Justin Trudeau is nicely into his second year in charge of our federal government, and surprise, surprise, he has almost completed an overhaul of a Canadian institution that many of us had written off as being either beyond help, or not worth saving. I’m talking about the Senate, a very fancy domicile on Parliament Hill with 105 chairs, and a lot of embarrassing recent history.
Even before he became Prime Minister, Justin was ahead of the curve on Senate reform. Two years ago, he said to the those loyal Liberals who were appointed by Chretien, Martin and his own papa, that they were now on their own, and please stay away from the Liberal caucus.
In a few days, all of those 105 chairs will have been filled, and the majority of the members will be truly independent. Among his nine new appointments this week were Pat Bovey, an art historian, and Dr. Harvey Chochinov, a psychiatrist who is recognized as an expert in palliative care. I venture to say that neither of them had childhood dreams of serving in the Senate.
One can’t help but wonder though just how the upper chamber will function without partisan politics. The Senators are there to take a “sober second look” at the legislation that is sent to them by the elected House of Commons. In days gone by, when most Senators attended meetings of either the government or the opposition caucuses, there was order, and there where whips who made sure that the business of the day got done.
How is that going to work with all these independents, however wise they might be?
Raynell Andreychuk, a Conservative Senator from Saskatchewan has written some very interesting thoughts on the merits of partisanship in the workings of democracy. As a matter of fact, if you check out her parliamentary webpage you’ll see that she has worthwhile ideas about many things.
Because she’s a Senator, almost nobody pays any attention. Too bad.
I’m Roger Currie