A Conservative senator wants voters to decide whether to put Canada's sleepy upper chamber into permanent repose.
Senator Hugh Segal — who could be doing himself out of a job if people say yes — says he believes in the value of the Senate, but its legitimacy as a non-elected body is dubious.
Mr. Segal, a former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, says he wants a debate and a referendum on the Senate's future.
“We've had 17 efforts at reforming the Senate since 1900,” he said. “All of them have failed.
“The legitimacy of the place is under attack on a pretty regular basis.”
Mr. Segal says he'd personally vote against abolition because he feels the Senate offers regional and provincial interests and can be a check on poorly drafted laws rushed through the Commons.
Senate reform seems a never ending saga, everyone has an opinion, solutions are piecemeal. A national referendum would end the debate once and for all. If Canadians chose to keep the Senate, then it could get on with business, without the constant distraction of legitimacy and power struggles. If Canadians chose to abolish the Senate, then the irritant is removed and the landscape is clear. Either way, there is clarity, a solution.
I suppose any referendum would have to include a dreaded third option, that of Senate reform. The only way this question could be included is if it was clearly defined, otherwise we would just re-enter the malaise. That fact demands a great deal of consultation on what reform would be offered. Given that we have had many attempts at reform, it is hard to see a consensus on the question that would satisfy the various interests and regions. The third option might be a non-starter, because it really speaks to the problem in the first place.
Therefore, I would favor two options at this point, abolish or maintain, which might not be satisfactory to large segments of the population. Come to think of it, this whole discussion of a referendum on the Senate is so inherently problematic, it makes the whole idea wishful thinking at best. In the end, there would be no clarity, just latent acrimony and divisions. Nevermind.