To the Editor,
Perhaps Canadians need to take a sober second look at the Senate.
Senate scandals may come and go, but at the end of the day the Senate is a necessary and valuable part of Parliament. Or is it?
Are we confident the Senate adds the value and representation that is desired to make it a relevant institution in the 21st century?
Modelled on the British House of Lords, the Senate is certainly steeped in tradition. But do we really still need this house to provide ‘sober second thought’ on legislation prepared by elected representatives? Are we still worried about ‘democratic excesses’ that need to be counteracted by an Upper House?
The Senate costs taxpayers about $106 million annually. Senators make a base salary of $135,000 and run up annual expenses in the hundreds of thousands and in addition draw generous pensions on retirement.
For this, the average senator works 56 days a year reviewing legislation, sitting on committees and commissioning studies. The constitution provides for regional allocation of Senate seats, however, it is hard to see any evidence of regional representation and doubtful that most Canadians even know who their senator is.
The House of Commons recently voted down a motion to abolish the Senate. Perhaps a public referendum would have a different result.
Given the public scrutiny now on the Senate, it would be a good idea to at least have an independent, non-government commission to review and recommend whether it should continue to exist.