National embarrassment


duffyThe Senate must reform or go, but the status quo won’t cut it

The Upper House has sunk to new lows.

The last few weeks of Canadian politics have been increasingly more interesting, and the pinnacle of that interest is the Senate, which has lately come under fire. The Senate has made headlines because of either now-Independent Patrick Brazeau’s behaviour, or the questionable expenses and residencies of the other senators, an issue which also includes Brazeau.

The Senate is at a critical juncture in its existence, with increasingly negative coverage and stronger movements for abolition. Thomas Mulcair, when he came to the University of Regina last semester, promised that in the next NDP platform, the Senate would have its head on the chopping block.

This does create a problem though, because as he admitted himself, it’s a constitutional issue, and the last two times the constitution was opened, it didn’t work out very well for anybody. The logistics of this are also far-fetched, as it assumes a majority NDP government with enough political capital to achieve constitutional reform.

That being said, the Senate must be changed, and it doesn’t matter if it is reform or abolition – in its current state it is simply expenditure. The Senate offers no value to Canada and Canadians, except perhaps the sale of newspapers. It is a pasture, where Prime Ministers put people out to graze.

What ambition do these people have? It can’t possibly serve to pad a resume, since most are quite old. Also, as a Senator, they hardly influence the Canadian political landscape, except perhaps by potentially striking their own death knell. What sort of ambition does Patrick Brazeau have if he wants to spend his whole life in the Senate, a job that he hardly shows up to anyway?

Apart from Brazeau, others inhabit this pasture as well. Currently in the news is Mike Duffy who said that he made mistakes in filling out the residency forms, claiming that the rules are unclear. This gives rise to many questions such as how has he got this far in life? How hard could filling out this form be, and why have so many before him succeeded with these forms where he has failed?

Or perhaps he thought he filled it out correctly, until he was proven otherwise, and now is more than happy to pay back the money and consequently keeping his job. This raises the next point, what compels Senators to try and take more? They already hardly work, and get paid extremely well for it. 

The one claim that the Senate makes in its defense is that it is the “house of sober-second thought?” Brazeau almost invalidates this himself, but Duffy adds to the hilarity of the statement. It’s imperative that the Senate be transformed, and the sooner the better.

Thankfully, the Senate has made new rules, saying that Senators will need to present a driver’s license and a health card among other documentation, which will hopefully be an easily achievable task.

Yet, the Senate will be around for a while, and if the opportunity presents itself for Stephen Harper to make another appointment to the Senate, a potential candidature is Tom Flanagan. He has a breadth of experience in Canadian politics and is probably doing some job-searching right now.

By having the Senate, it creates a situation where negligent behaviour is possible. Don’t take this wrong, there is corruption at every level of politics, but none of it is similar to the Senate, because of the simple fact that Senators aren’t elected – they’re appointed.

The Senate in its current form is an anachronism, a relic of a bygone era, and should finally be confined to the past.

Michael Chmielewski

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