Why I disagree with “Senate Reform”


If you do not study your history, you will not understand the purpose of social conventions, created in the past, that serve our modern society well. Marriage had a purpose much like slavery in history–wealth creation and property transfer, we have done away with slavery in most of the modern planet, and yet there are far too many blind to the notion that matrimony serves no utility in 2009, and is NOT a necessary aspect of a long-term, committed, lasting relationship between two EQUAL, trustful humanoids who are in love.
The Senate however has an important function and this function would be hindered to such an extent by an electoral process as to deem the Senate redundant and non-functional.

What is a Senate:

“The modern word senatorial is derived from the Latin word senātus (senate), which comes from senex, “old man”. The members or legislators of a senate are called senators. The Latin word senator was adopted into English with no change in spelling. Its meaning is derived from a very ancient form of simple social organization in which decision-making powers are reserved for the eldest men. For the same reason, the word senate is correctly used when referring to any powerful authority characteristically composed by the eldest members of a community, as a deliberative body of a faculty in an institution of higher learning is often called a senate. The original senate was the Roman Senate, which lasted until 580 (various efforts to revive it were made in Medieval Rome). “

The original purpose of a Senate was for the elders of a society to gather and pass opinions through votes on the direction a nation is to take, according to the quorum of assembly–as per the wisdom and experience they shared from having been the respected elders of that society.
They advised the Emperor with the greater, longer term vision of the nation in mind, not an electoral cycle. In limiting a senator’s term the longer term vision is curtailed. In adding an election cycle, the senate would be compelled, as with other elected government bodies, to pander to the will of the voters. This would imply a waste of decision-making effort around the times of elections, for campaigning and the conveying of promises to all who may potentially wield the power of re-election of the senators—corporate interests, unions, special interests, voting blocks etc etc etc. This is the purpose of Parliament, NOT the Senate.

The purpose of a Senate is indeed to be ABOVE all of this political strategizing. A Senate is the “chamber of sober second thought” for bills about to be passed by the Canadian Parliament. By projecting an understanding and vision that views things in a greater schemata than the regular election cycle, and doing so while NOT being beholden to the will of the short term understanding of the population, or any other outside forces, a Senate is capable of performing it’s original Roman purpose.

Do not doubt that we here in Canada, in the States, and in England are all inheritors of a legacy that dates back 2000 years to the times of the Caesars of Rome. Our civilization is but an extension of that of Western Europe that reaches back from that time. Our Justice system, our Religious systems, and yes, our Political system all owe a level of respect to their original purpose for the legacy they bestow upon us.




What is Senate Reform?

Reform of the upper house has been an issue for much of Canadian history—and in fact predates Confederation in the Province of Canada—with most plans for reform chiefly involving amending the appointment process. Parliament first considered reform measures in 1874, and the Senate debated reforming itself in 1909.

There were minor changes in 1965, when a mandatory retirement age for new senators was set at 75 years, and in 1982, when the Senate was given a qualified veto over certain constitutional amendments. While most senators hold their seat until the mandatory age, Andy Thompson stepped down 20 months ahead of his scheduled retirement after critics drew attention to his poor attendance while continuing to draw his salary. It was also the first time that the Senate had voted to suspend one of its members, which prompted his resignation shortly afterwards. The last member of the Senate who served past the age of 75 was John Michael Macdonald who had been appointed by John George Diefenbaker in 1960 served until his death in 1997 at the age of 91. Orville Howard Phillips was the last Senator appointed for life to leave the body: he was appointed by Diefenbaker in 1963 and served in the Senate until 1999 when he voluntarily resigned a month before turning 75.

In the 1960s and 1970s discussion of reforming the appointment mechanism resurfaced alongside the Quiet Revolution and the rise of Western alienation, usually with the chief goal of making the Senate better represent the provinces in Parliament. It was often suggested that provincial governments should appoint senators, as was done in the United States before the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Others suggested that senators should be actual members of provincial legislatures, similar to the Bundesrat of Germany. The 1960s and 1970s discussions also suggested redistributing Senate seats to the growing western provinces, but formal suggestions for equality of seats between provinces did not occur until 1981. Likewise, schemes to create an elected Senate did not gain widespread support until after 1980, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau enacted the National Energy Program in the wake of the energy crises of the 1970s. Many Western Canadians then called for a “Triple-E Senate”, standing for “elected, equal, and effective”. They believed that allowing equal representation of the provinces, regardless of population, would protect the interests of the smaller provinces and outlying regions.

There have been at least 28 major proposals for constitutional Senate reform since the early 1970s, and all have failed.The Meech Lake Accord, a series of constitutional amendments proposed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, would have required the federal government to choose a senator from a list of persons nominated by the provincial government; the accord, however, failed to obtain the requisite unanimous consent of the provincial legislatures. A successor proposal, the Charlottetown Accord, involved a provision under which the Senate would include an equal number of senators from each province, elected either by the provincial legislatures or by the people. This accord was soundly defeated in the referendum held in 1992. Further proposals for Senate reform have not met with success, either, especially due to opposition in Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces with the most to lose due to equal provincial representation.

