Article: Michael Chmielewski – Op-Ed Editor
Let’s Burn It Down
Canada’s upper house has sunk to unprecedented lows.
The Senate is dead weight worth millions of dollars. It is the embodiment of unaccountability–a useless chamber that breeds corruption. It is a money-pit whose finances go wasted. The essence of the Senate today is opposed to cherished democratic values. The chamber conjures images of nepotistic appointments, and some of the worst people Canadian politics has to offer. When Pamela Wallin or Mike Duffy spend money, they’re not contributing to Canada whatsoever. They only contribute to themselves, or to their party, as lapdog Duffy shows.
Some lament: these traits are also found within the lower chamber. True, some of these traits are a part of the larger human condition. Yet, Members of Parliament do not find themselves nearly in the same situation as Senators. In the House of Commons, a member must be elected, first and foremost. To become elected, one must have charisma, good ideas, and a great work ethic, not to mention they have to face the gauntlet of Question Period.
Conversely, look at Senators. Some are great figures, such as Dallaire, but the ones who get in trouble are people without ambition or those with powerful friends.
Senate reform has come up as a solution to this problem. One example is the Triple E Senate: equal, elected and effective. There are many variations to Senate reform, and most people acknowledge that there is a problem with the house in its current state today, except, perhaps, for Justin Trudeau.
Yet, reform is not the answer. Abolition is. Right now, Canadian politics run well. Some may disagree, but those disagreements are on partisan lines. This political system does what it is designed to do. The Senate plays no role in these workings, it only negates. Thus it can be accepted as inactive. Therefore, Senate reform will only serve to harm Canada’s political workings.
So what are the arguments for reform?
“Senate reform will preserve, or mean more, regional representation.” This sentiment is as much an anachronism as the chamber itself. The Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, recently came out personally advocating abolition of this mockery. He said, in a The StarPhoenix article, “I’ve said I think the provincial capitals can serve as that arena for sober second thought. We can do the role that the Senate was originally supposed to do,” but never really did. On this rare occasion, I agree with Brad Wall wholeheartedly.
“An elected Senate is the solution.” No, it’s not. Voter turnout for the House of Commons is down as it is, and who wants to pay for more elections? Furthermore, an elected Senate will make the house more aggressively partisan, a condition that should not be passed on. This partisan tendency, if replicated in the Senate, will mirror the American bicameral system. The American system is designed for political deadlock; the Canadian one isn’t. This idea is as bad as elected judges.
Too much ink has been wasted on how the Senate should be reformed, but one last point deserves attention. Stockwell Day wrote in a CBC article arguing that the Senate should not be abolished, but rather built up. Firstly, he acknowledges the chances of Senate abolition, which are close to nil, because the Senate is constitutionally entrenched, tragically.
He goes on, arguing the importance of regional representation in an inherently flawed one-person, one-vote system. Senators can’t, and don’t, represent their ‘underrepresented’ areas if they don’t even live there, like Mike Duffy, or are constantly jet-setting, like Pamela Wallin.
All of this is neither here nor there, the Senate is not going anywhere soon, not until there is more Canadians calling for its abolition. Furthermore, the exertion of political capital to abolish it would be titanic. Even though Mulcair and the NDP promised, if elected in 2015, to abolish it, I don’t believe they could. The last two times the constitution was opened up, it didn’t work out so well.
I hope that this recent flurry of controversy will finally convince Canadians that the Senate should be no more, nor should it be reformed, for a reformed Senate will only serve to steer Canada’s system away from functioning properly, and will only create more problems.
The controversy swirls on; Mike Duffy is on the news more now than when he was a journalist, and the fate of the Senate is starting to come into question.
Abolishment is near impossible, but reform would make Canadian politics even more impossible.
Let’s burn it down.