Why would we want an elected Senate? The Red Chamber, fighting for its reputation and its dignity, is beset by battles over senators’ living expenses and bad behaviour, with a poll showing that a third of Canadians feel it should be abolished. Our readers, print and digital, joined the fray
As a passionate supporter of the Senate’s value, I was delighted to read Globe columnists Jeffrey Simpson’s and Lysiane Gagnon’s thoughtful perspectives on Senate reform. The current model is not working, and any reform that requires constitutional change is unrealistic.
So I agree with Ms. Gagnon’s suggestion that we can recruit the best and the brightest who will act in the interests of all Canadians by adjusting the selection process.
May these two columns finally spark the beginning of Senate reform based on the needs of Canadians, not politicians.
Jim Sanders, Guelph, Ont., letter
Our Prime Minister wanted a Triple-E Senate and now he has it: embarrassing, expensive and eccentric.
Allan Stone, Owen Sound, Ont., letter
Since senators don’t actually do anything, why don’t they do it from home so we can all save on their travel expenses?
Mike Tevlin, Toronto, letter
How complicated is defining a primary residence? It isn’t, unless you’re a senator.
Rainer Paull, Sudbury, Ont., digital reader
The Senate is so 19th century. Thankfully, major corporations have the answer. Compile a strong board of directors who will meet on a regular basis to provide guidance on how to run the country. They’ll keep their day job; we’ll simply pay their expenses. The prestige would be enough to attract the best and the brightest. The savings and lack of drama would be a well-deserved relief for the country.
Jim Houston, Brampton, Ont., letter
New Zealand abolished its Senate in 1951 and hasn’t looked back. Like Canada, New Zealand has competing regional interests, an urban-rural political divide, and an aboriginal population with many challenges in a post-colonial society. Unicameral federal governance (although decisions are also ratified through the judiciary) clearly works.
Andrew McLaren, Halifax, digital reader
It’s almost as if Stephen Harper wanted to make Senate choices that would so infuriate people of all political stripes that they’d want to get rid of the whole motley crew.
David Boult, Stittsville, Ont., digital reader
Senator Pamela Wallin, in her article Wadena Is My Home, The Senate Is My Job, says that, last year, she “spent 168 days in my home province … participating in dozens and dozens of events.” She then goes on to list a multitude of activities, none of which has anything to do with the passage of legislation.
We already have 308 MPs who travel back and forth between their ridings and Parliament Hill doing all of that glad-handing. Do we really need 105 senators duplicating the work of our MPs?
Peter A. Lewis-Watts, Barrie, Ont., letter
If I had an apartment in Ottawa, a condo in Toronto, a cabin at Fishing Lake and a generous expense account, I certainly wouldn’t be found in Wadena too often.
Marcel Brazeau, Ottawa, letter
There are many good senators who say things our MPs won’t or can’t. I’m thinking, for instance, of Hugh Segal’s call for a guaranteed annual income and Michael Kirby’s work on mental health.
Janice Braden, Saskatoon, digital reader
I propose the complete erasure of pay for our senators. They can support themselves on their own – and they certainly have plenty of time to do so. Those then vying for a Senate seat might be cut from a different cloth than the current bloated heap.
Kristov Kully-Martens, Edmonton, digital reader
As a self-employed Canadian taxpayer, I look at developments in the Senate with utter disdain. While the provinces face budget cuts and reductions to critical services, the Senate – unelected, unaccountable, dysfunctional and incompetent – incurs more than $100-million in expenses. I see zero return on this “investment” to Canadian taxpayers.
And so-called Senate reform is just another monumental waste of taxpayers’ time and money.
The solution is simple: Abolish the Senate and divert those funds to the real needs of Canadians living and working in the real world. If the House of Commons is doing its job properly, we don’t need a Senate.
Mike Whitfield, Calgary, letter
If Stephen Harper is so keen on reforming the Senate, why doesn’t he start by reforming Conservative senators?
Hugh Wood, Saltspring Island, B.C., digital reader
Abolish the Senate. We don’t need to double-vote for political representatives.
