Saturday, November 14, 2009

Democracy: Coming Not-So-Soon to a Senate Not-So-Near You

Doug Finley forecasts incremental changes for the upper chamber

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed 27 Senators in less than a year, one may consider it to be ironic to find one of his new Senators -- moreover, the most blatantly partisan Senator he has to date appointed -- discussing the topic of Senate reform.

Yet former Conservative Party President Doug Finley did precisely that recently, as he noted that it would be small changes that would eventually make Parliament's upper chamber more democratic -- changes that would not require constitutional amendment.

"I'm told a number of changes could be made to the Senate without opening the constitutional grab bag," Finley insisted. "Individual provinces can tell Ottawa how they want to be represented. Personally, if we can get to the point where we have elected senators, I believe we would be where we have to go."

Of course, whether or not elected Senators will be part of that for all of Canada's provinces.

In Ontario, Conservative MPP Bob Runciman recently introduced a bill to have Ontario's Senate nominees elected. His bill was defeated during a Queen's Park sitting in which only 36 members bothered to show up.

A Liberal MPP present argued that Ontario had no role to play in Senate Reform, a suggestion that flustered Runciman.

"To say that the largest province in this country, the most populous province in this country, doesn't have a role to play in this is just bizarre," Runciman said, and noted that he plans to make Ontario's role in Senate reform an issue during Ontario's next election.

For his own part, Finley says that he firmly believes in the importance of the Senate. It's the importance of the Senate that demands it be reformed.

"I believe strongly in the traditional senate role -- sobre, second, independent thought," he continued. "But I believe in an elected Senate. If I have to legislate myself out of a job or run as a candidate, I would be more comfortable with that."

It's big talk coming from a Senator appointed by a Prime Minister who swore he would never appoint Senators -- even if political reality has forced him to do so.

Hopefully, Doug Finley is sincere about Senate reform. That's more important than ever during a time in which Canadians have begun to doubt the sincerity of Stephen Harper on this matter.


  1. The only way to senate reform is to get rid of it entirely. I mean, if one doesn't have to know how to read and write to get that plush 6-figure salary, what purpose does it serve to Jane and Joe Taxpayer?
    Since Demers was appointed to senate, no one I know takes it seriously anymore.
    Now with Porky Puffy Duffy's reported expenses exceeding that of most Canadian Tax payer's annual salary...well, what the hell is he spending it on? Surely nothing to help Canada or mankind for that matter.
    Oh Yes! The only way to senate reform is to get rid of it

  2. Yeah. Jacques Demers overcame illiteracy to win the Stanley Cup, and then overcome the challenge of illiteracy itself. (He has since learned to read and write.)

    Yeah. Who would think that he has anything at all to contribute to Canada?

    If the Senate were an elected institution Canadians would have the opportunity to decline to elect people like Demers if they so chose, even if that would potentially deprive that body of people of Demers' tenacity, determination and perseverence.

    Let's face it: there are other reasons why certain political groups want the Senate abolished. Canadians actually ought to be absolutely terrified of that.


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