Reforms Are Need In Canadas Government

Reforms Are Need In Canada's Government

Canada is a country who's future is in question. Serious political issues have
recently overshadowed economic concerns. Constitutional debate over unity and
Quebec's future in the country is in the heart of every Canadian today.
Continuing conflicts concerning Aboriginal self-determination and treatment are
reaching the boiling point. How can Canada expect to pull herself out of this
seemingly bottomless pit? Are Canadians looking at the right people to lay their
blame? In the 1992 Referendum, "The Charlottetown Accord" addressed all of these
issues, giving Canadians the opportunity to finally let the dead horse be - but
oh, if it were that simple. A red faced Brian Mulroney pontificated that a vote
against the accord would be one against Canada. Canadians would essentially be
expressing the desire for Quebec to remain excluded from the constitution. How
could the Right-Honorable Mulroney expect anyone to vote on a document that
contained so much more than simply the issue of Quebec sovereignty? Ironically,
hidden deep within "The Charlottetown Accord," was the opportunity for Canadians
to make a difference; to change the way the government ran, giving less power to
the politicians and more to the people. This was the issue of Senate Reform.

Why is Senate Reform such an important issue? An argument could be made that a
political body, which has survived over one hundred years in Canada, must
obviously work, or it would have already been reformed. This is simply not true,
and this becomes apparent when analyzing the current Canadian Senate.

In its inception, the Senate was designed to play an important role in the
Government of Canada, representing various regions of the federation. Quebec,
Ontario, the maritimes and the west were allotted twenty-four Senators each.
Considered to be the heart of the federal system, the Senate was to be a crucial
balancing mechanism between Upper and Lower Canada (Mallory pg. 247). It was
important for there to be equal representation, and not representation by
population. Senators were to be appointed, in order to ensure that the House was
independent and had the freedom to act on its own. As well, Senators had to be
seen as a conservative restraint on the young, the impressionable, and the
impulsive in the House of Commons (Van Loon and Whittington pg. 625). They
therefore had to be over thirty years old and own property exceeding four
thousand dollars in the province they represented. This idea was called 'second
sober thought.' As this independent, intellectual body, the Senate's main
function wasto ensure that all power did not come from one source. In theory,
this prevented a dictatorial government, since any action (such as the passing
of a Bill into law) had to receive the 'O.K.' from the Senate. This was
protecting Canada's democracy. In 1949, six addition seats were given to
Newfoundland, and in 1975, two more seats were added to give the Northwest
Territories and the Yukon representation; a total of 104 Senators.

Over 100 years later, it is clear that the Canadian Senate does serve the
function for which it had originally been designed. In fact, it is flawed in
many ways. Firstly, the Senate does not have a voice to set the priorities for
the Cabinet, and it lacks the expertise to handle policy making. Secondly, since
the party in power appoints Senators when vacancies occur, the tendency has been
to appoint people with connections to that party. This means that the Senate is
neither representative of all ideologies nor reflective of the people's interest.
No member of the Senate, for example, reflects the New Democratic Party's view,
since that party has never been in power. Therefore that portion of Canada who
supports the NDP is certainly not represented. How legitimate is the Senate when
its members are appointed and not elected? Thirdly, the Senate is not
necessarily comprised of members with political experience, and this brings
about the question of efficiency; how effective can the Senate be if its
membersare not all comprised of 'experienced' politicians?

Another flaw in the Senate is that, due to appointment, the Upper House has been
viewed as an old-folks home for retired politicians, having demonstrated
faithful service for the party in power for many years. Many appointments to the
Senate are rewards for 'a job well done'. This, as well as the fact that
Senators are appointed until they reach seventy-five years of age, has caused
the Senate to appear more like a 'Party-Members-Only' club, and not the
independent force for which it was designed. Sadly, it is the citizens of Canada
who are paying the