Dear Seven Senators,
Welcome to the Red Chamber. When I heard the news of your appointment I didn‛t know whether to congratulate you or commiserate with you, but I‛ve decided to opt for congratulations because you, and your other senatorial associates, have an extraordinary opportunity to implement Senate Reform. Not, I assure you, Mr. Harper‛s idea of reform nor the NDP‛s rather anarchistic dream of Senatorial euthanasia.. But reform, you betchya.
Let me assure you that I happen to have a deep seated ( although possibly overly-optimistic) affection for the Senate. Shucks, ‘way back in 1988 I actually called your forerunners Our Undemocratic Champions. At the time I thought the intellectual chamber might actually block, or at least revise, the Free Trade Agreement with the USA. Alas, Mr. Mulroney invoked an arcane rule and stuffed the place with seven ( or was it eight) acolytes who swore undying loyalty to the Conservative agenda. One was even an outstanding heart surgeon who might have been of more use repairing people‛s hearts rather than assisting in the evisceration of Canada‛s heart.
But I digress. Sorry about that. Let‛s cut to the chase.
I understand that you, my esteemed Seven, have signed an agreement to support Senate Reform. Great! Go for it.
But has it occurred to you that now, for at least eight years or so, you‛re in a position of impenetrable personal security? Sort of like a 13th century knight in his castle keep. Sure, you‛re bound by a code of honour ( I hope) but as long as you don‛t break your vows you can do as you damn well please.
So okay. Reform the god-damned Senate. (Forgive the language but one has to express emotion. And I didn‛t capitalize “god”so no divine judgement is implied.)
The beautiful thing is that you and the rest of the 105 can do it all by yourselves without contravening, or even invoking, the Constitution. Reform is so within the grasp of the 105 that I‛ll bet most have never noticed it.
How to do it?
Throw out the god-damned Parties. (Same apology as above, same reason.)
Parties do not exist in the Canadian Constitution. They certainly have no right to be in the Senate.
The Senate is there to protect the people of the regions from rash legislative errors made by Parties in the House of Commons. The senators — you — are not there to represent a Party, anybody‛s Party. A radical thought, eh? Well, okay, delve into the Constitution and tell me where the Party system even exists. The PM saw fit to stick you into the Senate but you have no obligation to a Party. Parties, like Corporations, are figments of the political imagination. And it’s the PM’s misconception that he’s your boss. I don’t even think that his own position does itself exist in the Constitution — certainly not with all its current might of power and glory. You may want to check that out. And besides, unlike for a cabinet minister, he can’t have your resignation in his desk drawer.
Let me say, however, that I do think the Party system is quite a useful device. It simply has no place whatsoever in the Senate.
So – throw the Parties out of the Senate. Defrock their leaders and their Whips. Come together as adults and pass adult judgement on the recommendations of your various committees with one major thing in mind. Are those recommendations good for the people in your region and are they good for the people of Canada?
I use the word “people” advisedly, because I do not mean hallucinatory “Corporate People”. You, dear Senator, are neither a Corporation nor a Party. You are a you. Act accordingly, with conviction and pride.
You may well ask how the 105 are supposed to function without Party structure and discipline. Until recently I asked that question myself. And then I attended an Occupy “General Assembly”.
Please do not confuse a General Assembly with an Occupation. It may lead to an Occupation somewhere or other, but here I‛m talking about process.
Just before Christmas, in my community of Peterborough, I stood with about 80 other folk, spanning at least three generations, in the open, in sub-zero weather, for two hours while there was some of the most civilized and democratic debate I have ever witnessed. Opinions were stated verbally and amplified by the “people‛s mic” in which those within hearing repeated the words loudly, phrase for phrase. It seems odd when you hear it on a TV news clip but I can tell you this – you pay attention – to every word – you hear every word – you repeat every word.
And reactive opinions are quietly expressed by hand signals – approval – doubt – rejection – even absolute opposition. One lady brought the whole proceedings to a halt with a simple hand signal that suggested an agreement just reached had violated principle. Under the guidance of the facilitator the violation was discussed, recognized, and corrected. It took about 3 minutes.
I came away buoyed by the process and by the inter-generational make-up of the group using it. I myself am 84 and the extremely competent facilitator could have been my granddaughter.
So, dear Seven Senators, before you become jaundiced, lulled, or coerced into the Party mould, go out an observe an Occupy movement’s General Assembly. Everybody‛s welcome. You may realize that‛within its process there is more possibility for useful Senate Reform than our PM can possibly imagine. Of course you may find that the younger leaders, the bright ones, the most motivated ones have been thrown into the clink by an establishment that is terrified of their progressive democratic ideas. But remember. You’re untouchable. You’re in your castle keep. Go for it.
And I suppose I should confess that there‛s not a hope in hell of any of you reading this, unless some of my rather limited number of friendly readers choose to forward it and, by osmosis, it seeps up to you.
Anyway, Good Luck to all seven of you – if you work to deserve it.
Yours most sincerely