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The head of the Independent Senators Group (ISG) wants to make the Red Chamber an election issue, which would be an okay idea if enough Canadians had actually heard of the ISG.

Therein, however, lies the principal problem with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new Senate appointments process, which has resulted in a group of senators not officially aligned with any party now forming an effective majority in the Red Chamber of Canada’s Parliament. If you thought Canadians ignored the Senate before, they’re even more oblivious to it now.

Blissfully oblivious, mind you. It used to be that when Canadians paid attention to what was going on in the Senate, it was because the chamber was mired in scandal. If it’s a choice between now and then, of course Canadians are going to prefer a Senate they never hear about.

So, what exactly was Senator Yuen Pau Woo, whose official title is Facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, getting at when he called on all parties to lay out their campaign positions regarding the Senate in advance of the 2019 federal election?

“Canadians need to know if a party explicitly wants to go back to a partisan appointments process and supports a partisan upper chamber that essentially mirrors that of the House of Commons,” Mr. Woo told The Globe and Mail this week. “Unless we have that public debate in the run-up to election, Canadians may unwittingly be supporting a party with a view on the Senate that does not coincide with their views.”

Where do you begin picking apart that statement, which is either a veiled endorsement of the Liberals or a move to embarrass the Conservatives into getting behind Mr. Trudeau’s reforms?

After all, Mr. Woo is essentially asking Canadians to choose between a Senate they never hear about (Mr. Trudeau’s) or the hyper-partisan, scandal-plagued Red Chamber that existed under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. Some choice.

Besides, just because Canadians never hear about the Senate anymore does not mean that institution is working well. Mr. Trudeau has effectively transformed the Senate by appointing 45 senators in just three years in office, almost all of whom sit as independent members. But just how independent are they, really, when they consistently vote in line with the Liberal majority in the House of Commons?

Frankly, there is no way of knowing, given that the workings of the “new” Senate are even more opaque than those of the old one, when almost all senators were clearly aligned with one of the major parties and sat in on party caucus meetings.

Mr. Trudeau’s election coincided with a slew of Senate vacancies as a wave of senators, some of them appointed by Mr. Trudeau’s father, reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. That means Mr. Trudeau’s appointees will form a majority for years to come. The initial fear that independent senators would all become free agents, making governing tantamount to herding cats, has not materialized since the members of the ISG tend to be obedient to the Liberals.

What would happen, then, if the Conservatives were to win the 2019 election? Would those senators claiming to be independent continue to act in concert – but to frustrate the will of the elected Conservative government?

Some members of the Senate don’t seem to have thought things through. Former RCMP commissioner Bev Busson told The Globe that she envisions the Senate “morphing into more of like a think tank.”

Unfortunately for Ms. Busson, who was appointed to the Senate by Mr. Trudeau in September, that’s not the role of the Senate according to the Constitution. And until further notice, the Constitution has the final word. Besides, there are cheaper ways to get policy advice than paying senators $150,600 in annual base salary, plus whatever other emoluments come with the job.

To top it off, Ms. Busson also took a dig at the U.S. Senate, which, unlike ours, is actually a legitimate legislative body. “At the risk of sounding political, I think the American system of elected senators is an example of how things might not work so well,” she said.

American democracy has its flaws, but basic institutional design is not one of them. The separation of powers and checks and balances built into the U.S. system expose the vulnerabilities of our own. Ms. Busson should consult The Federalist Papers.

What’s more, she is sadly mistaken if she thinks that independent senators make our Senate an apolitical institution. It is steeped in politics, and so, whether or not Ms. Busson knows it, is she.

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