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The Canadian Senate, often referred to as the Red Chamber, cannot be reformed without a majority of Canadian's approval

The Senate, often referred to as the Red Chamber, cannot be reformed without a majority of Canadian's approval
Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld/CP

Supreme Court rules on Senate reform

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously today, that the federal government alone does not have the power to make changes, or indeed abolish the Canadian Senate.

The eight judges of the top court considered three scenarios: enforcing fixed terms of nine years, implementing fixed provincial elections for senate candidates, and or, abolishing the senate altogether. The Supreme Court Justices concluded that these were constitutional matters and that in the first two cases, seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population would have to consent.  In the case of abolishing the Senate, unanimous approval is necessary.

The Senate is the other entity in Canada’s bicameral legislature:  the House of Commons is where the elected Members of Parliament discuss and debate the issues of the day, while the Senate is the upper chamber of sober second thought. Members are appointed by the Prime Minister.

Senate-reform was one of the issues Stephen Harper campaigned on in his quest to become Prime Minister of Canada.  He responded to the decision today saying, “essentially this is a decision for the status quo, a status quo that is supported by virtually no Canadian.  So look, I think that given that the Supreme Court has, as was said, we’re essentially stuck with the status quo for the time being and that significant reform and abolition are off the table.  I think it’s a decision that I’m disappointed with but I think it’s a decision the vast majority of Canadians will be very disappointed with, but obviously we will respect that decision.”

Carmel Kilkenny discussed these developments spoke with Nelson Wiseman.  He is an associate professor in the political science department at the University of Toronto.

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Posted in Economy, History, Politics, Society
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