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The Senate chamber sits empty in Ottawa on Jan. 17, 2011. (Reuters)
The Senate chamber sits empty in Ottawa on Jan. 17, 2011. (Reuters)

Time for a referendum on abolishing Senate, NDP says Add to ...

The New Democrats are calling for a national referendum on abolishing the Senate.

The Conservatives have reneged on their promises for reform and it's time to take the matter to Canadians, NDP Leader Jack Layton told a news conference on Tuesday.

His party is floating the idea of a referendum, as well as the creation of a committee to examine electoral reform, in an opposition motion being debate this week.

"The complexity of doing anything with our Constitution and our governance structure is difficult but for that reason we continue to avoid it, we complain about it, we point out its deficiencies and we don't really do anything about it," said New Democratic MP David Christopherson, who sponsored the proposal.

"Canadians want politics to be more than just 'gotcha,' more than just the scandals of the day."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once vowed never to appoint unelected senators but has now named enough to give his party a majority in the upper house.

Two of his appointees are currently facing charges for breaking election laws and last year, the Tory-dominated Senate killed a climate-change bill that had passed through the House of Commons.

Mr. Layton says the idea of the Senate being a place of sober second thought is impossible when it's stacked with Tory insiders and failed candidates.

The motion was supposed to be debated Tuesday but the Tories put off the debate until Wednesday, where it is being given less time.

"Debate cut by two-thirds, that sort of fits with Stephen Harper's approach to Parliament," Mr. Layton said.

"He's lost touch with the idea of fair play and his drive to hold power has erased whatever common sense he might have once had."

The NDP also want the current first-past-the-post system of elections replaced with proportional representation, which would allocate seats in the Commons based on the percentage of votes received.

Ontario and British Columbia have had referendums on moving to proportional representation, but the initiatives failed.

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