The ongoing Senate expenses scandal and subsequent cover up by the PMO is further proof that the unaccountable, archaic Senate of Canada with its culture of entitlement should be abolished as Canada’s NDP has long proposed.
An appointment to the Canadian Senate is like winning the cash for life lottery. Senators earn $135,200 a year as a base salary with generous benefits and expense accounts, serve until age 75, and sit in the Senate for an average of 71 days a year. The total annual cost for Canadian taxpayers to maintain the Senate is over $92.5 million.
Conservative and Liberal Governments have made appointments to the Senate as rewards for past support and to further the interests of their party and Government. Rather than serve as a chamber of sober second thought, the Senate is primarily made up of party bag men, organizers, hacks, flacks, and defeated candidates. Too often, Liberal and Conservative Senators use their position to participate in partisan fundraising, party organizing, and running election campaigns. Indeed, the Liberal and Conservative parties have routinely run their federal election campaigns out of the Senate which serves as an extension of their party organizations.
The Senate, which was established in 1867 to defend the interests of the wealthy, is useless, undemocratic, unaccountable, and costly. We do not need appointed party hacks with their sense of entitlement to write or rewrite Canadian legislation. Nor is the Senate needed to protect provincial interests which is done by the elected M.P.s and the provincial governments. We especially do not need an elected Senate in competition with the elected House of Commons. An elected Senate would be a recipe for political gridlock as they have in the United States.
The Government of Canada, in consultation with the provinces and territories, should hold a national referendum on the abolition of the Senate. If the majority of Canadians voted to abolish the Senate, then it would be up to the federal and provincial governments to amend the Canadian constitution accordingly. It’s time for the outdated, discredited, unaccountable, patronage-corrupted Senate to go. As Jack Layton often reminded us: “Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.”
SDSG Federal NDP riding association.