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Canadian Senators Begone

Canadian Senators Begone

The Senate is the annoying house guest we just can’t get rid of

How do you solve a problem like the Senate? The Red Chamber is like an annoying great-uncle who has overstayed his welcome. He spends our money at the local pub, when he is supposed to help mow the lawn. The kids are sick of him taking over their bedroom, but to kick him out, we’d have to negotiate with our siblings about who gets him next. He’s family, part of our history, what would mom and dad say? So nothing gets done, while Great-Uncle Red cracks open another cold one on the patio.

Enough, already. Enough of putting up with bad behaviour for which no one is accountable. Enough of throwing $21 million of good money after $1 million of bad. Enough of the scandals, audits, investigations and prosecutions. There is a tipping point, and its time is now.

It’s true that the Senate is part of the Canadian tradition. Lots of things were, including denying women the vote and having two territories instead of three. But times change and traditions change with them. Canada’s Constitution is a living tree and there is no reason that the institutions charged with defending it shouldn’t be as well. And while there is value in having a bicameral legislature, if half of it is seen as a vestigial organ instead of an essential one, at some point amputation becomes necessary.

Supreme Court rejects Harper government proposals for Senate reform
Ottawa cannot act alone to reform the Senate, limit terms or appoint only elected senators, and must have the consent of seven provinces with half the country’s population, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shut the door Friday on a career pledge to reform the Senate after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled he needs substantial provincial consent to introduce elections or term limits to the upper chamber and unanimous consent to do away with it altogether.

In response, the Conservative government said it is dropping Senate reform and ruled out a referendum to build public support to bring reluctant premiers onside as one of its own cabinet ministers, Maxime Bernier, and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair — who both advocate abolition — publicly urged Friday.

The prime minister said he was “personally disappointed” in a ruling he says left the country “essentially stuck” with an scandal-plagued unelected Senate supported by “virtually no Canadian.”

‘Judicial activism’

Has the Supreme Court gone too far?
In the wake of landmark decisions on assisted suicide and the right to strike (among others), there appears to be a new renaissance for decrying the “judicial activism” of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Andrew Coyne accuses the Court of ignoring precedent, rewriting the constitution and basically lacking “any rational basis” for its decisions. Conrad Black is equally critical. Stockwell Day accuses the Court of writing law, rather than merely applying existing law. Gordon Gibson arguably goes even farther, calling the Court “the greatest threat to our democracy,” and accusing it of “making” rather than merely “interpreting” the law. And Brian Lee Crowley complains of the “unaccountable” and virtually unlimited control judges have over the meaning of the Charter, allowing them to trump legislation and introduce uncertainty into the law. In the view of all of these critics, it is asserted that judges have abandoned the “appropriate” level of judicial restraint.

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