Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In

Senate does important work, says Progressive Canadian Party

Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

Canada’s Senate is best the way it is. Suggesting it lacks legitimacy because it is unelected is to submit to Hugh Segal’s way of thinking. What is being described as a lack of democratic legitimacy is in fact a virtue which allows the Senate to do important work.

The Senate is a revising Chamber, not an adversarial House of the provinces or a second chamber of partisan party politics that it would be if Senators were elected.

Theoretically, the Senate’s power and privilege equal the Commons, but because they are appointed Senators they are reluctant to exercise them fully except where the nation’s interests and democracy might be imperiled by a ruthless government or a willful 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.”

Suggesting, further, that British Columbia and the West are under-represented is to submit to another old error, an error shamefully exploited by Preston Manning and Stephen Harper in their Reform Party days. Canada’s four Senate divisions are represented equally by 24 Senators regardless of population; in fact, the four Western provinces together have a significantly smaller total population than Ontario and a slightly larger population than Quebec. References to Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canada notwithstanding, it is Albertan and B.C. jealousy of Central Canada which drives western calls for Senate Reform: it is instructive that suggestions that B.C. is under-represented never point out that Manitoba and Saskatchewan are equally represented in the western division despite having populations the size of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Giving B.C. more seats would have the same inequitable effect as taking seats away from the smaller Western and Atlantic provinces.

Senate appointments were intended by the Fathers of Confederation to provide regional representation to balance representation by population in the Commons and to specifically protect us against the threat to national unity posed by democratically illegitimate accountability to the provinces, as would be the case with provincial Senate elections and redistribution of seats to the provinces according to population instead of by region. Ironically, these are the very conditions existing in pre-Confederation Canada that our present Senate arrangements, enshrined in Canada’s Constitution, were designed to remedy.

Prime Minister Harper’s lack of commitment to Canada’s Constitution, Parliamentary democracy and Canadian federalism will surprise no one who knows his history, but I am surprised that Sen. Segal is willing to ride this old Reform Party hobby horse as a token Tory. For, ironically, it violates core, philosophically conservative principles intended to provide a support of national unity and a check on the excesses of partisan elected politicians in the Commons, meaning particularly in the 21st century the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Brian Marlatt White Rock, B.C.

(The letter-writer is a founding member of the Progressive Canadian Party.)

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning


Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.

Nearly 100 new MPs offer new face of Parliament, including 60 in flipped seats

In many ways the incoming Parliament looks quite similar to its predecessor, with 240 returning MPs, the same number of MPs who are Indigenous or a visible minority, and 10 more women.

Rise of advance voting raising questions about impact on, and of, campaigns: experts

Almost 4.8-million Canadians voted at advance polls this year, according to Elections Canada estimates, a roughly 30.6 per cent increase over 2015, accounting for roughly one-quarter of all ballots cast this election.

Watchdog’s proposed minority Parliament rules ‘appalling,’ says legal expert

News|By Mike Lapointe
Democracy Watch says Governor General should speak with all party leaders before deciding who can try forming government, but Emmett Macfarlane says the confidence convention is the linchpin of the parliamentary system.

McKenna may be moved to new cabinet role after four years implementing Grits’ climate policies, say politicos

News|By Neil Moss
Catherine McKenna's 'tenure in environment would have prepared her well for any other kind of responsibility the prime minister may assign,' says former environment minister Jean Charest.

‘They went with what they knew’: Politicos react to Election 43

'If anybody should've won a majority, it should've been Trudeau. He didn't, and it's his to wear,' says CBC columnist Neil Macdonald of the Oct. 21 election results.

‘A clear mandate’: Trudeau wins second term, with voters handing Liberals a minority

News|By Beatrice Paez
Though not improbable, his victory was not inevitable. It brings an end to a nail-biting, gruelling 40-day slog that has exposed deepening rifts across the country.

McKenna wins re-election in Ottawa Centre, trumpets voters’ support for climate fight

News|By Neil Moss
'I’m so relieved,' Catherine McKenna said, about continuing with the Liberal climate change plan.

Election 2019 was a ‘campaign of fear,’ say pollsters

'There may well be a message to this to the main parties, that slagging each other will only take you so far,' says Greg Lyle.

Election 2019 campaign one of the most ‘uninspiring, disheartening, and dirtiest’ in 40 years, says Savoie

News|By Abbas Rana
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has never seen an election where mudslinging overwhelmingly dominated the campaign, leaving little or no time for policy discussion.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.