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A Senate clerk waits for the start of Question Period in the chamber of the Senate June 04, 2013 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Dave Chan For The Globe and Mail)
A Senate clerk waits for the start of Question Period in the chamber of the Senate June 04, 2013 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Dave Chan For The Globe and Mail)

Senate ‘fundamentally flawed,’ Manitoba calls for its abolition Add to ...

Manitoba is calling for abolition of the Senate, saying the institution is “fundamentally flawed” but that provinces need to have a say in its fate.

The province says it is making its submission, or factum, on Tuesday to the Supreme Court, which the federal government has asked to weigh in on options for Senate reform, including abolition.

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Manitoba is intervening in the issue, and argues that Parliament “does not have the constitutional authority to enact significant unilateral changes to the structure of the Senate or to the selection of its members,” according to a news release Tuesday.

“In our view, the Senate is fundamentally flawed and it’s time to abolish it. I urge the federal government to engage the provinces in consultation with the ultimate goal of finding consensus to abolish the upper chamber,” Manitoba’s Attorney General and Justice Minister, Andrew Swan, said in the written statement.

Manitoba currently has an NDP government. The federal NDP have long called for Senate abolition, and federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is on a cross-country tour this week promoting his party’s “roll up the red carpet” campaign.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, another New Democrat, hosted Mr. Mulcair on Monday and also called for abolition.

“We abolished the Senate here in 1928 and I’ve been through five or six general elections now, and nobody’s ever asked me to bring it back. … I don’t think we miss it all that much,” Mr. Dexter told The Canadian Press.

It’s not just NDP leaders making the push, though. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, leader of the conservative Saskatchewan Party, has called for Senate abolition after his party members adopted the policy in a mail-in-ballot vote earlier this year.

Other provinces are expected to submit factums by the end of this week, including British Columbia. Premier Christy Clark has previously called for the Senate to be overhauled or done away with, but that the province deserves a say, a spokesperson for the Premier said.

The federal government has said the Senate must change or be done away with, as was the case with the defunct senates of several provinces. Manitoba, for instance, abolished its Senate in 1876.

If the Senate is not abolished, Manitoba’s justice minister urged reform instead, including the election of senators. Currently, only Alberta elects senators-in-waiting, though they still must then be appointed by the Prime Minister of the day.

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