This week, Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks defended the senate, while highlighting the difficulties in removing the federal body of government.
Wilks spoke on Tuesday at a luncheon sponsored by the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce.
“Certainly a lot of Canadians have asked not only our government, but just about every one they can, why don’t we just abolish the senate,” Wilks said. “The reality is we can’t just abolish the senate, as much as we would probably like to, the senate is written into the constitution of 1867.”
He said part of the problem of opening up the constitution is it takes seven provinces, plus 50 per cent of the electorate in each of those provinces to do.
“Most of you know we don’t get 50 per cent of people voting in an election. It’s very rare that that happens,” he said. “The larger problem is the seven provinces. In 1982 Quebec did not sign the Meech Lake Accord. So it’s actually eight out of 10.”
Wilks said the problem is also with getting the smaller eastern provinces of Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick to agree to opening up the constitution, since he said they have the most to lose with four MPs and four senators. Those numbers would likely drop based on their population.
“Once we open up the constitution, well, we may as well not just stop at the senate, we may as well keep going, and that scares the heck out of a lot of people,” he said, adding chances of the constitution being opened are “remote to nil.”
He said the prime minister has sent a request to the Supreme Court of Canada to review options without opening the constitution. Some of the things they hope to change are adding term limits of nine years for senators and making the senate an elected one.
“The federal legislation for an elected senate has been passed,” he said. “It is up to each province to determine whether they want to enact the legislation to have an elected senate.”
Only Alberta currently has an elected senate.
Wilks said one criticism he hears is that the prime minister only appoints people he likes.
“The reality is, he’s going to appoint people who are like minded to him,” he said. “That’s the way it works. It’s no different than if it’s an NDP federal government or a Liberal federal government, they’re going to appoint people that are like-minded to them. Why? Because you want eventually to have the senate have a balance to which you can get your bills through.”
Wilks said he believes that the senate does serve a purpose, as last year three bills were sent back because senators felt they wouldn’t pass.