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October 28, 2017 1:14 am

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 billphillips1@mac.com


A lot of supposing hypothetical scenarios as what Clarks intentions are in this opinion piece. I hardly think anyone thinks BC should have more senators than any other province. That is just funny talk distracting from a serious issue.

I don’t often agree with Clark but I think she has it right here. This is just smoke and mirrors with Trudeau’s new senate appointment process. There was nothing stoping Trudeau from allowing the provinces to nominate their own appointments. If no one is from BC on the panel making recommendations then I don’t see how that can be construed as a BC senator.

BC could hold elections for the nominees for appointment, we could have a legislative vote similar to electing a provincial speaker… There are many other options that allow some sovereign choice for the provinces in who would represent their seats. Also I think it is not impossible to ensure at minimum we had an equal senate, or at least represented by population. Having six senators for BC is a gross under representation by any standards.

I do however agree with Trudeau that the senate should be a non partisan body. It should not be based on party affiliation if it is to have any credibility with Canadians as a true chamber of sober second thought.

I also think if Clark was to put her words into action then BC should be filing a charter challenge in the Supreme Court against unequal representation in the law with regards to the senate makeup.

I do not recall her complaining in the media when Harper was running the show and when Harper abandoned the senate altogether! She is obviously against senate reform! How much representation did B.C. have under Harper and how much representation would B.C. have if the Senate is scrapped altogether? The gleefully made announcement lacks substance.

Trudeau will never go for a Senate that is ‘Elected, Effective, and Equal’. He is a centralist, just like his father, and each of those three words poses a challenge to his authority. So the Senate will continue just as it has been. ‘Emasculated, Empty-headed, and Expensive.’

Me thinks, PrinceGeorge, that Ms Clark is a not-so-in-the-closet, federal Conservative.

I hardly dare mention it, but how do other democracies which have an upper and a lower house go about deciding who sits in their upper chambers? Canada patriated its British model constitution from Britain so are we still not masters in our own country and unable to make constitutional changes? Do we need to become a Republic first in order to cut the last apron strings?

I’m a big supporter of Trudeau, but was very disappointed when I heard of his “reform”. This is the definition of putting lipstick on a pig.

My issues:
These will still be appointments, and they can sit in their seats for as long as they please.

Second, the seat representation reflects Canada’s population at confederacy. Western Canada will not have fair representation under this model. How is it fair that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have 10 seats each, and every western province has 6 seats each?

Lets have an actual elected Senate, with somewhat better population representation.

Prince George, the US Senate was not originally an elected body. Senators were appointed by the Governors of their respective States, who can still do so in certain circumstances when an elected Senator dies in office or resigns. We do not have to become a republic to change the Constitution. Indeed, we couldn’t legally become a republic unless all the Provinces agreed. And if we did so illegally, like through a unilateral decision by some Federal government, then the whole basis of current constitutional law is null and void. There would be no reason under such a circumstance why any Province that didn’t believe the ‘confederation’ it had entered was still serving its best interests couldn’t just leave it.

PG we could have over 600 as in the UK. Heck they only have seating for about 300 at one time.

The shine is coming off Trudeau.

Harper was basically blocked by the courts to make changes.

The supreme court is a big problem in this country, they seem to think they run the country, not the elected government.

HAS wrote:-“Me thinks, PrinceGeorge, that Ms Clark is a not-so-in-the-closet, federal Conservative”

I hardly think so. Ms. Clark presides over a coalition, and while she herself is undoubtedly a big city Liberal with longstanding connections to that Party, BOTH federally and provincially, she’s not going to risk losing support of the other non-Liberal up country parts of that coalition by going along in lock step with whatever Trudeau is proposing when such would clearly not be favoured by the majority of those who voted for her Party here. Her main threat is not from the BC NDP, but from a re-appearance of another centre right BC provincial party, like the BC Conservatives. They might not get enough support to form government, but they could syphon away enough support to keep her Party from being elected government, too.

“The supreme court is a big problem in this country, they seem to think they run the country, not the elected government.”

Thankfully, the courts do their role in ensuring the government does what is constitutional… Harper’s govn’t wasn’t such a fan, because doing the unconstitutional thing was always their bread and butter.

Also, Bill Phillips, please space out your articles appropriately. Reading your articles when its all crammed together like one long paragraph is a pain.

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