OTTAWA - Two senators from opposite sides of the red chamber have teamed up to offer a path toward reforming the maligned institution without opening a constitutional debate.
Quebec Liberal Senator Paul Massicotte and Stephen Greene, a Conservative senator representing Nova Scotia, say the red chamber needs to become less politically partisan.
The so-called chamber of sober second thought has been under intense pressure to change or be abolished over the past couple of years amid public anger about senator expenses.
In a joint statement, Massicotte and Greene say that, without reforms, the idea of Senate abolition will fester.
While the Supreme Court of Canada has all but ruled out the potential for abolition, Massicotte and Greene argue the Senate is a necessary part of Canada's democracy that would only have to be replaced by some other legislative institution.
What they're calling for is an abolition of the institutionalized partisanship that has been embedded in the rules and practices of the Senate.
"(Partisanship) subtracts from the wisdom and insight each individual Senator can bring to the chamber," the senators said in a statement.
"These rules and practices cement adversarial, win-lose discussions and orientation. There are many examples of this in the Senate, but it is this type of institutionalized partisanship that we oppose."
The high court, in response to a reference from the Harper government, ruled in the spring that doing away with the Senate — or even substantially reforming it — cannot be accomplished without agreement by some or all of the provinces.
The Opposition New Democrats have vowed to make Senate abolition a major plank of its campaign for the planned Oct. 19 election.
The Conservatives have since all but given up on trying to reform the chamber, saying no one wants a prolonged constitutional debate.
A less partisan Senate can be a double-edged sword.
While opponents of certain legislation might applaud more independent-minded senator for killing government legislation, a ruling party could then complain that the will of the elected House of Commons is being thwarted by unelected senators.
For Greene and Massicotte, that seems to matter not.
"We believe that only a personal kind of partisanship, one that reflects each senator's core values and beliefs, should be exercised in the Senate," they wrote in a release issued Thursday.
"It's the institutionalized partisan decision-making process that has settled in the Senate through the years and stymies 'sober second thought' that needs to change."
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