Why the NDP is Right to Want to Abolish the Senate

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Sean in Ottawa

Fidel wrote:

We still haven't read one coherent argument for propping-up a bunch of political rejects with taxpayer handouts. They should get in line for taxpayer handouts with the rest of the corporate welfare bums in Canada.

I have no idea whatsoever what patronage and gold-plated pensions for old line party hacks has to do with promoting progressive discussion.

Why not open-up basic rights and women's right to vote or universal health care to "healthy" debate while we're at it? There is nothing progressive about Canada's old line party political clique aka the senate. This is ridiculous.

Either the 21st century or the senate should go gently into that goodnight,  one or the other.

Fidel you are misrepresenting this discussion.

The Senate as amended in the manner being discussed would mean the current bunch of hacks etc. would be gone. The way of appointing them would be gone, the PM's power over them would be gone, the political relationship between parties and the Senate would be gone, the powers would be changed, the salaries would be changed. The only thing being kept is the chamber, the fact that there would be representation from across the country-- the things constitutionally mandated.

As for your swipe about arguments you don't like not being coherent there is little to say except it is certainly not appropriate here.

The comparison between women's rights and universal healthcare is not only bogus it borders on personal attack as it implies those who do not agree with you are not being progressive.

We in fact all agree that the Senate as it is must go. The difference is that some are willing to discuss (without necessarily making a decision yet) the idea of taking the useless present chamber and making something positive out of it. Give the heavy tilt we are seeing to lack of representation or poor representation of many groups in government and the increasing power of the PMO there is something to discuss here. I thin the House of Commons also is due for an overhaul as well. There is a serious deterioration in the democracy we have (and it was never perfect to start with). Looking at an opportunity to improve the situation seems more than reasonable and certainly not deserving of smears.

Brachina

Sorry the Senate is not repairable, its not needed, and we'll have a bundle in absolving it.

The NDP is going to eliminate as soon as they can, the right doesn't want to fix it, so you can argue about weather it can be fixed or not, but it doesn't matter, because the only choice being offered is abolish it or status quo corruption.

Fidel

Sean in Ottawa wrote:
As for your swipe about arguments you don't like not being coherent there is little to say except it is certainly not appropriate here.

The comparison between women's rights and universal healthcare is not only bogus it borders on personal attack as it implies those who do not agree with you are not being progressive.

Other rich countries have no senates, and yet dozens of them have legislated ALL of FDR's second bill of rights for Americans and more. How could this be if not by a  red-blue chamber for old line party hacks and many of them rejected by voters in general elections?

Come to think of it the USSA has an elected senate, and Americans are still waiting for FDR's 2nd bill of rights. Apparently sober duplication of government does serve a purpose, like the Tsar's Soviet of Ministers apparently had purpose - for what we still don't know.

JKR

kropotkin1951 wrote:

The constitutional file is one that is impossible to open just a little bit to tinker with one area. Do we really want to reopen the constitutional debate is the better question.

If we are a healthy democracy we should be able to come together and discuss whether the basic ground rules of our society can be improved. The federal government and provinces should be actively deliberating ways to improve our society. A federal-provincial collaborative process on Senate
reform or abolition is the only way to decide what is to become of the institution. Our constitution requires that significant changes to the Senate must be approved of by the federal government and provinces. That process requires the federal government and provinces to agree on abolition of the Senate. Maybe the NDP should ask every significant provincial party to support the abolition of the Senate? If every significant provincial party supported Senate abolition then the Senate's demise would likely happen rapidly. If Senate abolition could gain the support of 25 or so provincial political parties, abolition will become a slam dunk. If the pro-abolition forces can obtain 25 or so signatures of significant provincial party leaders the battle for abolition will likely win the day. Brad Wall's support for abolition today may be the beginning of the end for the Senate. If Alison Redford, Pauline Marois, Christy Clark, Kathleen Wynne and a few others can add their support, the abolition of the Senste could even happen before the next federal election.

Sean in Ottawa

I have raised it several times because I think it is more important than the Senate and I even think that if Canadians think about it they might agree. What about checking the power of the PMO-- if we don't have a body like a Senate that is not appointed by the PM how do we check the power of the PM?

I am not saying the Senate is the only way but before we dump it let's see if we have a better answer.

This is a major problem with our government right now: the un checked power of the PM. Any big change like abolition of the Senate should include a plan for this or we are acting too hasty.

So those who want the Senate in any form under any conditions gone- let me know how you would limit the power of the PM? Perhaps you ahve good ideas of how we can do this without another body. If you want to win me over this is the place to start since this is the major concern I have. I am not all uptight about the comparitively small amount of money spent on the Senate compared to the massive ountry-destroying power centred in a PM with a majority government. I do think this is relevant as it is important context. If I can be satisfied that we can control a PM through some better way I can support abolition of an institution like the Senate.

