I never really liked the Senate. I always thought it was akin to taking a pottery class: nice in theory, but a waste of time in practice. Except unlike the pottery class, which would just be a waste of my time, the Senate is a waste of my tax dollars and is completely unrepresentative of the Canadian people.
Senate reform has been an issue in the past, with the first proposed senate form dating back to 1874, but the issue seems to be ever more relevant now, as Bill C-10 (otherwise known as the Omnibus Crime Bill) was passed by the Senate late Thursday night. Canadian jurists have been trying to reform the Senate for 138 years, and yet we're still stuck with what can only be described as a constitutional relic.
Do I have a solution to the constitutional quagmire Senate reform entails? Of course not. As far as I can see, there is no real solution. The legislative path to reform, which would follow section 44 of the Constitution Act is unconstitutional. By using section 44 to limit senatorial terms to eight years (currently, terms are for life, or until the senator reaches 75, whichever comes first) and setting up some sort of electoral procedure (remember: Senators are undemocratically appointed), necessarily changes the inherent nature of the Senate.
Consequently, the changes can only be made following section 42, requiring the approval of seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population of the provinces. For those of you who remember the fiascoes at Meech Lake or Charlottetown, you know that following this procedure for reform is next to impossible.
Well, what's wrong with the Senate anyway, and why does it even need reform? In essence, the senate exists as a place where friends of the Prime Minister can go to ensure making $130k or more a year. After all, barely two weeks following their defeat in the May 2nd 2011 election, Larry Smith, Josée Verner, and Fabian Manning were appointed to the senate.
The whole purpose of the Senate is to exist as a "chamber of sober second thought." They don't have to answer to the voting public, so they can make tough, unpopular choices without having to appease anybody or tow a party line. They have complete job security, and a six-figure salary to boot. In addition to all of this, they hold one of the greatest powers known to man: veto power.
That's right, 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. Last year, Former Industry Minister Tony Clement had sent out a memo urging Tory senators to kill Bill C-393, once it had reached the senate, the senators did as told. So much for not towing the party line.
There are lots of reasons why Bill C-10 should have been struck down. It's costly, it goes against our fundamental freedoms, analogous provisions haven't worked in the past, and crime is at the lowest rate since 1973. But the most compelling basis is that it is pure ideological idiom being put forth in the form of partisan legislation.
What were you worried about Senate? You don't have anybody to answer to. You can't lose your job. You would have gotten paid the same. You might have even gained the respect and admiration of fellow Canadians in the process, reminding us what a "second chamber of sober thought" is all about.
Oh sure, you may not be invited to be a part of the secret Santa organized by Minister Nicholson this year. (I hear he's a re-gifter anyway.) But I guess the inevitable awkwardness you would have encountered on the Hill was worth selling out the Canadian public.
So, to the Senate, I wish you had done the right thing. While the rest of us can only make quirky YouTube videos and write seething blog posts on the ridiculousness of Bill C-10, you could have actually ensured that this bill never became law.
We had a good run, but the Canadian people want to break up with you. And trust me, it's not us -- it's you.
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