'There's a better way
to reform the Senate'

Langton, Ontario , Sunday, December 24, 2006, by : Ross Bateman
The Harper government's attempt to try to provide a second layer of regionally-allied politicians in competition with the House is alarming. If successful, the result would provide at best, redundancy; and at worst, fractiousness. There is more than enough "gimme" attitude now in a loosely self-identified country such as ours. Prideful cohesion is inextricably entwined with beneficent central governance.

The idea of the Senate has been to have the sober second thought about bills passed by the House. These second thoughts are best pondered by those who have filled senatorial positions for the long term: who are not subject to the notions of party politics, intensely democratic electoral processes, and the precariousness of an upcoming election.

Nevertheless, I think that the public does not generally support the appointment of retired party hacks and bagmen, which has often been the case. So, there is some room for improvement on the appointment process.

An idea that comes to my mind is to have the vacancies filled by the Governor General from the list of Order of Canada recipients. These could be at the approval of the Prime Minister, even though that is not a constitutional requirement. This would ensure that the sober second thought would come from a wide cross section of societal expertise: the arts, sciences, social activism, architecture, law, civic policies, environmentalism, medicine, sports, home-making, and so on.

Eventually, the party politics element at the upper house level would be modified and reduced to some degree. This would provide a better balance with the more democratic... but also more divisive... regional noise rising from the Commons.

The Order of Canada would not necessarily have to provide the appointments. An identified number of interests such as I have suggested above could provide goals to be filled from the general public. In either event the terms should be long enough to provide memory within the upper house, a wisdom that is valuable, and not guaranteed in the Commons.


Ros Bateman

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