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The Senate chamber on Parliament Hill is seen on May 28, 2013. (ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Senate chamber on Parliament Hill is seen on May 28, 2013. (ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Where Ottawa and the provinces stand on Senate reform Add to ...

As the Conservative government seeks permission to overhaul the Senate, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments from both Ottawa and the provinces about who must be consulted first.

The four points put to the court are:

  • Can Ottawa limit Senate terms without consulting the provinces?
  • Can Ottawa establish consultative elections for Senate nominees, from whom the prime minister would appoint senators, without consulting the provinces?
  • Can Ottawa repeal the requirement that senators own at least $4,000 in property without consulting the provinces?
  • Would a vote to abolish the Senate require the support of seven provincial legislatures that represent at least half of Canada’s population or all provincial legislatures?

WHAT OTTAWA SAYS

The Harper government has said it believes the answer to the first three questions is “yes.” On the last question, the Conservatives say Ottawa should need the support of only seven provinces with half the Canadian population (the general amending formula, or “7/50” rule).

WHAT THE PROVINCES SAY

British Columbia: Term limits, elections and Senate abolition require provincial support and fall under the “7/50” formula. Ottawa can repeal the property qualification.

Alberta: Term limits and abolition require provincial consultation under the “7/50” rule. Ottawa can establish elections (Alberta already holds consultative votes for Senate nominees). No position on the property question.

Saskatchewan: Ottawa can impose term limits, but only if they are 10 years or more. Ottawa can establish elections and repeal the property qualification. Senate abolition requires the “7/50” rule.

Manitoba: Term limits and elections require provincial consultation under the “7/50” rule. Senate abolition requires unanimous consent from the provinces. Ottawa can repeal the property qualification.

Ontario: Ottawa can impose term limits, but only if they are nine years or more. The “7/50” rule applies for elections. Senate abolition needs unanimous consent from the provinces. Ottawa can repeal the property qualification.

Quebec: Term limits and elections fall under the “7/50” rule, while abolition would require unanimous support. Quebec’s senators have a slightly different property requirement, which Quebec and Ottawa could agree to do away with.

New Brunswick: Term limits and elections require consultation with the provinces, and Senate abolition requires unanimity. Ottawa can repeal the property qualification.

Prince Edward Island: Term limits and elections require provincial consultation. Ottawa can repeal the property qualification. No current procedure would allow for abolishing the Senate, though at a minimum a change would require unanimous consent of the provinces.

Nova Scotia: Term limits and elections require provincial consultation. Senate abolition requires unanimity of the provinces. Ottawa can repeal the property qualification.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Term limits and elections follow the “7/50” rule. Senate abolition requires unanimous provincial approval. No position on the property qualification.

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