Monday, June 8, 2015

Senate Restructuring - Change Required

We need good governance in Canada, we do okay, we need to do better. I am a little tired of watching the senate “scandal”, the “nit picking” and then the “public debate”.  The senator spending issue is the most colossal of red herrings, we are screaming about senator spending – when the entire senate expenditure is going toward an nebulous  mandate, at best, individual senators have “their issue” that they advocate for , or the senate becomes an undignified second to the commons, or worse of all, the senate is just a rubber stamp. The senate, as it presently stands, needs reform .I shudder at the thought of constitutional reform, firstly, it is cumbersome in the extreme, secondly, it is expensive in the extreme and thirdly, it is unnecessary.  The senate is the only means by which to practically reform the senate.  The senate has the structural clout to insist on reform from the commons, there only needs to be leadership and a direction taken. Reform needs to define function and alter functionality from selection through to governance contribution.

There should be a multi-party selection process introduced and made up of a cross section of Canadians. The goal is to person the senate with people unaffected by the highly partisan world of politics.  We need to mitigate the reality that now exists, that has the senate more or less an extension of the political process.  What is particularity pernicious about the present circumstance is that, the senate often exercises its obstructive capacities in opposition to the elected government – for the Senate to 
 be democratic, the senate can be appointed it just should never be exercising itself in breach of the Canadian Electorates desires. 
While is at the leave of the Prime Minister presently to select Senators, it is normally done with considerable consultation. It is clear in the selection of the people that partisanship is at play and the rationales for selection range from patronage to recognition for one accomplishment or another.  There is the means for the Prime Minister to put in place a selection committee, and the means once this chosen course of action is in place, for the senate to enforce the continuance of the process.  No constitutional change is needed, only that, the selection process sees to the constitutional requirement for regional representation.

In defining functionality the senate must enter into an internal process, and define its function. Having defined its function, the senate would need to institutionalize its perpetual actuation in the context of the function. An ancillary codification of some sort would be required; what form this might take would fall out of internal senate process. One imagines that a directive generated through the body offering instruction as to actuation under the defined functionality, would suffice. Over time, tradition would take hold, as has been the case hitherto, whereby, it is tradition to be consistent with the elected commons – or as termed – a rubber stamp.

The senate has the power to do this, the Prime Minister and the Commons are likely to want to co-operate to facilitate change and, perhaps most importantly, the senate can compel future governments to be congruent with change by exercising their ability to approve or disapprove legislation. What is required is Senate leadership, for people there to break with the status quo and make the changes. The senate as it now stands is offering limited contribution relative potential. Recent events have made a mockery of the institution – there should never be a point where the most “senior” house in the country is be brought up on the carpet  for discourse on expense accounts – change is required. 

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