposal could deal with the creation of the conference and the questions about the future that need to be discussed. And then, after the conference, we can have a vote by all Canadians as to whether they approve of the suggestions coming from the conference.

The constitutional conference could be fashioned as a parliamentary assembly—with maybe two persons per constituency. What we would not want would be for them to run to be members of the assembly as members of a political party. We would certainly want input from the parties but this is a situation where geographical input should come first. We really want the people to represent the people in the constituency that sent them.

What we need to stay away from is choosing members as though in a raffle. We saw what happened in 2007 when Ontario picked people at random for a conference and the guy chosen to run it led the raffle winners down the garden path. It was a waste of time and the majority of Ontario voters agreed.

At the same time, we have to stay away with results such as the Charlottetown Accord. The 1992 accord was a politician’s view of a solution to Canada’s discord. It was a plan put forward by the leaders of the federal and provincial governments. After former prime minister Pierre Trudeau came out against the Accord, it was also a waste of time.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be temporarily sent to  plowry904@gmail.com

Understanding Basic Income.

Sunday, January 31st, 2021

There are three sides to this argument. The idea of a basic income for all Canadians is an idea championed by progressive politicos. And then there are the regressive politicos (usually conservatives) who think it is a terrible idea and that what all those lazybones need is a little encouragement. And then there are those academics who start out saying: “But on the other hand…”

The idea of a basic income program got new impetus when the federal government finally got around to the concept of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). It caused a rush to the pay windows of the government and a response that sounded like the slamming of government doors and pay windows. While many of us appeared to be ignoring the small print, it was the first time we actually thought the government was turning on the spigots where needed.

But it was good to hear from one dubious recipient of the liberal largess: “I have to give the money back, but they were nice about it.”

What was sad but amusing about the government’s reneging on CERB was that to be a recipient, you had to have some earned income in the past year.

Dammit all, who the hell is going to worry about Canadians who are too old, too sick, or disabled, infirm, or incoherent, or simply unmotivated? The world is not a perfect place and we do have to deal in reality sometimes.

In 2015, Trudeau and his cabinet danced through a sunlit Rideau Park and, according to Justin Trudeau, all was supposed to be perfect.

To be fair, he did not expect a pandemic either. I think he has done good trying to deal with covid-19. He is no genius. He is his mother’s son. He has done his best. He might not be leading us to a land of milk and honey but he has probably done as good a job on the pandemic as we can expect.

But, for goodness sake, let’s keep the academics out of the implementation of a basic income. We expect to make mistakes. That is when we will know it is working. We will fix things as we go. Start by doing the honourable thing.

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Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be temporarily sent to  plowry904@gmail.com

Our artificial monarchy.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

It is well past the point where Canada should be doing something to eliminate the false monarchy in this country. It is not only a sham but it is interfering with serious reform.

And I say this in all seriousness in a country where a kid named ‘Archie’ happens to live. Archie is sixth in line for the British throne. Not only that but his parents have tossed up the role of being royals in coming to this land of opportunity called Canada.

This is a new experience for all concerned. I have met some of the crowned heads of Europe and, in my humble opinion, there were few of them who could hold down the job of bag boy in a supermarket. We can hardly expect Harry and Meghan to start a trend.

But I do worry that we are so generously spending $3 billion on refurbishing of a parliament that we have no idea what it should look like by the time the renovations are finished.

And why are we fixing the senate chamber that will hardly be needed if Canadians ever get a say in the matter? The senate was created as a pseudo House of Lords because the Victorian parliament putting together the proposed parliament in the Canadian colony did not trust Canadian commoners to do the job properly.

And why do our parliamentarians live in fear of re-opening the constitution? They have made it increasingly hard to change. It has reached the point that we need to elect a constitutional conference to address the issues. And even a constitutional conference will need a referendum to seal and delivery the changes we need.

Canada is not a colony. We have not been a colony for a very long time. We need to eliminate the false trappings that say we are. We desperately need to modernize how we are governed. And that includes a heck of a lot more than eliminating the royal image on our coins and the $20 bill.

