Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Pierre Claude Nolin Strikes Back

2:35pm: Senator Nolin (QC) is breaking ranks with his Conservative caucus and speaking out against electing senators. Whew! It's been a while coming and I'm glad he's finally found his public voice on this issue.

That's four dissident Torys so far.

25 comments:

Volkov said...

Ha, I never even knew there were dissenters! It's slightly ironic that their fairly invulnerable position in the unelected Senate makes them immune to Harper's intimidation power, like he has over his MPs.

Koby said...

Harper's actions could either transform an unelected political body with no real power into a largely unelected political body with real political power or commit Canadians to the farcical and expensive act of electing people to office who hold no real power. Always content to play the Tin Man and Lion to Conservatives scarecrow, the Liberals remain largely mum on the subject.

I like to see the Senate abolished.

If not all at once, I would like to see someone do a Harper in reverse and simply stop appointing senators until the upper champer is all but gone.

RuralSandi said...

Koby seems to think that parliament never makes errors or misses something important that could be problems down the road - this is simple minded.

R. G. Harvie said...

Just curious.

Why is it that the same sorts who are all up in arms about "proportional representation", are, at the same time, saying that elected senators will just be a "popularity contest"?

Why vote at all? Just have a poll and then allow each party to appoint the members of commons.

I mean, otherwise, it's just a "popularity contest" isn't it?

Koby said...

koby thinks that bureaucrats could catch those errors at a fraction of the cost.

Rural Sandi, wrongly, thinks that a triple E senate will still function well as a fact checking body.

Koby said...

Why is it that the same sorts who are all up in arms about "proportional representation", are, at the same time, saying that elected senators will just be a "popularity contest"?

Who is saying that?


Anyway given most populace provinces more seats means less than nothing if one is at the same time transforming the Senate into an "effective" body.

Giving the 135,851 people in PEI the same number of “effective” senators, as per the American Triple E Senate model, as 12,160,282 Ontarians is beyond stupid and grossly undemocratic. Equally silly is having one "effective" Senator for every 72,997 New Brunswick residents (10 senators in total) versus one Senator for every 685, 581 BC residents (6 senators in total). And that is what the current configuration gives us.

R. G. Harvie said...

Are we suggesting that the current Senate isn't exercising any authority?

If so, the perpetuation of a body of power made up of pure political appointments should make anyone concerned.

IE) Imagine if the Conservatives are in power for another 10 years. Good luck pushing any controversial Liberal government legislation thereafter.

Skinny Dipper said...

I think the only senators that will vote for Harper's proposal are the ones that Harper appointed. Most of the others will vote against Harper's proposal for an elected Senate. Those senators who do oppose will state that they are not against an elected senate; Harper just needs to consult with the provinces through constitutional means.

Volkov said...

Koby,

There are more ways of reforming the Senate other than the Triple E method, just so you're aware.

Shiner said...

Why is it that the same sorts who are all up in arms about "proportional representation", are, at the same time, saying that elected senators will just be a "popularity contest"?

Assuming that this imaginary character you just invented is here right now, I'd imagine they would claim they see the purpose of an unelected house to balance the excesses of an elected house that often falls victim to absurd populism.

Koby said...

Constitutionally senators have all kinds of power and every once in a blue moon the Senate has stalled major pieces of legislation (e.g., free trade and the GST). However the aformetioned instances of stalling are so rare they are the exceptions that prove just how "ineffective" the senate truely is. Moreover, no senate I can think of has pursued a legislative agenda of its own accord; opposing legislation is one thing; purposing legislation is quite another. The reason the senate is not an "effective" body is that senators are not elected and as such lack legitacmacy. Furthermore, senators are members of legmitate federal political parties and the parties that they belong to are loath to have their unelected members excersise real authority least their actions undermine the party. Finally, the fact that it is the ruling federal party and not, say, provincial governments that appoint senators defines a clear pecking order, with the Senate answerable to the House.

Koby said...

"the perpetuation of a body of power made up of pure political appointments should make anyone concerned."

It is a waste of money, but no it not that much of a concern. What is a worry is that the Senate could ever become an "effective".

Koby said...

There are more ways of reforming the Senate other than the Triple E method, just so you're aware.

Come again, I am aware. Off the top, I spoke of Harper's piece meal reform.

Volkov said...

Koby,

Of course his reform places are less than adequate. In fact, they're completely useless and playing to a base that clearly doesn't understand the complexities of House reform. It's silly populist rhetoric - but it doesn't mean its completely off the mark.

Senate reform is drastically needed and I'd welcome reform over abolishment. At least with reform we work towards a standard we want, whether its "sober second thought" or provincial representation or whatever, instead of giving up on it and handing power over to bureaucrats who would end up doing the exact same thing the current unreformed Senate does.

