Monday, May 27, 2013

Rethinking the Senate

I've had to give this topic a lot of thought, given my past views favouring reform of the Senate over complete abolition. For the longest time, at least from my perspective, it had appeared that corrupt Senators was the abnormality in the Upper Chamber rather than the norm; of course, recent events have cast doubt on that assumption and suggest that the norm is indeed the perception of pigs at the trough. 

And while there remains a case for reform rather than abolition, but it seems as though no party is willing to approach reform from a meaningful perspective. As such, we find ourselves in a position of two options: reform that will please no one VS abolition which will please a few.

Conservatives want the Reform ideal of the Triple-E senate, which would address some issues but create other issues at the same time. The simplest argument against an elected Senate I heard from Brian Topp; electing the Senate legitimizes it to the same level as the House of Commons and will create the same kind of gridlock and partisan bickering that we've seen in the USA. 

No party has put forward a proportional representation plan for the Upper Chamber, which addresses some of the concerns put forward by Topp, but at the same time doesn't address the issue of the Senate becoming a ground of political patronage for the party faithful. 

And no party has dared opened the can of worm that is addressing the representation of each province in the Senate; though Justin Trudeau has touched on the issue by saying that the Senate gives Quebec an advantage due to its representation in the Upper Chamber (perhaps in an attempt to imply that any reforms, outside of abolition, will include redistributing the seats in the Senate).

As a person who once saw a purpose to some of the work done by the Senate, and as a check against a strong majority government, the recent events have really required one to stop and examine the way the Senate functions. And given the choice between meaningless change that will not ultimately change anything, or abolition it is a pretty easy choice to make.

Without the alternative of meaningful improvement, which is not bring proposed by either the Liberals or the Conservatives, one must side with the NDP position of abolition. If given the choice of only two options, one must go with the one that will actually achieve something. 

Effectively, unless someone brings forward a plan that will prevent political cronyism while also ensuring that the Senate does not become the ideological roadblock that we've seen in the US, the only solution is abolishing it.

1 comment:

janfromthebruce said...

I'm into abolishing too especially since listening to Brad Lavigne making the point on PnP: "The Senate was established to represent the rich against the rest of us."

Now I know what camp I fall in and thus no matter how much lipstick they put on this pig, it will still be a pig. Put a fork in it.