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Senate must go

Regardless of your political persuasion, by now you have to agree with Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall about one thing – it’s time to abolish the Senate.
Murray Mandryk

Regardless of your political persuasion, by now you have to agree with Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall about one thing – it’s time to abolish the Senate.

Of course, this is hardly some far out sentiment any more – the kind confined to the CCF/NDP or intellectual left who have always greatly resented an Upper House of appointed Lords overseeing the will of the commoners.

In fact, it was always easy for the sanctimonious left to make such grandiose gestures because there was never any realistic possibility (at least until recently) that there would ever be a chance of a federal NDP government exercising patronage.

So as long as the Senate was acting in a benign way by not doing its job of overturning or even properly scrutinizing the laws of the elected politicians, its useless nature was ignored by the public.

Also, given the secrecy that members of the old boys’ and old girls’ club subscribed to when it came to their own expenses and perks, there was little reason to even think about the Senate.

But then along came Stephen Harper who moved from appointing old party warhorses to TV media personalities like Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy willing to exchange their previous good names and reputations for a role of partisan fundraiser with the ability to attract big crowds.

And then along came more efficient, effective and open audits that revealed not only the alleged abuses of Duffy, Wallin and Patrick Brazeau but also the misspending of dozens upon dozens of other senators.

However, what’s now in play goes beyond the alleged Senate must go abuses of spending being played out both in the courts and court of public opinion. We now must ask the question that
the NDP have been asking for years and that Wall is asking right now: “What purpose does the Senate serve?”

It can not overturn the will of the elected. That was demonstrated 25 years ago when the then-Liberal -dominated Senate tried to block former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s goods and services tax.

And how did Saskatchewan benefit from this event?

Well, we got the appointments of GST Senators Eric Berntson (convicted for frauds perpetrated against Saskatchewan taxpayers for his days in the Grant Devine government) and David Tkachuk (a one-time Devine principal secretary who has done little on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan other than collect his pay cheque).

But it really doesn’t matter whether these Senators are old Progressive Conservatives or Liberals (who have been equally nefarious and useless) or true non-partisans.

The truth of the matter is that for whatever good these appointees do in their “role” of scrutinizing law, we could do much better in a much cheaper way by appointing judicial or citizen experts to oversee the supposed tyranny of the House of Commons majority for specific laws. This brings us to the questions of who wants the Senate and why.

Well, there are a few commentators who still seem to be defending the validity of the Senate. But it’s hard not to be a little suspicious that their motives might have something to do with following the Duffy and Wallin path.

The “taskless thanks” of the Senate will remain a prize to such political types.

And there are the well-meaning political science intellectuals who whole-heartedly believe we need that upper house safeguard. But even if so, we surely need to get rid of what we
now have.

Why not then have a proportional representation upper house whose make-up would be based on appointments from every party based on the results of popular vote from the last election?

What better watchdog/safeguard could there be? Well, none.

But that’s something the politicians who run for specifi c seats will never allow because it cuts into their power.

So we seem to be only left with Wall’s alternative.

Before we can even think of getting something better, this Senate needs to go