Over the summer break, as I have travelled from one corner of the riding to the other, I have heard from people at every stop that the current state of the Senate is unacceptable and things need to change in the Red Chamber. I have to agree.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the only leader providing a pathway to reform the Senate. In early 2013 the prime minister sent six reference questions to the Supreme Court of Canada for its opinion on important questions of law or fact concerning the interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutionality or interpretation of legislation that will reform the Senate as Canadians have asked from the government.
The government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada if Parliament can enact term limits on senators so that they serve eight or nine years rather than having a job for life? The government’s contention is yes we can. We have asked whether Parliament can set in place a democratic vote to recommend names to the prime minister for the Senate; it is our belief yes we can. We want to know if the provinces can hold a democratic vote of their own to recommend names to the prime minister for the Senate. Again, we believe yes they can. As well we have asked if Parliament can remove antiquated property ownership requirements for senators. Our argument is yes we can. Finally, can we abolish the Senate without the unanimous consent of the provinces? We answer yes, we believe we can.
The opposition parties have been doing nothing but spewing hyperbole and rhetoric; they have no plan in place to move ahead with real Senate reform. They sit in the back benches and complain about the Senate but they have not put forward a single idea to transition the senate from its current state.
In May, the government took the first steps to ensure the Senate is on the path to transparency and change when they adopted 11 strong measures to ensure accountability but there are many more changes needed according to the people I met with this summer.
As the prime minister said in his address to caucus: “The Senate status quo is not acceptable — Canadians want change.” I wholeheartedly agree and am eagerly awaiting the return of the reference questions from the Supreme Court of Canada so we can get on with the task at hand.
Please contact my constituency office if you have any questions or concerns on any federally related matters, postage free, at: Bay #6A, 4612 – 50th Street, Ponoka AB T4J 1S7; tel: 403-783-5530; toll free: 1-800-665-0865 or visit my web site: www.blainecalkinsmp.ca or on twitter at www.twitter.com/blainecalkinsmp.