JKR

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

So those who want the Senate in any form under any conditions gone- let me know how you would limit the power of the PM? Perhaps you ahve good ideas of how we can do this without another body. If you want to win me over this is the place to start since this is the major concern I have. I am not all uptight about the comparitively small amount of money spent on the Senate compared to the massive ountry-destroying power centred in a PM with a majority government. I do think this is relevant as it is important context. If I can be satisfied that we can control a PM through some better way I can support abolition of an institution like the Senate.

- Move to proportional representation to take away the power the PM receives from leading the party that has a phony FPTP majority.

- Remove the PM's ability to make appointments and give it to a committee of the House of Commons that proportionally represents the will of the voters by political party in the last election.

- Remove the PM's ability to  
dissolve the House of Commons and call an election without consent from a majority of the House of Commons.

- Establish a rule whereby a government only loses the confidence of the House on a specific motion of non-confidence.

- Give parliamentary caucuses the ability to remove their party's leader.

- Have elections every 3 years.

- More private members bills.

- Citizens' initiated bills.

- Citizens' initiated question for question period that must be answered by the party leaders or their their representatives when they are not present in the House of Commons.

Since the PM already selects senators, the Senate is already part and parcel of the PMO's overly dominant position within Canadian politics.  And since the Senate is unelected they don't have the power to oppose a sitting PM. That being said, requiring that senators be selected by a committee of the House of Commons that represents the majority of voters party preferences in the last election would reduce the power of the PMO. That would be a major improvement over the status quo.

Sean in Ottawa

Interesting list!

Fidel

When you talk about limiting power of the PM, you're realy talking about limiting the power of corporations and the rich to influence federal government. Harper and every PM before him are just puppets of money and influence, and senators who do party fundraising on the side are undermining the democratic process. Money has no place in a true democracy nor does Washington style lobbying in Ottawa since Mulroney.

If we want to fix Ottawa, a good start will be to abolish the senate and save tens of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars every year. And then make proportional representation law of the land. One Canadian should equal one vote no half measures or lipstick on senators. Their best work is ahead of them, perhaps in learning how to garden or volunteer their time to good causes after being given the boot from Ottawa.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

What about checking the power of the PMO-- if we don't have a body like a Senate that is not appointed by the PM how do we check the power of the PM?

I am not saying the Senate is the only way but before we dump it let's see if we have a better answer.

When has the Senate ever checked the power of the PMO?

Brachina

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/05/24/sk-wall-calls-for-aboli...

Even Brad Wall supports abolishing the Senate, and honestly I thought Brad would be the last Premier to support this if only to piss off Mulcair.

Show me which Premiers are fighting to save the Senate?

The Premiers of Sask and Manitoba support abolishing the Senate, Alberta lost interest inban elected Senate when its population exploded, Quebec is sueing the feds in order to have nothing to do with the Senate, and the Altantic have been humiliated and given the disrespect for residency requirements its shown no value for them, in Ontario Andrea will pull out the Whip and make sure Wynn votes to abolishing the Senate, and Christy is too much of a populist to go down defending the Senate.

What does that leave, a referendum? Easily winnable.

I don't know if it has to pass the Senate, that's the only problem and I'm sure thier is a solution.

Kara

knownothing wrote:

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

You know how people shouldn't question a woman's right to choose or the right to form unions on rabble? I think we should add that people can't question abolition of the Senate. I am so tired of arguing with people about why the Senate is bad...

Abolition of the senate is in no way equal to a woman's right to choose - do not equate the two issues.  Having control over one's body is the most basic human right and should not ever be up for discussion.

Unions are important to all workers, regardless if one is unionized or not.  Most of our employment rights exist only because of the hard work of unions in the past - but for them, we would probably all work in sweat shop conditions.  The war on unions is a threat to all workers in terms of working conditions, safety, remuneration, etc.

 Debating senate reform is completely reasonable, especially when people like Sean present ideas seeking to address the chronic underrepresentation of First Nations, people of colour, women, etc. in our government.  I don't have to agree with him to find his ideas interesting and worthy of discussion.

I would respond but I fear I would be banned

Your non-response says enough anyway and was about what I had expected.

Kara

Fidel wrote:

Why not open-up basic rights and women's right to vote or universal health care to "healthy" debate while we're at it? There is nothing progressive about Canada's old line party political clique aka the senate. This is ridiculous.

You already know the answer to that question.  The rest is simply baiting.

Sean in Ottawa

Fidel wrote:

When you talk about limiting power of the PM, you're realy talking about limiting the power of corporations and the rich to influence federal government. Harper and every PM before him are just puppets of money and influence, and senators who do party fundraising on the side are undermining the democratic process. Money has no place in a true democracy nor does Washington style lobbying in Ottawa since Mulroney.

If we want to fix Ottawa, a good start will be to abolish the senate and save tens of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars every year. And then make proportional representation law of the land. One Canadian should equal one vote no half measures or lipstick on senators. Their best work is ahead of them, perhaps in learning how to garden or volunteer their time to good causes after being given the boot from Ottawa.

Who will make PR the law of the land? Stephen Harper?

Know Nothing asked when has the Senate checked the PM? Well, rarely and only when the Senate was stacked by a previous PM. But that is not the point. The point is the opportunity and what it can do.