Shiner said...

You're absolutely wrong Koby. Anyone remotely familiar with the work that goes on in Ottawa knows that the Senate has much more to do than just stop legislation. Most Senators work damned hard to ensure legislation that ultimately gets out of Parliament makes sense and is for the best. I don't know where this received wisdom that Senators do absolutely nothing comes from. Yes, there have been Senators who have abused their position, but the same goes for MPs.

Shiner said...

Senate reform is drastically needed and I'd welcome reform over abolishment.

"Drastically"? Why? What jaw-dropping excess or corruption has taken place that Senate reform is so drastically needed?

Volkov said...

Shiner,

If you haven't noticed, the Senate tends to have a funny, slowly-replaced partisan bias placed in it. The fact that the Conservative Senate will manage to stay strong years after the government which appointed these Senators meets its demise is something appalling. It's like an extension of that government past its democratic mandate. It's not something I think Canadians appreciate, and even if it were, why not leave that choice up to the voters, rather than the various governments of the day?

I think the Senate itself is wonderful, and I admire many Senators. But the fact is that we are one of the few Western countries that has a Senate which is not accountable whatsoever to the citizens of the country. It's barely accountable to the government. It's not a good situation, and it needs to be changed, at least somewhat.

Shiner said...

If you haven't noticed, the Senate tends to have a funny, slowly-replaced partisan bias placed in it. The fact that the Conservative Senate will manage to stay strong years after the government which appointed these Senators meets its demise is something appalling. It's like an extension of that government past its democratic mandate. It's not something I think Canadians appreciate, and even if it were, why not leave that choice up to the voters, rather than the various governments of the day?

Which is by design. The Senate ensures that the views of the country are all represented, even in a majority government. If governments alternate every 4 years, it ensures nobody can ever run the country into the ground in one shot (or at least makes it more difficult). If the Conservatives can stay in power for 100 years, the Senate becomes their's and accurately represents the wishes of the Canadian population. I don't know why everyone assumes that the Senate isn't working the way it's supposed to. This is exactly how it should function.

But the fact is that we are one of the few Western countries that has a Senate which is not accountable whatsoever to the citizens of the country. It's barely accountable to the government. It's not a good situation, and it needs to be changed, at least somewhat.

I don't know why that matters. I could give a damn how other countries operate unless they're demonstrably better. In this case Canada has one of the most stable governments and policy environments anywhere. What improvements on our system does the abolishment or election of Senators accomplish if the fact of their election isn't an end in itself (which it isn't for me).

Shiner said...

I'll add that the Senate, the entire system, depends on Canadians having at least a smidge of intelligence. The Founders assumed Canadians wouldn't stand for a Duffy in the Senate. An overly partisan government would face the wrath of the voters. They didn't count on insane region based parties or stupid voters. I don't, however, believe the system should be changed just to reflect Canadians' laziness and ignorance.

Terence said...

I say we need proportional representation in parliamnet before we need a reformed senate.
PR would give voice to all voters and allow for more open debate in parliament through more free votes.

Shiner said...

I say we need proportional representation in parliamnet before we need a reformed senate.
PR would give voice to all voters and allow for more open debate in parliament through more free votes.


This would seem the logical course of action if someone is really concerned about democracy. The anger and frustration that the Senate attracts is strange given that the House of Commons isn't completely democratic. That said, I'm as against PR as I am a reformed Senate. ;)

Volkov said...

Shiner,

Which is by design. The Senate ensures that the views of the country are all represented, even in a majority government.

Seeing as how there are no NDP or Bloc or Green Senators, and only two groups who vie for power, you can barely claim that the "views of the country are all represented." That's utter BS. And besides, why not pin it to an elected and accountable, note that key word, Senate which Canadians can decide for themselves?

I don't know why everyone assumes that the Senate isn't working the way it's supposed to.

The problem is that we don't think its working the way we want it to - not how its "supposed" to.

In this case Canada has one of the most stable governments and policy environments anywhere.

Ha! Our recent governments have been "stable" and have presented good "policy environments"? Really? 'Cause I think you're not paying attention enough to the goings on up on the Hill.

I'll add that the Senate, the entire system, depends on Canadians having at least a smidge of intelligence. The Founders assumed Canadians wouldn't stand for a Duffy in the Senate. An overly partisan government would face the wrath of the voters. They didn't count on insane region based parties or stupid voters. I don't, however, believe the system should be changed just to reflect Canadians' laziness and ignorance.

Ah, the old elitist argument of "the voters are too stupid to leave it up to them." A typical response, if anything.

