Imagining a Senator who isn’t Liberal or Conservative
Monday, December 7, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
By Bill Phillips
Premier Christy Clark should take page out of the Northern Undergraduate Student Society at UNBC.
Amid all the bluster and beaking off (myself included) about the appointment of former Conservative MP James Moore as chancellor, the student group decided (gasp) to check with its members before taking a position on the controversial appointment. They even want to (double, gasp) talk with Moore.
Those darn radical students, wanting to get information before choosing sides.
The same can’t be said for Clark who gleefully announced British Columbia would not take part in the federal government’s new plans for reforming the Senate.
“Today’s changes do not address what’s been wrong with the Senate since the beginning,” reads the statement issued by Clark scant minutes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced changes. “It has never been designed to represent British Columbians or our interests at the national level.
“Our position has not changed: the Senate should be fixed or folded but we should not be distracted by it.”
She doesn’t say what constitutes “fixed” but we suppose that would include B.C. having more Senators than all the other provinces.
If she would have followed the lead of the Northern Undergraduate Student Society, maybe should would have sought at little more information before committing the province to non-participation. Maybe, just maybe, she could have sought British Columbians’ views on possible Senate reform.
Trudeau’s plan isn’t a radical one (remember former prime minister Stephen Harper basically threw up his hands and walked away and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair promised the impossible … to abolish it). Trudeau wants Senators to be appointed based on merit. Yikes, the students aren’t the only radical ones. Being a party hack used to be the only qualification needed … and that was true for the Liberals as much as the Conservatives. The new process could result in recommending someone with an NDP background or, egads, someone who doesn’t have a direct link to a political party.
There is no doubt that Senate appointments will still be political, but wouldn’t it be nice if that wasn’t the main, or only, criteria?
Trudeau’s proposals my not be “fix” the Senate the way Clark would like, but at least the prime minister is trying to do something without opening a Constitutional debate. Harper stopped appointing Senators and walked away from Senate reform after the Supreme Court slapped him down. He threw it in the lap of the provinces so maybe that’s what upset Clark … Trudeau is taking it back.
Clark is likely right in her assessment that the Senate hasn’t, historically, worked for British Columbia. Will that improve by not participating?
The plan to have a non-partisan panel recommend new Senators based on merit may not be the best solution. But what’s the alternative? Having all those who ran for the Liberals in the last election, but didn’t get elected, appointed to the Red Chamber?
Anything which moves us away from that reality is an improvement.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org