05 June 2011

Senate Reform: The Conservative Approach

With the May election of a majority Conservative government in Ottawa, I knew that the question of Senate reform — particularly, if the past is any guide, of introducing elected senators and term limits — would once more be on the political agenda, this time with more force than in the previous minority parliaments.

The Canadian Government has asked the provinces to weigh-in, notably with respect to establishing electoral mechanisms for Senate elections. Anticipating the response from Atlantic Canada, I wrote a ‘partial study’ as a quick guide: Reform of the Senate of Canada: A Progressive Conservative Perspective.

The study has four main sections:
  • Progressive Conservatism and the Red Chamber
  • Reasons to Favour the Appointed Chamber
  • What Role for the Provinces?
  • Some Modest Proposals for Senate Reform
There is an overview of the progressive conservative philosophy and how it relates to the Canadian Senate, along with arguments in favour of appointed Upper Chambers, as well as some of the unintended consequences of the elective option. The provincial context comes next — especially as laid down by the Fathers of Confederation — followed with a few ideas on making the Red Chamber an even more invaluable institution in the Parliament of Canada.

Though my study is addressed primarily to the Progressive Conservative parties of Atlantic Canada — and internet links were forwarded to each of the four parties — I hope that my personal defence will find widespread appeal from sympathetic Senate supporters across Canada.

My arguments on behalf of the Senate are by no means unique — and may be considered by some to be strangely idiosyncratic (particularly my perspective on the role of the provinces) — but one novel aspect that may entice is the attempt to defend the appointed Red Chamber by specifically conservative principles, especially when it has been Canadian Conservatives (comprising former Progressive Conservatives and members of the Canadian Alliance) who have been at the 21st-century vanguard for an elected Senate.

This study was written in some haste, as my intention was to provide a wide-ranging sketch lauding the Red Chamber, before its Conservative critics in Atlantic Canada dominated the field — hoping that my slight contribution might have some positive effect.

If the response is favourable, a more complete examination is planned for the autumn; meanwhile, I welcome your contributions, feedback, and constructive criticism.

Huzzah for Canada’s appointed, unique, and still fit-for-purpose Red Chamber!

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