04/25/2014 02:37 EDT | Updated 06/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Senate Reform Canada: A Chronology Of Nearly 150 Years Of Proposals


OTTAWA - Reforming the Senate has been the subject of sporadic debate in Canadian politics for nearly 150 years. Here's a look at some key dates in the history of reform.

1867: The British North America Act creates the Senate. It is loosely patterned after the British House of Lords, with members appointed by the Crown and serving for life.

1874: Just seven years after Confederation, the Commons discussed allowing the provinces to appoint senators. The idea was dropped.

1909: The Senate debated changes that would limit terms to seven years, and allow for the election of two-thirds of senators. The changes were rejected.

1960s: The Quiet Revolution in Quebec and increasing dissatisfaction with the status quo in western Canada inject more urgency into the reform debate.

1965: An amendment to the British North America Act eliminates life terms for senators, imposing retirement at age 75.

1979: The Pepin-Robarts task force on Canadian unity rejects the idea of an elected Senate. It proposes a Council of the Federation, made up of provincial delegations appointed by the provinces.

1981: The Canada West Foundation lays the basis for the "Triple E" reform movement — "equal, elected and effective" — which becomes a rallying cry in the West, especially Alberta.

1984: A special joint committee of the Senate and Commons is struck to study reform proposals.

1987: The Reform party is born, embracing a "Triple E" Senate as one of its keystone policies.

1992: The Charlottetown Accord proposes that provincial governments choose either direct election by the people of the province, or election by the provincial legislature. The accord is voted down in a national referendum.

2006: The Harper Conservatives, a blend of former Progressive Conservatives and Reformers, takes office, with Senate reform a main campaign plank.

2011: The speech from the throne reaffirms the Conservative government's commitment to changing the upper house and the government introduces the Senate Reform Act in the Commons on June 21. The bill would allow the provinces to hold elections for Senate candidates and would limit terms to nine years.

2012: Quebec challenges the validity of the legislation at the Quebec Court of Appeal. The court eventually held that Parliament could not unilaterally change the terms for senators or introduce consultative elections for the appointment of senators.

2013: The Harper government refers six questions to the Supreme Court of Canada dealing with Parliament's ability to reform or abolish the Senate.

2014: The Supreme Court holds that Parliament alone cannot change the terms of senators or institute consultative elections for senator nominees. It says that requires the consent of seven provinces representing half the population and abolition requires unanimous provincial consent.

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