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Why the spotlight on the Canadian Senate?

This question from a first-time reader of the January 2003 issue of the Canadian Vindicator e-zine deserves an answer.

It is because Canadians are denied the right to elect the members of their own Senate. One man, and only one man, selects persons of his own choice to become Senators. This is a complete negation of democracy.

Canadians have never been asked in any General Election or nation-wide referendum to make a choice for or against the present method of appointing, not electing, Senators to represent them.

For 136 years Canadians have docilely lived under a system of government whereby one man can appoint one complete Chamber of Parliament.

No one has yet had the courage to say, "If I am elected Prime Minister I will not appoint anyone a Senator who has not been elected by the people of Canada."

Once appointed, Senators can remain in office until the age of 75 years, paid by taxpayers a handsome salary of $105,000 per annum, and a handsome pension when they retire.

They are not answerable to an electorate.

This power conferred on appointed Senators has led to abuses in the past, and continues to give rise to questionable practices, practices sanctioned by the Senate's own rules of conduct.

Elected legislators in Canada, municipal, provincial, and federal, know they run the risk of losing their jobs if taxpayers find fault with their conduct. Electors can vote them out of office.

Canadian electors cannot vote unelected Senators out of office if they find fault with their conduct.

Consider two recent cases reported by Ottawa Citizen reporter Jack Aubry.

An Ontario Senator was absent on 59 of 124 sitting days, a British Columbia Senator attended just 35 per cent of sitting days over a set period. Being absent more than 19 sitting days calls for a penalty of $250 a day for each sitting thereafter. By using the excuse of being absent on public business Senators avoid paying the stipulated penalty. Add on days absent due to illness and one of the Senators avoided paying any fines at all.

In the overall scheme of things, the conduct of two appointed Senators will not bring an end to the system of appointment, but perseverance in questioning whether such a system of appointment can be tolerated for ever and a day must surely capture the attention of Canadians as they look forward to a new generation of political leaders tackling the issue.

"The Constitution made me do it" is no excuse. As previously detailed in this and other independent media, appointing only those who are elected Senators by the people of Canada does not contravene the Constitution.

In order to achieve democracy the appointed Senate must be a central issue in the next General Election.


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