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Senate Reform is not the democratic exercise it appears

Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

In looking at the headlines related to senate reform I got a glimpse of the implications of this: it will further centralize power in the PMO.

Political winds come and go. Usually the Senate represents the previous government as we all know there is a lag in appointments for a government to regain the majority in the Senate and often when they do they lose it in the House. The Senate being out of step with political winds of change. This is in part what allows that chamber to provide the "sober second thought" as they do not represent the government. The Seneate is the closest thing we in Canada have to the French "cohabitation" where the executive and legislative branches in that country frequently are of different parties or the US where mid term elections rarely allow a party to control both houses for long.

Harper's proposals to limit terms to 8 years will increase the turnover in the Senate such that it will take much less time for a new government to take over that chamber. The fact that elections would be required is not relevant as the chamber would be subject to the same winds as the House. At the core of the Senate reform is an opportunity for each government to clean out the older government faster and have complete control in the PMO.

I say the PMO rather than the House because of course we have seen how little power resides in the House even in a minority situation. The governing party is totally controlled by the PMO, the opposition is captured by the political reality that they are not the most popular party and therefore cannot afford an election at every disagreement. This is what happens when you have an uncooperative government that turns everything in to a challenge. The only thing this does to weaken the PM is that while he is a virtual dictator as long as the public has him first in the polls, if he ever falls to second he will be out at the first opportunity the house has. There are of course many machinations that can be employed to manipulate public opinion and secrecy and deception are essential components but this is what we have: no more checks and balances on a PM-- the most popular party in the land (even without a majority) will have its leader a virtual dictator until the public changes its mind and chooses another dictator. That is how badly our political so-called democracy has fallen. We have now lost all checks on the PM: the senate, the House and the GG are all meaningless only public opinion in the polls will matter because nobody else will challenge it.

I understand that this can be seen as an argument to ban polls from our system since we are effectively maintaining government of dictators by opinion poll.


Comments

Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

I think Harper said last night he is appointing senators because the majority (senators appointed by the Liberals)  are blocking his agenda. IIRC, Harper also said he gave the provinces an opportunity to elect senators which he promised to appoint, and only Alberta took up the offer.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Senator learns fate next month on fraud charges

Quote:
OTTAWA - Raymond Lavigne will find out on Feb. 22 whether he'll be going to prison or back to the Senate.

Either way, it will be on the taxpayers' dime.

Lavigne, a former Liberal MP, is charged with fraud, obstruction of justice and breach of trust for allegedly misusing Senate funds.

He is alleged to have pocketed claims for expenses that had actually been run up by his staff.

He's also alleged to have used his staff to do work unrelated to his Senate duties.

Lavigne has been barred from attending Senate proceedings since he was charged in 2007, though he has continued to collect his $132,300 annual salary.

He's also claimed hundreds of thousands more for travel, hospitality, office and living expenses.

They'd cut off his fat-cat pay and fire him, but they can't get LAVIGNE AND HIS LAWYER to attend court at the same time. In the mean time he's still running around Ottawa and attending cocktail parties for dignitaries on the taxpayers dime and continues to enjoy full pay and benefits, perks etc.


JKR
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Joined: Jan 15 2005

Now that Harper has made the Senate an issue, the NDP should make sure their position on the Senate gets some airplay:

Abolish the Corrupt Senate Now!


Malcolm
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Joined: Mar 14 2004

The Senate is a festering pustule on the arse end of Canada's democracy.


thorin_bane
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Joined: Jun 19 2004

The CBC boartd was buzzing today with conbots. It got freeped for sure because there is no way they agree disagree lined up with people who visit the CBC The same con posters always bitch about all the left wingers only hanging out there. So you know its all BS because because the numbers don't match the demographics. On thr bright side the call for abolishments is getting much stronger.

I put in some thoughtful posts but the moderator was a lib today and didn't show 2 very good posts I wrote.

There is some charcter yapping away at how they are "always an NDP voter" But this time the will vote so they can get rid of harper...you are not an NDP voter because you would know this is one of the best times to not vote liberal. Harper is stick at 32% 6 points lower than last election. You have never been safer to vote NDP than now. Of that 32% one has to remember how much of that is from throwaway votes in alberta and sask. They get 70% plus in some ridings. They are really not polling very high elsewhere, though they have shorn up their base in the praries.

Of course its silly season because this is when harper pulls all his stunts while the house isn't sitting. All media is on his party.