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Copyright 2020 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Danger signs of elitism in the Senate.

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Prime minister Justin Trudeau is facing enough problems without his elitism coming back to bite his ass. We saw in the Senate last week where one of his elite appointees forgot who appointed her to the sinecure of the Senate. Supposedly independent senator Paula Simons from Alberta torpedoed the liberal ban on oil tankers off north-west B.C. on the senate transport committee.

This might be a bit of a sou’easter that will soon blow over but Trudeau’s environmentalism is already skating on thin ice, as it is. He hardly needs to be stabbed in the back by his own elitist choice for the senate. He would much prefer to be showing us sceptics that his elitism is paying off for Canadians as well as these people who act like the senate is their personal playpen and piggy bank.

We used to have some very conscientious senators who liked being part of the liberal caucus and did a good job of reviewing and making recommendations on new legislation.

But school teacher Trudeau did not agree. He thought we should not have liberals in the senate. He wanted them all to be elite. These elites would be chosen by an elite committee to enable the prime minister to select the best elites for service in the senate. They answer to nobody. They are beholden to nobody. They do what they want with legislation sent to them from the commons.

And this is hardly the first time the prime minister got a wake-up call from the senate that some key piece of legislation the liberals wanted was being screwed around by his elite senators. You would hope that the liberals would want to rethink this dumb elitism.

He would certainly get some support if he wanted to make the senate a form of a house of the provinces. This would be something like the American system but with more power ultimately in the hands of the house of commons.

Alternatively, we could just abolish the senate. There might be more of an argument about that but giving Canadians the right to vote on the proposition is the ultimate threat.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Senate of Canada sleeps on.

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

It was surprising. A regular reader who frequently agrees with Babel-on-the-Bay has changed his mind about the undemocratic anachronism of Canada’s Senate. Now he thinks he likes the elitist appointments. He met a Senator he likes.

I used to know a lot of Senators I liked. That hardly means that I think it is right to have an appointed Senate in a democratic nation.

But this chap thinks that because he met one Senator who seemed to have her wits about her and knew a few things, the Senate is some how necessary.

But the opening question is: Why do we need a Senate? It seems it was suggested by Queen Victoria’s ministers to slow down the impetuous actions of those people who were elected. It was to be a House of sober(?) second thought. It is for a serious (supposedly) non-partisan review of legislation. The Brits have a House of Lords. And how well does that work?

Our reader was impressed that this Senator he met was neither a lawyer nor a politician. All this meant was that she had neither the training to understand the legal structure of laws nor the easy familiarity with the political implications of the bills the Senate was asked to review. And why do we tenure these people until age 75? There is nothing magical about that age.

I seriously believe that the Senate is just one of those hold-overs from the Victorian era that should be studied and modernized or abolished. And if we need review of legislation, we could hire independent panels of people with expertise in the subject matter to review legislation at a much lower cost than the Senate of Canada.

Canada is a large and complex country. I like to think that it is a country with good instincts. It is the ability of a country to change and adapt with changing times and changing technologies that will give it the strength it needs in the future. And always remember, when it comes to governance, nothing is impossible.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

 

Change Canada’s Senate: ‘There’s the rub.’

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Some of our readers thought that was a got-cha. “Aha,” they exclaimed in their e-mails, “How do you think we are going to get rid of the senate?”

Obviously, they have never heard of my idea of a constitutional conference. I suggested it once in a conversation with Justin Trudeau. His eyes rolled in his head and the only answer I got was “Never.” For a school teacher, our prime minister is not all that amenable to new thinking.

And, he should never say never. Maybe it is not in our lifetime, but Canada has to have a constitution that makes sense for our nation. We can hardly continue to carry the baggage of centuries past.

And the best way to effect the change is through a constitutional conference. This body would be elected using the most recent of federal electoral boundaries across Canada. I would suggest at least three people per district. This would give us a deliberative body of over 1000. To make sure of the balance of views, I would suggest that each voter only be allowed to vote for two citizen participants.

