Sober Second Thought
When it comes to the Senate, everyone has a solution and everyone's solution is usually based on how they see the role of the Senate. Most people fall into one of three categories:
1. The All Powerful Senate: "The Senate should be instrumental in providing a check on Parliament."
2. The Spell Check Senate: "The Senate does a lot of valuable work in committees and refines a lot of bills"
3. The Appendix Senate: "The Senate is useless. It's where old white Liberals go to die."
If you fall into category three, you probably think it should be abolished. And I can sympathize with this group. The Senate is an antiquated and, to be honest, somewhat embarrassing institution so I wouldn't shed any tears over it's demise. And besides, there are still enough other patronage gigs I'm sure I could snare down the line (I hear Denmark is lovely in the spring...).
That said, I don't think the Senate is completely useless. While the House of Commons doesn't need a check, but the Senate does serve a role in revising bills and they do contribute a lot to government through committees. Senators have published a lot of really good policy reports over the years (most of which have been ignored). If there was a way to change the composition of the Senate, I'd have no problem with it's existence. One "As Prime Minister" essay I read a while back suggested selecting Senators from the leaders in their fields. So, you'd have Senators from education, law, the arts, sport, trades, etc. While the idea screams "class warfare" a little too much for my liking, it's intriguing. My all-time favourite idea is of a "lottery Senate" where you'd pick average Canadians to be your Senators, similar to how jurors are selected. That way you'd ensure a fair representation of all demographics and backgrounds. We saw the Citizen's Assembly work well in BC and I don't see any reason this idea couldn't.
Finally, this brings us to Harper's plan of elected Senators and, I must say, I don't like it. Electing Senators gives the Senate more legitimacy, while at the same time keeping the regional inequities in place. An elected Senate would also see fewer females, minorities, and people from diverse backgrounds, instead giving us a carbon copy of the House of Commons.
Unless a Prime Minister is willing to open up the constitution and make wholesale changes, a few tweaks to the Senate will only create more problems than they solve.
(Thus concludes an entire post on Senate reform, without a single Michael Fortier joke. I think I deserve some sort of prize for that.)