Most can agree that Harper’s recent senate appointments border on farcical. Yet, there is a reason for a senate – to balance the government in the lower House; especially a government that nigh represents only 40% of 60% of eligible voters. Yet how is an upper house supposed to be a legitimate foil if it is nothing more than a stack of cronies favouring the governing side? And why would Canadians, instead of appointments, want an elected senate when such structures can soon mirror the perverse extortion of democracy and stalemated-ness of governmental practices we witness South of our border?
The answer, it would seem, would be in ability to disseminate of the power to appoint. The notion of an upper house is a type of check and balance; the will of the few against the will of the many over a great area of geography and demographics. In the US, each state is given 2 senators, which of course are elected with great pomp, ceremony and expense. Many Canadians are disgruntled over the expense of maintaining a roster of 104 appointed Senators for a populations of ~34 million compared to a country of 350 million with only 100 in the upper house – each one, duly elected.
Perhaps for Canada, instead of elections or to abolish it entirely, a more moderate transformation of the Senate may be in an emphasis on regional over partisan representation. Consider a Senate made up of 39 seats – 3 from each province and territory. First and most obvious, the lower number of seats would suggest a substantial reduction in taxpayer expense. Each one of the three seats will be given by appointment; the first seat to be appointed by the PM, the second seat would then appointed by the Premier of the respective province. The third would be appointed by vote of a committee of elected municipal leaders (mayors, reeves, etc.) from each individual province.
If the Senate can claim a greater representation of the will of Canadians by its basic composition, there should be no reason as to reduce a senator’s current 8 year term limit. The regional platform allows for greater debate in a broader spectrum of terms. Also, as senators are appointed from 27 different sources, the chances of partisan cronyism are lessened (though admittedly, not eliminated).
These are merely scribbles in crayon on what could be an intense constitutional debate, (if we had intense constitutional debates anymore). But perhaps we can begin the discussion, in spite of the agenda of a man who represents only 40% of 60% of us, (you know who you are)….