LETTER: Problems in Senate reform

Various observers have argued the Senate should be reformed...

Various observers have argued the Senate should be reformed by having the prime minister appoint only nominees recommended by provincial governments.

Unfortunately, that proposal won’t work. Here’s why.

First, at any given time some provinces, often a majority, are governed by parties in opposition to the prime minister’s party. Why would any prime minister appoint opposition senators who would oppose him or perhaps cause him to lose Senate control?

Second, the prime minister would not appoint separatist nominees recommended by a separatist government.

Senate reform is very problematic because in two ways our founding fathers did a poor job in establishing the Senate.

Their first big mistake was to adopt neither equal representation for each province (or state) as in the United States (two) or Australia (12), nor provincial representation by population, as in India.

Instead, our founders adopted a blend of the two which incorporated very inaccurate proportional representation by region and province.

The founders’ second big mistake was that they made no provision for changes in Senate representation, no matter how great population shifts might be.

Thus today, Canada has this absurd situation: Prince Edward Island, population 145,000, four senators; New Brunswick, 750,000, 10; and British Columbia, 4,450,000, six!

Article 42 of our constitution states that any change requires an amendment supported by at least two-thirds of the provinces constituting at least 50 per cent of the population. This means that either Quebec or Ontario would have to be supportive. For logical reasons, both are opposed.

There may be ways of achieving minor reforms but Ian Macleod’s recommendations won’t work.

John H. Redekop