Friday, January 15, 2010

Reintroducing Senate Term Limits

It's interesting to read about the Prime Minister's latest prorogation of Parliament and why they think the only reason was the Afghan detainee issue.  Funny how a bunch of legislation that died on the order paper was previously modified and watered down by Senate committees, if not stalled all together.  One of those bills was Senate term limits, which I think is the real reason for prorogation.

Oh you've heard Liberals go on and on that this bill or provincially elected senators do not represent "meaningful senate reform", that while they're for senate reform (!) they're not for "peacemeal" reform.   This is a term I have coined "insenaty", where you're for senate reform but don't do anything about it, especially when you're a senator yourself.

Not surprised, but I was delighted to read on that the Conservative government is going to reintroduce the bill to limit Senators to eight years.  Some Liberals, seeing inevitability, are pushing for twelve.

The latest prorogation not only killed bills stuck in committee, but it allows the government to reset, including the committees themselves.  There are now five Senate seats vacant, and if Harper appoints them (read: 'recommends to the Governor General to appoint them') the Conservatives will have a plurality of seats in the Senate.  AND if Harper takes it another step further, he can request 8 (I think it's 8) more Senators, just as Brian Mulroney did to pass the GST.  The committees will then have Conservative control and bills won't get watered down, including the Senate term limit bill.

So with term limits, current and future Prime Ministers may be quite busy in terms of continually making appointments to fill the vacancies. So why not let the people decide?  If you're such a good senator, then run for election again and again, just like MPs have to do.

Harper has stated clearly that if provinces want to have senate elections that they just go ahead and do it.  Thing is, not all provinces really want to do it and there doesn't appear to be anyone wanting to open the Constitution, as long as the Quebec separatists are still around fanning the flames. 

The CTV article states that Quebec has no interest in Senate reform, and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has stated he'd rather abolish it.  Makes sense for both provinces.  With the status quo, Quebec keeps a quarter of the Senate seats and still hold sway, where by abolishing it, Ontario will continue to hold about a third of the seats in the House of Commons.  This thinking is an absolute slap in the face to the regional-provincial disparity of this great nation.

Now, are both scenarios fair to the rest of the provinces?  HELL NO!  Why have unequal provinces? Why should one province matter more than another?

I get pretty tired arguing with people that don't think we also need an equal senate just like large geographical countries such as the U.S. and Australia have.  They say, "But Ontario has the largest population, they should have the most senate seats."  Um, no.  They ALREADY have the most seats in the Commons, why do they need it AGAIN in the senate.  They don't.  There needs to be balance between population and regionalism in a bicameral legislature.  But then they say that we already have regional equality of the five regions of Canada.

I don't hear ANYONE in the U.S. saying their bicameral representation isn't fair, that California and Texas dominate the government.  Each state is EQUAL.

I hope to live to see the day that Canada has, say, six senators per province, and two per territory, no exceptions and to be able elect them, no matter which province I live in.

But for now, I'll take eight year senator term limits.


Anonymous said...

I think the count down on 8 year terms should not start until all provinces have elected their desired senators. The senators appointed by PM Harper so far should go to compulsory retirement if all the provinces do not cooperate.

Rob C

Mike B. said...

Sorry Rob, that won't ever happen as I said, not all provinces want to elect their senators because they don't want to lose their hold on influence and that's just not cool.