Canada’s Senate needs to be reformed, not abolished

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To the Editor:

The focus lately put on the Senate by the alleged misdemeanours of some of its members — notably, Mike Duffy — has revived calls for the institution’s demise. They should be strongly resisted.

What the Senate needs is not abolition but reform.

To be specific, it needs depoliticizing. Canada must find a way to get appointments to the Senate out of the hands of politicians.

That won’t be easy. It would help if one of the Senate’s functions wasn’t to give the provinces a voice in Parliament, but that is a vital job — and anyway, changing it would require a constitutional amendment and there is no hope of getting that given the hurdles now in the way.

So, we must find a new way of making the appointments from and for the provinces. And since we can’t get God to do it (though we must hope heaven’s influence will be brought to bear indirectly) we must look to humans. But which humans?

What if, in each province, the job was given to a cadre of persons of stature but without obvious political connections — the presidents of various occupational organizations such as the medical and other professional associations, the farmers’ union, the major labour organization and others? These appointing groups would be mandated to fill vacancies in the Senate with, again, persons of stature and good repute but without partisan political connections or evident leanings.

The introduction of such an arrangement would doubtless be resisted by federal politicians and maybe by provincial ones, too, but if public support for it was strong enough they would have to give in.

Isn’t it worth a try?

Peter Hepher