Thursday, September 07, 2006

Harper Pushing Senate Reform

Legislation is coming in the fall to create a process to elect members of the Senate for fixed terms.
- Full report at the Star website.

"Liberal senators are leery of the term-limit bill."

Gee, I wonder why?

More from the PMO.

Update: Interesting take on the situation by BT Braaten.


neo said...

you say the word "senate", my blood pressure spikes.

SUZANNE said...

I am thrilled Harper is at least STARTING the process of Senate Reform. I'm a happy camper.

If those Liberals DARE thwart reform...Grrrr....

Joanne (True Blue) said...

They just said on Global that he made history today addressing the Senate committee. No PM had ever done that before.

Anonymous said...

I saw our PM on tv this afternoon and was struck by how poised he was and how he answered each question clearly and directly.What a breath of fresh air!

Red Tory said...

Not surprisingly, I have a slightly different take on the issue.

Riley Hennessey said...

this is the greatest move I think I've seen. It shows Harper is on the prowl and is committed to senate reform.

I was very pleased to see him not only take a stand, but actually testify before a committee. It shows balls.

Senate reform is a great thing and this is going to have ripples on how Harper governs. If anyone thought the Cons would come back deflated or unprepared for the fall session, think again.

I think today's declaration had an intent to put the opposition parties on notice. "Get your shit together, cause I'm ready to play ball".

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I think you're right, Riley. He always seems one step ahead of everyone else. The only ones who will have a problem with Senate reform will likely be the senators themselves.

PGP said...

Let me say ...Hoooray!
I really hope this can be accomplished.

Red Tory said...

Absolutely ZERO thoughtful input here it seems. Just “Yay! Go, Steve, Go!”

SUZANNE said...

We're happy with what Harper is doing. Why would we waste time making long posts?

Red Tory said...

Suzanne –- Yes, that’s it. The KISS principle. Keep it Short Stupid. Don't bother putting any thought into to the matter of considering what the ramifications are. Fehh... that would just be a waste of valuable time.

Surecure said...

Red Tory: If you are looking for more than shouts of joy, here you go...

While you are certainly correct that there are serious issues to be taken into consideration when it comes to Senate reform and that it is very much an overwhelmingly complex issue, none of that matters until the first step is taken. And the first step that would be consistant, across-the-board, no matter what solution is presented is a term limit.

No matter how you slice it and dice it, before any large framework Senate reform can be achieved, the first step is to ensure that Senators do not have eternal positioning within the Senate. Until term limits are defined, any large scale framework developed for actually electing Senators is futile to the point of being pathetic. Therefore, the fact that Harper wants to start off by putting this measure in place only makes sense.

What can be so wrong than to recognize the one single consistant measure of ANY Senate reform framework and to at least get that part done? I can't' see anything wrong with it and -- if it is actually passed -- will give Harper credit for at least getting the ball rolling... something that no other PM has done.

Can you at least acknowledge that positive aspect? Or would you rather have no change at all until every little detail is worked out? Me... I see term limits as being the only logical first step in any Senate reform.

And if it takes making baby-steps to accomplish a larger goal, I'll take that every day of the week and twice on Sunday over the absolute and complete inaction we have seen on this issue by all previous governments before. Considering the precarious situation that a full constitutional debate on massive Senate reform would create, I think baby-steps are the only way to get it done anyhow.

If you think about it logically, a large-scale framework that has to get Senate and Provincial approval would turn this into an all-or-nothing situation that would most assuredly result in no change at all. But a step by step process at least results in some change over time... would you rather have that or no change at all?

Surecure said...

Furthermore to my first posting, creating a term limit before enacting a larger scale reform also puts a fire under everybody's tails in order to actually achieve a true, sweeping reform of the Senate. Once Senators and MP's realize that the Senate will eventually empty itself, that will put more pressure on everybody to find a solution.

As it is right now, with no term limits there is absolutely no pressure anywhere to have any type of Senate reform. Once there is a realization that the Senate seats are changing hands frequently, it will become not just a nice notion (as it is right now) but an absolute imperative to reform how the Senate works.

Real pressure creates real change. Fancy notions do not. Perhaps the genius of this simple move to enact term limits is that it has an unseen value of creating a situation where Senate reform becomes a necessity. And if the past indicates anything, it is that government seldom acts unless it has no choice.

Maybe term limits will force Parliament and the Senate to realize they have no choice but to get the work done.

Cherniak_WTF said...

Suzanne, what are the goals of the Senate reform?
Cheering on something when you give no reason why comes off as being mindless.

Surecure, why is this reform needed? You speak about baby step (true that) but what are the goals.
The Senate works in it's present form. That does not mean it cannot be improved.

Term limits are in itself meaningless without the big picture (we don't need every mind-numbing details)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Surecure, I agree with you, and I might add that I heard that Harper was doing as much as he could at this point without opening up the whole Constitution, which would have been a real quagmire.

Baby steps.

Surecure said...

cherniak_wtf: The Senate does not work simply because it answers to no one.

This country's system of government is based on the concept of democracy whereby the government is accountable to its citizens. To have an unelected body of members who will never answer to anybody (and can remain a part of that body without impedence) through which all legislation must pass is ridiculous.

Either the Senate must be accountable to the citizens of this country or it serves no purpose. A term limit forces the Senate to be aware of the will of its citizenry.