Here we have an institution at the centre of government that is on the ropes. Don't think the rest is much better. So this particular one creates an opportunity. Do we kill it and let the other no less bad parts take over and say job done? Or, do we take the opportunity to reform this one to do the bidding of the people. A reformed Senate need have nothing in common with the problems of the previous one. I say use the Senate because we won't have a shot at any other federal institution that could be made to do what we need. With this one we, the people, could create broad support and pressure for the kind of institution we need that CAN check the PMO. I think if we let this opportunity pass up we will have no influence on where the power goes and the sleaze will just go under the carpet. We won't get closer to PR by dumping the Senate either and we won't get closer to any checks and balances on a majority government controlled within the walls of the PMO and we won't change direction on a House of Commons that is becoming increasingly irrelevant to where the real power is.

The Senate proposal I have has nothing to do with the sleazy past of the Senate. It has everything to do with taking an opportunity where there is deep public anger at a current institution that could be used to destroy it without any further value or to reform it so that there is a toehold of democracy restored somewhere in the institution of government. Basically what I am saying we take from the Senate is the name, the fact that there is an institution there, the momentum for change, that it could be a gathering of citizens and use those elements to build something useful. Or we can just throw it away and let the corporate power you speak of, Fidel, create new back alleys to the PMO to replace what we hated most only because we actually got to see it.

There are few public parts of government and they are all in decline. Taking the worst one and directing it to the people's purpose is better than hacking away at the visible parts of government that can at least have some rules. The replacement will be much worse than the Senate, less visible and more out of reach of the people. It can never be reformed because it has no rules other than the pleasure of the PM. What we are fighting about is not some respect for the Senate but the place (not physical) it takes up that the people need to be put to our use. We are running out of tools here. I have no doubt that with all the scrutiny the powers behind the Senate would not mind dumping it and going behind permanently closed doors. Don't expect many opportunities to come. As long as the Senate is there it is at least a target for the people to take over. Once gone, the power will slide behind view.

I am not convinced that the debate about the Senate should be so charged with anger and thought of the past. Building is about looking at what you have, your opportunities and seeing what you can do with them. Tearing down must be done with extreme caution because there is little by way of support for what passes as a democracy here.

As for other countries that don't have them-- you can make comparisons in each case. All governments and their components are unique both in institutions and political culture. Mix and match is a very bad idea. There have been many studies looking at Canada, the strength of the PM, growing weakness of public information and input, weakness of our parliament through incremental damage, lack of checks as institutions are damaged, people left out.

The other institution that also was to check the PMO used to be the GG but that has been destroyed. I am not a monarchist and prefer the reform of an assembly to something like the GG for that purpose. I'd ditch the monarchy and build a strong public, non partisan, open people's assembly to advise and record and question the main show which is the House of Commons. Yes, you make the House PR as well -- I have long supported that. But this is one step removed from the politics of the House without the burdens of overwhelming party politics and permanent electioneering. Once you take the Senate from the bagmen, from the political parties and from the PMO you can make something useful of it. Get rid of it, and it will be near impossible to do this. 

BTW: I take issue with the thread title. It should not be about why the NDP is right to do anything but if. If you want a real discussion and policy ideas to come from it you need to ask questions and not cheer-lead which is what that thread title implies. The NDP need ideas and questioning from an honest and point of view more than anyone. Loyalty that raises questions with implied answers suggesting the party is already right is blind loyalty and the party would be better off without it.

JKR

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

The Senate proposal I have has nothing to do with the sleazy past of the Senate.

What's your proposal?

JKR

Brachina wrote:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/05/24/sk-wall-calls-for-aboli...

Even Brad Wall supports abolishing the Senate, and honestly I thought Brad would be the last Premier to support this if only to piss off Mulcair.

Show me which Premiers are fighting to save the Senate?

The Premiers of Sask and Manitoba support abolishing the Senate, Alberta lost interest inban elected Senate when its population exploded, Quebec is sueing the feds in order to have nothing to do with the Senate, and the Altantic have been humiliated and given the disrespect for residency requirements its shown no value for them, in Ontario Andrea will pull out the Whip and make sure Wynn votes to abolishing the Senate, and Christy is too much of a populist to go down defending the Senate.

What does that leave, a referendum? Easily winnable.

I don't know if it has to pass the Senate, that's the only problem and I'm sure thier is a solution.

Maybe someone should get a petition going and contact the following 10 premiers to ascertain whether they support Senate abolition: Kathleen Wynne, Pauline Marois, Christy Clark, Allison Redford, Greg Selinger, Brad Wall, Darell Dexter, David Alward, Kathy Dunderdale, and Robert Ghiz. The only holdouts I can see are Allison Redford and Pauline Marois. If the Supreme Court decides that only 7 of 10 provinces are required to abolish the Senate, Senate abolition would be viable. The Supreme Court's decision will be pivotal.

Brachina

Sean your idea is interesting, but unrealistic.

Who do you have pushing for it?

Harper who stacks the Senate? Harper who failed at electoral reform?

