Minor Reno

“One institution in Canada has made absolutely no democratic progress in 146 years. Other than the five senators who have been democratically selected in [Alberta], there has been no democratic evolution in Canada’s upper chamber.” 

-The Honourable Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State for Democratic Reform

DETERMINED TO INFUSE THE SENATE WITH A MUCH-NEEDED SHOT OF DEMOCRACY, the Conservative government has introduced Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Act, which would introduce term limits for senators as well as a voluntary framework that would enable voters to select nominees for the upper chamber.  These changes wouldn’t preclude further reforms down the road. Indeed, the Senate Reform Act could plausibly be the first step in Canada’s journey towards a truly reformed Senate. The question as to whether consultative elections and term limits would require amendments to the Constitution (the government’s position is that they can be achieved through simple legislation) is currently before the Supreme Court.

Pros:

  • Addresses arguably the Senate’s greatest democratic shortcoming – the fact its members are appointed by the prime minister as opposed to elected by Canadians
  • Depending on the ruling of the Supreme Court, could result in significant reform without opening the Constitution
  • Channels Canadians’ growing anger away from calls of abolition towards the more constructive option of reform

Cons:

  • Gradually adding elected senators to the upper chamber could result in the “creeping legitimacy” of the Senate (i.e. unelected members exercising powers as if they too had a democratic mandate)
  • Could cut off the possibility of addressing the issues of powers and seat distribution later date
  • Doesn’t allow Canadians to offer their opinion on what a reformed Senate should look like (or provide them the option of doing away with the flawed upper chamber altogether)  

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WATCH MINISTER PIERRE POILIEVRE DISCUSS THE SENATE REFORM ACT:

WATCH DR. IAN BRODIE MAKE THE CASE FOR THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE SENATE REFORM ACT:

READ DR. BRODIE’S CASE FOR THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE SENATE REFORM ACT (PDF)

WATCH SENATOR DAN HAYS’ CRITIQUE OF THE SENATE REFORM ACT:

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MAKE YOUR CHOICE