Elephants in the Senate

Am I nuts? Hey, wait. Don‛t answer that.

But on second thoughts, do answer it. I‛d like to know. All this Senate froo-furraw is enough to make any of us doubt our sanity.

My problem is not with the smell of corruption and greed and inside politicking and backstabbing and maneuvering – the stink that has finally got to me is the smell of rotting herring guts being towed up and down the Parliamentary corridors. That stink is strictly diversionary. It’s the elephants manipulating the herring guts that give off the real odour.

The old entrails that are being pushed at us from all sides about electing the Senate, or reforming it, or abolishing it, are so much “slub-gubberly demagoguery”. (I put that phrase in quotes because in all fairness it deserves attribution to a Maritimer named Michael who, in a previous epoch, unleashed it upon a previous gaggle of brain challenged denizens of Parliament Hill.)  Nobody is talking about the real problem.

I agree that there are some big problems with our Canadian Senate and they range all the way from it being undemocratically appointed, to its unaccountability, to long terms and good pensions, and to blah blah blah. But the humungous elephants in the Senate – and I am not referring to over size human beings, no, no – the humungous elephants in the Senate are the Political Parties.

What in the name of all that’s holy or unholy, what in the name of sanity or common sense are Political Parties doing in the Senate? Ideally, the Senate should be a place where intelligent (suppress your cynicism) men and women acting on behalf of all Canadians take a good second look at House of Commons legislation. ( I don‛t really give a damn whether they‛re sober or not – a good stiff drink might in fact help when assessing a monstrous Harper weasel budget.)

It is bad enough that we have multiple Parties in the  Commons, put there as though by lottery in an abominable electoral system logical only in a two Party system. But Political Parties in the Senate? Hold the phone! The Senate should be one big committee – sure, sub-dividing off into smaller committees to do the real work (which they do now) then reporting back to the Committee of the Whole to try to win a consensus. Yes, like Quakers. Would that be so terrible? But Party leaders? Party Whips? Party affiliation? In the Senate! To hell with all that.

The crawdad that really sticks in my gullet is that, as far as I know, Political Parties, those elephantine incubators of senatorial greed, power and privilege, are not even mentioned in the Constitution (1867, 1982-85 – take your pick). If I am wrong about this, please, somebody out there, put me straight.

Parties being non-Constitutional – and that is a hell of a lot different than being un-Constitutional, which has to be proven in court – the Senate could be reformed tomorrow.  By three people – the PM and the two Party Leaders. They could simply abolish the Party System from the Senate. The PM came close to getting it right. He threw a senator out of the Party. Now he should throw the Parties out of the Senate.

Then we might begin to get somewhere. Until that is done there is not a hope in hell for either Senate reform or abolition.

Otherwise it is simply as Alexander Pope stated it in his Essay on Man, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast; Man never is, but always to be blest.”


About Munroe Scott

Munroe Scott is a veteran of the freelance writing world.
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