Sunday, September 13, 2015

Senate reform made easy

The following is a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen in response to its editorial,  Mulcair's Senate 'strategy' lacking, as submitted.

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Under the Harper government, many pieces of Federal legislation have been struck down by the Supreme Court, having been deemed unconstitutional. If our Conservative-dominated Senate had been doing its job, then these errant bills wouldn't have been allowed out the door without drastic changes, if at all.

But as the Mike Duffy affair has shown, the current Senate intelligentsia views itself as the Prime Ministerial sock puppet, as evidenced by Senator Carolyn Olsen-Stewart's cringeworthy email to Nigel Wright as the scandal was still unfolding, in which she assured him that she's “always ready to do exactly what is asked.”

Under no circumstances should a sitting senator ever feel obliged to swear an oath of fealty to a sitting Prime Minister's Chief of Staff.

Given Harper's well-known penchant for keeping cabinet members of his own House leashed and muzzled at all times, and also given that our first-past-the-post electoral system is democracy of the 'kinda/sorta' variety, it is critical that we have an Upper House with a fiery streak of independence and an unbending commitment to 'getting it right' on behalf of Canadians. The Senate should be guarding the constitutionality of our government like a rabid pit bull, and not be falling into dereliction of duty by allowing itself to be the Lower House's frisky little lap dog.

And so if we're looking to pick the low-hanging fruit first, perhaps an initial round of Senate reform should consist of Upper House members simply doing their job adequately and professionally, rather than Supreme Court justices having to do it for them.

James Deagle
Ottawa, Ontario