Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Michael Ignatieff & The Art of Stop Gap Senate Reform

Ignatieff proposes alternate Senate reform package

With Senate reform predictably becoming a hot topic following the appointment of a new batch of Senators -- as it always does -- Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has offered his own version of Senate reform proposals.

Ignatieff believes that 12-year term limits should be substituted for the proposed 8-year term limits, and that a public service appointment commission should oversee the selection of Senators.

"I'd even go as far as to limit the prime minister's prerogative to appoint senators," Ignatieff suggested. "That is, I'd pass (appointments) through a public service appointment commission, so we scrub it and get the best possible appointees."

At face value, this isn't such a bad idea. There should be some kind of process to vet or confirm any appointment the Prime Minister makes to any position.

The problem for Ignatieff is that his predecessor, Stephane Dion, opposed any "piecemeal" or incremental reforms as irresponsible. He had argued that incremental reforms would have unforeseeable consequences (while evidently overlooking the notion that sweeping reforms would have sweeping unforeseeable consequences).

One wonders what unforeseeable circumstances the establishment of a public service commission to approve the Prime Minister's Senate appointees would have.

But what remains evident is that if the Prime Minister could be compelled to appoint Senators approved by such a commission, he could just as easily be compelled to appoint Senators chosen by citizens via an election.

All that is necessary is for provinces to enact such legislation.

That would be a real reform, as opposed to a mere piecemeal reform. All that is needed is the political will to make this happen.

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