Rarely do we see political gambles on the scale Justin Trudeau has taken since becoming leader of the Liberal Party. Within his short time as leader we can concretely say two things: First, he wants to legalize marijuana in some way. Second, he’s serious about reforming the infamous Canadian Senate. Since becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper has constantly advocated for reform of the Senate. However, we have seen no real concrete Conservatives moves that would put this motion forward.
Yes, a reference question is before the Supreme Court, but it would appear as if it’s more of a stalling tactic to keep an election promise. The Harper government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to advise whether it can impose term limits on Senators and find a way for “consultative elections” of people that would be nominated for the Senate. The majority of the provinces have taken a position that such reforms require a constitutional amendment, which would need to be adopted by at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the country’s population.
What happened on Jan. 29 is nothing less than monumental. Without warning, Trudeau expelled all 32 senators from the Liberal Party. Now this doesn’t mean they are no longer senators, but simply they will sit as independents. This is a great thing that happened. When the Senate was first thought up in the Confederation era, the purpose was that the upper chamber would be one of “sober second thought” free of interference in their business. An elected Senate is a terrible idea.
The Senate has the same power as the House of Commons, as any legislation must be approved by both (followed by the Governor General) to become law. Because of the unelected nature of the Senate, a conventional practice is followed. Rarely will the Senate veto or delay legislation passed by the House of Commons. An elected Senate would no doubt be subject to political biases.
What Trudeau did was unprecedented, but it certainty made Canadian politics fun to watch again. It was a bold move, one that could either prove to be a saving grace for the prime minister hopeful, or could lead to his downfall. My money is on the former. Senate reform is something Canadians have been yearning for since the Duffy, Wallin, Harb, Brazeau fiasco. Trudeau simply put his fingers on the pulse of the Canadian public. If he can keep this up through an election season, we could see a new prime minister in 2015.
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