Senate Reform (Canada) 2013: Constitutional Crisis in the Making?
aving one’s cake & eating it too seems to be the primary fixation of every politician ever borne these days — and in more ways than one. From the office of Senator Mike Duffy, former CTV political affairs journalist, who’d swore he’d help Prime Minister Stephen Harper reform the Senate when he was first appointed to Justin Trudeau who see reform as absolutely essential whilst simultaneously promising, if elected, to leave constitutional reform of any kind on the back burner. Yet both men, along with every other politician in the country appear to want what every Canadian wants: either a Senate that works or no Senate at all.
Duffy’s appointment was part of a greater plan by Stephen Harper to build what he called a “critical mass”, of like-minded Canadians who would agree to vote through the necessary legislation for a peaceful transition within the Senate at some (then) future date. This would negate the need for another round of constitutional discord since senators would be voting within the system to either abolish or reform the upper house, depending on whatever deal could be made at that time (and whatever deal Canadians would ultimately approve of). Harper seemed to be favouring an elected Senate; but didn’t say in the interview whether he supported the vision espoused by some of his fellow senators (eg. Sharron Carstairs of Manitoba) who’d favour a ‘Triple-E’ Senate model (elected, effective, and equal).
Whatever Harper’s ambitions, they seem to have come crashing down around his ears in the first half of 2013 with Duffy’s own behaviour triggering a near total collapse of public confidence in the Senate, which wasn’t at its highest pinnacle to begin with. Already there are calls for constitutional-based reform which, as anyone even loosely familiar with Canadian politics can plainly see, is a minefield. Not to mention Québec is under a separatist government at present (led by Pauline Marois); which doesn’t exactly aide the cause of reformed federalism in Canada historically.
With not just apathy, but anti-Senate sentiment at such a feverish pitch, Harpers plans for the Senate are likely on the backburner for the foreseeable future. And although Mike Duffy has survived in his Senate seat (so far), it’s doubtful he’ll be able to lead any great charge of the reformists therein anytime soon. And so, down the drain are the hopes of Harper and by some strange coincidence those of the Canadian people where the Senate is concerned…at least until the political mood in Québec and the rest of the country become a little more certain about what course change in Canada’s upper house of sober second thought should take.
Notwithstanding a worsening of the crisis which could well lead us down the path into another hand-wringing round of constitutional frustration.