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COMMENTARY · 14th June 2013
Merv Ritchie
The senate is an awesome institution. It is the final obstacle between brutal authoritarian governments and reasonable thought.

The Federal NDP are onside of getting rid of it but that may be only due to the fact they have no support in the Senate.

The recently created Conservative Party under the direction of Stephen Harper and the millionaires, such as the recently disgraced Nigel Wright, abused the Canadian Government for their own personal purposes. This is at the foundation of the sudden concern for the Senate.

Like the Matriarchs and High Chiefs (Symgygit) of the Nations of the Pacific Northwest, it is these elders and “long in the tooth thinkers” who have the acquired knowledge to determine if a recently passed law or legislative act is actually a wise decision.

The only guy who has it right today is Justin Trudeau.

The Conservatives are all messed up in abuse and patronage appointments and the NDP flounder in the wind.

There may be a need to reform the Senate, maybe a need to ensure appointments are made considering actually smarts, not like Brazeau, Wallins and Duffy; but to throw the entire historical protection of the rights of decent society with the act of one of Canada’ most corrupt governments, a government which has never respected Canadian democratic principles, is quite simply wrong.

Time to get back to the principles of decency and democracy. This abusing the Parliamentary system, just because one can, is also wrong.

Stephen Harper is like a thief. “The door is open and no one was home so I wasn’t breaking in and stealing the flat screen TV”

Yeah, OK, but we all know you are a thief and a crook! Just because you can take the car parked on the streets with the keys in it does not mean you should!

Canadians are people who trust others to be respectful and decent.

The Canadian system of Government has been stolen, simply because it could be.

Harper and Wright are the thieves.
It should be possible in a country like ...
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 19th June 2013
...Canada to find a half dozen intelligent and sensible people with experience in writing, reviewing and critiquing legislation who could do the job of the senate and provide sober second thought and send any legislation back for fine tuning if needed. They could do this as required and for a limited term. The money that was saved by not having a fully occupied retirement home for has-been politicians, would-be politicians, party fundraisers and hacks could be used to provide better services across the country.

Let the elected people govern and do the work. The PMO has no business giving the senate appointed by him the tasks that should be done by MP's in the House of Parliament.
More unnecessary govt at taxpayers' expense
Comment by david dickinson on 19th June 2013
Do we really need a senate to review legislation passed by the House of Commons? How many provinces use this system? Answer: None. And the sky has not fallen. We never hear citizens demanding that, because our provincial parliamentary system is so broken, the provinces desperately need upper houses! Either the senate should be scrapped or else all the provinces should have a provincial upper chamber.

You're absolutely right Merv
Comment by Terry on 16th June 2013
This is why I don't believe in the faux democracy we are subjected too . 61% of Canadians did not vote for the creeps that are running our country into the ground . It only represents the interests of big oil ,the factory beef and pork industry . This is what the EU free trade deal is all about . As a proportion of Canadian GDP these industries are vastly smaller than harpys 39% majority . Where will the thin edge of hope for democracy come from ? I hope they will not push us into civil disobedience but it seems all other avenues are closed to us .
The Only Possible Solution to Real Democracy
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 16th June 2013
There are many ideas floated here and all fail due to one democratic principle, a secret ballot.

British Parliamentary Democracy has at its foundation, the Magna Carta (1215). This document was designed initially to appease the British Citizenry who were ready to storm the Castle and kill the King. The poverty and hardship caused by the bankers, backed by the Crown of England, had reached a pinnacle. Thus the foundation of British Parliamentary Democracy – the power of the Crown was given over to the Lords and Barons in a minor fashion so they wouldn’t go through with storming the Castle. (They actually invited France to come and help rid the Nation of the King)

This was the foundation of a Grand Council of; Aristocrats, Lords and Barons, officially called the Magnum Concilium.

Then, after more hardship, through the War of the Roses and more, in 1570 an official Parliament was formed where there was an upper house (House of Lords) and the lower house (House of Commons). The Upper house always had the final say and essentially had more power than the Crown. It was the House of Lords who ruled. Only for ten years did this body not exist due to Oliver Cromwell; 1660 to 1670. When re-enacted the entire structure was made deceptive by convincing the common people their secret ballot, when electing their representative, would ensure no one could punish you for how you voted. The House of Lords however, as did the Crown, ensured the process was designed so your representative had to display his vote on every issue. The argument used then, and is still used today;

“Well, don’t you want to know how your representative voted?”

NO! We elected him/her because we trust them to make the right decisions on our behalf.

This open publicly displayed vote allowed them to punish your representative if he did not vote as he was told. This is where the term “Party Whip” comes from.

This presents the illusion of democracy when in effect the same people the citizens revolted against in 1215 and again, over and over through the centuries, still maintain their control while we live in delusion.

In my personal experience, the only time someone shows up at council or RD meetings (developers etc) is to see how the elected councilors and Mayor vote.

