An appetite for reform

Senate reform will likely gain renewed prominence at this weekend's Conservative party convention in Calgary.

There is irony in the fact that this weekend’s Conservative party convention is being held at the fountainhead of Senate reform, while at the same time the Upper House remains mired in controversy of historic proportion.

It was in Calgary that an erstwhile young leader of the Reform Party found his most sympathetic ear for a reformed Senate. Preston Manning didn’t just want to change it, he promised to reinvent it as “equal, elected and effective.”

There was appetite for change. The Senate was far from equal, Manning said, particularly when a province like New Brunswick was allowed 10 senators (one for every 75,000 citizens), while Alberta had only six (one for every 661,000).

And it was hardly effective. Rather than generating meaningful work, it was a retirement home for party supporters and failed politicians. (And if that argument was easy to make in the late 1980s, it was easier a decade later when it was learned Senator Andy Thompson was in fact living in Mexico and showing up in Ottawa just long enough to punch his Senate timecard.)

As for elected, Alberta warmed to that notion immediately, becoming the first (and only) province to elect the person the provincial government would then recommend to the prime minister for appointment to the Senate.

The dream of Senate reform has softened as Manning’s Reform party morphed into the present-day Conservative Party. But with Manning’s former policy advisor Stephen Harper at the helm, it remains a popular topic. Indeed, Harper’s latest attempt was shot down last week by the Quebec Court of Appeal. The ruling confirmed one of the most difficult aspects of Senate Reform; that significant change would mean either garnering support from seven provinces (containing half the country’s population), or reopening the constitution – something few politicians have any desire to do.

Which leaves the squalid little display we’ve been witnessing in Ottawa. The latest word is that a vote to expel Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau likely won’t happen until after the Conservative convention this weekend. That will mean the 3,000 delegates expected will have plenty of opportunity to weigh in on the topic.

Some will undoubtedly question Harper’s ham-fisted handling of the affair.

But another narrative likely to emerge will have the familiarity of an old friend: That the Senate is an antiquated and obsolete institution, and that the public has a renewed appetite for change.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two ejected from single vehicle crash in Seabird Island

Landing zone for medevac has been requested

(File photo)
Semi truck and car collide on Highway 1 near Popkum

Slow lane eastbound is now closed as crews wait for tow trucks

Treeplanters from Shakti Reforestation are adding to the forests of Mount Thom Park. (City of Chilliwack)
Treeplanting project in Mount Thom Park will keep Chilliwack forest resilient

So far they’ve planted 2,000 of 80,000 trees planned for popular park on Promontory

Fire damage is seen in the windows of an apartment on Yale Road on April 21, 2021 following a fire there the night before. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack Fire Dept. reminds people again to have working smoke alarms following 2nd blaze in 2 days

All six halls responded to bedroom fire in apartment on Yale Road above restaurant in Chilliwack

Bert Brink Wildlife Management Area was the site of illegally dumped drywall reported on April 19, 2021. (Michael Hill photo)
Another cache of dumped drywall in Chilliwack prompts suggestion to block access

Pile of drywall likely asbestos containing discarded in wildlife management area

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
B.C. teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. university rowing coach ‘deeply sorry’ after complaints

Barney Williams says he’s been committed to ensuring no other member of the roster had a similar experience

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. girl’s wish granted as her cat came back, two years later

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stu Burgess is operations manager for Golden Ears and Rolley Lake Provincial Parks. (The News files)
Golden Ears park camping to be limited to those in local health region

Fraser Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health now considered one region

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)
Thousands enjoy B.C. park with warnings about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident wants Columbia River better protected

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Most Read