30 March 2010

Senate reform, yet again

We've heard it all before, of course, but the government is trying again: Harper Tories take another stab at Senate reform. Eight-year term limits are on offer this time.
[Minister of state for democratic reform Steven] Fletcher also said the government plans further Senate tinkering, including legislation to consult Canadians at the polls about the choice of senators. That's a compromise between a system of direct election of senators — which likely would require a full-blown constitutional amendment — and the present direct appointments (emphasis mine).

The Senate chamber, Ottawa
Yes and no to the italicized phrase. We could provide by ordinary statute for the election of senators, in which case they would be appointed formally by the Governor General in Council, yet on the advice, not of the Prime Minister, but of the electorate of each province. This would in no way necessitate a change in section 24 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which would remain in place. Nevertheless, we would effectively have an elected Senate.

Of course, even short of statutory reform, the Prime Minister could simply allow the provinces to poll their own voters and then appoint the winners to the relevant seats. Since such appointments are entirely up to him, I should think he would be able to set the machinery in motion without having to consult the opposition parties. It might be worth a try.

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