Today's Supreme Court ruling, which held it's illegal to hold Senate elections in this country without first amending the constitution. In making this ruling, however, the Supreme Court has offered the extraordinarily regressive declaration that the Senate has a permanent obligation to retain its "independence from the electoral process" and never become corrupted by something as vulgar as a "popular mandate" for the exercise of the chamber's legislative powers. The Senate must remain forever frozen in the elitist "sober second thought" mandate of its 19th century founding.
Being chief of staff to the president of the United States seems like a tough job. But while the gig may drip with stature and power, one thing it's decidedly not is high-paying. At least by Canadian standards. This is basically the story at every level of the Canadian government; we're paying more cash to more people to do almost certainly less work than their closest American equivalent.
Last month, when I told my father I had been drafted to join the Senate's Ethics Committee, he nodded his approval. Soon I would watch in horror and helplessness as an aggressive cancer took him away from his family. Now, I return back to work, to an institution that is also under siege. But this time, we are not helpless. Honourable senators, the future of this chamber is in our hands.
Stephen Harper's problem is that he thinks too small. No short-term partisan advantage is too minute for him to pursue and no long-term challenge facing the country is too large for him to ignore. By contrast, we need national leaders who will think forward and think big; who will govern intelligently and respectfully; who will call for a new federalism for the 21st century.
Surely Canadians can spot the difference between a Mike Duffy and a Romeo Dallaire, or between a Pamela Wallin and Muriel Ferguson! The quality of character and intelligence in Senator Hugh Segal simply dwarfs the rather sad record of Patrick Brazeau. The average citizen can sense the distinction a kilometre away. We often forget just how many great Senators have kept rampant politics at bay through reasoned and compelling arguments that often put the present House of Commons to shame. Let's leave the Duffys et al to their fate and consider the others who did our government proud.
Canada's Senate has had a grounded history and its occasional failures were never enough to deflect its effectiveness in the long haul. The great tragedy of recent years is that people have been appointed to undertake the dirty work of parties when it would have been better to keep such shenanigans in the House where partisanship has a role. Politics is killing the Senate; professionalism, cooperation and merit can save it, and our reasoned legislative system in the process.