How Important Is The Senate?

The last piece examined how a bill comes to be law. This piece will explain how the next party in power can impact that long standing history of the Senate. As mentioned in the last piece, the Senate plays an essential role in the legislative process. The Senate is usually the second House to evaluate a bill and debate on the effectiveness of a bill before it is passed.

The Senate currently consists of 47 Conservative party members, 29 Liberal party members, 7 independent party members and 22 vacant seats for a total of 105 seats. Senators are supposed to be appointed based on their geographical location set out by the Constitution Act, 1867 by the Governor General with some advice from the Prime Minister. The Senate is made of up individuals from all walks of life ranging in age, ethnicity, religion, expertise, experience, gender and political perspectives.

Conservative Party:

Many individuals feel uncomfortable with the fact that the P.M Stephen Harper appointed Senators to the Senate. Mr. Harper has appointed 58 Senators as Prime Minister. Accordingly, Stephen Harper has overwhelming support in the Senate.

NDP:

Tom Mulcair wants to abolish the Senate. He would rather put in place a system consisting of regional representatives putting forth their ideas as to what would serve their constituency best. Many critics of the Conservative party support this movement.

Opponents of the NDP solution find this approach to be unrealistic as one representative for each region may not be reflective of what is best for the entire nation. Critics also argue that this would result in more of a divided rather than a united Canada as every area will only look to benefit only their region. Furthermore, they argue there is a reason the Senate has been put in place, for an educated, diverse and qualified group of individuals to make informed decisions that the average population may not be able to on their own.

Liberals:

Conversely, Justin Trudeau has proposed the Transparency Act in the House of Commons which proposes keeping the public informed about how their money is spent. How? By providing the public access to the dealings of the Board of Internal Economy in the House of Commons; this board decides how money is spent. Trudeau also suggests he’d like to amend the Access to Information Act to require government information to be open to the public by default. This legislation would also allow the Information Commissioner to order the release of information to the public. Furthermore, it would limit the cost of an access to information request; if the information is not provided within the specified time, then the government should provide a refund. Trudeau wants the Access to Information Act to be reviewed by all parties and consistently reviewed every five years to ensure it is up to date.

Critics argue that this stance isn’t drastic enough while supporters believe that this is the perfect medium between the two alternative choices. Supporters of the Transparency Act argue that Canada cannot afford to lose its Senate as the House of Commons alone is not sufficient enough to determine if a law should be passed; they argue that more overview can help catch issues that may be missed in one house.

Points of Discussion:
1. What are your thoughts?
2. Did you find anything surprising?

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