A suggestion to fix the Senate and end patronage appointments

The prime minister can fix the problem, all by himself, by agreeing to appoint senators selected within provinces.

Editor: Lately there have been calls for the abolition of the Canadian Senate. I think that would be a mistake, but clearly the Senate needs fixing. I have one suggestion.

The Senate serves a purpose. It reviews policy issues outside of partisan elected politics. It can check the unfettered power of the prime minister. It is supposed to speak for regional interests, not those of the prime minister.

Each province has a fixed number of senators. Under the constitution, they are appointed by the prime minister.

Amending the constitution is effectively impossible. A “Triple E Senate” (Equal, Elected, Effective) proposal was defeated with the 1992 Charlottetown Accord Referendum, perhaps because that accord attempted too many other things.

But the provinces will never give up what they have, without a deal back.

In B.C., that would require a referendum, which would likely defeat any side deals.

Senate elections would not work, without reallocation of the numbers, because the underrepresented provinces (B.C. and Alberta) would be further underrepresented as the elected senators, rightfully, exercised their elected powers.

So here is a suggestion.

The prime minister could agree that he would only appoint senators from names submitted by the provinces.

Those senators would truly be loyal to their home provinces, and the Senate would cease to be a home for the prime minister’s loyalists.

This can be done on the commitment of the prime minister alone. If he is serious about Senate reform, he just has to do it.

Ian MacLeod,


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