Triple E Senate, or else
Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 06:00 am
“Triple ‘E’ senate, or else.” (Retired Senator Bert Brown’s maxim in his barley field).
Whatever Justin Trudeau’s motivation for his surprise expulsion of the Liberal caucus in the senate was, he has certainly tweaked Canadians’ interest in senate reform. There is a desire amongst the public as well as the political elite to see some kind of reform of the Canadian senate. Choices to date however have centred on either total abolition or the “Triple E” concept. Personally I believe we need to retain the senate but it seems clear that a full “Triple E” is not going to happen, at least not in the near future.
A reasonable compromise may however be in the offing; being a totally non-partisan senate, made up of independently elected senators from the ten provinces and three territories based on the current regional/provincial formula. Provinces do however need to be broken down into distinct electoral districts to ensure that senators are truly representative of the entire province. Creating a well thought out system of independently elected senators could potentially have the effect of accomplishing two out of the three “E’s” – elected and effective.
The problem remains developing some method of funding of the election process for potential non-partisan independent candidates. Very few individuals can, or would be, willing to fund an expensive election campaign out of their own pocketbooks and it would be difficult to mount an effective campaign without some form of organizational structure.
At the same time there appears to be a mood for more independence amongst elected MPs. All independent candidates are at a disadvantage in fundraising as compared to strong opposition from well-funded party supported candidates. Independents have no means of raising funds until the writ is dropped, giving them only a short period of time to mount an expensive campaign. Their partisan counterparts on the other hand can raise funds through their constituency associations throughout the period between elections.
So if there is support for more independence in our governmental organizations then there is a need to create a mechanism whereby independent candidates, either senatorial or parliamentary, can raise funds outside the auspices of a partisan political party. Supposedly it could be done by forming and registering an “independent” party, although that seems to be somewhat unwieldy and sets up the need for rules and bylaws and all of the normal trappings of a ‘political’ organization.
Boiling everything down, it is clear that we need to create a more effective form of government at all levels. The movement of late for such strict party discipline, and the need to bring about a less autocratic, more consultative approach to leadership is an overwhelming incentive to move to more independence at all levels of government. There is a need for more free thinking and freedom to vote with your conscience than we have under our present style of government.
Let us explore the options and capture this opportunity to challenge the status quo in governmental institutions. We may not be able to get a “Triple E” senate but hopefully we can get a more effective body of parliamentarians by electing independent, non-partisan candidates to both chambers.
Ken Allred is a former St. Albert alderman and MLA.