After 83 days in power for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the House of Commons has resumed sitting. Ottawa will be back in full swing with hundreds of new staffers settling into their new roles. As ministers return to the question period briefed up, staffed up and, ideally, rested up from the holiday, we will see a more comfortable team working to deliver on the government priorities set out in their platform and Speech from the Throne: growing the economy for the middle class, providing Canadians with open and transparent government and fighting climate change.
Perhaps we can just shut down the Senate for 10 years and send the senators home on a leave of absence. Even if we continued to give them full pay, we'd still be financially further ahead. Since they'd be on hiatus for a decade, there would be no expense claims, no travel claims and few office expenses.
What if all Senators, save for the 20 needed to make quorum, simply resigned en masse tomorrow? In the beginning of his mandate, Harper refused to appoint non-elected Senators to the Upper Chamber. He ended up doing so because the dwindling numbers compromised the Senate's functionality. This time around, the Prime Minister may very well stop appointing Senators for good.
Currently in Canada, Senators, Supreme or Federal Court judges, and privy councillors are allowed to use the honorific of "Honourable." The trio of senators who have been suspended without pay -- Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau -- all retain their honorific titles of "The Honourable Senator" while under suspension. Stripped of their salaries, offices and budgets, it seems oddly Canadian to allow them to retain these clearly meaningless titles. So should we in Canada also move to do away with honorific titles completely? Should there be no more "Honourables" or "Worships" at all?
What is happening in both the House of Commons and the Senate at the moment represents a serious enough threat to our democracy that we require remedial efforts in real time, far in advance of whatever constitutional refinements to these institutions that might lie in the future. Our focus should be upon the selection process for Senators, at least in the interim.
Much like I can veto my best friend from buying a skirt I know she'll never wear, the Senate can veto parliamentary legislation as it sees fit. In fact, in the past, this veto power has been used pretty haphazardly, so why didn't the Senate veto Bill C-10? Perhaps it is because there is no pressure from Conservative ministers to kill the bill.
My wife comments that I am one of nature's pessimists. I don't deny that people will sometimes act kindly. I just don't expect it. Linda is very different. She sees the best in people, makes the widest allowance for human failings, and is always ready to believe in the possibility of change and improvement.