[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

Conservative Prime Minister Harper's arbitrary and undemocratic shutting down of Parliament offers him the opportunity to build a consensus on Senate reforms, instead of pushing his very questionable reforms

Set out below is a letter to the editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in shorter, edited form in the January 8, 2010 issue of the Toronto Star, and in the January 9, 2010 issue of the Vancouver Sun and on Canada.com

A democratic leader of a federation like Canada would consult and try to reach as much consensus as possible with provincial and territorial governments on any Senate reform plan, and then refer it to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling on constitutional issues of the plan.

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper had begun such a process four years ago, we would likely be much closer to agreement and approval of Senate reform rather than the current standoff between the federal government and several provinces.

Given the recent arbitrary and undemocratic prorogation of Parliament by Prime Minister Harper, he should have lots of time to finish this consultation and produce a broadly supported Senate reform proposal for federal politicians and the Supreme Court of Canada to review and approve when Parliament re-opens in March.

And of course it would be more democratic if Prime Minister Harper didn't appoint any more senators unless needed to pass broadly supported Senate reforms, and if he didn't call another snap election in violation of the federal fixed-election-date law until Senate reforms are approved.

Duff Conacher, Coordinator
Democracy Watch

NOTE: Democracy Watch's overall position is that the simplest solution to the lack of Senate accountability is to abolish the Senate because giving the Senate legitimacy through Senate elections in our parliamentary system will give the Senate the legitimacy to block House-approved bills and that will create unnecessary and unproductive legislative gridlock as in the U.S. that can't be resolved (it can be resolved in the U.S. through inter-legislative conferences and also the Presidential veto). 

The second part of the solution is to increase the number of seats in the House of Commons from every province except Ontario and Quebec to build into the House the balancing regional representation that the current Senate has, and so that no political party could form a majority government with seats from only Ontario and Quebec, and to change the federal vote-counting system to have more proportional representation of the popular vote support of each political party in the distribution of seats in the House of Commons.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Voter Rights Campaign