Justin Trudeau who supports term limits so he can stack the senate with his own corrupt cronies?

Or the NDP who are so sickened by the Senate, they just want it dead, abolished?

Or the Greens who have all of one MP.

How about Bloq, who by there very nature weld no power at all outside of annoying people.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

@JKR... I think Redford will hold out for quite some time. The faux senatorial elections we have in Alberta are an excellent source of funds.

Page 10 at the link wrote:

Retaining Surplus Campaign Funds After the Campaign Period

All surplus campaign funds held by a candidate at the end of the campaign period must be held in trust. No additional funds can be added to this trust with the exception of interest. The candidate may transfer funds from the trust to a registered party between campaign periods at the candidate’s discretion. (EFCDA sec. 12)

Sean in Ottawa

Brachina wrote:
Sean your idea is interesting, but unrealistic. Who do you have pushing for it? Harper who stacks the Senate? Harper who failed at electoral reform? Justin Trudeau who supports term limits so he can stack the senate with his own corrupt cronies? Or the NDP who are so sickened by the Senate, they just want it dead, abolished? Or the Greens who have all of one MP. How about Bloq, who by there very nature weld no power at all outside of annoying people.

Those who think abolition is easier than what I am proposing don't understand our constitution. If you think what I propose can't be done you are resigning yourself to the status quo.

I think either could be done and that my solution is easier and better in the long run. And on top of that it is the only one that would lead to greater democracy than we have now.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Those who think abolition is easier than what I am proposing don't understand our constitution. If you think what I propose can't be done you are resigning yourself to the status quo.

I think either could be done and that my solution is easier and better in the long run. And on top of that it is the only one that would lead to greater democracy than we have now.

Constitutionally and legally, your reform suggestion may be easier, and it may be better in the long run as you say. However, in my opinion, there is zero chance of achieving sufficient consensus on any particular Senate reform scheme, even the most enlightened, for it to actually happen. On the other hand, I think there is a small but non-zero chance of getting sufficient consensus (probably through a referendum) to abolish the Senate. So, in my opinion, you have it backwards. It is really a choice between working for a small chance of abolition, or wasting time and energy on reform which will never happen, while the status quo prevails.

 

6079_Smith_W

Michael Moriarity wrote:

However, in my opinion, there is zero chance of achieving sufficient consensus on any particular Senate reform scheme, even the most enlightened, for it to actually happen.

I wouldn't say that's true.

As I said, I'd recommend legislation that prevents the senate from quashing or excessively delaying bills that have been passed by the H of C, like the British passed in 1911. I think it would be pretty hard for anyone to argue against that. Structurally, that's the only really glaring problem I see. Pull their teeth on that issue and the senate can no longer be used in an anti-democratic way.

The other problems of term limits, perks and corruption are, frankly, limited, and secondary.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

As I said, I'd recommend legislation that prevents the senate from quashing or excessively delaying bills that have been passed by the H of C, like the British passed in 1911. I think it would be pretty hard for anyone to argue against that. Structurally, that's the only really glaring problem I see. Pull their teeth on that issue and the senate can no longer be used in an anti-democratic way.

The other problems of term limits, perks and corruption are, frankly, limited, and secondary.

I am not a lawyer (although I once was, back in the 1970s) and I have not studied the constitution in detail since my law school days (Osgoode Hall class of 1970). So, I don't know whether a simple act of parliament can change the Senate's powers. If you are correct that it can, then I admit that your important reform suggestion could probably be passed by any majority government. In the previous post, I was actually referring primarily to Sean's suggested reforms, which I thought would require some sort of constitutional amendment. If I was mistaken on this as well, I will have to retract my statement.

Brachina

 Again who would lead the charge? 

 

 Hinestly I support abolishing it and find the idea of trying to reform it to be counter productive. 

 I've already sign the petition to abolish it.

 

 Abolishing the Senate has growing momentum.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Know Nothing asked when has the Senate checked the PM? Well, rarely and only when the Senate was stacked by a previous PM.

I think you are right about this. If the NDP won government, the Senate would definitely be used to check the power of Mulcair's PMO.

 

 

 

Brachina

knownothing wrote:

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Know Nothing asked when has the Senate checked the PM? Well, rarely and only when the Senate was stacked by a previous PM.

I think you are right about this. If the NDP won government, the Senate would definitely be used to check the power of Mulcair's PMO.

 

 

 

Which is a great reason to kill it.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

You know how people shouldn't question a woman's right to choose or the right to form unions on rabble? I think we should add that people can't question abolition of the Senate. I am so tired of arguing with people about why the Senate is bad...

Abolition of the senate is in no way equal to a woman's right to choose - do not equate the two issues.  Having control over one's body is the most basic human right and should not ever be up for discussion.

Unions are important to all workers, regardless if one is unionized or not.  Most of our employment rights exist only because of the hard work of unions in the past - but for them, we would probably all work in sweat shop conditions.  The war on unions is a threat to all workers in terms of working conditions, safety, remuneration, etc.

