Politics, Society

Abolish the Canadian Senate?

A lot of people are calling for the abolition of the Canadian Senate lately (spring of 2015), and these calls will increase if the chamber dose what everyone expects, and passes C-51 this week; C-51 being the anti-terrorism legislation that basically every legal expert in the country is opposed to. At the same time, the Senate will hear a report about Senate corruption. You have to love situations like this: a body tasked with being the “sober second thought” of Canada will pass a bill severely eroding the Chart of Rights and Freedoms while, at virtually the same time, listening to a report about how corrupt they are – a report that will no doubt pull many of its punches. You cannot make this stuff up.

But I do not believe we should abolish the Senate. We should reform the Senate. Because the problem is that abolishing the Senate doesn’t solve our problem. Yes, the Senate is pretty useless and fails to perform its duty – to provide a “sober second thought” – most of the time. But at least there is a (mostly theoretical) check on parliamentary power. Without the Senate, C-51 would be law already. (If you think the Governor General isn’t signing C-51 into law due to fealty to the constitution over fealty to the Prime Minister, well… good luck with that.)

The government of Canada – and any liberal democratic government – needs at least one check on its power. Even a weak check like our corrupt, impotent Senate is better than no check at all. Abolishing the Senate will only make it easier for future autocrats to ram through unconstitutional and/or unconscionable legislation. An elected Senate with actual power would make that a lot harder.

Let’s not abolish the Canadian Senate. Let’s force these people to be accountable to someone… namely, us.

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