Flushing Out Yet Another Vision
Of Senate Reform

Edmonton - Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - by: Ron Thornton


There are some things scarier than the sight of a toilet bowl about to overflow, such as the frighteningly myopic published comments of former Reformer Margret Kopala in regards to Alberta's recent resolution on Senate reform. Coming from one who represented a party that touted grassroots more often than Granny Clampett at mealtime, it is shocking to discover that the only democratic component of Kopala's vision is to get morons like us to mark an "x" beside a name on a ballot every blue moon.




Like a child who can't let go of a doll that has lost its head and most of its limbs, she seems unable to let go of certain notions that continue to undermine our political system. For example, if one is elected as a candidate from a political party, then one automatically must be subject to party discipline for things to work. It is a view familiar to any 19th century Tory or 21st century Liberal. Using the same creative juices expected from any elementary school student, maybe Kopala should consider addressing problems of procedure rather than capitulating to them. Our system does not need to operate under the dictatorial powers of any leader, including the Prime Minister. Any rejected legislation does not need to necessitate the downfall of any government, unless it is accompanied by a separate and specific vote of non-confidence. In that way, even the lowliest backbenchers can speak for those they should be representing, the people, rather than submit to the coercion of party hacks. While a Prime Minister has the power to name his cabinet, to set the legislative agenda, and to dole out patronage to those who do his bidding, he should not have the right to reject a duly elected nominee, no matter how rebellious, from running under the party banner. Maybe we should promote the banning of the practice in the name of real democracy.




Then again, the attraction of a reformed Senate, I thought, was for it to provide a democratically elected, effective, and equal counterweight to the central Canadian dominated House of Commons; to allow national policy to become more than the dictates of Ontario and Quebec. So much for that theory, for it would seem that it is nothing more than a constitutional power grab by the provinces, while good folks like us are expected to again play the part of the village idiot. In Kopala's words,
"No provincial government worth its salt will want a senator who is anything but answerable to the provincial government of the day."
  Funny, here I thought they should be answerable to we, the people. My mistake. Instead of letting schmucks like you and I actually elect our own senator, Kopala suggests our senators be selected by our provincial government. Interestingly enough, the United States deemed such a system as so undemocratic that it amended its own constitution in 1913 so that the people, not their state legislators, determined each state's two senators. Kopala suggests leaving the methods of selection to each province, to elect or appoint as their mood takes them.




For an individual who was "randomly" selected to take part in the ill-fated Charlottetown Accord constitutional exercise, her apparent lack of imagination is shocking. She wonders who would pay for the salaries and pensions of senators, as if a province should pick up the tab for a federal institution. She wonders how things might work should a consensus fail to be reached between the House and the Senate, even though Australia has a workable formula anyone can review if they only would take the time to research it. She wonders who would be the official spokesperson for a province, the premier or the senators, even though state governors south of the line don't seem to suffer from such an identity crises. She wonders about having mandates of elected senators and MPs conflict or overlap, when this could be simply resolved by having them serve identical terms, each subject to re-election at the dissolving of Parliament. She wonders about having conflict and contradiction between the province and an uncontrolled elected senator, as if having a lackey doing the bidding of a Premier is more democratic and just than an accountable Senator responsible to us.




If Margret Kopala's vision is what I now must accept as meaningful Senate reform then I now must also conclude that my overflowing toilet is a sparkling fountain.




Ron Thornton

  Kopala, Margret, Some policy proposals for submission to and consideration by a Canadian Alliance Assembly, (web site)
  Aubry, Jack, Canadians can look Down Under for democratic reform, Australia's effective, elected Senate, (PDF) October 1, 2002, Ottawa Citzen



Retrun to Ensign - Return to Saskatchewan News

This page is a story posted on Ensign and/or Saskatchewan News, both of which are daily web sites offering a variety of material from scenic images, political commentary, information and news. These publications are the work of Faster Than Light Communications . If you would like to comment on this story or you wish to contact the editor of these sites please send us email.

Editor : Timothy W. Shire
Faster Than Light Communication
Box 1776, Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada, S0E 1T0
306 873 2004