May 162013
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Abolition is no more complicated than reform, and more permanent.

from Democracy Watch

The Senate is unelected, unaccountable, unrepresentative, secretive, unethical and undemocratic — and a waste of your money.  Many senators have their jobs only because they are friends of, or did favours for, a Prime Minister.  They have their jobs (with you paying their salary) until age 75 even if they do little or nothing.   Democracy Watch argues that shutting down the Senate is the easiest, least costly, and best solution to frequent Senate scandals. Constant, repeated  attempts to clean up the Senate have failed for the past 145 years.

Click here to join with Canadians across the country who want to send a strong message to key politicians. Tell them that you want them to stop playing games and immediately take action to shut down the Senate!

Currently, RCMP and prosecutors are considering criminal charges against three senators, in the wake of recent scandals about fraudulent expenses.  While those senators fight orders to pay back the money, another senator is still under audit for possible fraud, and the question remains whether Mike Duffy can represent PEI if he does not actually live there. Nobody knows how many more cases there are. And that’s the problem. The Senate is a secretive closed club that you have to have money and own property to join, whose members almost always protect each other from disclosure and accountability.

Senate ethics rules and enforcement are dangerously weak.  Not only is the Senate Ethics Officer under the control of a committee of senators, but also violations of Senate ethics rules can be kept secret and are not penalized in any way. Nor do the rules require honesty. Rather, they allow senators: to make decisions even if they can profit from their decisions; to accept the gift of unlimited travel, even from lobbyists; and to sit on the boards of businesses. Senators can be essentially inside-government lobbyists for those businesses.

Debate rages around whether to reform or abolish the Senate. The Harper government posed a reference question to the Supreme Court last February as part of its Senate Reform Act about whether Senate reform or abolition would require changes to Canada’s Constitution.  The answer to both questions is likely to be "yes." If so, clearly shutting down the Senate will be no more difficult than reforming it.

Surveys show that Canadians are unhappy with the Senate.  Democracy Watch suggests that Senate abolition is easier, less costly, and causes fewer problems than any possible reforms because:

  • The Senate’s work is redundant: Although the Senate does some good studies, the Senate has not produced any report that contains anything significantly different than reports produced by privately funded independent think-tanks, NGOs, political parties, House of Commons Committees, the Library of Parliament, etc;
  • The Senate is unnecessary for regional representation:  The Senate is supposed to provide balanced regional representation, but that can be achieved by shutting down the Senate and adding seats to the House of Commons from the regions.  If you believe in the federation of Canada, representation in the House will never match population exactly (it never has and never will), so there is no real problem with adding seats from the regions to ensure the balance that is, in part, the purpose of the Senate;
  • The Senate is illegitimate because of the appointment process and will remain inefficient because Senators can get away with not attending sessions.  Currently many senators are in their position for no other reason than they did favours for a prime minister.  Electing senators bit by bit over several years, if not decades, will cause a two-tier Senate, and eventually will give the Senate democratic legitimacy — but won't make it more efficient.
  • The Senate is undemocratic and unaccountable in many other ways:  Even if changes are made to have senators elected, or have them serve fixed terms, the Senate will still be undemocratic with a secretive Board of Internal Economy, very weak ethics and expense rules that senators enforce themselves, weak penalties for violators (except sometimes when scandals come to light), a lapdog Senate Ethics Officer under the control of a committee of senators, and a requirement that a candidate must have money and property in order to be appointed.

Please send your letter now, calling on politicians to shut down the unaccountable, unethical, undemocratic and wasteful Senate!

About Democracy Watch

Democracy Watch is a national non-profit, non-partisan organization, and Canada’s leading citizen group advocating democratic reform, government accountability and corporate responsibility.

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  One Response to “Tell the PM: abolish the Senate”

  1. The Senate should be made proporionally representative. Legislation would have to pass both the House and the Senate. Potential senators should be chosen at their respective parties leadership conventions. 

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