Could we stop talking about the Senate? The embers of disbelief from the Prime Minister appointing three losing candidates to the Senate are still cooling. Now, with the Ontario provincial elections on, we have the Liberal Party screaming to have it abolished.
Let’s just take a quick reality break here. First, the Senate exists by legislation of the Constitution Act (1982) and its previous versions. You want to abolish it? Go for it. All you need is pass it through the House of Commons and then get the approval of 7 out of 10 provincial legislatures, where those provinces comprise more than 50% of the population. Because that is the only amending formula for a major revision of the constitution.
By the way, you’ll notice that passing it through the Senate is not a requirement. If the Senate does not approve a constitutional amendment, the House can wait 180 days and re-approve the amendment and Senate approval is no longer required.
And, bluntly, don’t think that this sort of thing is just going to happen. Most of the provinces would like to do a bit of constitutional wrangling, rather than one single piece. Therefore, a First Ministers’ meeting on the constitution, or probably several, will be needed to get any amendments going. As we remember from the election earlier this month, the NDP stated that, as part of their platform, they were willing to reopen the constitution in the aim to get Quebec as a full signatory to it. This was criticized by both the Conservatives and Liberal Party. Mr. Harper, in Asbestos, QC, said:
“We are in the middle of an economic recovery and the real priority for families are jobs, growth, affordable services and keep their taxes down and those will be the priorities of the Conservative government, not resurrecting old constitutional debates.”
When we consider that this looks very much like “I’m not interested,” we do have to remember that a politician’s opinion in April isn’t necessary a politician’s choice in May. That being said, we can probably safely assume that a Conservative Prime Minister is not going to do anything that vaguely looks like he’s meeting the demands of a Liberal premier during an election. We all know that certainly isn’t happening…