03/05/2013 05:54 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Senate Reform: Feds Suffer Legal Setback In Quebec


OTTAWA - The federal government has suffered a legal setback as Quebec's Court of Appeal refused to suspend its review of Senate reforms.

The Quebec government has asked it's highest judicial body to review the constitutionality of the Conservatives' Senate Reform Act.

But the Harper government has filed its own application for review before the Supreme Court of Canada and it did not want the Quebec review to be released before its own.

The federal government hopes to introduce fixed terms for senators and allow provinces to hold elections for senators when a seat becomes available.

But some provinces argue that the legislation is unconstitutional without their consent.

Reforming the Senate has long been a Conservative promise, with proposals emerging since the party came to power in 2006.

Last month, the federal government announced its intention to have the Supreme Court of Canada vet the reforms.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the federal government made a request to have the Quebec court stop its review process.

On Tuesday, a panel of three judges dismissed the motion.

The Quebec hearings could be held in September. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Canada plans to hold hearings in mid-November.

The Court of Appeal is likely to render a judgment before the highest court in the country — a result that Ottawa was trying to avoid.

Meanwhile Tuesday, in the House of Commons MPs were debating a non-binding NDP bill calling on the Senate to be abolished altogether.

It's a symbolically powerful motion, in that one house of Parliament is debating the elimination of the other. But it's constitutionally non-binding and has no hope of passing anyway, since the opposition has only a minority of seats.

The motion was tabled with the Senate mired in a spending scandal.

As for the Quebec court decision, the provincial government expressed its satisfaction and hope that the Supreme Court would draw from the provincial court verdict when shaping its own conclusion.

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