The Senate We (Don’t) Want

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  • I have two enormous bones to pick with Bill Black’s opinion piece (Sat 8) on keeping the Senate. Firstly, he wants Canadians to vote on keeping “the” Senate, rather than keeping “a” Senate. The vote he has called for implies asking whether we want to keep the Senate just as it is, with few changes made and without any public discussion of the formation and function we need from a Senate. The Senate can be changed for the better.

    Second, he has, in common with a number of other media commentators, deplored the “paralysis – shown by the U.S. experience.” At this point we would do well to remember Winston Churchill’s words to the effect that democracy may be a bad form of government, but it is much better than all the alternatives.

    How does Bill Black expect a democratic country to run without deep and fundamental clashes of opinion from time to time, and without them being expressed properly within a healthy democratic structure of decision making? Deadlocks in debate are vastly better than the alternatives, which are the protests, violence and deaths regularly reported from other countries. Yeah Churchill!

    Under our current P.M., we are approaching a dictatorship, incapacitating differing opinions , mitigated only by the possibility of throwing out our dictator every few years. Bill Black is advocating alternating such autocracies. But how many times are we to bear expenses such as a gun registry created by one party and then abandoned by the next. Under Bill’s way, it will happen again over other things. Give me a made-in-the-USA paralysis any time!

    Aubrey Fricker | February 10, 2014 | Reply

  • Its interesting that my previous comment relative to the Senate is,in the final analysis, not too unlike your writing in The Chr-Her of 8th Feb,in that we each conclude that it is the people who should decide whether or not that body has any future in governing the country.

    bob mackenzie | February 9, 2014 | Reply

  • Finding an answer to the Senate problem (and it is a problem) is not and will not be an easy task.It might be that the answer can be found within the Senate itself..Suppose the Senate was tasked with formulating what its role should be going forward with the PROVISO that whatever it came up with would be placed before voters in an election with only two choices on the ballot; one being acceptance on the proposal and the other being abolishing the Senate entirely….

    bob mackenzie | February 7, 2014 | Reply

  • Canada is a federal nation and needs a second house in our national legislature to represent the interests of the provinces and to protect those interests against the tyranny of the majority. A single house in Ottawa would amount to little more than what Ontario, Quebec and BC wants.
    The Senate went wrong when Senators began representing Ottawa to the provinces rather than to represent the provinces to the central government. This phenomena began when Prime Ministers began appointing people who had spent their whole career in Ottawa or nearby.
    It would be nice if our Senators were elected and for a fixed term, not for what amounts to a lifetime appointment.
    The one place where I disagree with your thesis is that the question in any referendum should be for a triple E senate. If the referendum was binding, the provinces would have to forego the opportunity to open up our constitution and haggle over the pet projects of our various premiers.
    Right now, the only people who can change the Constitution are politicians. And, that’s why opening up the constitution is looked upon with horror. Why not allow a formula where ordinary citizens have a say? Their wisdom is surer than the combined wisdom of a dozen or so politicians and their hired gun advisors. After all, ordinary Canadians are the ones who are paying the freight?

    Jon Coates | February 7, 2014 | Reply