Friday, September 08, 2006

Senate Reform

Steve Harper wants to elect Senators every eight years; but everyone should take a deep breath - tinkering with Canada’s democracy is a serious matter.

A partisan appointed Senate with power rightly offends most of us. Nevertheless, regularly electing a Senate would intensify short-term partisan perspectives – just look at the US Senate. Likewise, abolishing the Senate – as Jack Layton demands - would completely reinforce politics de jour and eliminate longer-term perspectives from Ottawa.

We need original thought on Senate Reform that will not simply intensify narrow partisan politics, for example:

First, Senators should be over 45. A chamber of “second thought” needs people with life experience who, hopefully, can see through momentary, occasionally brash, perspectives.

Second, 1/3 of the Senate should be replaced every 4 years. This way, the Senate would neither change radically nor frequently and yet still be accountable and responsive, over time, to changes in Canada. The Senate would be a place of “sober second thought” that balances the day-to-day partisanship that dominates Canadian politics.

Lastly, 1/2 of the new senators should be elected directly from the provinces, which best represents regional interests. The rest should be elected by parliament, which represents our national interest. This way, we would strike balance between individual representation and our common national interests.

Unfortunately, Steve Harper is playing a dangerous game with our democracy; if he gets his way he will intensify partisan, ideological, and regional politics. Better ways to improve Canada exist and all of us should demand better.

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