 Debating senate reform is completely reasonable, especially when people like Sean present ideas seeking to address the chronic underrepresentation of First Nations, people of colour, women, etc. in our government.  I don't have to agree with him to find his ideas interesting and worthy of discussion.

I would respond but I fear I would be banned

Your non-response says enough anyway and was about what I had expected.

My non-response shows sensitivity to the forum and to people's feelings regarding these contentious issues.

6079_Smith_W

Brachina wrote:

 Honestly I support abolishing it and find the idea of trying to reform it to be counter productive. 

 I've already sign the petition to abolish it.

 Abolishing the Senate has growing momentum.

Just because a certain course might seem easier, and has a lot of people behind it does not make it a good idea.

And that goes double when it is in reaction so something like this scandal.

There are plenty of really bad ideas that got started that way.

Kara

knownothing wrote:

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

You know how people shouldn't question a woman's right to choose or the right to form unions on rabble? I think we should add that people can't question abolition of the Senate. I am so tired of arguing with people about why the Senate is bad...

Abolition of the senate is in no way equal to a woman's right to choose - do not equate the two issues.  Having control over one's body is the most basic human right and should not ever be up for discussion.

Unions are important to all workers, regardless if one is unionized or not.  Most of our employment rights exist only because of the hard work of unions in the past - but for them, we would probably all work in sweat shop conditions.  The war on unions is a threat to all workers in terms of working conditions, safety, remuneration, etc.

 Debating senate reform is completely reasonable, especially when people like Sean present ideas seeking to address the chronic underrepresentation of First Nations, people of colour, women, etc. in our government.  I don't have to agree with him to find his ideas interesting and worthy of discussion.

I would respond but I fear I would be banned

Your non-response says enough anyway and was about what I had expected.

My non-response shows sensitivity to the forum and to people's feelings regarding these contentious issues.

A woman's right to choose is not a contentious issue - it is a fundamental right.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is a misogynist.  I certainly hope that you were not including abortion rights in your statement as one of "these contentious issues".

Brachina

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Brachina wrote:

 Honestly I support abolishing it and find the idea of trying to reform it to be counter productive. 

 I've already sign the petition to abolish it.

 Abolishing the Senate has growing momentum.

Just because a certain course might seem easier, and has a lot of people behind it does not make it a good idea.

And that goes double when it is in reaction so something like this scandal.

There are plenty of really bad ideas that got started that way.

You've shown me nothing that convinces me your way is better.

6079_Smith_W

Brachina wrote:

You've shown me nothing that convinces me your way is better.

Sure, except that I'm not ruling out abolition as an option (as I said above). What I am not doing is confusing scandal and corruption with the questions of the structure and usefulness of the senate, and the possible risks of getting into reform and abolition.

(and frankly, I don't see reform as the highest priority either. I think it has become an acute problem mainly because of Mr. Harper's hand on the tiller)

After all, I can point to bigger scandals, and equally anti-democratic actions in the commons. I don't think anyone here is seriously proposing its abolition because - guess what - it runs the country.

People here seem to forget that every piece of legislation that runs through the H of C also passes through the senate, and there has been virtually no consideration of their role, or what would be missing if that house was not there.

(edit)

To be clear, I think it is fine for the NDP to have abolition as a policy. To use a situation like this to kick it into high gear (because this is about corruption, not the senate) is cheap politics that appeals to the gut rather than the brain, IMO. You'll notice that Harper trotted out a similar line in reaction to it.

 

Brachina

Appeals to the gut, not the brain. GOOD because its the gut that wins elections, not appeals to the brain.

Never the less, you've still shown me nothing to convince me the Senate is essential.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

Kara wrote:

knownothing wrote:

You know how people shouldn't question a woman's right to choose or the right to form unions on rabble? I think we should add that people can't question abolition of the Senate. I am so tired of arguing with people about why the Senate is bad...

Abolition of the senate is in no way equal to a woman's right to choose - do not equate the two issues.  Having control over one's body is the most basic human right and should not ever be up for discussion.

Unions are important to all workers, regardless if one is unionized or not.  Most of our employment rights exist only because of the hard work of unions in the past - but for them, we would probably all work in sweat shop conditions.  The war on unions is a threat to all workers in terms of working conditions, safety, remuneration, etc.

 Debating senate reform is completely reasonable, especially when people like Sean present ideas seeking to address the chronic underrepresentation of First Nations, people of colour, women, etc. in our government.  I don't have to agree with him to find his ideas interesting and worthy of discussion.

I would respond but I fear I would be banned

Your non-response says enough anyway and was about what I had expected.

My non-response shows sensitivity to the forum and to people's feelings regarding these contentious issues.

A woman's right to choose is not a contentious issue - it is a fundamental right.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is a misogynist.  I certainly hope that you were not including abortion rights in your statement as one of "these contentious issues".

How is it misogynistic of me to say that it is a contentious issue? Don't thousands of people attend rallies on Parliament Hill every year?

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Annual+anti+abortion+march+draws+thousa...

