Monday, October 12, 2009

Listening Yet?

Liberal Senators draw ire of prairie Premiers

As Joan Fraser and the Liberal party's senate caucus plot their next move regarding their controversial ammendments to a bill that would abolish 2-for-1 sentencing provisions, they may want to consider a joint press release written by he Premiers of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In the press release Alberta's Ed Stelmach, Saskatchewan's Brad Wall and BC's Gordon Campbell reiterate their support for the bill to abolish these sentencing provisions. They add their voice to Manitoba Premier Gary Doer, who had previously voiced his displeasure over the matter.

“Our provinces all agree that eliminating the two-for-one credit would help our provinces fight organized crime and keep our communities safe,” said Wall.

“Albertans expect a system that represents their values and instills confidence,” added Stelmach. “Double credit for time served doesn't work for Alberta."

“Criminals should not be able to manipulate the justice system to their advantage by getting extra credit for time in remand,” Campbell said. “The amendments proposed by this unelected Senate water down the strength of Bill C-25."

Previously, Doer had suggested that the matter helps demonstrate the case made by those who call for the abolition of the Senate.

"We believe the Senate should be abolished — and if we ever saw a case for the Senate being abolished, we just saw it last [Wednesday] evening," Doer fumed. "Elected people in the legislatures of the country, elected people in ... Parliament should be making decisions."

As noted previously, support for Bill C-25 came from across Canada, from across partisan boundaries. Stelmach governs Alberta as the leader of the Progressive Conservative party. Wall governs Saskatchewan as the leader of the Saskatchewan party -- Sasktachewan's primary conservative party (a Progressive Conservative party remains registered but doesn't field candidates in elections). Campbell governs BC as a Liberal, and Doer is the outgoing NDP Premier of Manitoba.

If Canadians needed any further indication of precisely how unresponsive an institution the Senate has become, this particular issue certainly presents it.

With its current Liberal majority, the Senate doesn't seem to care what the people of Canada, their elected representatives, or the provincial governments of Canada have to say on this issue.

They plan to go their own way, and drag the rest of the country along with them. They just aren't listening.

Gary Doer predictably toed the (rather frightening) NDP party line on abolishing the Senate. Canadians clearly don't favour this option -- numerous polls have demonstrated the Canadian preference for an elected Senate.

But in the absence of an elected Senate, perhaps other reforms should be considered. Legislation allowing provincial governments to summon their Senators before the legislature could at least improve the responsiveness of Senators to the constituents they're expected to represent.

Better still would be legislation allowing provincial legislatures to dismiss Senators deemed to have insufficiently represented their constituents -- perhaps with a 75% vote.

Such reforms could at least force Canada's Senate to listen to the people they're expected to represent. As recent episodes have shown, Senators like Joan Fraser simply aren't listening.

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