Save Our Senate

The premiers are dragging their feet.

Prime Minister Harper promises to appoint to the Senate women and men chosen by the provinces. It’s now up to the premiers to introduce the appropriate election measures  in the provincial legislatures.

It’s sometimes said that the premiers do a better job than Senators at representing provincial and regional interests to the Canadian nation.  (Think of the elaborate calendar of meetings that political scientists refer to as “executive federalism.”)

Phooey. The premiers represent regions and provinces, yes. And yes, they’re not shy about voicing particular interests at First Ministers’ Meetings. But they can’t claim to speak for the nation as a whole. They are not constitutionally required to keep Canada’s interests in mind. Federal-Provincial executive meetings are useful, no doubt, but inadequate as a forum for national deliberation.  

The Senate of Canada is supremely the arena of political deliberation that brings together regional concerns and the national interest. (I say more on this subject in a chapter on the Fathers of Confederation in The Democratic Dilemma; Reforming the Canadian Senate, ed. Jennifer Smith, published earlier this year by McGill-Queen’s University Press for the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, and the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University.)

Yes, we need the Senate. And in this day and age it must be an elective Senate.

I support Link Byfield’s current initiative, Canadians for an Elected Senate. As chairman of The Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, Mr. Byfield has a dozen ideas for prodding and persuading reluctant premiers.  

I’ve sent a contribution, and I’m adding my name to the national petition. See the web site: wwwccfd.ca.

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