We need experienced thinkers, long in the tooth elders, to reflect on laws passed in the House of Commons. But we need to ensure those in every legislative assembly are allowed to vote without reprisals. This means a secret ballot vote on all matters in all legislative houses.

Every political leader I have interviewed argues against this – they tend to all say, ‘Well that is not the way the British Parliamentary Democracy system works.”

I say, it has never ‘worked’ for the British and it doesn’t work for us, but it could with real democracy. And we do not need to redesign the whole thing either - this is the KISS principle (keep it simple sweetheart) at its finest.

This one single change would remove lobbyists and industrialist from influencing good proper responsible government. It will reduce the Party system we have now from an essential dictatorship to a responsible representative government, what a novel idea!

I believe at least 70% of every representative would vote the right way for the benefit of everyone if they were allowed to vote in secret.

Then they too could be involved in the selection of the best thinkers from their House of Commons to be appointed to the Upper house.

Real simple, something we learned in grade school, likely grade 1 – Secret ballot is at the foundation of democracy, a system we have never actually had. Though everyone somehow believes we do.
Comment by Terry on 16th June 2013
This seems to be the only glimmer of hope for reform . No mention of term limits . What a surprise .
The problem with an elected senate...
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 16th June 2013 that it would give it legitimacy and power. You would have the same gridlock they often have in the U.S. with the two bodies and the President. That is not needed, a chamber of sober second thought might have a place if you can make it into more than a rubber stamp and a depository of political hacks. If that isn't possible, get rid of it. We don't need another money pit.
Re: Canadian
Comment by Catherine on 15th June 2013
Maybe it's time to look at STV proportional representation again ( for the Senate ) and take money out of politics. I think the public deserves the " power " of recall legislation (with criminal charges) if said senator was not performing up to snuff or engaged in anything deemed corrupt. Hopefully a system like that would keep their focus on what's in the best interest for us rather than themselves.

Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 15th June 2013
First, thanks for the compliment. I am certainly starting to feel "elder" but I think that is as far as it goes. Statesman? Naah, I'm too inclined to call them like I see them.

I don't like the whole idea of a traditional senate body which is a carry over from the old feudal system and the House of Lords. It is too archaic and smacks of a class structure. That may only be because of the criteria that are currently used for senate appointments and in that respect the liberals have been no better than the conservative/reformers. Time limits are one step in the right direction but there needs to be a better representation of the entire population as well. I'd make all appointments by unanimous consent of the House. That way you would get people which would be credible having made a contribution to the nation recognized by members regardless of party.

I am sure there would be fewer of them qualifying, but a few wise men and women with no rigid party party affiliation to taint their actions would be far better than the expensive collection of party hacks and "bagpersons" we currently have. These owe their positions to the government which appoints them.

It might even be an incentive for aspiring candidates for a senate seat be they MPs, other elected officials, or volunteers who do great charitable work, to conduct themselves in a way that contributes positively to the life of all Canadians while they hold office.

Term limits 2
Comment by Terry on 15th June 2013
Check the "list of political term limits " in Wikipedia . There are only a hand full of countries in the world that have no term limits . We keep some disturbing company on the world stage of no term limits . Funny that harpers favorite country has term limits . Yet he's never mentioned how wonderful that fact is .
Term limits
Comment by Terry on 15th June 2013
Even in harpys favorite political punching bag Iran have term limits . They , lucky for them are rid of the last crazy president after his two term stint . We should be that lucky . And for all those that dispise Obama so much . He will be gone after his second term . I guess we need someone like or vanderzalm himself to lead the charge . He is the only guy to change anything as unpopular as the H arper S ales T ax . Merv , is there any chance you could do one of your online polls on the subject ? It would be interesting how the public feels about it . I don't think we will ever hear anything about it from our career politicians as no term limits means a free ride for themselves on our backs for the rest of their lives .
Comment by Paul Repstock on 15th June 2013
Term limits are certainly a good idea.
But, in considering the continuation of the Senate we must also look at the nature of the beast itself. When the membership of the Senate can be staked by the sitting government party, in such a way as to reflect the Ruling Party's agenda, what is the point of having a Senate. Then it merely becomes a patronage appointment and a rubber stamp to give credibility to government policy.
The fix
Comment by Terry on 14th June 2013
The fix is so easy that no politician talks about it. Term limits . Senators for life ? Unlimited terms in parliament ? Do federal civil servants have to retire ? Not only does the status quo hurt new ideas and our young people . It hurts our society and breeds corruption . We could be looking at the harper government for the next 40 years . He would be 94 in 2053 . Helmut did you ever have any thoughts about term limits ? You're the only politico that graces this online newspaper I think . That's why I ask you . As you are an elder statesman . Thank you for all your input . You are well respected .
I agree entirely
Comment by Dave B on 14th June 2013
Nuff said