Saturday, December 13, 2008

Toronto Star editorial: Don't reform the Senate

The Toronto Star has an editorial explaining why the Senate should not be elected by Canadians.

This is a very bad idea. Electing the Senate would give it legitimacy. Empowered by the voters, senators would not hesitate to block legislation and even budget bills initiated by the government of the day in the "lower house" (the Commons). Legislative gridlock could ensue.
If Canadians wish to continue having a Senate, I would like to suggest that Canada's Senate should be elected by the voters. Personally, I believe that I am smart enough to make a choice when voting for one or more senators. I do have two university degrees, a community college diploma, and certificate. I earned all of these legally. I didn't pay anyone to make fake or forged credentials. I believe that we Canadian voters are smart enough to decide who our senators should be. We deserve to be enfranchised.


Anonymous said...

We are.
Unless you want to start electing judges and police chiefs as well.

susansmith said...

I have a post graduate degree and I would vote for abolishing the senate. I'd rather have smaller areas that MPs represent and increase their number. But better still I would like proportional representation, a mixed system of governance. Now that would be money well spent rather than giving senate seats to party hacks and bag men.
The only thing sobering about the senate is the waste of money on the upper chamber - time to modernize our democracy.

Skinny Dipper said...

Hi Jan,

I, too, would like to see some form of proportional representation in the House of Commons.

If Canadians wish to keep the Senate, I would rather see the senators elected by the voters or indirectly, but proportionately elected by the provincial/territorial legislative assemblies as is done in Germany with its Bundesrat/Senate. The indirect option could be used if we don't like the costs of having elections.

One problem in having a unicameral parliament is that in a country like Canada, there is no way that powers will ever be transferred from the provinces to the federal government constitutionally. We will also be arguing about how many seats each province should get. Should there be apportionment strictly by population or weighted to help some of the provinces?

I'm not in favour of Senators being appointed practically by one person, the PM. I do not think that the PM's judgement for selection is any better than mine and other Canadians. If Canada is still to have a Senate, then its members need to be elected by the voters or appointed by a larger pool of electors such as provincial legislators. I do not wish to suggest federal parliamentarians because, in theory, Ontario and Quebec MPs could be appointing Senators for PEI.

Finally, for second chambers, I do suggest people look at others besides the US Senate and UK House of Lords. There are others in the world which Canada could model good ideas.

Geekwad said...

I would be happy with plain old representation. MPs are more beholden to their party than their constituents. I think PR would make this worse. Voter's belief that they vote for a party would be legitimized. I think that is a BIG step in the wrong direction.

I object to the characterization of senate powers as illegitimate. Voting is the weakest kind of democracy. Voting is what you do when you don't know what to do. I think the lower house has some pretty big balls to be flinging mud at the senate right now. Yeah, TWO houses like that, that's what we need.

Skinny Dipper said...

Voting is the only kind of democracy. If there is no voting, there is no democracy.

There are different kinds of proportional representation voting systems. Some are party focused like the pure-list system while others such as the Single Transferable Vote (STV) places a lot of emphasis on the local candidates. BC will be having a referendum in May on STV.

Chrystal Ocean said...

"we Canadian voters are smart enough to decide who our senators should be."

That's with all evidence being to the contrary, right? Witness the populace being clueless as to who's to blame for the latest "constitutional and political crisis" (I think Iggy said that) and causing talk, once again, of Quebec and western separation. Or, more Canadians favouring HarperCo after the crisis which same instigated. Or, the number of voters who consistently vote against their own interests. Or, ....

Anyone who is for an elected senate would be ill-advised to use the argument that voters are smart to advance that position.

NB: Given that post-secondary education has morphed into just another industry, with universities reduced to diploma mills, the number of degrees a person has is no measure of his/her intellect or wisdom.

Art Hornbie said...

When we move to Proportional Representation in the lower house, the Senate can be reformed into a regionally representative body, if desired. Regional representation has no business in a proportional (by vote) representation house. I would reform both simultaneously if I were (benevolent) dictator of Canada.