Canada has a long history of Senate Reform proposals dating back to 1874. I want to assure you that our government is serious about Senate Reform and believe in representation by population. This commitment was fulfilled when our Prime Minister created the role of Secretary of Democratic Reform, under the direction of the Honourable Steven Fletcher.
Minister Fletcher recently tabled a Bill that will set term limits on Senate appointments to eight years. Hopefully, now that we have a Senate majority, we should be able to see this Bill enacted. Currently, Senators are appointment by the Prime Minister. Our government has had discussions with the provinces to help in the Senate selection process by including Senate elections during provincial elections. This means voters, through the voting process, are able to recommend a person to the Prime Minister for appointment. This is not binding but likely would be respected by the Prime Minister.
Some constituents have suggested that the Senate be abolished. I am not convinced this is prudent as the Senate is a safe guard that balances the power of Parliament to better protect the interests of citizens. I believe the roles and duties of the Senate should reflect the principles of a triple “E” Senate. (Elected, Equal and Effective).
Another Bill that has also been introduced will increase the number of Members of Parliament in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. These provinces have been under represented for many years and this new Bill will finally give Ontario 18 more seats, Alberta 5 and B.C. 7.
It is interesting to note that the average representation in the Atlantic Provinces, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba is less than 90,000 electors to every Member of Parliament. In B.C. it is 124,000. Some have suggested increasing the 100,000 electors per member standard and having less MPs rather than increasing the number. It would be more cost effective, but would we be diluting the ability of a MP to represent his/her constituents effectively?
There is a process that is followed during redistribution and that process will begin once the Minister’s Bills have been enacted by Parliament.
In an interesting twist, the Bloc introduced a Motion last week promoting the idea that Quebec be guaranteed 25% of the seats in Parliament. Fortunately, this Bill was defeated as it was contrary to representation by population which is a fundamental principle of our democracy. I am pleased that our Government is moving forward to give Canadians the accountable, democratic institutions they deserve.
Colin Mayes MP