A step toward reform

There is some irony that as Liberal MLA John Les introduced a Bill that might lead to the election of Senators in B.C., Prime Minister Stephen Harper was appointing new members to the upper house.

Ironic because it was the Reform Party – precursor to the  current Conservatives – that brought the idea of substantial Senate reform closer to reality than ever before.

It was, in fact, a key part of the Reform platform: A Senate that was equal, elected, and effective.

Although that concept of the “Triple E” Senate has since been tempered by political realities (like reopening the constitutional debate), reform remains a goal for many politicians.

Of course, what to do with the Senate has been a Canadian pastime for decades. Many, including the opposition NDP see little use for this “house of sober, second thought” and would rather see it abolished.

Other see it as a chance to improve the democratic process in Canada.

John Les is one of those. “I think by far the majority of people would prefer to elect a Senate,” Les says. (See story, page 6.)

He’s right. For too long the Canadian Senate has had all the appearance of a private club, where its promise of lifetime membership was seen as the ultimate reward for party fidelity.

It has been political tradition for the Prime Minister of the day to stock the Senate with selections who were sympathetic to the governing party’s views.

Prime Minster Harper faced that same accusation when he recently appointed three new members to Senate – all Conservative candidates who were defeated in the recent federal election.

Still, there is hope. It is expected that the Conservatives will introduce changes that will give provinces greater say over how candidates for the Senate are chosen.

The Private Member’s Bill introduced by MLA Les, serves as an important step toward that necessary reform.

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