Second Thots

Sometimes one has to step back, take pause, and have some "second thots"

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Poll shows a large marjority of Canadians want an elected Senate

Contrary to conventional wisdom — and don't get me started on conventional wisdom, either — Canadians actually do care about the Senate, they do want the Senate reformed, they want to participate in electing members to the Senate, and would welcome any measures associated with any of these goals, including a national referendum on, you guessed it, the Senate.

This is all according to a poll conducted by Angus Reid. Angus Reid, you might recall, was one of the most accurate polls in the last federal election.

So, next time you hear or read someone in the media rolling their eyes at talk of Senate reform, or suggesting that Canadians don't care, don't believe it. People want democracy. It's why they rejected an unelected coalition after the last federal election. It's why they now support democratic reform of our upper chamber.

Regarding the topic of electoral reform in general, I have some mixed thoughts. First, I tend to believe that majority governments have too much power in Canada. Once elected, they have the ability to implement policies that nobody wants. The HST in Ontario is a good example of that.

The question then becomes: Well, what's to be done about unchecked majority rule?

One answer, of course, is an elected upper house like the Senate. Critics will say that it creates gridlock. Supporters might argue that it gets policies passed that have the broad support of the electorate.

Another answer is minority government, which is probably best achieved under some form of proportional representation (PR). Critics of PR will say that it creates pizza parliaments that are ineffective and give smaller parties too much power. Supporters might argue that PR is a more accurate reflection of the will of the people, and sometimes targeted issues get addressed that otherwise wouldn't. A UK referendum on PR itself right now is an apt example of such a principle in action.

I have some thoughts on all these issues but am unsure of where I stand exactly on the specific types of reforms needed. However, Canadians seem pretty clear. We've had a number of referendums on PR at the provincial level, and Canadians have said no. And, at least according to this most recent poll from Angus Reid, Canadians very much want to see a Senate that is elected and active in democratic governance.

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