The deliberations of the constitutional conference will need to be brought forward to the provincial legislatures and to a subsequent national referendum. And I would suggest to you that it would be a most foolish provincial legislature that tried to stand in the way of a decision of the people. It is the decision of the subsequent referendum that determines the acceptance or rejection of the constitutional conference recommendations.

That final referendum could be for an entirely new package of a constitution or a cafeteria of changes that could be made with the approval of a majority of Canadians. That is for the constitutional conference to decide.

The important aspect of this is that the final decision rests with all Canadians. It is not a decision to be made elsewhere. It is not a decision to be made by provincial legislatures. It is a decision to be made by both the aboriginal Canadian and the newcomer who recently gained citizenship. It needs to be brought to us by an honest attempt to take our country forward to the future. It should honour those who came before and be passed on with pride to future generations.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Is Trudeau’s elitism working?

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

It is getting to the point where even the Conservative opposition in parliament is noticing. They are starting to take verbal jabs at the prime minister’s elitist nature. It is starting small but it will grow. Canada’s poster boy prime minister can ill afford to have his elitist tendencies to become common knowledge.

But even when out of the country, his elitism is noticed in appointments announced by his office.

Just before leaving for China, to supposedly lecture the Chinese on their human rights, his elitist appointment was announced for the Supreme Court. The candidate chosen has a varied background in business law and in supporting Canada’s aboriginal peoples. She will be the second Supreme Court Justice from Alberta.

While in China—and with things not going as well as expected—Trudeau’s office announced his latest selections for Canada’s beleaguered Senate. It was a daily double as two women from aboriginal backgrounds were appointed as independent senators.

These are the types of appointments where you are a bit of a curmudgeon if you are critical of the applicants. These are people who have worked hard in their chosen fields and have earned the plaudits of their peers for their many accomplishments.

But this goes far beyond peer approval. Justin Trudeau has given these people a sinecure. The annual salary is well above the Canadian average and the mandatory retirement at 75 can be quite comfortable.

Senator number one is Mary Coyle, from Nova Scotia, an advocate for women’s rights and aboriginal people. Senator number two is Mary Jane McCallum, a dentist from Manitoba who has worked hard to bring health and dental services to people in the north.

As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that judges should be appointed by the Prime Minister alone—even with the aid of these elitist committees that help him. I believe that senior judges should be chosen by parliament after all the applicants have been vetted by a parliamentary committee.

As for the Senate of Canada, I firmly believe there is no need in a truly democratic country for an unelected house of parliament. The only problem is that the prime minister would rather be seen as elitist than to open up the constitution of Canada for review and changes.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

In the Senate: “Some are more equal.”

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm we were told that some animals are more equal than others. This makes it an appropriate analogy for the institution in Canada known as the senate. The senate was created 150 years ago as a chamber of sober second thought to rein in any excesses of the citizens elected to the house of commons.

But nobody ever thought about the possible excesses of the citizens selected to serve in the senate. Can the senate write its own rules as to who is fit to serve in the institution? Are some animals more equal than others?

And it is not just today’s controversial senator. The senate has had its rogues going back more than 100 years. When you give people carte blanche, you often get individuals who want to steal the carte! Greed and avarice are not just conditions of those deprived in life.

Are all senators pure of heart? What is the point of being a senator if what the senate really represents is entitlement? Whether it is creature comforts in the perks or sexual gratification, some will always go further than others in fulfilling needs.

And are we going to allow the senators to police themselves? When the power of appointment rests solely with the prime minister, how can the senate bar a member? The senator serves to age 75. There is no mechanism nor custom other than a failure to attend for a period of time to remove a senator from office. They are all honourable persons.

The only answer is to amend Canada’s constitution. The writer once discussed that with the prime minister and was surprised at the vehemence with which that option was rejected. As a child, Justin Trudeau saw his father struggling with the constitutional conundrum of Canada. He wants no part of dealing with the constitution.

It must be part of the reason the prime minister gave up on his promise to change how Canada votes. While the act of voting is one change that can escape our constitutional straightjacket, it would take constitutional change in how parliament functions to then make a voting change work effectively.

