THE BLOG

Time For B.C. To Say Sayonara To The Senate

02/13/2014 06:38 EST | Updated 04/15/2014 05:59 EDT
The most popular premier in Canada, if polls are to be believed, is Saskatchewan's Brad Wall. The least popular, now that Kathy Dunderdale has resigned, is Manitoba's Greg Selinger.

Wall and Selinger, while neighbours, couldn't be more different. Wall governs from the centre-right, and has balanced Saskatchewan's budget. Selinger is a leftie who has raised the Manitoba PST and spent his way to mounting deficits.

Yet the two have one policy plank in common: both support scrapping the Canadian Senate. Last November, Wall's motion that the Saskatchewan Legislature support abolition of the Senate passed unanimously. A few weeks later, Selinger pushed through a 29-18 vote in the Manitoba house to do the same.

Now, thanks to a B.C. NDP motion planned for early in this spring session, it's B.C. Premier Christy Clark's turn to tell us if she still supports getting rid of the Senate.

The Senate has always been a bad deal for British Columbia. With our provincial population of 4.4 million people, we are represented in the 105 seat Upper Chamber by just six senators.

New Brunswick, with a population roughly equal to Vancouver and Richmond combined, has 10 senators. Prince Edward Island, with a population similar to Coquitlam and Port Moody, has four. Nova Scotia, with a population the size of the south Fraser from Delta to Abbotsford, also has 10.

Clearly, the Senate balance of power skews to the underpopulated Atlantic region - and to Quebec. La Belle Province, with a population less than double B.C.'s, has four times as many senators.

This is the critical flaw for any British Columbian supporting an elected Senate. Why would we lend any credibility to an institution that discriminates so heavily against B.C. and the west? What possible good could come out of electing these senators and making the Senate seem legitimate?

Many taxpayers are angry with the waste and corruption that recent events in the Senate have uncovered. Yet a few still cling to the notion that, somehow, the Senate holds the power of the Prime Minister in check. This idea is obsolete in the current party system.

Yes, Justin Trudeau recently stripped Liberal senators of their caucus membership. But one can rest assured that those Liberals -- rewarded by Prime Ministers Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Pierre Trudeau for lifetimes of faithful service to the party -- will still toe the Liberal line. You can take away a membership card, but not a lifelong philosophy.

However, making these unelected senators feel more independent is only going to make things worse. Democracy is not better for having a group of unelected senators somehow blocking an elected, electorally-accountable government.

The best thing for B.C. is to join Saskatchewan and Manitoba and call for the abolition of the Senate. Premier Clark, deep down, knows this. In her 2011 leadership campaign, she was clear: "We don't really need a Senate." Since then, the Senate's reputation has only worsened, as new scandals and criminal charges tear away any credibility that once resided in the Upper Chamber.

More than half of Canadians agree that the Senate should be abolished -- and that was before the most recent criminal charges.

Thanks to the B.C. NDP, Clark and her MLAs will now have to take a stand on the Senate. Our hope is they do what's best for British Columbia, and pass the motion to scrap this waste of taxpayer money.

It won't get rid of the Senate, but it will send a strong signal as to what B.C. wants, and continue the push for the federal government to radically change the status quo.