Abolishing senate not the answer, Casey

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By Darrell Cole TC MEDIA

AMHERST – Despite the continued scandal in Canada’s upper house, former MP Bill Casey is not in favour of abolishing the senate.

Former MP Bill Casey says abolishing the senate is not the cure to the upper house's woes. He is in favour of having appointments made by a committee of Canadians.

Casey, who served as a Conservative and Independent MP from 1988 to 1993 and from 1997 until his retirement in 2008, says the senate has a role in Canadian politics. The problem, as he sees it, is how senators are appointed.

“We absolutely should have a senate, especially in situations when you have a majority government,” Casey said. “When the senate was created it was meant to protect the interests of the provinces, while the House of Commons was envisioned to protect the population. It’s important that we keep it.”

As MPs head home for the Christmas break, opposition parties continue to ask questions about Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses and a cheque from Primer Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

Casey, who was expelled from the Conservative caucus in 2007 after voting against the federal budget, said he understands the cynicism Canadians feel toward the senate in light of the ongoing spending scandal and the expulsion of three former Conservative senators. But, he believes abolishing the senate would be a mistake because throughout history it has been the house of sober second thought that has avoided much of the partisan strife in the elected House of Commons.

“I believe the senate can be fixed,” he said. “The biggest problem with the senate is how and why senators are appointed. Too often senators are appointed for the wrong reasons. They’re not appointed for their ability to contribute to the governance of the country. Often it’s to reward someone and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

Casey suggested senators be nominated from the provinces they represent and be selected by a committee of Canadians with no political affiliation. He said the committee should represent a cross section of Canadians from business people, to civil servants, to social workers and others.

“If there were a seat open in Nova Scotia they would accept nominations from Nova Scotia. If that person were selected he or she would be appointed by the prime minister,” said Casey. “It needs no constitutional change or no legislation in parliament. It just needs the will of the people to do it.”

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: House of Commons, Independent MP

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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  • James Keating
    December 14, 2013 - 19:03

    Some of your comments make sense. We probably should have a senate and probably elected by the people, but do we need 100 senators that cost the people 100 million dollars a year? Why don't we reduce that number down to 1 - 30 - say 1 representing the smallest province to 3 to 4 being the largest. It disturbs me when our local hospital has to raise money by a local radio to buy a new piece of equipment that costs $60,000.000 - just because the hospital dont have the money to but it, but in the meantime, here we are spend millions of dollars on a bunch of people that spend most of their time on what seems unless meetings. I just looked at a television program that has a senate sub-committee debating a 1763 treaty ???. Why don' they try and find out a better way to make horse shoes - both are a waste of money.

  • Empty Pockets
    December 14, 2013 - 15:49

    And who would select the candidate to become a senator, that's right, the provincial government. So you can bet it would be a defeated candidate from the party who would be on the way to Ottawa.