rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Senate appointments plan would create a new aristocracy of the distinguished

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo: Intiaz Rahim/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau is a member of Parliament against the odds. A single mother and the assistant manager of a pub, she was elected in 2011, as Wikipedia describes her, as a "paper candidate" because the NDP had no viable nominee in the riding." But here's the thing. She worked hard, she impressed her constituents and was re-elected in 2015.

Then there is Ralph Goodale. People forget he was first elected at the age of 24. He went on to play key roles in both the Saskatchewan and federal Liberal parties. He was appointed Canada's Finance Minister in 2003. He will play a critical role in the new Liberal government in Canada.

Other than youthful beginnings, what do Brosseau and Goodale have in common? Neither would have met the standard that will be set for the choice of Senators currently being discussed. They were just not "quality" people.

John Ibbitson has researched the plans and reports on his findings in the Globe and Mail. Ibbitson says new Senate appointments will be based on "merit" chosen by "a non-partisan panel of distinguished Canadians" after talking to a similarly distinguished panel from the relevant province. The Prime Minister would then choose from a shortlist.

Ibbitson editorializes that the nominations should come from Main Street as well as Bay Street, from the shop floor as well as the board room. How likely is that to happen? The distinguished folk, the "quality" folk on these panels will choose the people who meet their own high standards, all the better to protect us of course.

The Senate in Canada still has real powers. With its gender, age and property owning limits it was created in 1867 as a bulwark against democracy. Back then the unelected Senate, filled with "quality" people could prevent any democratic excesses that might arise from elections.

How does that differ from the "distinguished" Canadians the new proposal suggests? While they would bring their "distinguished" values to the Senate, would they be our values? And what room would there be for the young Goodales and Brosseaus who might actually represent the wishes of the people who surround them? What room would there be for assistant pub managers and shop stewards?

I am not fond of the current Senate. Few people are. I don't know what the answer is but I do not believe it is the creation of a new aristocracy of the "distinguished."

Photo: Intiaz Rahim/flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.