Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Guest Article: The Problem with the Canadian Senate

(The following was written by guest contributor Alberta Royalist)

Earlier this month the Senate voted for the first time in more than a hundred years to suspend three of its members for the rest of the current session, as they had been caught claiming for fraudulent travel and accommodation expenses. However the media controversy here caused by the 'Senate Expenses Scandal, has brought forth renewed calls from many quarters to either reform or repeal the Senate, with PM Stephen Harper filing a request from the Supreme Court to see how far he can alter the upper chamber, without having to court a majority backing from the provinces. Although as the court is well known for not being in much of a rush to decide anything, it'll likely be a few years before it gets back to him.

Of course here in the Great White North, Stephen Harper is well known for his desire to have an elected Senate like the United States, saying in a speech at the Australian Parliament a couple of years ago: "The mandate to govern when it is given directly by the people is a great honour and a great responsibility," going on to say: "It's the very essence of responsible government and it is the minimum condition of 21st-century democracy."

However jumping firmly on the abolition bandwagon, yesterday the Saskatchewan Legislature passed a symbolic motion calling for the outright abolition of the Senate altogether, with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall saying in reaction: "Canada can be fine without a Senate. Six provinces have moved away from their own provincial senates and their democracies have thrived. They've been able to provide good government and that will be true for Canada."

As far as yours truly is concerned, after taking a look at the stellar example of the US Senate, which is controlled by special interest groups who spend vast sums of money on securing the election of their candidates; whose members connive with the courts and the federal government to erode states rights more and more, and whose current structure deprives the states of any participation in the federal government; you can hardly be surprised that I oppose the Prime Minister's efforts to bring the same to Canada.

However I'm sure it will come as a surprise to know that I also fully support the abolition of the Canadian Senate, as I believe it is a broken institution that is beyond repair. As the title suggests, the problem with the Senate is that owing to a combination of an erroneous assumption and total domination by the prime minister, the Upper Chamber is like frail, old, toothless old pet that needs putting out of it's misery. For all of its members are nominated by the prime minister, with the Governor-General acting to rubber stamp every nomination; even though on paper the viceregal incumbent is supposed to be answerable to Her Majesty the Queen...

Naturally this results in Senators being old cronies of the incumbent prime minister, be they party bigwigs, the rich and influential who need a favor returned, and of course this being Canada; washed up celebrities whose appointment is deemed to help make the prime minister look 'cool' with the voters, its that shameless. Of course this is why Stephen Harper has been trying very hard to deflect the blame from the current Senate scandal away from him, as the three suspended senators were very close to him in one form or another, which is obviously very embarrassing to the Right Honourable Prime Minister, which is why the Senate voted the recent suspensions only after pressure had been applied from the PM, and why the PM has suddenly made Senate reform such an urgent priority again, after putting it on the back burner for quite a while, then again it might well just be cynicism on my part...

Likewise in theory the Senate is supposed to enjoy equal powers to the nominally Lower Chamber the House of Commons, with the same right to table, amend and veto any bill it sees fit. However the erroneous belief that legitimacy is bestowed by the people at elections has become a well established facet of Canadian politics, as well as the Senate being an appointed body staffed by the PM's lackeys, means that the upper chamber very rarely veto bills coming from the Commons, a chamber which coincidentally, that is also controlled by the government...

Now what might surprise some readers of this blog, is that I too support the abolition of the Senate, however unlike other advocates of this move, I support it's replacement with an altogether different Upper House. For we need a second chamber to subject legislation to additional scrutiny, with the power to amend, or veto it as necessary. For failure to replace the upper chamber would result in this Dominion adopting at the federal level, the sort democratic dictatorship already prevalent at the provincial level. Consequently the Prime Minister would be even more powerful that at present, for without the check of a second chamber, it would be even easier for him to pass whatever bill he likes into law, with disastrous consequences to personal liberty. Likewise a government controlled single chamber Parliament, would pass even more poorly worded and ill thought out Bills into law, thereby creating more havoc for the country, resulting in Parliament needing to go to the trouble of revising or repeal such legislation more frequently; a process which would be greatly mitigated with a powerful and independent second chamber.

So having the established the problems with the existing Senate, and the greater ill's that would entail from abolishing it without a suitable replacement, I shall present my reactionary solution to the troubled Upper House of the Canadian Parliament in my next article.


  1. Let me guess, have the Queen actually pick the Senators herself free from all political influence? Short of having a hereditary body (which I would like even more, but is tough to implement as Canada has never had its own peerage), I could see that working.

    You would just have to get elected politicians to agree to voluntarily surrender some of their own currently unchecked power, should be a simple task.

  2. What you say is true, but there's no reason why we can't start a hereditary peerage, after all better late than never I say. The practicality of my suggestions is outside the scope of this series, but that doesn't take away from their soundness.


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