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Bugs





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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:46 am    Post subject: Wildrose or PQ Senators? Welcome to an elected red chamber Reply with quote

Bill C-7 ... reforming the Canadian Senate to bring it closer to an elected body.

What do you think?

This is a brief discussion of the bill.


Quote:
Wildrose or PQ Senators? Welcome to an elected red chamber

Part of Reinventing Parliament, a series examining how to make Parliament relevant again.

Bill C-7 establishes a framework for an elected Senate, limiting the number of years a senator can serve to nine. But by having senators chosen from a list of nominees elected at the provincial level and representing more than a dozen parties with opposing regional interests, the workings of the Senate could be substantially transformed – and chaotic.

Explainer: what the Senate is

The Senate is made up of 105 senators who serve until the age of 75, all of them appointed by the Prime Minister of the day. The Senate’s primary role is to consider legislation passed by the House of Commons before it becomes law, and has the capacity to return bills to the House for amendment. Ostensibly unshackled by the partisanship of the House of Commons, where re-election is never far from an MP’s mind, the Senate is meant to be a “chamber of independent, sober second thought.”

The 105 Senate seats are not distributed across the country proportionately. According to the Senate’s website, it was “created by the fathers of Confederation to counterbalance representation by population” in the House. The 105 seats are divided into four regional blocks of 24 seats each: Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes, and the four western provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador has six seats, while each of the territories has one.

Senate reform

Bill C-7 does not change any of that. Instead, the bill stipulates that the Prime Minister “must consider” a list of nominees selected in provincial and territorial elections. These senators would then serve for nine years, at which point they would be replaced from a new list of nominees.

Most attention has been paid to the idea of term limits, but the stipulation that the nominees be elected at the provincial level has the potential to make the Senate a very different place.

Only Alberta has held senatorial elections. Doug Black, appointed on Jan. 25, is the most recent winner of a senatorial election to be appointed to the Senate. He won 16 per cent of the vote in the province’s 2012 election, or 39 per cent of senatorial ballots cast. He was the top Progressive Conservative senatorial candidate, and will caucus with the Conservatives in the Senate.

The goal of Bill C-7 is for all provinces and territories to follow suit, holding senatorial elections at the same time as their general provincial elections. These senatorial elections are to be administered by the electoral officials in each province and the campaigns are to be governed by provincial electoral law. One of the clauses reads that “to be a candidate for election as a Senate nominee...a person must be nominated by a registered provincial or territorial political party.” They can also run as independents.

Provincial parties in a federal chamber

That means that if all provinces and territories begin holding senatorial elections, the next nominees would hail from provincial political parties, not federal ones. That could mean senators elected under the banners of the B.C. Liberals (a party more closely aligned with the federal Conservatives than the federal Liberals), the Saskatchewan Party, the Coalition Avenir Québec, or the Parti Québécois. When the current crop of appointed senators all retire or resign, and the Senate is filled with senators elected at the provincial level, will the Red Chamber function any differently?

To get an idea of what such a Senate might look like, I allocated the Senate’s 105 seats proportionately according to the results of the last election in each province, always rounding-up. That has the effect of giving more popular parties more Senate seats than they would otherwise receive. As Bill C-7 stipulates that voters select from a list of names, voting for as many candidates as the number of nominees that need to be selected, this would seem to be a plausible assumption.

The result is a rather unusual and potentially unworkable assortment of parties. The largest contingent would be from the country’s Progressive Conservative parties: nine from Ontario, five from New Brunswick, four from Newfoundland and Labrador, three each from Alberta and Manitoba, two from Nova Scotia, and one from Prince Edward Island. Conceivably, these 27 PC senators would form a block closely aligned with the federal Conservatives, and they would likely be joined by four Saskatchewan Party senators and one from the Yukon Party.

It is difficult to determine, however, how cohesive this block would be. Regional interests would be paramount. If this sort of scenario had occurred during Danny Williams’s time as Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, would he have commanded his PC senators to leave the Conservative caucus? Would the Tory senators from Alberta and Saskatchewan split from those in Ontario and Atlantic Canada when it comes to, for example, resource development?

The makeup of a new Senate: no majority

Putting aside these questions, the Conservative block would likely find allies in the seven senators from the Coalition Avenir Québec and the three each from the B.C. Liberal and Wildrose parties. The degree to which this block of allies would side with the Tories in the senate could vary from issue to issue, but already the complications of this sort of arrangement are plain to see.

