Friday, October 17, 2008

Could a reformed House of Commons and Senate work together? Revised

I am reposting this blog with a clickable link of my graph on the left side.
Last March, I posted a proposal to reform the House of Commons and Senate in Canada. My proposal would have a House of Commons with 330 seats apportioned by population of each province and territory and a Senate with 100 seats apportioned by the square-roots of the provincial and territorial populations. Half of the senators would be elected every three years.

Below is the distribution of seats for each party by province and territory in both the House of Commons and Senate. For the Senate I used both the 2006 and 2008 election results to represent a rolling Senate with half of the Senators being elected every three years.

If you cannot click on the image to get the results, here are the highlights:

House of Commons seats by proportional representation:

Conservative: 130
Liberal: 88
NDP: 61
Bloc Québécois: 31
Green: 20

Total: 330
Majority: 166

Senate Seats:

Conservative: 43
Liberal: 29
NDP: 21
Bloc Québécois: 7
Green: 0

Total: 100
Majority: 51

The Conservatives would be able to form a coalition with either the Liberals or NDP. They would be able to pass bills in both the House of Commons and Senate. There would be little or no Senate paralysis that some nay-sayers of Senate reform might indicate. The only difference in the Senate is that there might be a more regional examination of some issues by the Senators in their committees.

I would like to note that the Green Party would have a difficult time getting seats in the Senate because the Senate is a smaller chamber than the House of Commons. Also, if elections for Senate seats were decided provincially/territorially rather than nationally, and if half of Senators were elected, the Green Party would need to achieve about 20 percent of the vote in a province to get a Green candidate elected to the Senate. Unfortunately, an elected Senate with Senators elected by some form of proportional representation would not be kind to parties that receive a very small number of votes. I would still consider the Green Party to be a micro-party. As a consolation prize, the Greens would have 20 out of 330 MPs in the House of Commons under my proposal.

Some of you may prefer a Triple-E Senate or some other distribution model. Others may want the Senate abolished. I just wish to point to you reading this blog-post that it is possible to have an elected Senate to coincide with an elected House of Commons that can function well with each other. The Senate will not paralyze the work of the House of Commons.

Let's reform both the House of Commons and Senate.


Chrystal Ocean said...

Am not keen on having an elected Senate, particularly if the election periods are shorter than 10 years - to overlap 2-1/2 governments.

An unelected Senate adds stability to the instability - as we've seen - of an elected HoC. To have both upper and lower houses subject to elections raises a caution flag to me.

If electing the Senate is going to happen despite my misgivings, then it would be best that elections be done over substantially longer periods than HoC elections. This would provide overlap both in terms of stability but also in terms of avoiding the danger of having both houses stacked in favour of the ideological flavour of the day.

Skinny Dipper said...

Thank for the comment, Crystal.

I am not keen on any legislative body being appointed because I don't like who does the appointing and I am unfortunately not one who is being appointed.

The second reason why I do not like appointed Senators is because not one Senator represents me. They may be bright and intelligent. A few of them may share the same gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and other characteristics as me. However, they do not represent me. The people who represent me are those who I support in elections even if they may not share the same cultural characteristics as me.

We could have a Senate which the members are appointed by the provinces as is done in Germany's Länder for the Bundesrat (Senate).

We could abolish the Senate. The could be fine by me coming from Ontario. Even in BC and Alberta, there is less interest in a Triple-E Senate because those two provinces are increasing their populations at a rate higher than the national average. My only fear is that without a Senate, the four biggest provinces would want to become more autonomous with more powers. For example, there is no incentive for Alberta to share powers in a central institution in Ottawa. Essentially, Canada may beome a shell--a country in name only.

I do think that proportional representation could help reduce the regional divisions in Canada. I also do think that we still need some kind of second chamber to represent the regions--preferably one that is elected by the people or appointed proportionally by the provincial legislatures.

I want to make the point again that an elected Senate can work well with an elected House of Commons. There wouldn't be the paralysis that some Canadians might fear.

Finally, I know you didn't make this point, Chrystal. I don't like it when Canadians say, "God, another election! We have too many of them!" Well, we live in a democracy, I think. People vote in democracies. If people don't like voting, they don't have to. Canada is not Australia where its citizens are required to vote. As a citizen of Canada, it is my right to vote for my fellow Canadians who will represent me in the federal parliament, provincial legislature, and municipal council. It is an honour to be able to vote, not a sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of this.

Don't feel like posting my reasons ATM