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2010/05/13/abortion-rally.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/05/12/pol-abortion-rally.html

Some Conservative and Liberal MPs also feel it is a contentious issue.

Anyway let's just drop it. I'm sorry I made the comparison. I was just trying to express how strongly I feel about abolition.

 

 

NorthReport

CTV is now talking about the possiblility of criminal charges being laid. Nice to see the NDP out in front on this "abolish the senate" issue. What are the Harper Conservatives and their supporters going to do to deflect the heat off this negative publicity for them? Does what is going on at Toronto City Hall have any connection? Someone recently stated here that Harper is playing chess while others are playing checkers?

janfromthebruce

The spending scandal is just an opportunity to abolish the senate. The senate works 3 months a year and to suggest that it is necessary is to suggest that provincial govts which got rid of their senates are somehow wanting.

A good tweet by a former babbler

Malcolm French ‏@MalcolmFrench 20 May

Trudeau opposes Senate reform, wants better Senators - like better deck chairs would've stopped Titanic from sinking. #abolishthesenate

janfromthebruce

another senate scandal

Senate Selection Committee Could Be The Most Expensive Meeting On Parliament Hill

 

Two senators are each pocketing several thousand dollars annually to head a committee that meets once a year – and sometimes not at all.

Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall, the Tory whip, receives $11,200 annually to serve as the chair of the Senate’s selection committee. That is on top of her $135,200 salary and the $11,200 she receives to serve as the Government’s whip. Her counterpart, Senator Jim Munson, the Liberals’ whip, receives $5,600 to serve as the vice-chair of the selection committee in addition to his $135,200 paycheque and the $6,600 he receives as whip.

The Senate selection committee last met – for 15 minutes – on June 9, 2011, right after the federal election. The meeting was to establish membership lists for all the Senate’s other committees, although, in actual fact, they simply rubber stamped decisions that the party leaders’ offices had already made.

The committee didn’t meet at all in 2012. It’s first meeting of 2013 is scheduled for Tuesday, a date that didn’t appear on the schedule until after HuffPost made inquiries last week about the committee’s work.

Now that is putting pork on the fork for sure.

Sean in Ottawa

janfromthebruce wrote:

The spending scandal is just an opportunity to abolish the senate. The senate works 3 months a year and to suggest that it is necessary is to suggest that provincial govts which got rid of their senates are somehow wanting.

A good tweet by a former babbler

Malcolm French ‏@MalcolmFrench 20 May

Trudeau opposes Senate reform, wants better Senators - like better deck chairs would've stopped Titanic from sinking. #abolishthesenate

When you go to get rid of something that is a long term institution it is wise not just to think about what it has done but what it could do as the potential is also being destroyed.

The Senate does not just work three months of the year either-- I assume you are adding sitting days right?

One issue we have now is that legislation is not being reviewed properly before being passed. Most MPs from all parties agree with this. The Senate presently is not doing a great job at this but it is a task it is supposed to do. And while it is not doing as much as it should it does doe some good work in this area. So if you have an institution that is supposed to do something and it is not doing it as well as it should then before getting rid of it it is reasonable to ask if it can be made to do it properly. Given that parties in the House increasingly vote as a block and will no matter what we do given hyper-partisanship, a second body reviewing legislation seems worth considering. The reason the Senate does not do a good job is likely because it is also partisan, is not appointed on merit and is appointed by the PM. Change these three things and give it a real job to do and you could have something.

As I have stated having this body have no partisan colours but a contingent of experts including scientists, environmentalists, Aboriginal representatives, immigrants, low income people, elderly, disabled and others could ensure that not only is there a body of individuals tasked with reviewing legislation, this body represents people who know something about what is being done and who will be affected and represent more of Canada than the usual poli-sci, lawyer, business and hack combination the House usual entails. The Chamber could be established as equal in gender as well.

How we get the government to be better by getting rid of an institution that most here things is irrelevant has not been explained. If it is irrelevant the only thing we'll do is save the money. If we make it relevant we could have it as a step in fixing the balance of power in Ottawa. At this time that should be the priority as we have a serious problem there.

By the way the Senate costs Canada roughly $90 million a year. About 0.03% of federal spending which is now some $276 billion. You aren't fixing the budget with killing the senate.

Sean in Ottawa

Scandal is a bogus argument otherwise it would be an argument to ditch the entire government. Now there are some right wingers who do like to go there-- ironically including many in the current government. New Democrats are generally committed to the idea that government can be made to work. The Senate is a tool and should be considered before being eliminated. Presently I think we need another tool or institution and refashioning a non working one is easier than starting from scratch given the constitutional situation in the country.

The question should be what can be done with it? Not how badly is it being run today.

The constitution itself has a particular dynamic: when changes are made power runs away from the centre weakening the federal government. It is difficult to avoid devolution given the political realities of the country. This is quite debatable in terms of being good or bad as there are many areas where it is best to let the provinces do their thing but having a functional, accountable, democratic federal government is not something we want to do without. The provinces will never agree to build the federal government with another institution if we remove this one. Instead they will seek more powers to bring home -- even if those additional powers are not in their interest -- that is the dynamic of federal provincial negotiations in Canada over the last few decades. This may be the last shot at having another power in the federal government that could check a PMO. The reason the Senate has not done this very well in the past is because of PMO appointments but that does not mean this body could not be the best possible structure to do exactly that.

