JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: CANADIAN SENATE REFORM: HARPER’S DISHONEST APPROACH TO IMPROVING DEMOCRACY – ANALYSIS OF FACTS – REFERENDUMS   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY LYSIANE GAGNON IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Canadian Senate reform is indeed for the most part a dumb idea.

Consider the inescapable facts.

If you create a fully elected Senate, which is fairly representative, all you are doing is creating a second parliament.

Already, many of our people can’t be bothered to vote for the first parliament. This would double election expenses, at least, and would achieve nothing worth doing.

If you create a fully elected Senate – which by design is not representative – you are copying the proven disaster of the American system in which one senator from Alaska represents about 300,000 people and one senator from California represents about 17,000,000.

Many anti-democratic implications flow from that set-up. For example, the undemocratically-constituted American Senate effectively controls the direction of major policies for the country with its veto of any legislation and its required approval of all treaties and presidential appointments.

That’s hardly democracy. And hardly reform.

I do think that when an otherwise intelligent man like Harper advocates reform he has an agenda beyond better democracy, and it is surely this last, anti-democratic intention that motivates him.

The empty slogan goes something like all parts of the country, even small ones, need representation, but underneath is the reality that some regions are to be more equal than other regions.

There’s no escaping that outcome.

Another reform, the one which I would support over either of the above, is abolition of the Senate. After all, the Senate is conceived along the lines of the British House of Lords at a time when being a Lord really meant something.

Perhaps the best course is just to keep the Senate as constituted. Our Senate Committees have done some wonderful work at times in scrutinizing policies and institutions, and it really does not hurt to have an appointment which can be given to distinguished individuals.

After all, a Lord in Britain doesn’t mean too much anymore, other than you’ve had notable economic or celebrity success, yet the House of Lords is not being abolished.

_________________________

“If the Senate is too full of political hacks and party bagmen, then perhaps the solution is to stop appointing political hacks and party bagmen.

“As usual, Harper has been both a vocal critic and one of the worst offenders.”

Perfect.

Politicians like Harper deliberately evade their genuine responsibility, which is , making good appointments.

They then turn around and say we must change things to avoid the abuse we, the politicians, are inflicting on the institution.

And we must change them in an undemocratic direction.

_______________________________

“If Canadians think that the Senate has a function to perform on behalf of Canadians, then let Canadians decide rather than our politicians”

Yes, but you forget how easily referendums are manipulated.

Just as with political polls, you can get the answer you want by the wording of the question you ask.

Referendums often represent the failure of our elected politicians to do the job for which they were elected.

We have a House of Commons for a reason, and that reason is to represent us in such decisions.

When they don’t do their job, it is the same thing as making poor appointments.

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