Why The Canadian Senate Should Be Reformed
The Senate is normally considered Canada's upper chamber. The Senate appointees are normally 105 handpicked by the Canadian Prime Minister and they normally represent a particular territory. This equal representation is meant to protect the rights of the minority groups that would otherwise be overshadowed by majority groups (Senate of Canada 12). The Senate’s work is to provide oversight of the House of Commons as it provides a rational second opinion. The Senators are supposed to work together with the MPs to pass critical legislation that will assist in governing Canada. It is, however, important to note that the Cabinet ministers and/or the Canadian Prime Minister can fall out with the Senate but remain unaffected but the same won’t apply if they lose favor with the House of Commons since they will have to step down from their respective duties.
The Senate enjoys veto powers over the House of Commons and it is considered to be theoretically equal to the Parliament (Dodek 642). The Senate appointments are normally made by the Prime minister but they are normally preceded by advice by cabinet ministers. The selection is at the discretion of the Prime Minister and once picked the Governor General will go ahead and approve the appointed individuals for cabinet posts. These appointments can be motivated by several factors and can also be taken as ‘political rewards’ for those individuals who have close ties with the ruling political party and/or the Prime Minister at the time of the appointments (Docherty 30). The devolution of power from the national front to the provincial governments has greatly limited the capability of the federal government to exercise its powers in the provincial regions.
Socio-economic empowerment of individuals under the provincial domains without an equal growth in Senatorial representation catalyzed the need for the provincial administrations to better exercise their powers in these regions compared to the federal governments. The result of the devolution efforts backed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) made the country the most decentralized federation in the world and, in essence, this made the Senators lose their relevance in terms of regional representation (Reid 8). Legitimacy issues have always been a thorn in the flesh for the Senate since it is no longer viewed as a body that is rational in terms of scrutiny of legislative issues and it simultaneously lacks the ground to be considered as a legitimate representation of the Canadian regions.
These factors have continued to erode the public confidence in the Senate. The party has used the provincial regions as the base for their arguments stating that they did away with such chambers and they have remained functional hence the same can be replicated for the country. Despite the fact that the party is pushing for these reforms, it might be difficult for these reforms to be implemented since it will involve making major changes to the constitution and this might not get the needed support (Library of Parliament 2). Political analysts have warned against the abolition of the Senate since the Senate was based on the fact that it would facilitate regional representation in the federal government bodies which in turn will affect all the regional areas proportionately.
A move to abolish the Senate would further decentralize power to the provinces which can cause expose the individuals to control by powerful provincial executives. Another reason not to abolish was drawn from nations that had already attempted that like Pakistan and Nigeria and the results turned out really bad since some regions and populations were over-represented in parliament leading to domination of the House by a section of politicians who might be a party loyalist. c) Appointment of Senators These seats should be given out to individuals who are selected by their respective devolved provinces. This would boost the concept of intra-state federalism as it continues to demonstrate regional representation of the different groups. Studies from Germany have shown that the senators picked by their respective provinces tend to have an approved legitimacy and can, therefore, represent the interests of the public diligently in the Senate.
Provincial executives fear this recommendation since they will lose some powers (Trimble 34). d) Distribution of Senate seats The way the seats are supposed to be distributed can be a subject of lengthy debate but whichever way it goes, the regional or territorial boundaries need to be adequately represented in order to give every region a fair chance at being represented in the Senate. The solutions mentioned above need to be implemented by the federal government and the Prime Minister needs to be rational in the picking of senate members. The conversation of Senate reforms needs the involvement of all stakeholders to clearly deliberate on its roles and how to improve its performance. Reforms offer the best solution for the Senate and should, therefore, be implemented as soon as possible for the benefit of Canadians.
Annotated Bibliography Docherty, David C. "The Canadian Senate: Chamber of Sober Reflection or Loony Cousin Best Not Talked About. " McGill Law Journal (2015): 623-672. The article looks at the political issues that are linked to famous policy issues and the results of the rulings and how they affected the liaison between the political provinces and the federal government. The article looks at the how the Senate reforms will affect the politics of the country and how constitutional issues can be resolved by the provinces and the federal government through negotiations. The influence of party politics is looked at in influencing the one-sided political decisions compared to a multilateral approach. Differences between the Red Chamber and the House of Commons are shown to affect the legislative processes.
The paper tries to explain how the Senate operates in a bicameral system. It discusses the drive to Senate reforms that have become part of the Canadian agenda. The journey to Senate reforms must address the issues of provincial representation in the Senate i. e. how many seats does on region get and why so, the authority that the Senate has, and the method that will be used to select the Senators. The possibilities of any major reforms are discussed and also the extreme possibility of abolishing the Senate and how this can be achieved. The article also looks at the reform options that are dependent on the constitution and those that can be made without altering the constitution. A brief history is also given about the quest for such constitutional and unconstitutional reforms.
International models of reformed states are looked into as an inspirational source in the march towards Senate reforms while the functions of provinces are also shown in the effort to get Senate reforms. The article is used in this paper to further cement the notion of speeding up the necessary Senate reforms put forward to improve its reputation. Reid offers hope for the Senate if the reforms are implemented which backs this paper in advocating for reforms in the Canadian Senate. Senate of Canada. The Wise Owls. Ontario: Senate of Canada, 2017. The book was published as an educational material with many colorful illustrations of wild animals that try to represent the role of the Canadian Senate and the virtues that they stand for.
The book is well written by Smith to illustrate the links that bring the two houses (House of Commons and Senate) together and the ones that separate them from each other. The book further analyses the previous quest for Senate reforms and the currently proposed solutions like the triple-E remedy. The role of the Senate as a political institution is also shown but based on a global perspective while advocating for solutions that will offer hope to the Red Chamber. Smith offers a look into the functioning of other International Senatorial houses from economies like the USA, UK, Germany and Australia and how they interact with the parliamentary houses when it comes to federal issues. The book infers from the different committee reports by government bodies, parliamentary debate sessions, and a wide array of literature sources that further supports its recommendations and analysis.
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