The Liberals would probably have less trouble keeping their senators together. The Liberal caucus would number some 20 senators in this scenario, 10 from Ontario, four from New Brunswick, and three each from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. But with allegiances to their provincial parties, they might not always side with their federal cousins. The eight Quebec Liberal senators would likely ally with the Liberal senators from the rest of the country, but surely not on every issue. In fact, on some questions the Quebec Liberal senators might find themselves closer to the Conservative block, or even the NDP’s.

Their block would likely be the most cohesive, as the federal and provincial New Democratic parties are directly affiliated (that is not the case with every provincial Liberal party). The NDP senatorial caucus would number 21, five each from Ontario and Nova Scotia, three each from British Columbia and Manitoba, two each from Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan, and one from New Brunswick.

Eleven other senators would find no direct allies in the Senate: eight from the Parti Québécois, one from Québec Solidaire, and two independents from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories (neither of which have political parties). The idea of senators from the Parti Québécois is hard enough to imagine, the idea of them considering federal legislation is even stranger.

This fractious Senate would have little resemblance to the make-up of the House of Commons. For instance, the federal Conservatives won the most votes in Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and Ontario in the 2011 federal election, while the Liberals were elected in Ontario and PEI and the NDP in Manitoba in the provincial elections of that same year.

Senators would be more likely to divide on an issue-by-issue basis rather than by party line, especially if the influence of their provincial party leaders is strong. Senators theoretically on the same side as the government might oppose its own legislation. No block would be likely to command a reliable majority of seats in the Senate at any time, and party discipline would be virtually non-existent.

It might be the recipe for an unworkable body clogging up the parliamentary system. Or, by de-coupling the Senate from the governing party in the House of Commons, perhaps it would become a true chamber of sober second thought.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com.....le8127059/


Thoughts?
cosmostein





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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Abolish or Bust.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Terse enough ...

Why abolish? The Senate ought to be the branch that protects the regions from the center, in my view. Can you imagine is separatism has developed, and we had a functioning, elected Senate? If we had, the solution would not have been a bunch of local barons cutting cute deals with each other ...

It would have necessitated open debate amongst people elected to represent the people of a specific region, and to defend regional interests. How could Quebeckers have seen that and continue to think that they can separate without cost?

I think abolishing the Senate is giving up, prematurely.
cosmostein





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PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:
Terse enough ...

Why abolish? The Senate ought to be the branch that protects the regions from the center, in my view. Can you imagine is separatism has developed, and we had a functioning, elected Senate? If we had, the solution would not have been a bunch of local barons cutting cute deals with each other ...

It would have necessitated open debate amongst people elected to represent the people of a specific region, and to defend regional interests. How could Quebeckers have seen that and continue to think that they can separate without cost?

I think abolishing the Senate is giving up, prematurely.


An Elected Senate results in a chamber much more powerful then the Commons.
The Prime Minister is ultimately reduce in his/her role and the leader of the Senate ultimately becomes the proper leader of the country as the leader of the Senate has the means granted by that of an election and the electorate to block any legislation they see fit, and send back modified legislation to the Commons.

Given the outrageous misallocations of Senate Seats along regional lines, I have zero interest in giving the east disproportionate power over the west...again.

Unless you rip it down and build it back up with a proper distribution and zero say over spending bills I have little interest in the mess an elected Senate creates.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's grant that the distribution of seats is outdated, and was never set up on a rep-by-pop basis. Surely a more rational distribution of seats is a necessary part of the package.

The problems you outline would have to be solved, between the electorate and the various players, but that isn't any reason not to proceed. Precedent will come to define the relations between the two houses.

Jeez, a government that had to go through some hoops to justify spending our money. I dunno, I kind of like it.

Just think -- if we had had a legitimate senate, separatists would have had to win senate seats, and we would have had a real debate on those issues by people elected on their position on regional issues, rather than the local political barons who occupy the premierships of all the provinces. Those folks would never face an election on their positions -- and didn't.

When you have conclaves of provincial leaders, with no real constitutional status, and advised by bueaucratic empire-builders, all seeking to get more for their province and perfectly willing to collaborate on keeping it all a secret ... well, any kind of Senate whatever would have been better than that.

