NEWS
04/25/2014 01:25 EDT | Updated 06/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Stephen Harper says Senate reform is off the table

Significant reform of the Senate as well as the question of whether the upper chamber can be abolished are "off the table" Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, speaking in Kitchener-Waterloo Friday.

"The Supreme Court has said these are only decisions the provinces can make," Harper said, referring to the top court's advisory opinion that Senate changes cannot be accomplished without the consent of some or all of the provinces along with the federal government.

"So essentially this is a decision for the status quo, a status quo that is supported by virtually no Canadian," Harper continued. "We are virtually stuck in the status quo for the time being."

Saying he was disappointed by the Supreme Court's conclusions, as he thought "the vast majority" of Canadians would be, Harper added he would respect the court's decision.

Harper also said while there could be no consensus among the provinces on abolition, there was also no desire to reopen the Constitution for a "bunch of constitutional negotiations," signalling he is unlikely to pursue the notion of a nation-wide referendum on abolishing the Senate.

Constitution would have to re-opened

Even if an abolition referendum garnered approval in all 10 provinces, the Constitution would still have to be re-opened for an amendment. The provinces would likely start demanding other amendments, a process that has proved, in the past, to be divisive and prone to failure.

During a news conference on Parliament Hill Friday, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre confirmed the government has no plans to hold a referendum on Senate reform or abolition.

But some Conservative MPs disagree. Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai tweeted Friday he supports fellow MP Maxime Bernier's call for a referendum on Senate abolition.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, speaking from Kingston, said Harper has always known a constitutional amendment is necessary for any of the major changes to the Senate suggested by the government, but did nothing about it for ten years.

Asked whether he could personally convince the provinces to agree on changes to the Senate, Mulcair replied, "Contrary to Mr. Harper, I've never stopped trying," explaining he's been continually talking to provincial premiers.

He also mentioned his Roll Up the Red Carpet tour over the summer in which he collected thousands of signatures from people who want to see an end to the Senate.

He said he will not stop his crusade to see the Senate abolished. "We're not going to raise the white flag on this one."

Mulcair added Harper is "exactly like Brian Mulroney before him, exactly like Jean Chrétien. These are all people who realize that the Senate's a great place to name your bagmen, your henchmen, your political cronies."

MORE:cbcNews