The Answer Is In the Senate,
But No One In The East Is Asking The Question

Edmonton - Wednesday, July 7, 2004 - by: Ron Thornton Marriage, Be It Same Sex, Same Family, Same Harem


Brenton Harding's comments in the July 3rd edition of The Edmonton Journal (Free Votes, Term Limits would hurt the west) were quite enlightening, as they focused on how such progressive changes might "cheat Albertans and Canadians of their democracy." The column focused on the fact that success for any western initiative would have to be supported by a good number of central Canadian parliamentarians, who presently make up more than 58% of the House of Commons. Unfortunately, Mr. Harding dwelled on the problem while neglecting to mention the long proposed solution to such an impasse; an equal, elected, and effective Senate.


In the United States, the original House of Representatives had 61 members. With Virginia claiming ten members and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania with eight each, it did not take long for Rhode Island and Delaware to see that their single representatives would be rather outgunned in legislative affairs. While embracing the concept of representation by population, the solution was to have a second legislative body that represented each state equally, to enable them to be consequential in the affairs of the nation. It is a concept that thrives today in the United States, with California having 53 congressmen to Vermont's one, but with each state having two senators.
  It is a concept that has been adopted even within a parliamentary system, with each Australian state is represented by 12 elected Senators, even though New South Wales outnumbers Tasmania 50 to 5 in their House of Representatives. Even their two territories receive a couple of senators each to go with their allotment of two representatives each, making the Aussie system even more representative than that of the Americans.
  Free votes in Canada would continue to be dominated in the House by the more populated "super" provinces but in a Triple-E Senate the views of the four western provinces and the four Atlantic provinces would dominate. All that would be required would be to put in place a mechanism to determine how such votes are resolved, something the Australians have managed to do. Surely, Canadians have enough intellect and vision to do the same.


Fixed election dates, in the view of Mr. Harding, would mean that minority governments that have lost the support of Parliament would continue on until the pre-established election date. As a pubic affairs and government relations consultant, Mr. Harding must realize that this need not be the case.  Procedures could be established to deal with the premature end of a Parliament. For example, if the fixed election date is the second Tuesday of June every four years, then the term of the new Parliament under such circumstances could conclude on the second Tuesday of June following that Parliament's third anniversary. This would return us to the established electoral cycle. We are not exactly talking rocket science here.
  I also recognize that Mr. Harding was not talking about constitutional amendments, either, so any initiative on free votes and term limits could be altered by the whim by the majority in the House of Commons. A Triple-E Senate would require a constitutional amendment, one that Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, for their own reasons, have not yet been convinced to take an interest in. That, more than anything Mr. Harding ponders regarding free votes and fixed election dates, is what continues to hurt the west.


Ron Thornton




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