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May 25: This week’s Talking Point – the Senate’s future – and other letters to the editor

TALKING POINT

What began as anger over Senator Mike Duffy's dodgy expense claims has Canadians questioning the value of the Red Chamber itself. Readers, print and digital, have no shortage of ideas on how to shape the Senate's future – or if it should have one

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Between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin and the rest of Canada's scandal-ridden politicians, is it any wonder voter turnout is at historic lows? That generations X, Y and Z are cynical and disengaged with regard to politics?

Is it any wonder Toronto is the laughing stock of global cities? Or that we hold the Senate to be nothing better than a feeding trough, a sinecure for the friends of whoever is prime minister?

We are too placid. We must insist on new, highly restrictive laws governing expenses for all elected officials, and we need a countrywide debate on the Senate. It is an outmoded office that has rarely been our chamber of sober second thought, but rather is the reckless room of irresponsibility. The Red Chamber doesn't need a fix – senators are already mainlining our tax dollars – it needs rehab.

Michael Cox, Vancouver

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In theory, a senate that provides a balance to Parliament makes sense; good things have come out of the Senate. However, a senate blindly faithful to the party in power is not that useful. If each province and territory – and not the Prime Minister – had the right to appoint its own senators, the regions would have the balance the Senate is supposed to provide.

Ross C. McLean, Chesley, Ont.

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NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's proposal to abolish the Senate and his invitation to Canadians to sign a petition supporting that proposal is ingenuous at best. Let Mr. Mulcair demonstrate how, given our constitutional arrangements and the steadfast opposition of some provinces, abolition of the Senate could be achieved.

If he is sincere in wishing to stop "keeping a bunch of party hacks, bagmen, political operatives and defeated candidates sitting in appeal of the duly elected members of the House of Commons," let him make a commitment that, if he becomes PM, he will appoint to the Senate only those without prior political affiliations.

Rod Yellon, Winnipeg

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I have just gone online and signed the NDP's petition to abolish the Senate. I am not an NDP supporter, but as a British Columbian, I have witnessed firsthand how a public petition for a referendum can change things.

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Rick Gibson, Vancouver

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Abolishing the Senate is a bad idea, made worse by those who think simplistically. The country needs a second chamber. But in its present form, in particular with the current method of naming people to the Senate, that body is in clear need of reform. If it means reopening the Constitution to achieve this, then so be it.

Mike MacNeil, Newport, N.S.

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The public outrage over the financial shenanigans of senators like Mike Duffy plays right into the hands of Stephen Harper, whose long avowed goal is to get rid of the Senate. But the conduct of majority governments (elected by a minority of voters) running roughshod over Parliament shows that we need the Senate more than ever.

The Senate should consist of members nominated by political parties in strict proportion to their popular vote, with provisions to ensure regional representation. That way, all voices could be heard and we could get back to consensus rather than the ideological politics that dominate now.

Reinhart Reithmeier, Toronto

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The Senate needs to be abolished. If regional interests are the concern, then senators should be elected. The way it stands, that giant sucking sound is taxpayers' money going to unelected, unaccountable senators.

James Marks, Toronto

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Elected senators might become more accountable, but they would also feel that they had become empowered, with the exercise of that power legitimized by their election. Canada would then face the political gridlock, dysfunction and never-ending political gerrymandering of our neighbours to the South.

A possible solution is to reduce the salaries, benefits and pensions paid to senators to modest honorariums. Canadians and senators alike would benefit from having senators whose experience and contribution to our nation is respected and appreciated for having been freely given. Grandfathering current salaries and pensions only for Senators who retire within a year or two would quickly clear the halls of those whose service is financially motivated and make room for others whose dedication could not be questioned.

George Asquith, Whitehorse

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The Senate should remain as the chamber of sober second thought, but with one major change: Senators should not be appointed. Instead, there should be a nationwide lottery for those of voting age, with an equal number of winners from each province and territory, and with a time duration of, for example, five years.

Why not, eh?

Mike Tropp, Vancouver

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It is very important for all Canadians, including those in government and, indeed, the Prime Minister, not to use this crisis as an excuse to promote a political agenda to fundamentally change an important institution.

Most senators work very hard to oversee government legislation. This work is vital in ensuring that bills passed through the House of Commons, often without proper debate, are thoughtfully analyzed in the second chamber.

Many who have appeared before Senate committees come away very impressed by the dedicated, informed and thoughtful approach to their responsibilities by most senators in this regard.

It would be wrong to rush to judgment here. We should apply our own "sober second thought" to the situation and what needs to change.

William Trudell, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

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When I read that Mike Duffy sat in the Senate on Wednesday for the first time since he quit the Conservative caucus, next to Pamela Wallin, and that they chatted with Mac Harb, I felt a sudden comradery with all those other Ottawans who, in recent days, have been shouting in the streets: Go, Sens, go!

Julie Hughes, Ottawa

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ON REFLECTION: More letters to the editor

The West's narrative

Re London's Shocking Attack (May 24): Mainstream media continue to report a narrative that these incidents are the result of radicalized extremists, that the West's citizens are the "victims." It's a nice tale that makes us feel better but it is far from reality.

Until sovereign nations stop interfering in the affairs of other sovereign nations, we should expect these types of incidents. I see far more blood and mayhem being caused by the West's military-industrial complex and its hegemonic tendencies. Terror begets terror.

Steve Bull, Stouffville, Ont.

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Robo-calling's harm

Re Ruling Dismisses Robo-Call Application, Clears Tories (May 24): A federal justice has ruled that the impact of automated phone calls that misdirected voters in the 2011 federal election was minimal.

Let me get this straight: If I fire a gun into a crowd of people but hit no one, then the impact of my doing so was minimal and there would be no consequences as far as I am concerned. Am I missing something

Bernard Deuchars, Toronto

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Rose-coloured history

It is refreshing to read Amid The Morality Tales, Some Serve Us With Distinction (May 24), reminding Canadians that, despite all the noise, there are still plenty of good people in public life, including politics.

It is too easy to look back on historical scandals with forgiving eyes and to say they never really mattered. They did.

The Globe should encourage Canadians to ignore the noise, and reward the good politicians by making informed decisions. That way, we can honestly look back on history through rose-coloured glasses.

Michael Luba, Toronto

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Even without a butler

Re What The Butler Knows: Charles MacPherson explains how the best people eat muffins (front-page banner, May 23): Seriously? Who are these "best" people?

I'm guessing it's the 1 per cent who can afford a butler to explain how to properly eat a muffin.

Not to boast about such an inconsequential feat, but as a working stiff (or wannabe working stiff, I'm currently an unemployed scientist), I was gratified to learn I've been properly eating a muffin all these years – no butler needed.

Peter L. Ferguson, London, Ont.

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