Senate Reform: What the Provinces Say

By Matthew Little
Matthew Little
Matthew Little
Matthew Little is a multi-media reporter for The Epoch Times.
August 14, 2013 Updated: August 14, 2013

Reforming the Senate is a difficult business that most experts agree requires provincial consent. That requirement has prompted the federal government to ask the Supreme Court if it can enact changes in Bill C-7 without provincial approval. The bill would allow for an election process and nine-year terms. 

But if the court says no, there is still something that can be done. 

Retired liberal Senator Tommy Banks told The Epoch Times that the best route to fix the Senate was to upgrade the appointment process to make it clear and transparent, similar to the careful screening of Supreme Court justices. 

The Epoch Times decided to ask each province what its premier thought of the proposal. While no province seemed to favour the suggestion, some government officials did give their thoughts about how to deal with the Senate.

British Columbia
A source in Christy Clark’s office said the premier views discussions about the Senate as a distraction from the more immediate priorities of British Columbia’s economy. That said, if changes are made, Clark wants B.C. to have a say, the source said. The source cited a recent CTV interview Clark gave where she sympathized with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s calls to abolish the Senate.

Premier Alison Redford’s issues manager Michael Norris said Alberta has been a leader in advocating for Senate reform, noting Albertans have been able to vote to select Senate nominees for the prime minister’s consideration since 1989.

“Five of Alberta’s elected nominees have been appointed to the Senate, making them the only democratically selected members of the Upper House. The most recent Senate nominees were selected as part of the 2012 Alberta General Election,” he said.

Manitoba has agreement from all parties that the Senate should be abolished, said a cabinet spokesperson. If it is not abolished, it should be reformed so senators are elected similar to MPs.

Manitoba’s Elections Reform Act passed with all-party support in 2006 saying, “If not abolished, the Senate should consist of democratically elected members rather than members appointed by a process involving patronage appointments.”

New Brunswick
Premier David Alward supports an elected Senate, his press secretary Jesse Robichaud said.

Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia would be content to have MPs represent them without a Senate, said Premier Darrell Dexter’s press secretary Jennifer Stewart.

“The Senate is an expensive, unelected body and if it didn’t exist, we firmly believe that no one would bother to invent one.” That said, Stewart added that the province acknowledges the service individual senators offer their province.

“If the majority of Canadians decide that they want a reformed Senate, then Nova Scotia would want to be a part of that change. It’s important to note that it was the provinces that created Canada, not the other way around, therefore the provinces should be involved in any type of reform,” she said.

Prince Edward Island 
Prince Edward Island has long favoured a Triple E Senate, which would see senators elected and in proportion to the populations of their provinces, much the way MPs are, said Geoff Townsend, Premier Robert Ghiz’s director of communications.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec did not reply by press time. Ontario has supported abolishing the Senate in the past, while Quebec has supported the status quo. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall made headlines across the country for his effort to put abolishing the Senate on the agenda at the recent First Minister’s meeting of provincial premiers.

Matthew Little
Matthew Little
Matthew Little is a multi-media reporter for The Epoch Times.