Thursday, June 23, 2011

If There is a Referendum, I Will Vote to Abolish the Senate

There is a lot of discussion about Stephen Harper's plans to reform the Senate, by placing term limits of nine years, but only on those appointed after 2008.

Most of the opposition is coming from Harper's own senate appointments, many of whom have been rejected by the electorate, so would have difficulty finding such a cushy job, not to mention a pension for life.

Harper's other plan of an elected senate, would require a referendum, but even his current tweaking, demands a consensus from the provinces.

Being a Senator use to mean something in Canada, but the Senate is now just a $100 million a year drain on tax dollars, as a home for Harper flunkies.

They used to be there to protect us from someone like Stephen Harper, now they only protect him from people like us.

A three year study on poverty in Canada by the Liberal dominated senate, with vital input from Conservative senators, was presented to Stephen Harper. He gave it a glance then threw it in the trash.

The Parliament debated and passed a climate change bill. The Conservative dominated Senate gave it a glance, then threw it in the trash.

And any Senate bills that might help Canadians or make government more accountable, never have a chance. Even if they could get enough support from Conservative senators, the Harperites have found a way to make sure they never see the light of day.

In 2009, the Canadian Press learned of the tactic they used to hijack senate bills.
Normally, the author of a Senate private member's bill arranges to have a sympathetic MP sponsor it once it clears the upper house and arrives in the Commons. The sponsor informs the clerk's office that he or she will take responsibility for shepherding the bill through the Commons. But last month, Tory MPs began rushing to the clerk's office to sponsor bills almost the moment they were introduced in the upper house, whether or not they actually supported the bills and without waiting to see if they'd actually ever make it to the Commons.
A bill automatically dies if its sponsor fails to show up twice for debate on it. The Harperites who rush to sponsor the bill, make sure that they never show up to debate, stopping it in its tracks.
Ralph Goodale said the latest ploy is "an effort to muzzle a house of Parliament," and part of the government's continuing "vendetta" against the Senate. He said it's particularly hypocritical given the Tories' denunciations of the unelected chamber as an affront to democracy. "What they're basically saying is these topics (in the senators' bills) will not be debated. So it is very clearly the stifling of free speech."
It has just become another body that Harper can control at his whim.

A senator, especially a Conservative senator, is nothing more than a high priced bench warmer.

I did get my own back on one of them though. Senator Hugh Segal lives in Kingston, but we only hear from him when there's going to be an election. Like Wiarton Willie, if we see Segal's shadow, we know we're going to the polls.

When Stephen Harper was in Kingston, protesters were treated like criminals, kept behind imaginary lines and vivid barbed wire.

I was there, and when it was over made my way to the restaurant to use the bathroom and phone my husband. The door I normally used was locked, but I spotted Segal coming out the side door.

I approached him, and with all the innocence I could muster, asked him if he worked there, and could he let me in. He bent his head slightly, perhaps thinking I hadn't recognized him, and "feared" that I might ask for his autograph. I knew who he was, but it felt good to pretend I didn't.

He's done nothing to earn my respect, and that's something I don't hand out for free.

So if there is a referendum, I will be voting to abolish the Senate. It no longer has a legitimate function.


  1. Emily, if you vote to abolish the Senate just because of Harper, he will have won.

    We need to somehow ride out the next 4 years, and then institute reforms to protect our democratic institutions.

    The solution to the Senate issue is to create an appointments process that the PM does not control and which supports the selection of Canadians who have something to contribute.

    Canada needs a chamber of "sober second thought" which is not beholden to an election cycle or party politics; we need to preserve it somehow. Otherwise, Harper will have succeeded in dismantling another piece of our democracy.

  2. Is it the Senate that is broken or Harper's governance style? Sure we get to throw out a lot of hacks and partisans by abolishing the Senate; but we're not tackling the root cause: the PMO.

    If anything we would be freeing up his schedule to bat down other pieces of good legislation and filibuster the rest.

  3. A bill automatically dies if its sponsor fails to show up twice for debate on it. The Harperites who rush to sponsor the bill, make sure that they never show up to debate, stopping it in its tracks

    Obviously the intent is there, but do you know if this tactic has ever actually been used, Emily?
    I'm not sure how to go about finding out whether a sponsored bill's MP declined to show up for it.

  4. Here's a sober second thought. Abolish the Governor General while your at it. I would love to run into Huge Seagull.

  5. I couldn't agree with you more we dont need any Senate elected or appointed The Ideas of SOBER second thought is laughable!! But id like to hear Duffys Opinion on it!!

  6. I don't know Frank, the less I hear of the "Puffster's"opinion, the better. But then again, I can always use a good laugh.