A knowledge of history is missing in the Senate debate. I have not yet heard any reference to the reasoning for the Senate that the Fathers of Confederation used in their decision to form the Senate. At Confederation the Provinces were working out the conditions of government that they could live with in order to agree on becoming a country. The primary need for the Senate was to assure the smaller provinces that they would not be dominated by the larger, more populous provinces. Why would any small province agree to a state of servitude? As we know members of Parliament were to be elected according to the population of the individual Province. However, the Senate was designed to give smaller provinces balance and geographic areas protection. This is why, if there is talk of abolishing the Senate little PEI and Quebec stand up to protect the Senate. I have already heard Premier Ghiz speaking to the idea of reforming the Senate.
Smaller provinces and the Territories still need a Senate to defend their interests. In the past they would have needed the balance from the much larger, more prosperous Ontario. Alberta is the richest Province and now the financial center of the country, so there is still a need a Senate to guard Provinces with special interests.
Canadian also do not realize, many of the Senators that sit in the Senate at this time are well seasoned veterans of politics and many times a bill will be sent back to Parliament with added good ideas to them. This is where there is value in the “sober second thought”.
There is a growing reason for Canada’s need to reform rather than to abolish the Senate, that is that any good democracy needed checks as well as balances. In the words of Lord Acton, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” With this Truth in mind, there is always a need for a check, the Upper House with real power, to stave off any Commons Leader grabbing too much power. Case in point, Prime Minister Harper would be much more leery of sneaking around making trade deals and the PMO skulking around in the shadows if the eyes of a Senate (with real power) where fixed on the doing of Parliament. This is why it is vital for the Senate to be reformed and given real power and also that Senators are elected by Canadians. Electing Senators would be an excellent way for Canadians to elect Independents to the Upper Chamber. This would be a way to avoid gridlock between the Chambers, but more importantly, I believe it would more be a way for Canadians to see the usefulness of Independents.
Call me cynical, but I believe that the whole Senate Scandal has become a ploy by the Prime Minister, to abolish the Senate and thus rid himself of any encumbrance to moving his bills to implementation. He has moved far from his Reform Party roots when he preached a Triple E Senate (what must the Reform part of the Conservative Party think about his turnaround).
We often hear advocates of abolishing the Senate point out the US Senate as an example of why we need to rid ourselves of the Senate. We see them speaking of the gridlock that the US was put in because the US Senate is what shut down the civil service over the raising of their debt ceiling. But anyone that understands American politics will realize that the shutdown was more a problem of party politics than their Senate itself. Those who have read my posts for a while will recognize my opinion of getting rid of the Party System itself, to eliminate all the problems associated with Parties (see below my blog on the trouble with the Party System, see The Party System, An Illusion of Democracy)
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The Party System – An Illusion of Democracy
For your interest, a breakdown of the Senate.
|PROVINCE / TERRITORY||SEATS||Conservatives||Liberals|
|Prince Edward Island||4||1||3|
(Thanks to “J.J.’s Complete Guide to Canada” for the chart)
- Francophone groups, territories defend importance of Senate for minorities (canada.com)
- Provinces praise scandal-plagued Senate in Supreme Court hearing (globalnews.ca)