For reasons which are amply documented and well-known, as a Senator Romeo Dallaire committed himself to the most serious of issues: prevention of genocide, Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD), child soldiers, conflict resolution and investigation into crimes against humanity. He is, in other words, a champion of causes that are for most politicians quagmires to be circumnavigated. The departure of Romeo Dallaire means that there will be one less serious, hard-working and principled member in the Upper Chamber.
The senators themselves could also aid in this democratization process by self-imposing term limits. Once again, this would come to pass over time as a matter of convention, not legislation. The senators would legally be appointed to age 75, but as a more democratic culture took hold, they would face pressure to step down after X number of years.
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.
The only way to earn the backing of Canada's eastern provinces for Senate reform would be to rip open Canada's fundamental law once more, putting everything back on the table and possibly plunging the country into yet another national unity crisis. This could set Canada back by years, if not decades.
I'll leave it to others to sort through the constitutional implications of what Justin Trudeau did this week. But I want to comment on what Justin's move did for his "brand", because that's my expertise. Trudeau's naysayers attack him as vacuous. He's a nice guy -- but where's the beef? Well, Trudeau just showed substance and leadership.
Justin Trudeau thinks Canada's Senate has become irreparably corrupted through "extreme patronage and partisanship," and is trying to set a good example by opting-out of at least half of that equation. It's an exceedingly open question if Canadians even want the sort of reformed, "effective" Senate Trudeau's promising amid such great fanfare. The closer you look at the whole plan, in fact, the closer Trudeau's fix begins to resemble the classic solution in search of a problem.
Justin Trudeau probably shocked his Senate caucus colleagues more than the voting public today when he announced he was removing Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus, thereby limiting the caucus to elected members of parliament. Eventually the dust will settle and the real reason for this move will become evident, but for now Trudeau is in the limelight and he will have the Conservatives scrambling and perhaps the NDP as well. The truth is no one including Trudeau knows and we will only find that out down the road and closer to the next election.
Canada's short-term economic prospects are good, but the outlook, both medium and long-term, is another story. That's because Canada's biggest competitive disadvantage are its politicians. Most function like trust fund brats, lacking the mindset or skills to steward or protect the national endowment. Here's my political wish list for 2014
We don't need two elected chambers in the Parliament of Canada. One is enough. Imagine the conflicts that could arise between two elected bodies, each feeling they have mandates to represent the people. Just look at the gridlock that exists in the United States Congress. Our system, which is based on the British or Westminster model, has stood the test of time.
When I read that Romeo Dallaire had been in a car accident on Parliament Hill just outside of East Block, I wondered if it was due to fatigue. I have never known him to be other than fully occupied and frequently exhausted in the course of his heavy schedule. Romeo has a lot more than just memories to fight. As he explained this week, he fights depression and remains medicated for PTSD. But he has turned his pain into a purpose, and in so doing he can get up every day.
Because of its inherent independence from election cycles, the Senate can provide an indispensable public service that enriches our democracy. Does this mean that we ignore the real problems in the Senate? Definitely not. Reforms are needed. Standards that were tolerated decades ago are no longer acceptable today.
Our constitutional amendment rules are so terrible, so poorly-written and caked with complex regulations designed to eliminate any hope of ever achieving any meaningful improvement to anything, we barely even know how to read some of them. And we're not talking about 18th century legalese here -- this stuff was written all of 30 years ago.