On Senate Reform

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By Justin Trudeau
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

Canadians want their leaders to be open and straight with them, to tell them the truth. They expect us to come forward with practical solutions that address problems directly.

The Senate has become one of those problems. Canadians have made up their minds: the Senate is broken, and it needs to be fixed.

At the same time, Canadians do not want to open the Constitution. They do not want a long, rancorous, and likely pointless debate that would distract us from solving more important problems.

We are all poorly served by the way in which Senators are appointed. Canadians are especially disenchanted with the antiquated convention that sees Senators appointed by one person: the Prime Minister.

The Senate of Canada is a public institution. It should not be run like the Prime Minister’s private club. Over eight years ago, Mr. Harper railed against this convention as Leader of the Opposition, and committed to change it.

As Prime Minister, he has made 59 appointments, despite his promise to appoint none.

I have now committed that, if I earn the privilege of serving Canadians as their Prime Minister, I will put in place an open, transparent, and public process for appointing and confirming Senators.

No longer will Senators serve as a reward for services rendered to the Prime Minister and his party. The process will be more like the selection of Members, Officers, and Companions of the Order of Canada. Built on consensus, open to input from Canadians, and not solely reliant on the whims of one person.

If the Senate serves a purpose at all, it is to act as a check on the extraordinary power of the Prime Minister and his office, especially in a majority government. Partisanship within the Senate is a powerful, negative force – and under Mr. Harper we have seen it at its worst.

That’s why, effective immediately, only elected Members of the House of Commons will serve as members of the Liberal Caucus. The thirty-two former Liberal Senators are, as of January 29th, independent of the Liberal Caucus.

I would welcome the Prime Minster to match this action. As the majority party in the Senate, immediate and comprehensive change is in Conservative hands. The Prime Minister should do the right thing.

Mr. Harper would still have you believe that he is a reformer at heart, despite 8 years of hard evidence to the contrary.

As for Mr. Mulcair, his promise to abolish the Senate and overhaul the Constitution is either deliberately and cynically misleading, or empty and foolish.

I believe the actions we have taken offer the most meaningful action possible without changing the Constitution. If the Supreme Court says more can be done, we will be open to doing so.

At our best, Liberals are relentless reformers. When public institutions fail to serve the public interest, we take bold steps to change them.

We want to build public institutions that Canadians can trust, and that serve Canadians. This requires real, positive change. These proposals are the next step, but they will not be our last.

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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