What's your choice -- another Meech Lake or an elected, legitimate Senate?
cosmostein





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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:
Let's grant that the distribution of seats is outdated, and was never set up on a rep-by-pop basis. Surely a more rational distribution of seats is a necessary part of the package.


Which would need to likely go to a Referendum in which every Province east of Ontario would vote against.

The distribution of Senate seats is Constitutionally determined (at least the unbalanced part anyway) there is likely no way to deal with that aside from a full on referendum.

No electorate, or Provincial Legislature will vote to have their disproportionate power reduced.

New Brunswick and PEI make up to have more Senate seats then Alberta and BC.

If you could get those Provinces to agree to greatly reduced representation then perhaps my opinion on the matter may begin to sway.

Till that happens, just scrap the whole thing.

Bugs wrote:
The problems you outline would have to be solved, between the electorate and the various players, but that isn't any reason not to proceed. Precedent will come to define the relations between the two houses.

Jeez, a government that had to go through some hoops to justify spending our money. I dunno, I kind of like it.


Or we could have a situation where Quebec and the Maritime Provinces (who alone have a Senate majority) hold the nation hostage till we build a 200 foot statue of Yvon Cormier and Rene Leveque on either side of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.

Before we even have a conversation about precedents the representation needs to be fixed which I think is a non stater, unless Harper opts to take an expanded looked at the Murray-Austin amendment and balloon the size of the Senate to address its disproportionate representation.

I look at it as two house of government who now have the means and the will to spend out money in an attempt to get re-elected.

Bugs wrote:
What's your choice -- another Meech Lake or an elected, legitimate Senate?


How about neither?

If and i mean IF we want to return the Senate to its true purpose to be a Regional Representative for the Provinces, then inflate the Senate to 220 Seats fix the imbalance, make all Senators electable by popular vote and make all elections take place during Provincial elections, limit the terms, and take away their ability to block money bills or create money bills.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Constitution? I don't remember it being enforced very stringently. The ink was barely dry and we were hearing all this legalistic clap-trap about it being a 'growing tree'. I mean, the Supremes didn't mind changing the amending formula to accommodate the Clarity Act, making it easier to break up the country. (There was a long-standing amending formula negotiated by Trudeau and Bourassa, mostly -- aimed at keeping Quebec's proportion of seats, etc. at the 1970ies levels, even when facing demographic decline.)

The Supremes just do what they want. They don't think they are restricted to interpreting the law, they make it. And it's their boast that they make the decisions the government can't make.

Why don't they just treat the Constitution like they treated the Abortion law? Toss it out, I mean.

But, more realistically, of course there will have to be some negotiation.

But, that aside, you think too much within the confines of what might be called 'political reality'. You have to assume we will find some of that statesmanship which is so rare these days. Clearly, there are other aspects of the package that ought to convince other parts of the country -- for the good of the country -- that these steps ought to be taken.

And, as for a referendum ... I think it's a principle, in Canada, that the People never get to legitimize anything by voting for it. Did we vote for the Constitution, in the first place? Did Pierre have some special mandate bestowed on him to rewrite as well as patriate the Constitution? Where did the 'common law' go? And our former 'right' to private property?

Doing things the democratic way is hard. It's much easier to impose constitutions on subjects ... than to negotiate them amongst citizens. So, who cares about the niceties? Now we have the peculiar requirement to hold a referendum to change the more irrational elements of a document that we never had an opportunity to vote on in the first place.

The real choice ... though I admit, it isn't one that appeals to politicians ... is between ending the linguistic blackmail and being vulnerable to the country being hijacked the way Mulroney side-swiped us with Meech. Pierre original effort was supposed to be the mere patriation of the Constitution, but which turned out to strip us of many of our rights. All to make sure that Quebec always had 75 seats in Parliament.
cosmostein





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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Philosophy aside;

If Harper and the Conservatives felt it was within their Parliamentary mandate to overhaul the Senate in the manner which you feel it should be overhauled they wouldn't be seeking a formal opinion on the it from the Supreme Court.

We can go on all we want about the improprieties of the Supreme Court, but the reality is that even the NDP understands that undertaking the change that we are discussing would be far beyond a simple act of Parliament, especially considering that any act of Parliament would need to be signed off on by the Senate anyway.

You know as well as I do that adding seats, adding a territory, and adding to the language of the Constitutions are far different then simply whiting out a large portion of it regarding the Senate.

