SHOULD WE ABOLISH THE SENATE?

Thee are several measures floating around Parliament on the future of the senate. To abolish it and reform it or simply to abolish it altogether. The Senate was conceived by the Fathers of Confederation as a sober second house to review legislation coming from the Commons. It is difficult to measure just how effectively the Senate does this.

There are several other knocks on the Senate: that it is a slumber chamber for superannuated party hacks (not altogether true), that it costs too much (70 million annually) for its work expenditure (it sits three days a week).

The Harper governmen’ts position is that the Senate must be reformed and if not it should be abolished. The government now has two bills in the hopper: one to restrict senate terms to eight years (senators can now sit until age 75), the other to provide for some popular consultation about senate appointments.

Polls show the Canadian public is luke-warm about the senate. A solid majority favours a national referendum on its future. A slight plurality (45 per cent) favour abolishing the senate against 41 per cent who would keep it as it is. On the matter of reform, 52 per cent would keep the senate if senators were elected.

As you would expect the idea of abolition is strongest in Quebec where 60 per cent would shut the senate down.

Would you favour a national referendum on the future of the senate?

Do you lean toward abolishing the senate or reforming it?

Do you think electing senators would be a good idea?

3 Comments »

  1. 1
    Chimera Says:

    Reform. And elected. Especially if Harper gets his way about restricting the terms to eight years — a measure I oppose.

    There is a purpose to the Senate, and we don’t really pay all that much attention to it. It has no flash, no sex appeal. But in a lot of ways, it can be considered to be another opposition party to the sitting government, and one with teeth. I suspect that this is the reason Harper wants to restrict terms. He’d like to be able to get rid of senators who block his pet legislation. Anyone with future dreams of being PM, and having unlimited power, will want the same thing.

    I think it would be a good idea not only to elect the senate, but to do it in a year that does not include a governmental election. The two should never happen at the same time.

    Age limit? No. Some people stay very sharp mentally well into their eighties. Others never gain full use of their faculties at any age. An election will do the winnowing.

    Three days a week? I take it they’re actually working on related projects while they’re not sitting, not just taking long weekends?

  2. 2

    Chimera:

    I think you make a good case. It does give me some worry, though, that if we opt for two bodies that are both elected by the people there will be inherent conflict between them on legislation. If a money bill passed by the Commons was voted down in the elected senate, where does that leave us?

  3. 3
    Chimera Says:

    I would especially want an elected senate when it comes to money bills! As things are now, the government either rises or falls on confidence. With a senate taking a longer look, and maybe voting it down and sending it back to committee for a rewrite, we would not have to be stuck with the omnibus horrors that we now get.

    What would we get? Maybe we’d get a more responsible government. Maybe we’d get better bill writers. Maybe we’d get more thought put into proposed legislation.

    We sure can’t do worse than we have now.


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