Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Senate Reforms Possible

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Senate Reforms Possible

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Senate reforms possible


An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published April 26:

The Supreme Court of Canada has ended Prime Minister Stephen Harper's hope for an easy fix to the beleaguered Senate. And since there is no stomach for a constitutional convention that would inevitably dredge up new demands and issues, the country may be tempted to just turn the page and forget it about for another 150 years.

Even Mr. Harper says Canadians are "stuck with the status quo," but that's just not good enough.

The Senate scandal over expenses and long-standing complaints about the value of the institution mean the reform question will not go away quietly. It is worth considering how the Red Chamber could be improved without making another trip to court or organizing a national gabfest.

One place to start is at the beginning.

The Supreme Court said in its judgment the Fathers of Confederation created the upper chamber with the intent it be made up of "elites" appointed by the Crown. Their job was to hold the government to account and serve as a body of "sober second thought."

Many distinguished Canadians, including former prime minister Arthur Meighen, have served in the Senate over the years. Two governments have actually been led by senators, who also frequently served as cabinet ministers.

The idea of a chamber of distinguished men and (later) women who were actively involved in running the country, however, degraded over the decades. Today, few Canadians can name any of their Senate representatives, who too frequently are appointed because of their work behind the scenes for the ruling party.

Many senators in recent years have fulfilled their duties with distinction -- Sharon Carstairs and Romeo Dallaire are two such examples -- but there's not enough of them.

Prime Minister Harper and his successors can reverse this trend by appointing people who stand out in their communities. They don't have to be celebrities or household names, but they should be energetic and honourable people who want to make a difference and, ideally, step down after they made their contribution. …

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