The Canadian Senate is in dire need of change. Forget a tweak here or there, time to overhaul it completely. Here is my four-step plan for senate reform:
1) Retire all current senators now. Yup, it’s expensive, but pay them however long they have left to their 75 years are up as a one-time lump-sum payment. Then give them a lump-sum payment of their pension, payable in the years between 75 and the average lifespan of a Canadian. One big fat cheque, over and done with. Thank you Senators for your year or years of service, now get out! Sure it would cost a pretty penny to buy them all out, but think of the savings on their expense accounts alone. With that cheque, comes a ban for running for public office again. Take the money, run, we don’t want to see you again.
2) Change the make up of the senate. There are 10 provinces and 3 territories, so lets say 7 senators for each province, 1 for each territory for a total of 73 seats. The senate is suppose to be the great equalizer, the defender of provincial rights against the House of Commons, so make all provinces actually equal. If the House of Commons can get a majority elected based on 75 seats in Quebec and 103 seats in Ontario, why should those same provinces control 48 of 105 seats? So what if there are 7 senators from PEI and 7 from Quebec? Why shouldn’t Alberta have the same number of senators as Ontario considering Alberta is a “have” province paying transfer payment “welfare” to the “have-not” province that is Ontario? Equal is Equal, period!
3) Elect the senators. Come on, Canadians are not stupid and they are not children. After 146 years, surely we are a mature enough nation to be able to vote for more than one federal house to govern us. What do the political masters think, that we are incapable of marking an X on two separate sections of the same ballot, one for senate and one for the house? Please. Take each province, take the population of said province, divide it by seven, then figure out what part of the province falls into that area to make up the number, and those people all get to vote for a senator. Plain and simple. Yes it means that in Ontario you have almost two million people per senate district, whereas Prince Edward Island will only have 20,000 people. Doesn’t matter. Term is four years, every four years back to the polls.
4) Complete transparency. Give each senator’s office a debit card or a Visa cheque card or the like, and everything they use that card for gets posted online. If the office staff need airfare for the senator to fly from Ottawa to Halifax, then we get to see it. If office staff need to buy toilet paper at costco, we see it. Period. If the senator’s office staff, or the senator, doesn’t want it’s expenses seen, they don’t spend taxpayer’s money. If Senator Bob Smith wants a 46″ flat screen tv in his office to play Wii on, if he paid with it with his own money, who cares? Not only do we get to see everything the senators buy, but we get yearly audit reports, income statements and monitoring of gifts received.
So to recap this plan, buy off the old senate, make the new senate equal, make it elected, and make it transparent. Perhaps then the senate can return to a valued part of passing Canadian legislation, instead of being a black eye on democracy.