The fact is that Canadians, "stupid" or not, deserve a voice in one of our chambers. They currently don't have any decision making powers over it, except through an indirect and usually disappointing method of partisan appointment. This is a democracy where our chambers are, or at least should be, accountable to the voters. Both of them, whether or not you like the decisions they make.

Koby said...

Volkov: "In fact, they're completely useless"

No they are not less than useless and that is the problem.

As I said above, Harper's actions could either transform an unelected political body with no real power into a largely unelected political body with real political power or commit Canadians to the farcical and expensive act of electing people to office who hold no real power. Always content to play the Tin Man and Lion to Conservatives scarecrow, the Liberals remain largely mum on the subject.

Volkov: "At least with reform we work towards a standard we want, whether its "sober second thought" or provincial representation or whatever, instead of giving up on it and handing power over to bureaucrats who would end up doing the exact same thing the current unreformed Senate does."

Let us not candy coat what the senate was designed to do by calling it chamber of "sober second thought." The Canadian and US senates were both modeled after the Britain’s House of Lords. Having a second house was designed to serve two purposes; the first was to serve as an "elitist check" against the will of the people. The other purpose, of course, was to provide regional representation. Smaller states and Provinces wanted their interests protected before agreeing to form a Federation. For example, the Southern States wanted to make sure the Northern States, were most Americans lived in and live now, would not be able to abolish slavery.

To think that we need to reform the senate so that it again serves the second purpose is without merrit.

First such an argument rests on a false contrast; seats in the House of Commons are supposed to be assigned on basis of population, but in actuality that is not the case. Consider the 905. There are currently 4 plus million living in the 905 and there are currently 32 seats for an average of just over 127,000 people per riding. There are 6 ridings with over a 140,000 people in the 905, Bramalea - Gore - Malton (152,698) Brampton West (170,422) Halton (151,943), Mississauga - Erindale (143,361) Oak Ridges - Markham (169,642) and Vaughan (154,206). By contrast there are 4.5 million people in Sask, Man, NWT, Nuv, Yuk, PEI, NS, NFLD, and NB and there are 62 seats for an average of 72,000 people per riding. Moreover, there is but one riding in the 9, Selkirk Interlake (90,807), with over 90,000 people. Given current growth trends, there will be more people in the 905 than the aforementioned provinces and territories by 2011. Given population growth, Harper would have to give Ontario alone another 70 seats to make things half way equal.

Second, the people living in Canada’s less populated provinces have a mechanism to assure that regional concerns are addressed; it is called provincial jurisdiction and provincial representation. By the very nature of living in a province with a small population, the 135,851 people in PEI have plenty of ways of addressing regional concerns that are not available to, for example, the 136 470 people living in Mississauga - Brampton South.

Shiner said...

Seeing as how there are no NDP or Bloc or Green Senators, and only two groups who vie for power, you can barely claim that the "views of the country are all represented." That's utter BS.>


Oh bugger yourself. There are two governing parties in Canada, get over it. The Senate represents every elected government over a generation.

Ha! Our recent governments have been "stable" and have presented good "policy environments"? Really? 'Cause I think you're not paying attention enough to the goings on up on the Hill.

Comparatively speaking, definitely. We're faced with a huge cleavage in Canadian politics. The Senate is one of the checks that ensures the government of the day can't do anything completely out to lunch thanks to political paralysis.

Ah, the old elitist argument of "the voters are too stupid to leave it up to them." A typical response, if anything.

You're damned bloody right they are. I for one have no problem being called an "elitist", you should look the word up. Canadians don't "deserve" anything, I don't know where you would get the impression they would. A form of government was laboriously created from disparate interests based on an examination of what worked and what didn't work. It has served us pretty well over the past 150 years. It ain't broke and there's no reason to fix it. The only thing that's broken is the electoral landscape of Canada, and there are no changes to the system that can be made to fix that.

Gayle said...

If nothing else, this thread demonstrates that if there is to be senate reform, there ought to first be an actual discussion in this country about whether that reform is needed, and if so, what is needed.

I have yet to hear Prime Minister Harper come out and say we should have a Triple E Senate in Canada. Who even knows if that is what he wants? I am quite certain, however, that he does want certain parts of his base to think he supports a Triple E Senate - just don't tell Ontario and Quebec.

These so-called reforms are dangerous, something the liberal party has been saying for a while now.

The problem is no one from the media seems to be interested in treating this in an adult way. When the liberals had the majority, the senate was endlessly referred to as the liberal dominated unelected unaccountable senate. Now what do they call it? What will happen if the conservative dominated unelected unaccountable senate starts blocking bills passed by the majority of the House?

If Harper truly wanted to reform the senate, he would treat this seriously. The fact is he is just using it to raise money for the CPC, and to attack the liberals.