My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Love it or leave it! Peace.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Senate reform - necessity or power grab? Canada: Senate reform - Democratic necessity or power grab? Proposals to turn the Senate into short term elected positions scare me, because the functions of the Senate could be downgraded to political lackeydom and then likely dispensed with altogether, destroying the democratic checks and balances we have, such as they are. In my opinion, Senate reform can only occur in the context of a complete re-design of our entire governance structures and functions. Otherwise, it is just a power grab by the House of Commons that serves only the careers of politicians. In my opinion also, electoral 'science' has already undermined the democratic election process and destroyed public faith in the process - 'Governments' are increasingly elected by decreasing proportions of the public vote - and this distortion of democracy is to be extended to the Senate? Omigod! Politicians' vision only extends to the next election. Surely it is obvious that we need a body that takes a longer view of 'Canada' than that. The longer term, investigative function of the Senate cannot be forgotten in all of this rush to dismantle our democratic checks and balances:

Investigative Chamber

The Senate often undertakes another type of work, but which again is not explicitly provided for in the Constitution; namely, the investigation of social and political issues facing the country. In this context, the Senate acts in a manner similar to a Royal Commission or Public Inquiry, and will engage in detailed studies of complex or controversial issues. Over the years, issues investigated by the Senate have included poverty, aging, unemployment, the mass media, science policy, land use, national defence, Canadian-American relations, constitutional affairs, the decriminalization of marijuana, and the health care system.

Examples ... Cannabis: Specific Aboriginal land claims: Rural poverty I have not yet seen a good rationale for destroying the Senate and expanding elected politicians to include both Houses. With elected politicians increasingly losing the support of Canadians (59% voter turnout, and falling), it is hardly the time to just throw more elected politicians into that degraded mix! As a political body of people appointed by the PM of the time, the Senate reflects the election choices of the Canadian people over time, a more stable indicator of the general will of the Canadian people than the results of any one election. Right now there are 18 vacancies in the Senate, so if Harper wants to influence the political balance in the Senate, all he has to do is make the appointments as he is entitled to!! (I believe, in frustration at lack of support for his agenda of Senate 'reform', Harper recently 'threatened' to do just that. How ridiculous is that! He 'threatened' to do the duty already assigned to him. Hmm...) In sum, I believe reform of the House of Commons must come first, and must focus on improving democracy by increasing public engagement in the process. In fact, engagement of Canadians not previously involved should be the targeted outcome to evaluate the reforms. I think some form of proportionate representation is crucial to that. Obviously, the House of Commons is in a conflict of interest in this reform process, and I believe a review and public engagement on the subject is better conducted by the Senate with its longer term and less political vision, or by an independent body of Canadians constructed for that purpose and free of the influence of politicians. Destruction of the Senate as it exists today is exactly the WRONG place to start, in my opinion. That's just another (scary) power grab imo, by politicians elected by only 22% of Canadians in the recent election, representing, in this case the far right wing of corporate and religious elites. As I see it ... the Senate is not the problem. The House of Commons is the problem.

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My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.