The NDP is contradicting itself here. The aim of the federal government should be to be the best it can be not to cut to save whatever we can any time we can. Before using cost saving arguments to kill the Senate alone, we should be examining what role it has and what it can do. We should ask ourselves if we are really okay without it. It seems clear that we are not okay without it. So the reasonable question is can this situation be improved with it being reformed.

Those who think we are okay with just the current structures have not been paying attention over the last few years.

I'll disclose something here. Read back. I used to support abolition of the Senate. I have moved to seeing that abolition should be set aside until we figure out what could make the federal government work and if we can use some of the concept or structure of the Senate to get there. The Senate as it is does not do damage-- it costs not that much a year in the grand scheme of things. There is time to examine the structure of government first and see if a reformed Senate could play a positive role. If the conclusion is not then we can kill it. But before doing so we should know how we will fix the federal government. Right now I think a reformed senate (perhaps styled something like the council of the people), is the best bet and easiest (meaning most likely) of any possible reform that could make a difference.

Instead of getting angry at the Senate- pause. Ask yourself this: what would an additional legislative body or public council have looked like if it were designed by New Democrats? what would it do? How would people get in it? Isn't this a way to make sure that people who are not prone to be successful in party politics could still be at the centre of government advising us? Can we not use a body like this to bring many groups (named upthread) who have been under-represented into government? Can this not only be a counterpoint to the PMO but the party system itself? Could we not put some of the people who have given up on party politics into such a chamber so that we can get their points of view as well? Yes such a reform is hard (so is abolition by the way) but wouldn't all this be worth it?

janfromthebruce

Actually one always takes advantage of a situation when it arises. Thus the NDP long standing policy of abolishing the senate gets head way and consideration when a scandal such as this comes to the fore.

It has always been that way with policy development and enactment. And as for it's replacement, I made a suggestion in which expanding the house of commons representation to one of mixed representation of PP.

Sean in Ottawa

janfromthebruce wrote:

Actually one always takes advantage of a situation when it arises. Thus the NDP long standing policy of abolishing the senate gets head way and consideration when a scandal such as this comes to the fore.

It has always been that way with policy development and enactment. And as for it's replacement, I made a suggestion in which expanding the house of commons representation to one of mixed representation of PP.

I think your suggestion would help and I support it, but it won't make the partisanship of the house be reduced. I also think that reform of the House as you outline is less likely and would still require partisan affiliation of all representatives as that is where the partisan votes take place. I don't think you can have a place half partisan. I think that a small number of groups in the House will only get outvoted anyway. A separate chamber would get listened to and likely would have a lot of credibility in reviewing legislation if the composition were as I outlined. You can also reduce terms in such a Chamber to two years keeping a good mix of people. Some could go in more than once but they could not sit and gatehr dust.

sherpa-finn

So given that Senate reform (or abolition) is not likely to happen anytime soon, - what exactly would / should the NDP strategy be post 2015 Federal Election if Tom Mulcair is the next PM and the NDP has formed the Gov't?

Should they just try to ignore the Senate - daring it to block legislation from the elected House?  Should they let the number of vacancies slowly grow by not replacing departing Senators?  Or will they be compelled to "Do a Harper" and start appointing compliant Senators?  Or perhaps appoint non-compliant but more representative Canadians to keep the Senate seats warm and offer alternative voices for a change in the Red Chamber?  

A viable, progressive way forward is not obvious to me given all the constraints. (And I would expect this question to be raised in the course of the 2015 campaign.)  

Sean in Ottawa

Mulcair should refuse to appoint Senators of his own selection no matter the merit.

If he still supports the idea of abolition then he should appoint nobody.

If he supports the idea of reform then he should create a mechanism for the selection of Senators that would be more representative with a public selection process with a rationale clear to the public. The process should be removed from the PMO and a part of democratic renewal.

If the mechanism is there then he could rubber stamp it until there is a legal mechanism in place to change that but the PMO should stop choosing Senators.

Brachina

janfromthebruce wrote:

Actually one always takes advantage of a situation when it arises. Thus the NDP long standing policy of abolishing the senate gets head way and consideration when a scandal such as this comes to the fore.

It has always been that way with policy development and enactment. And as for it's replacement, I made a suggestion in which expanding the house of commons representation to one of mixed representation of PP.

 

 A very good and sensible suggestion.

sherpa-finn

Responding to Sean: This assumes that the Gov't of the day can continue to operate with no Gov't voices in the Senate.  Is that even a viable option - doesn't the Senate have some sort of Constitutional mandate to hold the Gov't to account? And how can the Gov't be represented there if there are no NDP Senators?  (Who would actually move and second Gov't legislation? Or respond to Opposition questions?)

