The Canadian Senate is best the way it is

White Rock B.C. - Tuesday, June 6, 2006 - by: Brian Marlatt
Sir John A. Macdonald and the Fathers of Confederation got it right as architects of Canadian federalism and the Senate; it is Stephen Harper and the critics of Canadian institutions who get it wrong.

The Senate is designed after the British House of Lords as a revising chamber, freed of partisan party or prime ministerial discipline by its appointed status and similarly prevented from being obstructionist, all the while avoiding the error of "states rights" advocacy which had brought civil war to Americans. Appointed originally for life, and now until age 75, from the accomplished in society, including the political class, our senators are parliament’s essential institutional memory. Shortened terms such as those proposed by Stephen Harper, who is desperately in need of an institutional memory, or election will negate these democratic virtues.

Ironically, they are conservative principles intended to provide a check on the excesses of partisan elected politicians in the Commons, meaning particularly in the 21st century the prime minister and cabinet. They were enunciated clearly in Progressive Conservative Guiding Principles for Senate Reform. The presidential swagger of Stephen Harper underscores the merit of the Senate’s proper role as conceived by the architects of Confederation.


Brian Marlatt



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