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Ottawa can proceed alone on Senate reform, minister says

07/31/2013 03:01 EDT | Updated 09/30/2013 05:12 EDT
Pierre Poilievre, Canada's new minister of state for democratic reform, addressed the government's Supreme Court reference on Senate reform in a press conference on Parliament Hill.

Poilievre, once known as the government's attack dog when he answered questions on behalf of the government in the House of Commons, is now the lead minister overseeing some of the Conservative government's priority policies, including electoral reform and senate reform.

In February, the government asked the Supreme Court of Canada whether Parliament can enact fixed terms for senators, for either eight, nine or 10 years, or the life of two or three Parliaments of four years each. Another question put to the court by the government, is whether the constitution can be amended so provinces must be consulted about Senate appointments.

Poilievre said in his press conference Wednesday that the government would post its factum for the case on its website later in the day.

The top court has also been asked about the constitutionality of abolishing the Senate, specifically, whether abolition would require the support of seven provinces with 50 per cent of Canada’s population, or unanimous support from all 10 provinces.

Poilievre said Wednesday that the government's position is that it can proceed with Senate reform without the provinces' support.

It's not known when the court will issue an opinion, but the government has asked it to fast-track its response, which could come as early as this fall.

Poilievre will also spearhead the government's long-awaited electoral reform bill, proposing new rules governing the use of robocalls by political parties during election campaigns. The bill was scheduled to be introduced this past spring, but was abruptly pulled at the last moment by the previous minister of state for democratic reform, Tim Uppal.

More to come

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