 


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Jack Layton wants to rid Senate  of shills and party bagmen

Globe and Mail wrote:
Jack Layton’s ultimate goal is to abolish the Senate but he knows that isn’t about to happen any time soon, so he is urging Stephen Harper take some baby steps toward reform.

Mr. Layton is calling for “two modest but vital” initial changes. First, the Prime Minister should stop appointing “failed candidates and party insiders to the Senate.” Second, Mr. Layton wants all senators “banned from fundraising for political parties.” ...


It’s a common practice of the Conservatives and Liberals – when they’re in government – to appoint party bagmen, unsuccessful candidates and even their national campaign managers to the Red Chamber. That allows them to work on re-election and campaign strategy on the taxpayer’s dime – and not on their party’s.

Mr. Layton says it costs $859,000 a year for each senator in the 105-member chamber. “All for an institution that won’t play any relevant role in the lives of most Canadians,” the NDP chief complained.

And what a colossal waste of taxpayers money it is.


ygtbk
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Joined: Jul 16 2009

Seems like we need Senate elections to keep the hacks from getting appointed. I think Senators should be able to fundraise in their free time, but not when they're supposed to be working on public business.


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

And they would likely go with a FPTP model for senate elections just to avoid acknowledging the fact that our overal electoral system is obsolete and needs modernizing.

"No more replastering - the structure is rotten!"


Fidel
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Joined: Apr 29 2004

Ottawa is broken. And it’s time to fix it.

It's time to get the party fundraisers and political hacks who lose elections out of the senate. And just as importantly, it's time to scrap an unnecessary senate that has nothing to do with democracy.


Ken Burch
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Joined: Feb 26 2005

Could the Senate be abolished through a referendum?  If not, abolishing it would always be fairly challenging, since(unless I have this wrong)you'd have to get the Senate to vote to aboliish ITSELF.


Malcolm
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Joined: Mar 14 2004

Abolishing the Senate under the present amending formula would be difficult.

Reforming the Senate under the present amending formula would be impossible.

If abolition were passed in a referendum it would have no legal weight, but there would be considerable pressure on politicians to do the right thing for a change.


Sean in Ottawa
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Joined: Jun 3 2003

Indeed.

I prefer abolition to reform because reform would make it worse as I laid out in my opening post.


ottawaobserver
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Joined: Feb 24 2008

Fidel wrote:

Ottawa is broken. And it’s time to fix it.

It's time to get the party fundraisers and political hacks who lose elections out of the senate. And just as importantly, it's time to scrap an unnecessary senate that has nothing to do with democracy.

Hey Fidel, that link goes to your Hotmail login. Try this one instead:

http://www.ndp.ca/tv-ads

 


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

I watched this on CTV today: Senate reform leads to shouting match between Tory senator, NDP MP

excerpt:

Hamilton-area MP David Christopherson, the NDP’s parliamentary reform critic, called Conservative-appointed Senator Pamela Wallin “arrogant and elitist” on CTV’s Question Period Sunday after she snubbed his idea of a national referendum on abolishing the Senate.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

An outstanding article by Gerald Caplan!!!

Electing the Senate: worst idea in the history of the planet


janfromthebruce
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Joined: Apr 24 2007

I read that article by Gerald ealier and thought it was right on! Think about, having to run a province wide election for one member of the senate - only those with "name recognition" and loads of cash will be able to run - a con upper house forever - just say no!


ScotianGuy1981
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Joined: Jun 6 2011

The question that needs to be asked is bicamerialism necessary in a federation? Should the legislative branch reflect the federal nature of the country? Should elections and government solely be in the hands of the most populous provinces? 

Shorter term limits does increase the power of the PMO, one PM who gets at least 8 years as PM would influence the Senate and the legislative agenda years after they are gone. There are lots of models we could consider for an upper house:

Jury Senate model from the Canadian Action Party

Senate by Electoral College in France

Senate appointed by provincial legislatures (United States pre 17th amendment)

Senate elected by STV - Australia

Senate compromised of provincial cabinet ministers - Germany

A Senate entirely appointed by the Head of State is only found in Canada and Jordan. 

Of course a deadlock mechanism is required. Ottawa is broken because the Constitution is broken and it is time that we had debate and disscussion on it and fixed it. 


