This fall the Duffy Senate scandal trial will be back on the news, once again highlighting everything that is wrong with our country’s unelected chamber of Parliament. Canada does many things well, but the Senate has not been one of them.
It is a bit laughable that in the 21st century we still have an unelected body of people approving our laws and running our government.
The original concept for the creation of the Senate was that Canada, as a new country, required a sober second chamber to temper the will of the House of Commons. In today’s words, what that really means is that the rich and politically connected do not feel that the “commoners” would make the right decisions and needed a second opinion.
After all, you had to be wealthy to be in the Senate (they originally had very stringent money, gender and age restrictions on who could be elected), but you also had to be connected.
I guess the assumption was that being rich, male and from the right social circles made you smarter. It was the Governor General in the 1800’s that chose Senators and it is the Prime Minister that chooses today.
Being a Senator is not a bad gig, if you are able to land it, it comes with a salary for life, travel expenses, and staff to organize your life. All these are the necessary things an elected national official gets, but Senators have this without the trouble of the drudgery of responding to the needs of the public.
Yet, as much as the perks are the things that somehow get front pages of the Senate scandals we are seeing now, what really irks me is the fact that they are not elected.
I have a hard time giving the decision makers of the time the benefit of the doubt. I doubt very much that unelected officials contributed more to the good of the country at any time, then or now, than what could be offered by elected officials.
Unelected Senators respond to each other, to their political networks and to their political bosses. They do not work for constituents in the same way that elected officials, and we are all the poorer for it.
They do not feel the pressures of the public and they do not act on these. They are separated from our needs, our fears, our hopes and our aspirations. They naturally represent the aspirations of a different class.
Without the scrutiny of elections I fail to see how we can ever achieve responsible government. Maybe if they had the internet and twitter back then, we would have known a lot more about all the backroom deals earlier and things would have changed decades ago.
What I know for certain is that if Canadians had been electing our Senators, we would have better government today.
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