Supreme Court Senate ruling a further rebuke of Stephen Harper, say federal Liberals

HEADLINES-7FRIDAY’S Supreme Court ruling confirms what the Liberal Party of Canada has long advocated: the federal government cannot unilaterally change the nature of the Senate without consulting the provinces, said Liberal Intergovernmental Affairs Critic Stephane Dion.

He said: “The Supreme Court has clearly stated that the Harper Conservatives cannot achieve their Senate reform proposals without opening up the Constitution. Liberals have already shown that Senate reform can occur without re-opening the Constitution, and we challenge the Prime Minster to match our action in making senators independent of political parties and end partisanship in the Senate.”

The Conservatives have been deliberately misleading in suggesting that they can accomplish their version of Senate reform without opening the Constitution. Meanwhile, the NDP has championed its aim to re-open the Constitution – something Canadians do not want – to abolish the Senate entirely, he noted.

“Justin Trudeau has done more for Senate reform in one day than the Conservatives have in over eight years. He is committed to an open, transparent, and public process for appointing and confirming independent senators,” said Liberal Democratic Reform Critic Scott Simms. “The Conservatives and NDP continue to prove that they are completely out of touch; the last thing Canadians want is a divisive debate that opens up the Constitution.”

OFFICIAL Opposition Democratic Reform Critic Craig Scott issued the following statement:

“New Democrats welcome the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Senate. It certainly is a slap in the face to Stephen Harper’s government. ‎

“After almost a decade of Harper’s Conservatives, we’re back to square one. Nine years of broken Conservative promises, scandals in the Prime Minister’s Office and a weakened democratic system. Nine years of patronage appointment and rewards to Conservative bagmen.

“Time and again Conservatives have failed to live up to the promises that got them elected in government, including their pretense of being committed to reforming the Senate.

“Strengthening our democracy requires principles and a vision. But Conservatives have utterly failed to reform this institution – and their latest democratic reform proposal to change voting laws – in their so-called Fair Elections Act, will disenfranchise voters and make our elections less fair.

“The NDP believes Canadians deserve better – people deserve fairly elected members of Parliament and real accountability for all Parliamentarians. The NDP believes we can strive to do better – and real change is possible if you work for it.

“We continue to believe the unelected and unaccountable Senate should be abolished, and of course, that should only be done after consultations with Canadians and Provinces. The Supreme Court noted, in paragraph 4 of today’s judgement, “the desirability of changes [to the senate] is not a question for the court: it is an issue for Canadians and for their legislatures.”

“While our goal remains to abolish the Senate with the consent of Canadians and the provinces, we are always ready to get to work on interim reforms to make the Senate more functional, fair and accountable. For example, we put a motion forward last October to make Senators less partisan and more accountable, but Conservatives and Liberals voted it down.”

ATTORNEY General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said: “While we are still reviewing the decision, I can say that we are pleased with the outcome, as we believe that British Columbians deserve to have a say in any decision to reform the Senate.

“While B.C. did not feel that unanimity was necessary for Senate abolition, we are happy with this decision, as it upholds our belief that British Columbians should be able to participate in the decision-making process. We do recognize that unanimity will make it more difficult to abolish the Senate.

“The Supreme Court of Canada has determined that a 7/50 formula is required for changing the Senate appointment process and term limits for senators. B.C. supported a 7/50 formula for both of these questions because they impact the powers of the Senate and method of selecting senators. B.C. is pleased that it would require at least seven provinces representing half of the population of all the provinces, as it reflects our recommendation to the court.

“The Senate Reference has confirmed that the provinces must be consulted and recognizes them as equal stakeholders in future constitutional change.”

MINISTER of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre said: “Our Government asked the Supreme Court of Canada for a legal instruction manual on how to proceed with Senate reform. We now have that manual.

“On February 1, 2013, six questions were put to the Supreme Court to clarify which of the amending procedures in the constitution were appropriate to bring much needed change to the Upper Chamber.

“Canadians overwhelmingly believe the Senate must be reformed. Our Government has always been committed to reforming the Senate. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has decided Parliament cannot make meaningful reforms.

“Our Government does not have any intention of reopening constitutional debates at this point. We will continue to do everything we can to minimize costs in the Senate and make it more transparent and accountable to Canadians.

“We remain committed to making the Senate a more accountable institution.”