Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Senate Reform - Part 1 (Terms)

According to some - in particular, my teacher in high school - the confederation conferences at which Canada was founded spent 45% of their time discussing provincial-federal power balances, 45% of time discussing the senate, and 10% of their time discussing everything else.

While I've not seen proof of this since, I would not be surprised if it was 100% true. The Senate has been something that nearly everyone involved in Canadian politics likes to debate. A good proportion of people simply want to abolish it. Another good fraction want to elect it. Between is the mushy majority who want all sorts of noodly fixes of varying esoteric value.

There have been some minor "senate reform" packages that have passed. In 1915 the number of senators per province was fixed and a 4th 'region' was added. In 1982 the senate was given a veto over certain constitutional reforms; but in both of these cases the reform is all but insignificant. The 1982 reform only codified the common sense conclusion that Senate approval is needed for "Parliament" to approve a thing, and the 1915 reform was only the last in a long line of changes to the number of seats assigned to each province.

The biggest successful "Senate Reform" was in 1965, when the term of Senators was changed. Senators still need to be at least 30, and still need to own $4,000 worth of property in the province they represent (1/17th of the original value as this has never been adjusted for inflation) but now instead of serving for life, they would serve to age 75.

At the time, at least according to this document from Elections Canada around 2% of Canadians were 75 or older, and according to google, the life expectancy was 72. Today, according to the same, 12% of Canadians are over 75, and life expectancy is 82.

I bring this up as this is the first in a multipost series I will be making on Senate Reform.

I propose we replace the retirement age with a term length.
What length?

"The average"

I propose the average term length of senators in the past 20 or 30 years be used to determine the term length.

As someone who follows politics, I guesstimate that to be 4 terms, or, 16 years. Going here and looking for the median senator's age at appointment (59), the number is 16 years. As such, I propose that we change the term of Senators, to 16 years.

This would not be retroactive, and would only apply to new Senators, however, any Senator who has served 16 years would be given the option to retire with whatever additional salary and benefits they'd have otherwise earned between their retirement and age 75 given to them upon retirement.

This change to the Senate would impact only how the Senate, and the Parliament, operates. This change would thus only require the consent of Parliament itself, and not need provinces to sign off on any sort of amendment to the constitution.

I start here in our reform discussion because most additional things we will discuss in this series will also see its own proposals for the changing of senate terms, and its best to get the background and discussion out of the way first.

Next: Seat Distribution.

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