Mar 10, 2012
Posted to the Moncton Free Press
The purpose of the Senate is to To review and approve legislation passed by Parliament before sending it for execution by the Governor-General of Canada; to initiate non-financial legislation; to serve on and support Parliamentary committees, enquiries and other legislative practices.
The value of the Senate is that it is constituted differently from the House of Commons; simply electing the senate means that you've created essentially two separate bodies constitutes in the same way. An elected Senate is thus redundant.
But let's not forget that the senate is composed of people selected by elected representatives; it's not like they are born peers. It is a mechanism to allow elected representatives to appoint legislators who would never be elected under normal circumstances, a recognition of the limitations of the electoral process and a means of offering a balance to it.
An elected Senate, moreover, raises questions regarding the proportionality of representation. As currently constituted, the Senate ensures a significant representation for provinces with smaller populations. An elected Senate makes this disproportionality very difficult to maintain. Small regions, like Atlantic Canada, cannot expect to maintain the same number of seats in an elected Senate.
I do not consider it worth the time and effort to abolish the Senate, though if anti-Senate support is so significant, I would rather see it abolished rather than converted into an elected body.
But those calling for an elected Senate should consider well the question of how we incorporate non-politicians into the legislative process, of how we ensure that scientists, artists and even (admittedly partisan) journalists have a voice at the highest level of government.