Personally, I don't know why we even need a Senate. We already have one elected body, so I don't see the purpose of the other. But, if a Senate is desired if only to hold a certain degree of checks and balances to the power of the government, then the Senate itself must be accountable to the people.

The first step in that is creating term limits. I still haven't heard a single person say why term limits themselves are a bad idea. How about you c_wtf? Got any reason why a term limit itself is a bad idea?

Cherniak_WTF said...

Surecure, term limits are not bad in itself, what I want to see is the complete context.

I find that the Senate does a decent job. These Senators are much less partisan than some make them out to be. Some of the work they have done is very good.

Add that they would surely guard against any radical ideas shoved our way by political parties in power. This work to protect Canadians from majority party (it can be Left, Right, Center) passing laws that would destroy Canada.

Removing part of the public populist vote, let's us have Senators that maybe more qualified than voting in some publicity happy hack.

It's not that I don't think that we should have a debate on this subject - but it does get tiring to hear Big Daddy Harper threaten elections over every subject he brings up... His grandstanding removes much of the legitimacy of what he would like to see. It may play well politically but beyond that does not advance anything.

The two goals that I seem to hear are:
- more democratic
- different representation

How does the term limit address this?
It does not.

Surecure said...

cherniak_wtf: You talk about how you have seen lots of good work done by the Senate. Could you show work that the Senate did that wasn't already accomplished by the House of Commons?

I can't.

However, I disagree with you completely that term limits do not address either a more democratic or different representation in the Senate. In fact, without term limits you have neither democracy nor differing representation!

Firstly, if a Senator who is not democratically chosen by the people but rather appointed by a singular entity in the government has absolutely no limitation in regards to how long they can remain part of the Senate, there is absolutely no democracy. Democracy involves the ability for the people to first determine who represents them and furthermore whether their government representatives should remain in power. An unelected leader who has no defined terms is a 100% direct contradiction of democracy!

If you can point to me how it is not, I will be most impressed.

As for differing representation, how can we have differing representation so long as there is no means by which the citizens can prevent somebody from being a Senator for life? The whole idea of somebody being appointed to the Senate from which they cannot be removed in any way except voluntarily is called consistent representation... which is the the exact opposite of differing representation.

How does a lack of term limits in any way represent democracy or different representation?
I'm sorry, but as I have clearly shown it does not.

All reform in the Senate starts with term limits. It is the only consistant and clear necessity when it comes to reforming the Senate. Every plan I have read by anybody regarding reforming the Senate includes some type of term limit. Thus, it is the only agreeable necessity.

So, why is it that we should be against it? If this one point is in complete agreeance and will ultimately create a situation whereby true Senate reform becomes more than just talk but in fact a necessity by design, how can it be such a bad thing?

Cherniak_WTF said...

surecure, I'll need a little more time to answer your questions - I'm not ignoring them but with work and kids... well I hope you understand...

One quick point: Senator for life, they have to retire at the age of 75.....

liberal supporter said...

Term limits, shorter than the current one (age 75), only serve to make the senate much more a creature of the politics of the day. We would see any two term government replacing the entire upper house. That may be a good thing, but it makes the senate more redundant in my view. It allows a government who happened to get elected for a short time to appoint a whole slate that will reflect their views for another eight, and half that effect is gone in four.

The current system rewards longevity in power with longer lasting effects. Right or wrong, that provides a kind of stability to the system.

Witness the situation in the US where the Supreme Court is appointed for life, and can represent a lasting effect of the president of the day. A two term limit on the president can counterbalance this, but decades of defacto law making (all judges that make decisions are activist by definition, in my view) does flow from a president who appoints a few of them.

That kind of stability in the US has its merits. With the current Senate here, we get a similar effect of governments of the day reaching into the future, but there is a big difference. The Senate does not make laws on its own, and does not render decisions that become defacto law. They can always be overruled by the Commons, it just takes longer, and may force the debate in directions the government of the day dislikes.

So that disadvantage of appointment for a long term is negated.

If the overall plan involves elected senators, there would be a term of office. Why should they be required to have only so many terms?

I think it's a great idea for the government of the day to have the public's input into Senate appointments. Having votes that the government agrees to appoint is one way, and a good way in the long term.

If we were to have general election of senators, it would only make sense to me with a much longer term of office, perhaps something between 10 and 20 years. Then it could be something where it is rare to run for a second term.

Surecure said...

cherniak_wtf: "Senator for life, they have to retire at the age of 75....."

Hate to point it out, but the average life expectency in Canada is 79.

So I'm off by a whole 4 years... ;-)

Surecure said...

liberal supporter:

While I don't see how the Senate could be any more redundant (or pointless... as you indicate, they can be overidden), I think the idea of a 10 to 20 year term limit is kind of out there. 10 years would be my maximum term as I can't think of any public sector jobs that offer that kind of untouchable job security... let alone one whose powers have the ability to help/harm every citizen in this country. After 10 years, if a person is doing a good job I can't see how a job review by the employer (read: Canadian public) is such a bad thing.

I think that the 8 years proposed by Harper is right in line with your 10 year suggestion. And it does help to alleviate the "politics of the day" type of situation you are talking about without creating a "politics of yesterday" situation like the current one. After all, the whole concept of democracy is based on the will of the population at the time, so we can't be too quick to criticize the so called "politics of the day" unless we are willing to abandon our democratic rights.

And if a Senator proves his/her merit in the first term, I don't see a need for any reelection limitations.