Reformation not abolition needed for Senate

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News, commentaries and cartoons about the Canadian Senate continue day by day.

The apparent inability to resolve any irregularities quickly and effectively must be extremely frustrating to those Senators dedicated to serving the public good. Inevitably there are calls for abolition.

As a taxpayer contributing to the support of the chamber and members I believe in reformation rather than abolition. The concept of an Upper House is sound - that is, to reflect upon legislation proposed by the Lower House that may be hasty, ill-considered, overly partisan or just plain wrong.

However this function cannot be properly fulfilled unless the Upper House is politically independent. If the Upper mirrors the composition of the Lower then there will be perceptions of 'rubber-stamping,' or, for the reverse, perceptions of ideological blocking on purely political grounds.

Reformation would require every member to sit as an independent - no whip, no caucus, no political label.

Of course, each member will bring their own political philosophy to the House, but this will prevail or otherwise in debate. Reformation would also require a different way to chose Senators.

Selection by the government of the day is partisan: selection by public election is arbitrary.

Recognizing that the Senate's purpose is to better the lives of citizens, it follows that members should represent the 'best and brightest' Canadians. Selection should therefore be by a politically independent body and based on merit rather than reward, with the reasons for choice transparent. Perhaps ordinary citizens could take part through a nomination process.

Reformation would restore the public trust. However, reformation along these lines will be challenging, considering the practice of filling an Upper House with supporters has been ongoing in the western world for at least 200 years.

Denis Drown, St. John's

Organizations: Upper House, Canadian Senate, Lower House

Geographic location: St. John's

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