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

McGuinty says "abolish the Senate" - finally.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

Tories' Senate reform reference to Supreme Court will divide country, says constitutional law professor

Mr. Mendes said Mr. Harper is engaged in “mischief-making” and is wasting the Supreme Court of Canada’s time forcing it to consider questions, particularly on Senate abolition, which are already clearly spelled out in the constitution.

“The other person who should be spinning in his arm chair is Preston Manning, because this is so antithetical to the triple E Senate which brought Preston Manning into politics,” Mr. Mendes said.


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

@ Boom BOom

Except I'd remind Mr. Mendes that Preston Manning's idea wasn't all that well-thought out.

A truly bicameral house is bad enough in the American system, with its separate executive branch, and all it's fucked up tension around states rights (would anyone here want to have their state-run electoral system?)

Transplanting that to a british parliamentary system like Canada's would be a complete dog's breakfast. What happens the first time the Prime Minister is a sitting member of the senate, and th H of C can't even hold him to account?

Neuter the senate, or abolish it. There is no other option that will not lead to disaster.

 


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

Yup. But the point of the article is that Harper is pretenting to actually be doing something. I should have just ignored the Manning reference.


6079_Smith_W
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Joined: Jun 10 2010

I'm not criticizing you for bringing it up Boom Boom. I take your point. But I think it can't be said enough that making the senate elected is not such a good idea.


kropotkin1951
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Joined: Jun 6 2002

The NDP has always has it right on the Senate. Just abolish the damn thing.  Here are two of my best arguments for abolishing the Senate.

1.

 

2.


Boom Boom
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Joined: Dec 29 2004

Excellent, Krop! Those are two very useless individuals. They're only in it for the money. Probably goes for the rest of those overpaid bastards, too. And they're appointed for life. Frown


Caissa
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Joined: Jun 14 2006

I'm interested in what the Supreme Court will have to say on the issue.


Philo8
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Joined: Nov 22 2009
What is needed is a regime change and a new constitution to bring democracy to this country after all these years, not creating more millionaires in a US style senate.

Geoff
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Joined: Aug 3 2009

I wouldn't find the Senate so offensive if

a) it did not have the power to veto legislation proposed by the elected House of Commons (as is the case with the British House of Lords - pretty sad when we make those folks look good)

b) it was comprised of citizens from all walks of life (i.e. labour, environment, human rights, arts, and yes, even business)

Then, we would have a "citizens' assembly" whose sole purpose would be to provide advice to our elected representatives.  The Senate could be a useful source of information to help MPs make their decisions.


JKR
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Joined: Jan 15 2005
The Conservatives added the question regarding Senate abolition in order to delegitimize the NDP's position that the Senate should be abolished. If the Supreme Court decides that Senate abolition requires the unanimous approval of all 10 provinces and the federal government, the NDP's support for Senate abolition will be weakened. If the Supreme Court says that unanimity is required, in any debate regarding Senate reform, the Conservatives will be able to say that the Supreme Court has gone against the NDP's position. If the Supreme Court does require unanimity to abolish the Senate, the NDP will likely have to revisit their position on Senate reform. Personally I would like to see the Senate expanded to at least 400 members and chosen by lottery. Maybe a man and woman should be chosen by a lottery from each riding, giving us 678 members altogether? If the Supreme Court respects the democratic nature of Canada they'll conclude that the federal government is obligated to cooperatively negotiate with the provinces any significant changes to the Senate and while they're at it they should tell the government that they must also cooperatively negotiate with First Nations over any structural changes in Canada-First Nations affairs.

Michael Moriarity
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Joined: Jul 27 2001

Geoff wrote:

I wouldn't find the Senate so offensive if

a) it did not have the power to veto legislation proposed by the elected House of Commons (as is the case with the British House of Lords - pretty sad when we make those folks look good)

b) it was comprised of citizens from all walks of life (i.e. labour, environment, human rights, arts, and yes, even business)

Then, we would have a "citizens' assembly" whose sole purpose would be to provide advice to our elected representatives.  The Senate could be a useful source of information to help MPs make their decisions.

Interesting ideas. If you imagine a "jury model" senate, composed of citizens selected by lot for a 1 or 2 year term, it could be quite useful. Give some randomly chosen people a platform to criticise, but not overrule, the elected house of commons. I like it.

 


kropotkin1951
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Joined: Jun 6 2002

Harper or the Senate could send C45 to the SCC for a reference opinion on its constitutional validity.  However they would rather ram that through and let the court process take at least 6 years for a definitive answer.

This is just another red herring from the spin doctors in the PMO.

 


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