Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Game on Senate Reform Set to Begin

 Conservatives determined to reform Senate, Liberals seem determined not to

The governing Conservative Party is set to re-introduce their Senate reform legislation -- pushing, for the time being, for term limits on Senate appointments.

Rumours had recently abounded that the Conservatives and the ever-recalcitrant Liberals had struck a deal on the length of those term limits; the Conservatives had been holding out for eight-year term limits, while the Liberals have been insistent on a longer period, like twelve years.

It's not an altogether unreasonable preference.

Yet reports that the government and the Liberals had reached a deal have turned out to be premature.

Yet the Liberals must know that now that the Conservatives have a plurality in the Senate -- with a majority likely to follow later in the year -- they won't be able to count on a Liberal majority in the Senate to head off the Conservatives' Senate reform legislation.

In short, they know that they will have to oppose this legislation in the House of Commons. The facade of the Liberal Party being in favour of Senate reform won't be able to hold up.

But as Minister for Democratic Reform Steven Fletcher points out, while the Liberal Party is content to live in the past -- they've certainly been more than comfortable with the current form of the Senate, especially when they enjoyed majorities in that house -- this legislation is part of a campaign of rebuilding the Senate for the future.

“Our government does not believe that appointing senators for terms of up to 45 years is consistent with a 21st century democracy,” Fletcher recently said.

Rarely has the case for senate reform been stated so clearly, and with the Liberal Party reevaluating their approach in the face of a Conservative plurality in the Senate, rarely have the sides been so clear.

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