Senate will cease to be
a revising chamber

White Rock B.C. - Tuesday, December 19, 2006 - by: Brian Marlatt

Suggesting that he is bringing democracy to the Senate with his proposal to make Canadian senators elected politicians accountable to their provinces shows us just how little Stephen Harper knows about democracy in Canada and how great a threat he and his born-again Reform Party is to democracy, parliamentary democracy and national unity.

A fully or substantially elected Senate will cease to be a revising chamber and it will shift the centre of gravity in Parliament from the Commons to the Senate. The Senate will cease to be a revising chamber, instead it will quickly become a place of provincial advocacy, under the Harper proposal. Further, under the proposal for election by plebiscite and particularly under the proposal for future proportional election, senators will become creatures of party and partisan party politics in their pursuit and exercise of elected office accountable in partisan party matters to the prime minister.

The proper role of the senate is as a check on the excesses of partisanship in the elected Commons, especially as manifested in the excessive powers of the prime minister. The Canadian constitution refers to this duty to revise as "sober second thought". Instead, Stephen Harper wants to make the Senate a House of the Provinces through which the Canadian government will become a servant of the provinces and a creature of party politics stripped of its ability to keep the prime minister in check. Stephen Harper wants to be a president.

We need a change of political culture away from the inward looking parochial politics of party and province and toward an invigorated Parliament. Stephen Harper's firewall proposals do neither.


Brian Marlatt



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