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A Senate's worth
For years, I have compared the Senate to that little safety valve on a hot water tank (A Cure That's Worse Than The Disease – editorial, July 29).
If you are lucky, you will go for years and never need that valve, but if things go wrong, you will be very happy that you have it.
Easy reforms? Senators should have 10-year-term limits and be selected from lists prepared by the provinces.
George Brookman, Calgary
When I worked in Ottawa as an assistant to a cabinet minister, one of my responsibilities was to herd my minister's legislation through the Commons and the Senate. I began the task with many of the prejudices common today concerning the Senate.
What I learned, over the course of 12 pieces of legislation, was that the Senate was badly misunderstood; its members did a far better job in committee of examining legislation and suggesting useful changes than MPs did.
In later years, I've appeared before committees of both chambers as a witness on legislation and policy, and have always found the experience much more useful in the Senate. Commons committees are almost invariably overly partisan, with too much time taken up with pointless arguments about irrelevant matters. It is true that some Senate appointments have not been the best the country could offer, but I would invite anyone to compare the transcripts of Senate committee hearings on most legislation with those of the House.
Current scandals aside, the fact is that the Senate does useful work. Limit appointments to eight years, provide a modest pension, give Senators a straight, fixed per diem. But the most important reform is a commitment by future PMs to finding better candidates than some in the past couple of decades.
Tex Enemark, Richmond, B.C.
A Senate whose members are not political hacks but are chosen for their honourable qualities would serve the intended function of providing non-partisan, sober second thought to a Commons whose members are whipped into obedience, no matter how bad any given law may be.
The Senate should also be off-limits to the PMO.
Tony Fricke, Calgary
Re Key Laws Vulnerable To Growing Power Of Trial Judges (July 29): In both the Bedford case (prostitution) and the Carter case (physician-assisted suicide), the law and the factual evidence had changed since the original Supreme Court decisions. The precise issues argued were not addressed in the earlier Supreme Court decisions; they involved new facts (Canadian and global experience) not previously before the court.
Trial judges do not reverse Supreme Court decisions. In response to new arguments raised by counsel on new facts, trial judges are routinely required to consider whether prevailing Supreme Court decisions apply. Where they may not, trial judges distinguish them.
There is a basic difference between "reversing" a Supreme Court decision and "distinguishing" a Supreme Court decision.
This is not a difference to be glossed over. By confirming this role of trial judges, the nine Supreme Court justices, appointed by both Liberal and Conservative governments, have modernized legal appellate procedures and reduced the delay now all too endemic in the justice system.
Marion Lane, retired justice (Ontario Court of Justice); West Vancouver
All the Cecils
Re Hunter Says He Didn't Know Lion Was Protected (July 29): If ever there was a time where shaming a person in social media was appropriate, it's this one.
This would-be "hunter" is getting his just deserts. This was not "sport": The killing of Cecil was carefully planned, involved tracking and baiting, and ended in a prolonged period of suffering before the lion's end.
Walter Palmer will undoubtedly pay an interminable price for his actions, a price that far exceeds the $50,000 he allegedly spent to kill this magnificent animal.
Gordon Crockford, Saskatoon
At the very least, the death of alpha lion "Cecil" should cast a light on the tragedy unfolding every day somewhere around the world whereby endangered flora and fauna are decimated to grace the dens of trophy collectors (for example, endangered snow leopard heads and skins), further exotic animal collections (the now extinct – in the wild – Spix's macaw) or supply the dubious folk-medicine trade in animal parts (the critically endangered black rhinoceros).
Until authorities worldwide actually enforce the legislation contained within the convention on international trade in endangered species (CITES) and local people are enabled to act, this raping of our iconic (and sometimes not so "iconic") species will continue unabated.
John Nightingale, Lethbridge, Alta.
Expats' right to vote
Donald Sutherland is right, as a Canadian citizen he should have the right to vote, just like ex-pat Americans do (I Want My Vote – letters, July 29). It's the right thing to do. Citizens are citizens, period. However, let's be fair about this. Since expats deserve the full rights of citizenship, they deserve equivalent obligations as well.
Had Mr. Sutherland been an American who moved to Canada, he could still vote in the U.S. – but he would also have been subject to U.S. taxes on his world income. Canada does not place the same obligation on its expats.
The government should make both the rights and obligations of expat Canadians equivalent to those of citizens who live here. It is the right and fair thing to do.
One hopes a good discussion of these rights and obligations will take place in the election, and we will return to being a country with only one class of citizenship.
Lewis Auerbach, Ottawa
What a pompous letter from Donald Sutherland. Proud Canadians live in, pay taxes in and vote in Canada. Why does Mr. Sutherland presume he has the right to influence how tax dollars paid by Canadians in Canada are spent, when he doesn't live here?
Those of us who do should be incensed that these so-called celebrities continually stick their noses in, but contribute little else.
Joe Obermeyer, Edmonton
What about all the Canadian residents who don't pay taxes? Should they lose their right to vote? This would take us back to the Dark Ages.
Another argument is: How does one decide in which riding expats should be allowed to vote? Countries which value their citizens wherever they live in the world have simply created electoral districts specifically for them, so that they have representation in their national assemblies.
Michel Facon, Vancouver
I'm skeptical when movie stars pontificate about political matters but the eloquent letter from Donald Sutherland should be required reading for all Canadians, regardless of which side of the political fence one sits on.
Sober thoughts from a very patriotic Canadian. Maybe we should make him a senator?
On second thought, maybe not such a great idea.
Wendy Kerr Hadley, Port Credit, Ont.