A Relic of 19th Century Canada
There are three critical reforms. First, we need to get on with modernizing our upper house. We should get on with the job of electing senators. Secondly, we want fair, fixed election dates, not dates chosen simply for the partisan political interests of the Prime Minister. And finally we want to clean up internal party politics, beginning with grassroots democratic control of the nomination process. All three of these initiatives will strengthen democracy of Canada and require a Prime Minister willing to bring in legislation and enact reform.
First, let’s get on with the job of electing senators. A senate chair should be occupied by someone with a democratic mandate, and Canadians should be able to mark their ballot for their Senator, as well as for their MP. We need a ballot with senators’ names, and seats with senators that have been elected. Under a Conservative government, Canadians will choose who sits in this chair.
In the 21st century, those who want to sit in the parliament of a democratic state should have a mandate from the people. The Prime Minister currently holds a virtually free hand in the selection of Senators. As Prime Minister I will use that power to establish a federal process for electing senators. Alberta has already held provincial elections for individuals aspiring to the Senate. A national Conservative government will establish a national process for senatorial elections in each province and territory on an interim basis.
Electing senators is, of course, only the first reform we need. Establishing a fixed term for senators – a term consistent with the norms of democratic office – will also be a particularly high priority. The naming of elected senators will get the ball rolling on these and other senate reforms. Once we start electing senators, we will engage the provinces and Canadian voters to start building a broad consensus on a more comprehensive plan of senate reform. An appointed Senate is a relic of 19th century Canada. An elected Senate, reflective of the federal nature of our democracy, will be a defining feature of the 21st century Canada. The Liberal position of all-or-nothing reform, of no change until everything is changed, is designed to take us nowhere. It has succeeded, to Canada’s detriment. It is time to move ahead.