Constitutional change must happen eventually. With the imbalance of Canada’s provinces, the commitments to provincial rights and outdated religious school commitments, our constitution has to be rescued from the 19th Century. The world keeps changing and Canada has to have a government that can deal with the issues of the times.

In these times, only an elected constitutional conference to find a new framework, can be considered. Even then, all citizens should have a say on what is implemented.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Alibiing elitism 150 years later.

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

If there was just one institution in Canada that could be changed this year, many Canadians would choose the Senate. They are tired of the elitism shown by the prime minister and his elitist friends in choosing Canadians to serve in this anachronistic reminder of Canada’s British beginnings.

The Senate of Canada is this country’s House of Lords. It is just that we do not have the royalty and nobles required, so we create them.

It was the ‘something borrowed’ when the British Parliament passed the Statute of Westminster that married Canada’s provinces to create a country.

Rookie Senator Tony Dean tells us in a recent Toronto Star op-ed that there is some disenchantment with the Senate. He calls it one of Canada’s most important democratic institutions. And that was only his first error.

There is nothing democratic about the Senate of Canada.

He thinks there is a brighter future for the Senate—especially with him in it. He actually points to the physician-assisted dying legislation last year as a win for an independent Senate. And all along we had resigned ourselves to waiting for the (also elitist) Supreme Court to weigh in and re-open that bad piece of legislation after both Commons and Senate had let us down.

Nor do we blame anyone for the odd bad apples we have found occupying Senate seats. Even elites can make mistakes. And it is good to see these days that we are paying attention to what is taking place in the Red Chamber.

But what Dean fails to understand is that it is the people of Canada who are being governed. Does he not think they deserve a say in this? While politicians can come and go, the Senate is a fixture until age 75. It is a sinecure that needs to be modernized and it cannot and will not be fixed from within. That would be the equivalent to a doctor doing his own heart transplant.

Senator Dean might respect the Senate as an institution but Canadians deserve better. They have to have a say through some open process of review such as a constitutional parliament, elected to that purpose and a deciding referendum by all Canadians as to the solution. It took years of thinking and arguing to create this country. Changes in how we are governed deserve that same intensity of examination.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Weep not for vote reform.

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Among each successive generation there are those who seek to change how we elect our representatives to run our cities, our provinces and our country. Good for them. It is important that we think about it. We need to be sure we have the best system possible. And we do. Now that we have completed our study, we have moved the file to the bottom of the pile as there are other issues to address.

You will notice that Prime Minister Trudeau did not dispense with the department with the removal of Mariam Monsef as minister of democratic institutions. He gave the job to M.P. Karina Gould who is also a newcomer to government but with an impressive curriculum vitae. And while taking away voting reform in the new mandate letter, her challenges are no less daunting.

The Senate situation is far from solved. Appointments to our courts, commissions and crown corporations can hardly be handled by elitist selection committees. The concern for cyber security implies that the government and Elections Canada would like to move firmly in the direction of Internet voting. There is certainly a long way to go in bringing some sunshine on political fundraising and spending by parties and third parties in elections. Launching an independent body to arrange election debates is also long overdue as is fixing the falsely named Fair Elections Act. And if she can find time to address the problems with the Access to Information Act, the prime minister thinks it will be a job well done.

But what the prime minister fails to address are the concerns about his power and the control over the government exercised by the Prime Minister’s Office. This could be the greatest challenge we face. Every time someone says that the Donald Trump situation could not happen here, we wonder how much worse it could be. There are checks and balances in the constitution of our neighbours in America that do not exist in our parliamentary system. There could easily be a time when Trump will wish he could shut down Congress as easily as our prime minister can prorogue parliament.

Canada has a constitution designed for a parliamentary system rich in precedent. All we missed was the precedents. Maybe because we never had to contend with an Oliver Cromwell, we lack some safeguards.

It is about time Canada took a hard look at its constitutional problems. It might even justify the cost of a department to worry about our democratic institutions. It is also long past time for our country to assemble a democratically elected constitutional parliament to propose some constitutional amendments to the voters. God knows we cannot get our politicians to address the mounting problems.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me