Senate 101

On the Other Hand

During the last election campaign Justin Trudeau promised to bring the Senate back to its traditional and intended mandate—the House of sober second thought.

The way to do that was to free the Liberal senators and to appoint independent senators to fill all the current vacancies.

The first test will be Bill C-14, the assisted dying legislation, which was passed by the House of Commons and is currently before the Senate.

Amendments have been made and the amended Bill will return to the House of Commons.
Under the British North American (BNA) Act, that is how the Senate is to operate.

Senators are not to be governed by politics, but by reasoned debate, committee review and consideration for all Canadians.

Once the Senate has approved the amendments, Bill C-14 will go back to the House of Commons.

If the House votes to accept all the amendments, the Bill becomes Law.  If they approve some or none of the amendments, the again-revised Bill C-14 returns to the Senate. The more input into a Bill by competing ideologies significantly raises the odds that there will not be big winners and big losers.

Senators are also mindful that they are appointed, not elected.

Historically, when a Bill returns to the Senate for round two, most Senators feel it is incumbent on them to pass the latest version, bowing to the elected body.

Legally the Senate can hold it up, but democratically this would be wrong unless the Bill was egregious against Canadians. That is our safety net if a Prime Minister goes rogue.

When former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, ran the Senate he placed all the power of both Houses with one man, himself.

That’s de facto, a dictatorship, which Canadians started to detest.

But alas, the tables turned quickly.  Harper found out that appointing Senators just to do his will back-fired greatly and was probably the primary reason why he was beaten in the election by the inexperienced, “not ready yet” Trudeau.

It was no secret that Harper hated the Senate and did everything in his power to under mind or discredit it during his tenure as Prime Minister.

So many Canadians watch American politics without any understanding of the differences between a republic and a parliamentary democracy.

The Trudeau government so far is giving Canadians a chance to see how the checks and balances of parliamentary democracy should work.

Hopefully the governing party will not blow it when this legislation returns to the House with amendments and hopefully the Senators won’t blow it by over-stepping their authority.  It’s a respectful balancing act and works when elected and appointed officials are working for the good of all Canadians rather than personally beneficial ideology.

The British model that governs Canada is based on decorum and respect, two words that don’t exist in the American governance model.

Our model is about working together, having thoughtful discussion and compromise so that even minorities are considered.

Canada is defined by our motto, “peace, order and good government”, which is all about the collective good of a society.

The American motto, in contrast, is “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, which is simply selfish pursuits by individuals, whereby the ones with the most money and power always win.
Canadians would be well advised to turn off American news, re-establish themselves in our British/French heritage and learn about our parliamentary system of government.

If we don’t, we too will become self-centered pockets of homogenous, angry people steeped in hatred.

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