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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Canadians welcome Saskatchewan’s proposal to elect Senators: Poll

I don’t share the view that more elected members of parliament will enhance the freedom and prosperity of average Canadians. In fact, in my opinion, the last thing we need is more politicians busying themselves with so-called nation building. That puts me in the minority of people who would abolish the Senate. (I might even be convinced to support the status quo, given the good work the Senate is doing on Bill C-10.)

A national poll released today by Angus Reid shows that 60% of Canadians would like to directly elect their senators and 53% agree with Saskatchewan’s plan to hold elections to the Senate, with the PM appointing the winners. 32% would vote to abolish the Senate altogether, which is down from previous polls, perhaps evidence that action on Senate reform from the federal Tories and the provinces is converting sceptics and detractors.

You can find the complete Angus Reid poll results here:

Download saskatchewan_senate_reform_poll.pdf

If Senate reform is your thing, here’s something from the Western Standard archive: In “Red chamber, red light,” reporter Cyril Doll concludes that neither Harper's good intentions nor Bert Brown's appointment make Senate reform more likely.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on May 28, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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Matthew - an elected Senate would be a great thing for small-government in Canada since its primary effect would be to slow down the processes of government, preventing any great burst of reform. In the long-term, that is.

In the short-term, though, we'd be better off with the current system and a decent majority government which could push through a large number of reforms, before then working out a way to stack the Senate to make sure that the next government couldn't easily undo them.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-05-28 9:50:26 PM

I don’t think I agree with your analysis, Adam.

The only advantage to elected officials comes in expanding the size and scope of government entitlements. The public choice school of economics has done a very good job of explaining why it is always wiser for politicians to grant rent seeking entitlements to special interest groups, at the expense of rationally ignorant voters, than it is to try to take them away to everyone’s general advantage.

An unelected body -- accountable only to the constitution (as flawed as it is), our ancient liberties and common law traditions -- can say “no” to dangerous populist legislation, at least in theory.

We have an independent judiciary for the same reason we need an independent Senate.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-28 10:18:49 PM

I don't assume that "populist" and "dangerous" are synonyms, ebt. But populist (and popular) ideas can be dangerous to our rights and freedoms -- and when they are, we need people who can constrain the worst elements of mob rule. That’s what a liberal democracy is all about.

Liberty is marked by the rule of law, and the escape from the arbritrary rule of man.

As for bias in the courts, it’s not an argument against an independent judiciary.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-29 1:22:39 PM

And I agree.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-29 4:05:51 PM

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