December 16, 2015
OTTAWA: The Liberal government announced the creation of a five-member advisory panel to recommend Senate appointments for the Prime Minister to make. This will be an unelected, appointed body to suggest unelected, appointed Senators. In my view, this new process isn’t democratic, it isn’t transparent, and it isn’t real Senate reform. It will simply create an unelected, appointed body to recommend unelected, appointed Senators.
The one and only democratic element of our current system is that Senators from Alberta are nominated by means of a province-wide election under the ‘Senatorial Selection Act’. Yet the Liberals seem intent on ruling out this possibility in Alberta and elsewhere. Already, the British Columbia government has made clear it will not take part in this process because it does nothing to address that province’s actual concerns.
The process adds another level of secrecy to an already unclear process. The shortlist this panel will generate is secret by design. The public won’t even learn who has been nominated by the panel, other than the candidate selected by the Prime Minister. In fact, the prime minister and most of the panel members won’t represent the province for which an appointment is being made.
One of the first five new senators nominated through this will be appointed the new Government Leader in the Senate, a specifically partisan role tied to the government of the day. This simply adds to concerns that the appointment process is rigged from the start to provide the Prime Minister with a crop of nominal ‘independents’ who will reliably support only the government’s agenda.
The Senate has to work better, must be less partisan, more independent and more effective.