Would not the NDP run the risk of the whole mechanism of gov't grinding to a halt - and provoking some sort of constitutional crisis?  

Just wondering ... not arguing!

 

wage zombie

Senate by lottery.

At 105 seats, six year terms could be allocated by a lottery, with 35 seats turning over 2 years.  It would be easy enough for minimum seats allocated by gender, age, and geography.  While allocation by geography would of course be a difficult conversation, the lottery aspect could mitigate some of this challenge.

Perhaps everyone would be included in the lottery by default, or perhaps people would be included by choice.  Perhaps there would be an "include me in the senate lottery" checkbox on personal tax returns every two years.

This seems like a simple but effective idea to me.

I think the tough part of course is solving the regional distribution.  But technologically it is doable and politically it is sellable.

I don't know if we'd need to honour the current appontments that have been made.  So perhaps we just start off slow, with vacant seats being appointed by lottery.  A process like this would probably be clear of appointed senators in 15-30 years.  Assuming that both young people and women are currently underrepresented, we'd expect the majority of new senators to be young women.

Another choice could be to increase the size of the senate as a means of resolving some of the constitutional constraints.  This would put appointed senators in the minority immediately while allowing them to serve out their terms.

This would be the alternative I see to abolishment.

JKR

sherpa-finn wrote:

So given that Senate reform (or abolition) is not likely to happen anytime soon, - what exactly would / should the NDP strategy be post 2015 Federal Election if Tom Mulcair is the next PM and the NDP has formed the Gov't?  

The NDP could say that an NDP government will only appoint Senators that are approved of by at least two political parties that represent at least 50% of the voters in the last election. The NDP could make that their current policy regarding Senate appointments before future developments such as abolishment or reform can take place.

JKR

Requiring that Senators be approved of by at least two political parties that represent at least 2/3rds of the voters in the previous election would produce a relatively non-partisan Senate that most Canadians could support.

Sean in Ottawa

sherpa-finn wrote:

Responding to Sean: This assumes that the Gov't of the day can continue to operate with no Gov't voices in the Senate.  Is that even a viable option - doesn't the Senate have some sort of Constitutional mandate to hold the Gov't to account? And how can the Gov't be represented there if there are no NDP Senators?  (Who would actually move and second Gov't legislation? Or respond to Opposition questions?)

Would not the NDP run the risk of the whole mechanism of gov't grinding to a halt - and provoking some sort of constitutional crisis?  

Just wondering ... not arguing!

 

Good Questions-- the Senate can slow down at some political cost the government but cannot stop it. In the event that the NDP was in the process of reform but being held up I think the Senate would face political pressure. If the NDP were trying to control the Senate as in past governments the Senate would become an obstruction as the same rules would apply. Reform or abolition are the only two choices the NDP have realistically other than working with a hostile Senate.

There are no NDP Senators (unless they play hockey) and the idea of the NDP being able to stack the Senate is a joke since it would take probably a decade of appointments to even get close. The politics of doing so would be devastating. The NDP cannot use the Senate for patronage.

I think Senators appointed under the new system could argue for a non partisan approach and some of the current appointments might be happy to move in that direction.

The only solution is to scrap the current appointees either moving towards reform or abolition. The existing senate has to go -- either in favour of abolition or a new structure. This would be the only way of creating a balance that is needed in representation without making the number too high and the only way of creating something that could work. A few of the current Senators could possibly be nominated and get appointed under the new system as non partisan senators as I outlined the rest would be retired. Those appointees would have to accept that there would be no caucus structure allowed.

None of this is perfect. If the NDP were to win government it will face a problem with the Senate no matter what: keeping it as is would allow a hostile Senate to delay most government initiatives, abolishing it will create a whole world of political battles and I suggest it would not produce a great result for Canada, reforming it would create a democratic legacy that would be the greatest since confederation but also one that I agree will be difficult to achieve-- though perhaps no more difficult than the alternatives that have a lower payoff.

Sean in Ottawa

JKR wrote:

Requiring that Senators be approved of by at least two political parties that represent at least 2/3rds of the voters in the previous election would produce a relatively non-partisan Senate that most Canadians could support.

I agree especially if the composition used a formula to make better representation than what naturally occurs through the party process. I think it is important that all Senators become independents and that there be no caucuses meanign no government or opposition representatives officially.

janfromthebruce

It's not about Mulcair being for or against abolishment but it is the NDP long standing policy. I'm not big on leader as king mentality that has developed in the PM office.

And I don't believe for a minute that a non partisan group of members for senators will come to any fruitation. The rehab of the senate is just a waste of mental exercise and it will just be the house of pork for which ever party is in power.

NorthReport

This may well be the one chance the NDP has to abolish the monstrosity called the Canadian Senate, especially now with Harper supposedly considering it as well. One thing for sure the "entitled to my entitlements" Liberals will never ever consider it. 

http://www.vernonmorningstar.com/opinion/208898521.html

mark_alfred

video (scroll down to bottom of article to see) of both Trudeau and then Mulcair discussing the Senate issue.  Mulcair was far more impressive and decisive in this video.

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