The Canadian Senate chamber, within the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

The Triple-E Senate (a mnemonic contrived acronym for equal, elected, and effective) is a proposed variation of reform to the current Canadian Senate, calling for senators to be elected to exercise effective powers in numbers equally representative of each province; this is in contrast to the present arrangement wherein individuals are appointed to the Senate by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister after which the senators generally do not interfere with the workings of the Lower House; the number of senators allotted to each province is set out in the constitution, and is neither equal nor proportional. A Westminster style upper chamber that already possesses similar characteristics is the Australian Senate, which has stood as such since Australian federation in 1901.


Reform of the Senate has been a debated issue in Canada since the institution was formed at Confederation in 1867, carrying on discussions around the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada since the 1830s. In September 1885, at a Liberal Party of Canada convention in Toronto, a policy resolution was put forward to reform the Canadian Senate on an elective basis; a policy that was adopted, but never implemented. The little debate that followed in the decades thereafter focused on reform of the appointment process or abolition.

It was not until the premiership of Pierre Trudeau that the idea of a Triple-E Senate first attracted mainstream attention, after the Liberal dominated federal parliament passed legislation establishing the National Energy Program (NEP) in the wake of the energy crisis of the 1970s. Though it was welcome in the populous eastern provinces, the NEP was unpopular in the western region – especially oil-rich Alberta – where populists felt the western provinces had been excluded from debate on the energy program, and looked towards the United States with the belief that, had Canada’s Senate been more like its American counterpart, senators from the four western provinces could have forced the Senate to drop the program, or at least allow for significant amendments to it.

This idea of electing senators to a house made up of equally distributed seats and which could exercise its considerable power over legislation passed by the House of Commons soon became a cause célèbre among Western activists, with one Alberta farmer – Bert Brown – even using his tractor to cut “Triple E Senate or else” into his neighbour’s barley field.[1] By 1987, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta had passed the Alberta Senatorial Selection Act, and the first senatorial election was held on 16 October 1989. Stanley Waters, a member of the western-based, right-wing Reform Party, was the winner of that election, and, under pressure from the Reform Party and the Premier of Alberta, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney agreed to advise the Governor General to appoint the Alberta nominee to the Senate; Waters was sworn in as a senator on 11 June 1990.

Charlottetown Accord

During the debate over the ultimately failed Charlottetown Accord, citizens’ forums put Senate reform near the top of their lists of desired changes, leading then Constitutional Affairs Minister Joe Clark to include within his original constitutional reform package a Senate with six senators for each province and one from each territory, and a proportional representation (PR) system to elect them. Also proposed were Senate seats reserved specifically for First Nations representatives, as had been done similarly in New Zealand. However, at the same time, the Senate’s powers would be reduced and more Commons seats for the populous provinces would be added to that chamber, to justify the equality of the Senate. During later negotiations, the provincial premiers demanded that PR be dropped, asking instead for the responsibility of providing senators to fall on the provinces, where senators could be selected by the legislative assemblies or through popular election. Along with the other provisions of the Charlottetown Accord, this Senate reform proposal was not met with enthusiasm in the west, and, in the required national referendum held in 1992, the accord was defeated in the four western provinces.

In the wake of this failure, the aforementioned Reform Party came to prominence in Alberta, and soon gained considerable political support there. The party and its leader, Preston Manning, became the most vocal advocates of a Triple-E Senate, promoting a plan with ten senators for each province.


The notion of a Triple-E Senate remained alive in the decades following the Charlottetown Accord, though little substantial action was takes to implement the principles; Prime Minister Paul Martin mused on the topic, but said “piecemeal” Senate reform would create an unworkable combination of appointed and elected senators.

While the Conservative Party of Canada has endorsed an elected Senate, it has rejected the Triple-E label. However, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on 10 September 2007, directed Governor General Michaëlle Jean to appoint the aforementioned Bert Brown – by then winner of two Alberta senatorial elections – to the Senate.

Then, on December 11, 2008, without any preceding senatorial elections as in the case of Bert Brown, the Toronto Star reported that Harper “plans to fill every empty Senate seat by the end of the year to kill any chance of a Liberal-NDP coalition government filling the vacancies next year…”On December 22, 2008, the Globe and Mail reported that “Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed…that he is filling all 18 current vacancies.”

The Party of Alberta, a federal party founded in 2006, has indicated a preference towards the concept of Triple-E, based on the fact that the idea has long had traction amongst many in Alberta.

The New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois both call for the Senate’s abolition.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s