Editor: Re: “Senate has no place in 21st century Canada,” (Gregory Thomas comment, The Times, Aug 1.)
Thomas is misleading and/or misinformed when he calls for abolishing the Senate simply because “Canada is a democracy.” There are different types of democracies and our founders intentionally set up Canada as a bicameral parliamentary democracy, not a unicameral one.
Our founders were not scared of American “mob rule” as Thomas asserts, nor does he provide evidence that they were all in favour of slavery. (Thomas, by the way, cites newspapers, not the founders, in his assertion that Canada was mad for slavery and the Confederate army.)
The founders argued that a bicameral democracy with an unelected second chamber would provide the proper separation and check of powers to protect all the people, not just a majority of them.
John A. Macdonald, during the founding debates, had this to say about what the Senate should look like: “It must be an independent house, having a free action of its own, for it is only valuable as being a regulating body, calmly considering the legislation initiated by the popular branch and preventing any hasty or ill-considered legislation which may come from that body, but it will never set itself in opposition against the deliberate and understood wishes of the people.”
He also spoke against making it elected by the people, because then it would just be a duplicate popular branch and beholden to popular opinion or political parties, defeating the purpose of being a check on the lower house.
Most agreed with this idea, including Thomas Ryan, who said in the Canadian Legislative Council on Feb. 20, 1865: “[a] second chamber, constituted nearly in the same way as the lower chamber, would be wholly ineffectual to stop the current of legislation coming from that chamber.”
You only have to look back a few years to see a prime example of the benefit of an unelected Senate that can act as a regulating body. In 2010, the House of Commons passed the Climate Change Accountability Act, which would have established crushing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ridiculous targets.
Had the Senate not been in place to defeat the bill, that act would have hamstrung an already stagnant Canadian economy. (Incidentally, taxing emissions is also policy that the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has spoken out against.)
Concern about senators’ spending habits, how they become senators, whether they need to own property or what era in which the Senate was established does not necessitate abolishing the Senate.
Let’s address those issues without being short-sighted. Throwing away the principles of the democracy entrusted to us by our founding fathers would be a disastrous legacy to pass on to our children.