Se­nate re­formed

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - EDITORIAL -

It’s a point that’s al­most funny: after we spent years com­plain­ing about how suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments packed the Se­nate with their own party faith­ful and sup­port­ers, we’re now com­plain­ing about the same House of Par­lia­ment grad­u­ally fill­ing with in­de­pen­dents who have their own ideas about leg­is­la­tion, and aren’t afraid to use them.

First it was bad that they rub­ber-stamped leg­is­la­tion; now that they are ac­tu­ally re­view­ing pro­posed laws along the lines of the sober sec­ond thought they were al­ways sup­posed to ap­ply, there are some look­ing back fondly at the days of the stamp-pad.

Truth is, though, it’s an im­prove­ment — es­pe­cially now that a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment can be put in place by a mi­nor­ity of Cana­di­ans.

At the mo­ment, the Se­nate is tan­gled up re­view­ing the fed­eral bud­get — and tak­ing an es­pe­cially close look at the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s planned in­fra­struc­ture bank. They’ve got con­cerns, and want to see those con­cerns ad­dress. (It’s shame that those same sen­a­tors weren’t in place when the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was dis­man­tling the long-form cen­sus and gut­ting science em­ploy­ees in this coun­try — a lit­tle long-term, non-par­ti­san think­ing would have been wel­come back then.)

Clearly, sen­a­tors have to keep one cru­cial point in mind at all times: while they are now be­ing picked on the ba­sis of their skills and abil­i­ties (in­stead of their seal-like will­ing­ness to unceas­ingly flap their flip­pers on their desks in sup­port of the gov­ern­ment that put them into their po­si­tions), they are still un­elected mem­bers of an up­per house.

That means that, above all, they have to have clear def­er­ence for the will of the peo­ple.

“We ac­tu­ally made a Se­nate that is freer from par­ti­san­ship … and do­ing the real work of ad­vis­ing, rec­om­mend­ing, do­ing stud­ies and be­ing a thought­ful place of sober sec­ond thought,” Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau told Global News last week.

“The is­sue around bud­gets, of course, is it’s the House of Com­mons that votes on bud­getary mea­sures, and the Se­nate is, of course, wel­come to look at it and make rec­om­men­da­tions,” Trudeau said, adding, “But the le­git­i­macy hap­pens from the House of Com­mons on this.”

At the mo­ment, the Se­nate is pri­mar­ily ex­am­in­ing bills and send­ing rec­om­men­da­tions back to the House of Com­mons for con­sid­er­a­tion, a process that slows the leg­is­la­tion down, but doesn’t force Par­lia­ment to make changes.

Some­times, the House of Com­mons and the gov­ern­ment take that advice.

Changes to leg­is­la­tion are be­ing made, and it can be ar­gued that the up­per house has saved the gov­ern­ment from hav­ing to face ex­pen­sive con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges al­ready.

So, here’s to a new kind of Se­nate, one still find­ing its way after years of be­ing a com­fort­able feed­ing trough for over-the-hill party bag­men and acolytes — just as long as they clearly rec­og­nize the unique priv­i­lege and lim­ited re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the seats they hold.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.