Do you remember an earnest young Reform Member of Parliament urging Canadians to switch to a Senate of Canada that was elected, equal and effective? He was a young and eager guy, calling himself Steve Harper. Maybe he calls himself Stephen now to show that he is a different person. And maybe he has found the senate is a good dumping ground for political detritus.
Apologists for the Prime Minister will leap to his defence on this subject. They will point out that he is honouring his promise to appoint persons elected to the senate in their province. And that is true, to a point. Mr. Harper has finally appointed Betty Unger, whom Albertans voted to be in the senate in 2004.
But what is his excuse for the rest of them? He hardly needs more votes in the senate. He has already crushed those intransigent Liberals who thought the senate was a place of sober second thought (before lunch anyway). If he believes that you can only reform an organization by first destroying it, he has already done that. The senate had been on a ramp down a steep hill to oblivion for many years. There is no work for these seven new people but to vote as Harper tells them.
If Harper was sincere about reforming the senate, he could get his point across much faster by not appointing any new senators for any part of the country that does not hold senatorial elections. Can you imagine, Quebec Premier Jean Charest eating crow and orchestrating senatorial elections to maintain Quebec’s 24 seats in the upper house?
But it would not work. It takes a constitutional amendment to really change the Senate of Canada. And nobody denies that a constitutional change is necessary. The distribution of seats was designed for a country as it was 145 years ago. The West is so badly underrepresented that the senate is a constant insult. Quebec is overrepresented and that province would prefer to keep it that way.
But, as bad as the senate situation might be, it is but one of the problems in governing Canada that needs to be addressed. We have to have a constitutional conference—a gathering of people chosen from across Canada for that purpose. They need to come up with a new constitution for a modern Canada. They need to give this country a new direction. Once they have deliberated and made a proposal, we can all vote on it.
It is time this country grew up!
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to [email protected]