Living in a great democracy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may not like it today, but his decision to make independent Senate appointments is precisely what was needed to make our Senate a functional institution of sober second thought.
Led by recently-appointed Senator Andre Pratte, the Trudeau omnibus Budget Bill is being challenged. The Bill is not just about the budget, it includes a 35-billion dollar taxpayer investment in an Infrastructure Bank.
In general, this bank would include both private and public dollars and be used to fund major infrastructure projects.
Since Trudeau’s changes to the Senate, many Bills passed by the House of Commons have been returned with amendments from the Senate and subsequently approved.
The senators, after study and consultation, never change the intent of the legislation, but made it better.
The Senators are more than willing to pass the budget. Many, however, believe more study is required on the Infrastructure Bank and it should be its own Bill.
They are seeking clarification as to how the board of directors will be appointed, will taxpayers be liable if a private contractor goes under, what is the role of politicians in bank governance, how would projects be chosen and the need to inform Canadians that this model will introduce tolls?
If not put together well, this Bank could be ripe for corruption and political cronyism.
What a pleasant change to have a Senate working for Canadians rather than spending their time on party politics and maximizing expense account claims!
It was also a good week for our Supreme Court. A year ago, the Supreme Court ruled that trials must be held in a timely basis.
During the rape of government revenues over the last 30 years, our justice system has taken a severe hit.
We don’t have enough court space, Crown prosecutors, court staff or judges to handle cases in a timely fashion. As well, social cases have bogged down the courts after Social Service budgets were slashed.
Our Constitution requires timely judgements for the accused, who are innocent until proven guilty, and for the victims of crime.
The provinces and federal government did not take the upper Court’s ruling seriously. Instead they went back to the Supreme Court this year arguing for extensions as bad guys were getting off.
The Supreme Court gave ever so slight an extension to the most serious of crimes; however, they made themselves perfectly clear. It was the elected branches of government that were thwarting the constitutional rights of Canadians and victims of crime and it was their legislative duty to make judicial changes to ensure timely justice.
What a fine week for parliamentary democracy in Canada. The legislative branch did not have their powers overruled by unelected institutions, but the government was appropriately held to account by the checks and balances enshrined in the Senate and the Supreme Court.
As we approach Canada’s 150th Birthday, I am ever more thankful to live in this great democracy.

by B.P. Schimke

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