OTTAWA (NEWS1130) – The spending scandal swirling through the Senate is a hot topic of debate in Ottawa with both Houses of Parliament weighing in on illegal and questionable expenses.
Today members of the Senate are debating a motion tabled by Conservative Leader Marjory LeBreton calling on the auditor general to go over all Senate expenses.
In the House of Commons, MPs are debating an NDP motion calling for funding to the red chamber to be halted on Canada Day.
As pressure from voters continues to mount, what are the chances we will see any real changes to the Senate?
University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman is skeptical there will ever be major, long-term reform.
“Much will depend on how the Supreme Court rules, but it has ruled in the past that you can’t change the Senate without the provinces — the federal government can’t do it unilaterally. The federal government has been arguing that they could do it ‘around the edges.’ They can’t abolish the Senate on their own but they might be able to set term limits,” Wiseman tells News1130.
“The issue is, can you introduce elections? I’m skeptical the court will agree but you never know what the courts are going to rule,” he says.
Wiseman feels there are deeper issues with the Senate. One of the reasons it was created was to represent regional interest, which it hasn’t done since becoming a “partisan pasture” for party faithful.
“You can’t think of senators now as representing any province. I would say they represent the Conservative or Liberal party because of how they act. If we had elections, there would be pressure on people to represent their regions and their voters. On the other hand, if you think that Parliament is stalemated now, it’s nothing compared to what goes on in the United States. What you’ll have is two democratically elected houses and a formula for constant, if not permanent, deadlock between them,” he explains.
Memorial University political science professor Kelly Blidook believes Senate reform is needed, but doesn’t support abolishing the upper chamber altogether.
“In a large federation like Canada, it’s good to have a second legislative body that’s designed to represent regions a little more fairly, which is the basic idea behind the Senate. But I think a lot of Canadians like the idea — I think it’s just a problem with misunderstanding,” Blidook explains.
The motion to cut off funding to the Senate is being called a Canada Day “gift” by NDP leader Tom Mulcair. However there is little chance it will pass given the Conservative majority in the Commons.