DGD 3 – The Senate
Abolish the Senate instead of trying to reform it – Jan. 2010
• Prime Minister Harper takes a major step in his crusade to reform the Senate by
appointing 5 new senators to the 105-seat chamber
• More Conservative than Liberal senators (for the first time in decades)
• Ensures control of the upper house of Parliament and swift passage of any Harper
legislation (especially Senate reform)
• 2 new bills proposed to the House of Commons
• 1- eight-year term limit on senators
• 2- senators elected in province-wide elections
• Harper believes an elected Senate would be more responsive to voters, would not unduly
delay bills passed by MPs, and would protect the interests of small provinces between
than the House of Commons
Critic Abolish the Senate, not reform it
• Costly, useless, and undemocratic joke with little power
• Having elected senators won’t improve the quality of legislation, protect provincial
interests, or play any relevant role in the lives of most Canadians
• It retain the Senate as a high-paid debating society or research institution is ridiculous
1- No province has a Senate, so why does Ottawa need one? No one feels a chamber of
“sober second thought” is needed to vet bills passed by their unicameral legistlatures.
2- The Senate isn’t needed to protect provincial interests. That’s the role of elected MPs and
provincial governments. Premiers defend their province, not senators.
3- An elected Senate would not necessarily mean legislation approved by the Commons
would get swift passage. Ascenario where the Commons is dominated by one party and
the Senate by another is a recipe for gridlock.
• Support for abolishing the Senate is fairly strong in Canada – provincial
governments in ON, BC, SK, and MT and the NDP have been in favor of killing it for a
• Abolishing the Senate would be difficult because it requires a constitutional
amendment which needs provincial consent.
• First step – hold a national referendum timed with a federal election to control
• Harper is open to the idea as long as it includes reform options
Senate reform bill proposes 9-year terms – June 2011
• Prime Minister Harper’s Senate ReformAct – nine-year term limit under new legislation
• Currently no fixed term for senators (although they must retire at 75) • For senators appointed in 2008, limited term would start from the date the bill is passed
• Senators appointed before 2008 would be exempt
• Term in non-renewable (cannot run for reelection)
• Bill allows for an “interruption” in the nine-year term (doesn’t have to be consecutive
• Provinces and territories cannot be forced to hold Senate elections without changing the
Constitution – voluntary scheme. Provinces and territories that hold elections will have
their nominees appointed when vacancies arise.
• Elections could be held in conjunction with provincial elections, province-wide
municipal elections, etc.
• Previously established election agencies would oversee the process. No provisions on the
federal government footing the bill.