Jack Layton wants a referendum on Senate abolition: Who really has a hidden agenda?
Jack Layon and the NDP want to abolish Canada's Senate. This is not a secret.
However, the impetus behind their desire to abolish it, as well as Layton's recent suggestion that a referendum be held on Senate abolition, just may have something to do with the best-unkept secret in Canadian politics.
"It's a 19th-century institution that has no place in a modern democracy in the 21st century," Layton announced. "It's undemocratic because [senators] are appointed by prime ministers who then are turfed out of office. But these senators end up leaving a long shadow of their continued presence in the legislative context."
Which is all true. But there are plenty of proposals on the board -- virtually all them posited by either the Conservative party under Stephen Harper, or by the Reform party under Preston Manning -- that would address precisely these concerns. The NDP could help fix these problems by supporting Senate reform.
So why abolish the Senate?
For Layton, a good deal of this comes down to his support for proportional representation -- which ironically was recently rejected via referendum in Ontario.
"Mr. Harper shows no interest in compromise with any other party," Layon says. "Certainly not ours. We were successful in getting language into the speech from the throne saying there would be continued work towards democratic reform, in particular, proportional representation. But the moment the speech was finished being read that was the last we heard of it. We've continued to press the government to take action but they've shown zero interest."
"We believe that on a piecemeal basis, electing senators while leaving a whole bunch of appointed senators there for however many more years makes no sense whatsoever. In fact it gives more potential legitimacy to an illegitimate entity from two centuries ago."
"What we should do is bring in proportional representation that allows every vote to count," Layton insists. That will also mean that the need for more representation "from British Columbia- given its growth in population- can be honored, and it doesn't have to be at the expense of Prince Edward Island. Nobody's saying they have to have fewer seats."
It has long been speculated that proportional representation would alter the Canadian political landscape by virtually eliminating the possibility of majority governments (not necessarily the greatest loss) and nearly guarantee a governing hegemon of left-leaning political parties. Such commentators point toward the proclivity of most Canadians to vote in favour of either outright left-wing parties (the NDP), left-leaning parties (the Liberal party), or allegedly left-wing parties (the Bloc Quebecois).
Given the extreme unlikelihood that any potential governing party would ever get into bed with a party that primarily wants to break the country up, this scenario virtually guarantees the NDP the perks that come with continually playing the role of the kingmaker. No wonder they're so excited about proportional representation.
This being said, one has to wonder why Jack Layton and the NDP are so eager to do away with Canada's "house of sober second thought".
Frankly, it makes one suspect that maybe, just maybe, there are some unpleasant surprises stuffed into the NDP's vision for Canada, just outside the party's platform, and away from public view.
Not only does the NDP support an electoral system that would potentially allow them to ram such a hidden agenda through, but they also support the abolition of anyone who could stand in their way.
Throughout its history, the NDP has been in favour the nationalization of various industries, and the withdrawal of Canada from various military alliances and mutual defense agreements, like NATO and NORAD. If given a free hand to try and force the government to withdraw from these arrangements, and slash-and-burn several free trade agreements, the NDP could drastically change Canada's position on the world stage -- and not for the better.
Especially if there were no one or nothing to stand in their way.
And these are merely things that we know the party supports. An NDP empowered to govern Canada through proportional representation could prove an excellent platform for varying extremist groups known to exist within the NDP to carry out their programs of social engineering, with almost certainly destructive results.
And no one to stop them.
However, such are the risks of adopting a unicameral legislature, a feature that typically exists only in small, ethnically heterogenous democracies such as New Zealand and Greece.
Layton also overlooks the protection the Senate is meant to provide to regional groups.
"One of the most important roles of the second chamber, in all countries with bicameral legislatures, is to provide regional representation and genuine protection for minorities, thus minimizing the risk of what can be called the tyranny of the majority," writes Progressive Conservative senator Serge Joyal.
Naturally, this has broken down before, as was the case with Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program. But one also has to wonder what kind of plans Jack Layton would have for traditionally-Conservative-voting Alberta if all he needed to do was outvote the opposition in parliament.
Last but not least, considering that the Senate would actually be the preferable venue for proportional representation (as is the case in France), Layton's insistence that it should be abolished becomes very suspcious, indeed.
There is more to Jack Layton and the NDP's desire to abolish the senate than contempt for so-called "obselete" institutions of governance.
There's something he isn't telling us, and it just might have something to do with the pack of left-wing extremists just barely contained behind the NDP's back curtain.