With the current expenses scandal of Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau, and no doubt others, reform of the Canadian Senate is once again on the minds of many Canadians.
This has been an on-again-off-again topic for decades. Back in the day. a younger Stephen Harper was committed to a “Triple-E” Senate – one of the Reform Party’s fundamental policy positions. But that idea has gone by the boards as the intransigence of status quo lovers, and the difficulty of amending the Canadian constitution has made the task virtually impossible.
This makes room for this interesting proposal I heard on the CBC afternoon show “The 180” a few days ago. The proposal is that Senators NOT be chosen as partisan appointees like they are now, not elected (which many believe would require a constitutional amendment), but instead be chosen randomly from a cross-section of Canadians – sort of like jurors are chosen in a jury trial – and then appointed just like they are now by the Prime Minister.
I suspect that most Canadians would initially find this totally unrealistic, but upon further reflection would warm up to the idea. It has the potential of making the Senate a less partisan body – because presumably it would not be structured along party lines. Senators would also be closer to “ordinary Canadians” than party hacks as they are now.
Such a system would also not require a constitutional amendment because Senators would ultimately be appointed (as they must be in our system) by the Prime Minister.