Poilievre: Conservative proposed senate changes can be done

Julian Wolfe
July 31st, 2013

Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre announced the government can reform the senate without opening the constitution.

Despite a decision due by this fall by the Supreme Court to clarify the government’s powers on the senate, Poilievre says the government can move ahead anyway.

Senate reform is a recent hot topic issue because of controversies surrounding senators’ housing allowances and a criminal investigation that is looking into a payment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former right hand man to disgraced senator Mike Duffy.

Some senators and provinces are ready to resist change – whether it be reform or abolition. The rules are still unclear on how much of an impact provincial powers would have on such a decision.

The Conservatives have proposed the Senate Reform Act, Bill C7, to limit Senator’s terms to nine years and have the provinces elect their replacements. The Prime Minister would then recommend the people the provinces elect rather than the cronies that benefit his/her party.

The Conservatives also want to change rules that require senators to own a certain amount of property. In the 1867 Constitution Act, the senate was preserved as the chamber of the wealthy elite which required its members to own at least $4,000 in property in the province he/she was appointed from.

While the government awaits a ruling on its juristiction over the upper chamber, Poilievre insists the Senate Reform Act doesn’t need constitutional reform.

“The Senate Reform Act does not require the amending formula of the Constitution to be applied,” he said.

“We can amend the term limits of senators, the property requirements and we can provide a democratic vote to recommend senators to the upper chamber, all without an amending formula to the Constitution.”

The question still sits on whether the senate can be abolished, something the Conservatives are open to, and the NDP have been pushing hard. The Liberals are against abolition but are open to reforms and await the findings of the Supreme Court.

Abolition is divided among the provinces. While Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall pushes heavily for it, Quebec and Ontario have already indicated opposition. Quebec currently has a separatist government, opening the constitution to abolish the senate may end with guns blazing, something Premier Pauline Marois will likely try to provoke.

Poilievre was one of the MPs who defended Mike Duffy when he was Conservative and when he was “honorable.”

Where do you stand on the senate? Is it time to reform it? How? Is it time to abolish it? Or has the debate been taken over the edge by a Prime Minister that appointed a circus? How would you deal with that?

Do you believe Polievre when he says the government can change senate function without opening the constitution? If the reforms are an outer layer, what would require them to follow by their principles? The Conservatives broke their fixed election law and their accountability act. What do you think?

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