The School of Public Policy Releases Report on Senate Reform: A Political and Constitutional Deadlock

CALGARY, April 29, 2015 /CNW/ - The Harper government was looking to the court for some practical guidance on constitutional issues and a path forward to reforming or abolishing a scandal-plagued institution that is widely viewed as no longer performing any constructive role in Canadian politics. In April, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the government's proposed reforms to the Canadian Senate unconstitutional. The court ruled that the federal government could not legislate non-binding, consultative elections for selecting senators, nor legislate term limits for senators without the consent of at least seven of the 10 provinces. It also ruled that abolishing the Senate would require the unanimous consent of all 10 provinces. The court's ruling is widely understood to have put an end to the Senate reform movement of the past three decades.

A report released today by The School of Public Policy and former Alberta Finance Minister, Ted Morton, criticizes the court for failing to play a constructive role in facilitating the political reform of an institution that has ceased to serve any useful political purpose (other than patronage) and condemning Canadians to endure this dysfunctional second chamber for at least another generation.

According to Morton "This is a loss not just for the Harper government, but for Canadian democracy and the Supreme Court is properly held accountable for its contribution to this sorry state of affairs. I recommend a different political exit from this judicially created constitutional dead end - If Harper wants to put real pressure on provincial premiers to opt for Senate elections, he should just declare that he is handing over the nomination of Senators to provincial governments to choose however they want—with or without elections. "

While the Supreme Court seems to have slammed shut the constitutional door on consultative elections for senators, the Senate reform/abolition issue is not going to disappear. The trial of Senator Mike Duffy and the results of the auditor general's investigation into the abuse of senators' expense accounts will keep the Senate in the political mix. With a federal election scheduled for later this fall, all the federal parties will be forced to address the future of the Senate.

The paper can be downloaded at

SOURCE The School of Public Policy - University of Calgary

For further information: Media Contact: Dana Fenech,, 403.210.6508


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