"For the good of the country" ?
Again, we are delving a little bit into Philosophy here.

Sure, I think that every Canadian who goes to a hospital in their Province thanks to the taxpayers or largely Alberta and Ontario (historically) should appreciate those two Provinces however they don't.

Our voter base is largely petty and small, and I wouldn't trust them to vote within the best interest of their communities most of the time let along the nation as a whole.

I don't trust the voters of Quebec (for example) to vote for the best interest of the nation and they presently control nearly a quarter of the Senate.

I don't trust the voters of the Maritimes to acknowledge that perhaps British Columbia and Alberta who have a combined population of 8 million people should have more representation (heck even equal) than New Brunswick and PEI who have a combined population of less then 900k.

Statesmanship?
We are watching the opposition parties make a Martyr of a "Chief" who basically robbed and stole from people she was responsible to care for with taxpayer dollars.

These are the people you need in order to create a united non-partisan force that would be required to make the change.

If the Liberals had Manley at the helm; perhaps.
However with what's coming, not a chance.
Bugs





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PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With respect, I think you are wrong about the role of the Supreme Court.

Sovereignty no longer rests with Parliament. It lies with the Supreme Court. As a result, it is a political player, albeit it remains as aloof as it can manage. As a result, references to the Supreme Court are become routine with controversial cases. The Supreme Court are the ones who cleared the way for same-sex marriage, for example. The Clarity Act was another one. In effect, they allow previously illegal issues to be 'legalized'.

In my book, their biggest sin is that they have allowed the various Human Rights Commissions to over-rule the Charter, thus obviating most of what ordinary Canadians value about the Charter, which is that it defines a limit to the state. What they are doing is taking activities that were once a common practice, used by everybody, and changing these things into race/culture tied limited privileges. They have bungled the aboriginal people's cases, giving them a kind of 'gold-card' citizenship, where they have rights none of the rest of us have, and the rest of us have obligations to them, all decided on a racial basis.

I don't think this is what we had in mind when we took the Charter to our hearts.

Harper is going down a well trod path when he refers these issues to the Supreme Court. You seem to accept that yourself when you say that Parliament has a 'mandate' that may not include reforming parliamentary institutions. Believe me, the House of Lords has been changed lots of time, so I am sure there are ample precedent, but we aren't a "Westminster" government any more.

The Supreme Court can do anything it wants. It doesn't apply the law as it applies to the Court. It They seem to undermine the Charter every chance they get, so that things like the right to a speedy trial have become a cruel joke.

Understand, I think these changes ought to be more than just another act of Parliament. That isn't my problem. But nobody seems to understand the benefits of a functioning Senate, and it's obvious that the media is creating a campaign. Poor Brazeau, he has been made fodder for a feeding frenzy of anti-Conservative and anti-Senate propaganda. (Strangely, his heritage isn't blamed.)

All this before even a trial ... he goes into a trial where he is presumed guilty, and which accuser is protected, and where her charges, alone, are sufficient to convict. And no Conservative will even mention that. It's not very admirable. Now we aree entertained with sorties about Pamela Wallin's travel expenses, Duffy's string pulling to get his health card, and the threat of a public examination of Senators' expenses looms. You know the media is loaded for bear. And, in the end, this is why we abolish the Senate ... for trivial reasons.

I understand what you say, and really, all I am saying is abolishing the Senate is the position occupied by those who have given up on Senate reform, and that we are possibly throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I think it's worth stepping back, asking for a little bi-partisan cooperation, and trying to make the best of it from there.
cosmostein





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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bugs wrote:

I understand what you say, and really, all I am saying is abolishing the Senate is the position occupied by those who have given up on Senate reform, and that we are possibly throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I think it's worth stepping back, asking for a little bi-partisan cooperation, and trying to make the best of it from there.


In an ideal world I would love the idea of giving the Senate the means to fill its original mandate, I just simply do not trust the political agenda's of those who would look to reform it as "pure".

Bi-Partisan co-operation would be wonderful, but right now Partisan rhetoric is at the highpoint because the LPC needs to thump its chest over something because of their leadership race, and even in the next sitting I don't see them doing anything that would look like "not damning" the Tories.

The LPC is the only partner in a bi-partisan relationship to reform the Senate as the NDP and BQ want it abolished and the GPC is irrelevant.
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