The topic of the Canadian Senate is one that generally provokes a fair bit of reaction from most Canadians.
Across Western Canada, and certainly within the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding, the theme of abolishment or Senate reform is one I often hear about from many of you.
I’m frequently asked why the Senate and its approximately $120 million annual operating budget cannot simply be abolished. The answer is that abolishing the Senate would require a constitutional amendment and the consent of a strong majority of Canadian provinces.
Although some provinces have voiced support of Senate abolishment, other provinces have voiced strong opposition against such a plan.
Rather than abolishment, Senate reform is another avenue currently being pursued by the federal government.
Senate reform would also include adding democratic accountability into the process as senators could instead be elected for a fixed term of nine years.
This would replace the current decades-old practice of near lifelong political appointments made by the government of the day.
Currently, Alberta stands as the only province that has put a process in place to elect nominees for the Senate.
Should additional provinces adopt the recently introduced Senate Nominee Election Act, a private members bill authored by Chilliwack MLA John Les could bring about elected representation from B.C. in the Red Chamber.
For those of you not familiar with our parliamentary practice, currently a bill proposed in the House of Commons requires first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage and third reading.
Assuming passage after third reading, the bill is then forwarded to the Senate where it must receive final approval before the bill can get Royal assent from the Governor General and become law.
It should also be pointed out that even though not currently elected, senators can also table bills that would be required to undertake a similar process (with the exception of spending bills that must originate in the House of Commons).
It is unclear at this point how other provinces will respond to Senate reform, but it’s a topic I welcome your input on.
I would like to take a moment to voice my support for Opposition Leader Jack Layton in his courageous battle against cancer.
My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Layton and his family for a full and speedy recovery during this difficult time.
Later this week I will also be viewing the Portraits of Honour National Tour that will arrive in the Okanagan to commemorate the many brave Canadians who have lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan.
My deepest condolences to all those loved ones left behind, including the Penticton family of Capt. Jonathon Snyder. May we always honour the brave sacrifice of the men and women who serve.
Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla.