To the editor:
Despite calls for its abolition by my own party, I prefer a serious attempt at reforming the red beast (the Senate).
First of all, let’s be clear about costs. The effective way is to cut the number of seats permanently to around 70 to 75 seats from the 110 plus other parties hanker after.
New Democrats wish to abolish (the Senate) which would be a mistake; The House of Commons need a counterbalance.
The current Senate has no power to originate financial matters except to ratify the House of Commons federal budget after debating it—so further changes are possible.
Here’s a rough distribution by province and regional zone based on population.
Twenty seats for the four western provinces, all elected at a general election within each of the four western provinces and based on proportional representation. Manitoba for example would get fewer seats than Alberta or B.C.
Ontario 20 seats.
Quebec with a lower and declining population, 15 seats.
The Maritimes 10 seats fairly and equitably distributed. (Example: One senate seat for PEI.)
Then there should be three seats for Nuavut (Iqaluit capital) and the western Northwest Territory (Yellowknife capital) plus the Yukon (Whitehorse capital)—one each.
Two seats might be reserved for honorific appointments (the only ones) of past Prime Ministers who may wish to be named Senators until they too reach 75 years of age.
Joe Clark is almost 75! Turner is over 75 but Paul Martin might qualify.
In general we need to divide the country into regions—surely 10 to 20 senators per region is sufficient for an Upper House.
First Nations would not have specific seats but would run as candidates as part of the 10 to 20 seats available in a region or province, like all other Canadians in a Canadian senate, and may choose to run under a political party label also.
Keeping the Senate at 73 to 75 seats would be cost effective and prevent seat inflation as proposed by the current Conservatives.
All senators would be elected at-large within their province or territory for the same term as the House of Commons. This would be done at normal federal election times, partially to ensure voter turnout and to save money—an original idea?
Once a senator reaches 75 years of age he or she must retire prior to the next election. (What a cruel birthday present to be forced to resign on your 75th birthday.)
Senate elections with a Federal House of Commons election would be cost effective.
A senator would represent a province not a constituency and not necessarily represent any political party. Senators could run on a party label but would have the freedom to relinquish this if they chose to. Being free to take that “sober second thought” would be enshrined with the power to dissent from one’s political masters, once elected as a senator in Canada.
Ah, freedom from political party discipline. What a fundamental change in a reformed democratic senate that would be.
Senators only accountable to their provincial or territorial electorate. Dream!
It might cause the House of Commons or an arrogant majority to pause before ramming through a bill named Omnibus.
John O. Powell,