Media Release

Green Party calls for sober second thought on senate reform.

The Green Party of Prince Edward Island supports preservation of the senate with some improvements in the mechanism to select its members. It has recently become fashionable to attack the senate, and to rant vigorously on its failings. Unfortunately Canadians are generally unaware of the important work that the senate has performed over the years, and the Green Party of Prince Edward Island believes that it can still play a critical role in Canadian democracy.

“While I can’t defend the recent behaviour of some of our senators, I believe we need to think very carefully before we start suggesting radical reforms or abolition of the senate”, said Green Party leader, Peter Bevan-Baker. “It strikes me that the problems we have seen recently are less to do with the structure of the senate itself, and more the behaviour of some of its inhabitants.”

Originally modelled on the British House of Lords, our senate was designed to offer a place to moderate any ill-conceived or hastily passed legislation originating in the House of Commons. Another critical function the senate plays is that of representing regional interests, and this is of particular concern to Islanders. As the late Island premier Angus MacLean used to say, “More than the people need to be represented in Parliament. The land itself, and natural and economic interests need to be represented too!” Without a senate, any ability to act on such thoughts would be greatly diminished. In the Canada of today, where the Maritimes are increasingly being marginalized, PEI should seek to strengthen rather than abolish the Senate.

“I’d like to see a senate made up of stellar, independent citizens from a wide variety of backgrounds who could cast a wise and non-partisan eye over legislation.” continued Bevan-Baker. “If we carry on down the road where House of Commons legislation like the Tory omnibus bills are becoming increasingly partisan and poorly debated, we will need a capable and activist senate.”

As an outlay to the people of Canada, the senate represents a tiny cost -$3 each per year. Abolishing it will save very little money and concentrate even more power in the House of Commons, which is to say, the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Green Party believes that instead of trying to score political points by making the senate a whipping boy, we should concentrate on ways to improve the selection process and maintain our provincial quota of senators on which our number of seats in the House of Commons is based. Constitutionally, a province cannot have fewer Members of Parliament than it has senators. Based on population, it is conceivable that abolishment of the senate could reduce the number of PEI seats in the House of Commons from 4 to 1.

“Rather than put in jeopardy our provincial interests, we should be ensuring that they are strengthened and preserved,” concluded Bevan-Baker. “Maintenance of the senate, with improvements in the selection process, will restore the public’s confidence in the institution and protect our regional influence.”

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Redshores and windmills
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