Last week Justin Trudeau, leader of the federal Liberal Party, turfed out all the senators from his caucus. While on the surface this seems like a bold move, it really amounts to little more than putting a coat of paint on a dilapidated building.
Editorial Cartoon for Feb. 4.
Senate reform is not a new issue, and our political parties have been paying lip service to it for years. All have vowed to change the system, yet none have actually done so in a meaningful way.
This rhetoric reached a fevered pitch last year, when several senators were caught up in an expense scandal that saw some removed from their party and suspended while an investigation is underway.
The message from the voting public is clear though. The system of appointing senators no longer is acceptable in our country.
The Liberal decision is an interesting political move however and one, intentionally or not, that will either make the Conservative party look bad or force them to make a move.
If the Conservatives choose to keep their senators, they will be the only party colours actually in the senate. This will increase the outcry over patronage, and any future appointments by the Prime Minister will give serious fuel to the opposition.
Ideally though, it will force them start serious work on reform. What that will actually look like though is a mystery.
Though this change was quick, real change will be a slow and arduous process. The senate in its current form is tied to the Constitution, and constitutional changes in Canada are not easy. It requires the support of seven provinces with at least 50 per cent of the population.
It could backfire on the Liberal Party as well. It's doubtful all the Liberal senators are happy with the changes, though they have yet to speak out. Instead of creating independent senators, they could cross the floor to the Conservative Party. That would give them even more control over the senate and make change even more difficult.
At the moment, the senate is still there. It still has the same number of senators. It is still unelected. All that's changed is the colours some of the senators wear. The interesting news is not what the Liberals have done with the senate, but rather what will this move change in the future.