Stephen Brophy, St. John’s, digital reader
Lysiane Gagnon says the Senate is “a haven for hacks and fundraisers,” and she proposes that it be packed with outstanding citizens chosen by a committee of university presidents and other such people. There! It will be a maven haven.
Murray Citron, Ottawa, letter
I am Canadian
Re Easy Canadian Target (editorial, Feb. 15):
I hate thickened borders. I keep “clean oil” off my hands and “dirty oil” in my car. I cringe when I see “clean coal” ads.
I love-hate oxymorons, but I support pipelines. I am not buying an international driving licence for Florida. I listen to U.S. ambassadors bearing gifts of advice on greenness – with a grain of salt.
I am not a zombie. I do not bear arms. I am a proud Canadian of a certain age!
John E. Marion, Toronto
Waiting for spring
Re Extremists Control Key Benghazi Checkpoint (front page, Feb. 15):
A sage once said the best day after overthrowing a tyrant is the first one. That maxim is so evident in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and, coming soon, in Syria. The state, society, civic institutions and fundamentals of everyday life were surrendered to tyranny.
The Arab Spring/Awakening was badly needed. Now what’s needed is a spring of ideas, rebuilt civic institutions and modernity. Where’s it going to come from? History’s march is unstoppable.
Elie Nasrallah, Ottawa
Madness on Mali
Re Canada To Extend Air Transport In Mali (Feb. 15):
How embarrassing is it that all that Canada can contribute to a worthy cause such as killing terrorists is the loan of a single airplane that can’t even drop a bomb? And that our politicians are actually arguing over how many weeks the French can have that plane.
As a Canadian, I feel like hiding under my desk. I sure hope my family and friends in the U.S. don’t know what cheapskates we are.
Tom Cauley, Burlington, Ont.
Re Margaret Wente’s Boys Will Be Boys (Feb. 14):
When one of my sons started kindergarten, I asked him what he did at playtime. Played in the doll centre with several boys, he said.
This was many years ago, when the women’s liberation movement was just starting, so I was quite pleased to learn that my son and his friends were enjoying playing dolls with the girls.
Then I asked him what he and his friends did in the doll centre. “We pretend it’s a fort and shoot the bad guys.”
Dorothy Mikalachki, London, Ont.
THE SPARK WHY WATER-GATE CHATTER MATTERS
The Republican Party did not have a good election.
Their candidate, Mitt Romney, seemed as bereft of charm as he was of ideological consistency and sympathy for the underclasses. He was trashed by President Barack Obama at the polls, an eventuality for which the GOP was so unprepared that, on election night, Fox News commentator and Republican Karl Rove famously refused to believe the results.
Then, in the weeks after the debacle, Mr. Romney’s son Tagg, told the press that his father never wanted to be the Republican nominee.
Thus, when it came time for the Republicans to choose someone to respond to the President’s State of the Union speech this week, they figured this was their moment to start the rebranding process.
They anointed a young Cuban-American senator named Marco Rubio as their saviour. Reach out to the immigrant vote, and so on.
Not only did Mr. Rubio blow the opportunity by delivering a speech so filled with defeated Republican dogma about tax breaks for the rich that it could have been delivered by Mr. Romney last October, but he also made a bizarre spectacle of himself by at one point suddenly stopping mid-thought, bending down and reaching stiffly for a hilariously small bottle of water, audibly gulping a quick sip, the entire time staring at the camera, and then restarting his speech as if nothing had happened.
The reaction was instantaneous, brutal and viral. MSNBC alone played the “gulp-gate” clip 155 times the next day.
“That was their best shot? Pass the beer nuts!” said one commenter on The Globe’s website. “What a Rube,” another punned.
Other Globe commenters saw the gulp of water as a non-event: “It lets people think they are talking about politics and current events without actually having to think,” one reader said.
For the Republicans, the real problem was the attention the gulp drew to a disappointing effort that would have otherwise barely been covered.
Mr. Rubio tried to make light of it the next day. “I needed water,” he said. “What are you going to do? God has a funny way of reminding us we’re human.”
If God was involved, He has an even funnier way of reminding people how far the Republicans still have to go to recover from Mitt Romney.
- Peter Scowen