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Title - The View from Dundas
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Follow Me on TwitterPhillip Blancher is a writer, web geek and communications professional by trade. He has written for a number of publications in Eastern Ontario and Northern New York State and also was a weekly morning show contributor for two area radio stations. As a resident of South Dundas for the last seven years, this long-time political buff has taken on an appreciation of small-town/rural life while also being a father of four and a soccer coach. Blancher's columns on OurHometown.ca will cover a range of his interests from politics, parenthood, local history and on his favourite NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres. If you have questions or wish to contact Phillip, you can email him at pblancher@ourhometown.ca
Senate Reform needs to become priority
Phillip Blancher
OurHometown.ca

Senate Reform needs to become priority
The need for senate reform is more apparent now in Canada at this time, than any time in Canadian history. It's not just the alleged free spending of Senators Wallin and Duffy; nor is it the alleged housing allowance claims by Senators Brazeau, Harb and Duffy. Those are the visible symptoms of the problem of the senate. It is the nature of the Senate body itself that needs changing to cure the disease.
PHOTO CREDIT - GlobeandMail.ca

South Dundas - June 4, 2013 - The need for senate reform is more apparent now in Canada at this time, than any time in Canadian history. It's not just the alleged free spending of Senators Wallin and Duffy; nor is it the alleged housing allowance claims by Senators Brazeau, Harb and Duffy. Those are the visible symptoms of the problem of the senate. It is the nature of the Senate body itself that needs changing to cure the disease.

The Canadian Senate was designed for a mid-19th century style of parliamentary democracy, only implemented in what became Canada in 1841 (or 1849 depending on which history you read). A quarter-century later, Confederation occurred and the role of the Senate was born, with rules that have mostly be in place and unaltered since. Since 1867, Canada, it's make-up, institutions and people have grown and evolved, but the Senate has not.

Canada's Senate needs to be changed, reformed, overhauled, cleaned up and cleaned out, but not abolished. It needs to be elected by the people of this country. To operate as a modern, 21st Century government body should have should have simple rules and a simple make-up. It needs to be efficient in how it operates. A reformed senate MUST be elected by the Canadian People and representation across the country needs to be equal. Designing this new Senate is relatively easy.

First, throw out the old rule book. No more residency requirements for Senators which conflict with other residency requirements of the region they represent. If the Senate sits for more than six months of the year, and the Senate is located in Ontario, how can a Senator get a health card for New Brunswick or Alberta? They can't because they don't physically live in their "home" province. Rules for how the Senate operates when it comes to expenses need to be clear to the Senators and staff, and 100% transparent to the Canadian people as we pay the bill.

Second, efficiency. A new Senate needs to be efficient when it comes to processing the nations business. Yes the Senate is the place of "Sober Second Thought" and there is no denying the good work done by some Senators in committee which have tackled issues ranging from Canada's Military to our health care system. However the Senate needs to expedite bills through Parliament.

Elected Senators are needed. No provinces electing "lists" so that the Prime Minister can make his pick. The Senate, just like the House of Commons, need to represent the will of the people and therefore need to be elected by the people. Senatorial districts within each province should be based on population distribution. So if a province has 1,000,000 people and five senators need to be elected, each district would have

The Senate also needs to be equal. This does not mean being equal amongst racial or gender lines, but be equal among provinces and territories. Five senators elected from each province, two from each territory, 56 Senators total. Equal does not mean fair when it comes to the size of population. Prince Edward Island would have five senators and so would Ontario and Alberta. In the United States, Rhode Island has the same number of senate seats as California. You do not hear complaining on Senate size from people in California. If all provinces had an equal say, this would push for more co-operation to balance regional interests with the good of the country. It becomes a more functional check-and-balance to the House of Commons.

Once the House of Commons expands to 338 seats in 2015, Ontario and only three other provinces could carry the country and thus a majority government. An equal and balanced Senate can vet legislation for the good of the whole country, not just based on regional interests.

Thomas Mulcair and his federal New Democrats, have staked out the contention that the Senate is antiquated and it needs to be abolished. It is laughable to this writer that any party that has stated time and time again that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a secret agenda, would also campaign on removing one of the vital check-and-balances of our parliamentary system. Just as Harper could steamroll any legislation through a single-chamber or "Unicameral" government body, so could Thomas Muclair if the NDP won in 2015, so could Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals, should they manage to return from exile.

Provincial leaders, such as former Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty came out against the Senate, stating it should be abolished. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall also is now considering changing their support for the Senate to that of supporting abolition. For Ontario's "leadership" to come out against the Senate is understandable; a Triple-E Senate that could thwart legislation that would benefit Ontario or large provinces, to the detriment of small provinces. On the other hand, provinces like Saskatchewan would be able to protect themselves from plans from central Canada which could interfere with their resource-based economies by having a Triple-E Senate to safeguard their own interests.

Abolishing the Senate is unwise in that it would give the leadership in the House of Commons, be it Conservative, New Democrat or Liberal, too much power. Keeping the Senate in it's current state is also unwise, as there needs to be more accountability, simpler rules so that everyone can follow them, and we, the people of Canada, should have the right to choose who' is in the Senate. We are 20 years overdue on reforming the Senate, it is time to fix the problem once and for all.


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