The recent scandals involving senators offer more reasons to question the Senate’s continued existence.
While there are many proposals to reform the Senate, they all leave or create more problems than they solve, and all require changes to the Constitution which means abolishing the Senate is no more difficult than any other option.
An elected Senate will result in a gridlock with the House, as happens in the U.S., because both bodies will have the democratic legitimacy to reject the other’s proposals. And term limits for senators will not solve any of the Senate’s many other accountability problems, including the fact that Senate ethics, spending, and attendance rules are very weak, as they are enforced by other senators who are in a conflict of interest, with few mandatory penalties.
An elected Senate will result in a gridlock with the House, as happens in the U.S.
The Senate supposedly exists to provide a “sober second thought” review of House bills, but it has never produced a critique or developed a new proposal that was not already being advocated by some think-tank or advocacy organization; so it is not needed to point out flaws in bills or to generate new policy ideas in any area.
The Senate is also supposed to balance the representation of Canada’s regions in the federal Parliament, but this goal could easily be achieved by increasing the number of seats from some regions in the House of Commons.
If Prime Minister Harper had initiated a broad consultation seven years ago to abolish the Senate and incorporate more regional representation into the House of Commons, we would be much closer to the goal of having an equal, elected, and effective Parliament (which has always been the goal of Senate reform).
Tyler Sommers is the coordinator of Democracy Watch.
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