from experts in the field:
Charlie Angus ( www.charlieangus.ca) is the member of Parliament
for Timmins–James Bay, Ontario, and the spokesperson for democratic
and electoral reform issues for the New Democratic Party of Canada.
YES. The Senate of Canada is an outdated anachronism left over from the
19th century. It was put in place before electricity, before women were
legally “persons” and before every citizen had the right to vote. It was
basically created by elites who thought that the “regular” people couldn’t
be trusted in the newly created democracy of Canada and thought there should be a body to
oversee their decisions.
Now, too many senators are just party insiders and fundraisers who use their position in the
Senate to further the political needs of the party that appointed them.
The result? Canada’s Senate is unelected, unaccountable, unnecessary and unfair. While
ordinary Canadians are working harder and harder just to make ends meet, senators are working less and costing taxpayers more.
Canada has evolved, and it’s time its democratic institutions did too.
There has been much talk over the years about reforming the Senate, but no action. Why?
Because it serves the interests of Liberals and Conservatives as a means to reward their political
friends. And we certainly can’t look to the senators to reform their own position. It’s time we let
ordinary Canadians finally have a say.
Recently I tried to introduce a motion calling for a referendum, but Stephen Harper’s
Conservatives refused to allow it. Why are the other parties so afraid to give ordinary
Canadians a say?
A clear mandate from the Canadian people would force the prime minister and premiers
to get serious about democratic reform and abolish the Senate.
Democratic reform includes working for proportional representation in the House of
Commons and dealing with the outdated Senate. I believe every Canadian deserves an equal
voice. Our system needs a major overhaul before that is truly the case. Let’s start by abolishing
the Senate. C
from experts in the field:
Brian Murphy ( www.brianfpmurphy.ca) is the member of
Parliament for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, and the Liberal Party of
Canada’s democratic reform critic.
NO. The Senate plays an enormously important role in the function of
Canada’s bicameral system of parliamentary democracy.
It is the traditional repository of sober second thought, providing a
review of government legislation before flaws, omissions, ideological
flourishes and legal inconsistencies find their way into the acts and statutes that affect all
Canadians. It also works assiduously to examine larger social, economic and political issues that
are confronting the country but do not necessarily find their way into the daily business of the
House of Commons. Arguably, the Senate’s most resonant function—and the one that appeals
directly to most citizens who live outside major population centres—is as the predominant
vehicle for regional representation at the federal level.
Those who argue that the Senate is outmoded, unnecessary and prohibitively costly—and,
therefore, should be abolished—betray an appalling lack of knowledge about Canada’s social,
political and constitutional history. Worse, they pander to the worst instincts about the way our
democratic system of government ought to function. Should the Senate be reformed to better
reflect the needs and realities of 21st-century Canada? Quite possibly. The question is how.
Most observers agree that comprehensive Senate reform would require a constitutional
amendment with support from at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population. In fact, the premiers of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and
Labrador have already called on the Conservative Government not to proceed with Senate
reform without full provincial participation.
By giving parliamentarians an ultimatum to reform the Senate his way, and by threatening
to abolish it if they don’t, the prime minister is playing with the future of our federation. The
Senate deserves better, and so do all Canadians. C
Will the new
federal tax credit
get physically fit?
Percentage reflects votes
received by January 17, 2008.
Opinions expressed are those of the individuals or organizations represented and
are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take
no position on any Debate topic.
MARCH/APRIL 2008 The Costco Connection 15
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