New Book on the Canadian Senate

There’s a new book on the Senate. In my opinion there can never be too many! The Democratic Dilemma, Reforming the Canadian Senate is edited by Jennifer Smith for the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University (McGill-Queen’s University Press). A number of readers of this blog are among the distinguished  contributors.

Here’s my final section:

The Senate was intended to be an arena of national deliberation on the matters that affect everyone in the country equally, and was expected to use its status as arena of national deliberation to resist attempts by the House of Commons to trespass on the rights of the political opposition and the rights of the provinces. But Canadians no longer understand the Fathers’ prescription. The time has come for reform.

There are good reasons today for increasing the numbers in the Senate. There are reasons to consider the election of senators and limits on the term of office. These are measures that are appropriate in the twenty-first century. They are also measures that will not impair the Senate’s traditional roles and may indeed enhance them.

We cannot return to the original plan in all its details. But we can do much to avoid measures that would further erode the Senate’s powers as an inclusive and equalitarian deliberative body. If we take our cue from the Fathers of Confederation we will not set aside seats in the upper house for particular interests and groups. The role of the Senate is not to drag into national politics matters that would be better left in the private sphere, or better looked after by provincial and local governments. The role of the Senate – let me repeat – is to deliberate on the issues that affect equally every last person in the nation without exception, because such deliberation is our best security that government will not resolve itself into a gang of bullies that protects the politicians of the majority and the government’s favourites against the ordinary citizen.

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