Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I'm coining a new word--"INSENATY". Definition: "The repetitive process by which a Canadian politician talks about constitutional reform of the Senate but he or she actually does nothing about it."

I'm obviously primarily talking about Liberals. Liberal leaders have in the past said they "favour Senate reform" but didn't make any headway whatsoever.

In fact, it was former Prime Minister, Jean Chretien who had the constitution changed that made it more difficult for such reform requiring 7 out of 10 provinces representing at least 50% of the population to agree on such change. What that really means is without Ontario or Quebec agreeing, you can forget it. Nevermind what the ROC (rest of Canada) thinks.

A triple-e senate is the ideal situation. Prime Minister Harper, in less than two years has made more strides on pushing for senate reform than any other prime minister by promising to appoint any provincially elected individual to the upper chamber, which he did with new Alberta Senator Bert Brown. As well, he put forth a bill to impose term limits on senators to 8 years, but it was scrapped by the Liberal dominated senate. Other bills, such as stricter crime bills were all stalled in the last session of parliament by the Liberal senate.

Needless to say, the non-elected, non-accountable Liberal dominated Senate must be very frustrating for the Prime Minister.

From a western Canadian point of view, with Alberta represented by 6 Senators and PEI with 10 makes no sense whatsoever and the constitution treats underrepresented provinces more like colonies with power centralized in central Canada.

Reform is difficult considering several provinces (read: premiers) don't want to reform it, but get rid of it altogether, including Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. So what do we do?

Today, Stephen Harper's long-term plan to wipe out the Liberals continues with his announcement to support a proposed NDP motion by "effective opposition" leader Jack Layton to abolish the senate by putting the question on the ballot in a referendum next election.

In order to gain more voice, the NDP have always wanted to get rid of the senate as they've never had much of a say in there, if at all, and likely won't in the future. Much like their strong support proportional representation, the NDP will continue to be shut out of the debate as they just don't have the numbers.

But I don't think Harper wants to get rid of it. I think he understands it's important to have equal provincial representation like they have in Australia and the U.S. That said, it's virtually impossible to reform it without opening the constitution, which Harper has mentioned doing.

I'm sure he's considered this, but with the failing of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, they opened the door for Quebec separatists to almost breakup the country, is it a path we want to go down again.

Presenting the issue directly to Canadians will generate a lively debate, thus making senate reform and democracy the top issue in the next election. For many years in online and personal discussions, I don't hear anyone agreeing that the current system is ideal, that something needs to be done.

Even if Canadians vote to abolish the senate, this decision actually has no constitutional power to carry that wish out. That said, such a referendum will corner the Liberals (again) as the entire nation, Canadians of all stripes, will peer into the history of lip-service by the party that has dominated the upper chamber for sometime and has shown absolutely no action on the issue itself. It is then you'll start hearing "insenaty" coming from Liberals again. Statements we've heard before, like "I've always said we should reform the senate" will be spun like a sticky spider web, only that Liberals will get caught in their own creation of hypocrisy.

With the will of Canadians and majority of MPs (Conservatives + NDP > 50%) agreeing to get rid of the senate, but the constitution not allowing it, then perhaps the middle ground of full-on triple-e reform will finally take place, which is in line with what Prime Minister Harper knows is right for Canada.

Question is, will reforming or ridding the senate be the final nail in the coffin for the Liberal party that Stephen Harper has been planning and effectively picking away at for sometime now?

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