rough notes

thoughts on the canadian senate

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this is old news.

for the moment, i appreciate something that stephen harper has recently done.  actually, i appreciate something he’s done twice, which is his two rounds of appointments to the senate this year.

the fact the stephen harper has twice in the past year appointed a swath of people to the senate shouldn’t be so disturbing to the canadian public.  and the fact that they’re all tories shouldn’t be so surprising either; harper is a conservative and so we shouldn’t expect more of him. (The fact that mr. dithers, paul martin, long ago reached across the floor and raised a few tories alongside his own liberal appointments was a grand gesture that we should never expect to be repeated).  this is standard canadian politics.  it’s an awful business, but we’re used to to it.  and for now, on this issue, we must yet carry on with it as it is.

this doesn’t mean i think we should roll over on the subject of senate appointments.  on the contrary, like many people – people of all political leanings, colours, and stripes – i support the abolition of the senate.  we have proved to ourselves, in all of our provincial jurisdictions, that canadian governance can carry on with only one legislative chamber per jurisdiction.  we learned long ago that a second chamber doesn’t bring sober second thought – it only brings more red tape, bureaucratic and political wranglings, and added cost to the machinery of government.

however, until the senate is properly abolished (i.e. effaced from the constitution), it must continue to carry on with its duty to propose, review, and pass legislation.  but so long stephen harper refused to refused to make any senate appointments, the mechanics of canadian government were at risk.  although we weren’t quite there yet, it was nonetheless easy to look down the road and envision a time in the not-too-distant future when quorum might not be able to be met in the upper chamber, thereby halting the passage of any and all legislation either proposed within it or passed to it from the house of commons.  the prime minister had a duty last winter, as he did this summer, to fill the empty senate seats to keep the business of the house moving.

let me be clear on these muddled thoughts: i don’t like mike duffy in the senate.  and i don’t think there is a place in the senate for famous hockey coaches (even if said famous hockey coach suffered through an illiterate life and then bravely confessed so much to the nation and now successfully promotes literacy programmes in quebec – he’s still just a hockey coach).  i want to see the senate abolished (because my own idea of the senate as a house of Philosopher Kings would never fly, so abolition is the next best thing).  but until it’s abolished, we must make due with the fact that the senate is a vital organ of Parliament.  It may not do much for us, but according to the rules laid down in our constitution (as well as the rules agreed to within both Chambers), the senate cannot be willfully ignored.  so until that time when we can properly ditch it, we must suffer through the sinecures and patronage appointments.  let’s just hope that Duffy et weren’t being disingenuous when they promised to actually retire after sitting in the red chairs for 8 years.

Written by mitchellirons

September 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm

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