Tom Mulcair is right. The Senate of Canada most likely needs to be eliminated. In Canada, in 2015, it does not make sense to have an appointed body passing or blocking legislation. This Canadian equivalent to the the elitist House of Lords in Great Britain smacks of a bygone era.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting rid of it anytime soon. The Supreme Court ruled last year that without provincial approval, the federal government cannot alter the Canadian Parliament, which includes the Senate, in any substantial way.
That requires opening the Constitution.
Last year I proposed a way that the Prime Minister could push through Senate Reform, basically by bribing the provincial premiers into it by passing the power to appoint Senators to them. It is elegant in a few ways, it gives the provinces more power (which is irresistible), it most likely means elected Senators because premiers would not want to be seen as undemocratic, it removes power from his successors (something Chretien seemed to revel in), and it takes any Senate situations such as the current expense scandal far far away from the Prime Minister.
I still think that this is the most likely way that we would see senate reform; passing the responsibility to the provinces. What Quebec or Ontario premier is going to pass up on the ability to at least have some influence on who represents their province?
That all being said, I would like to see a referendum this fall, just as a number of NDP and Conservative MPs have suggested, that asks the Canadian public directly if they feel that the Senate is still needed in a modern Canada. If the vote was overwhelmingly against keeping the Senate, and I suspect it would be, then the provinces may have no choice but to allow the elimination of the Upper House.
To me, the question seems simple. “Notwithstanding the constitutional amendments required to abolish it, do you feel that the Senate of Canada should continue to exist?” The reason for the first part of the question would be to eliminate those who would vote to keep the senate because they felt the constitution wouldn’t allow it or that opening it up might prove difficult. The question is about whether or not you want the Upper House to stay, not whether or not you think abolishing it is impossible. Before moving ahead, we need to ask this basic question.
We need to know Canada’s answer.