Ignatieff sketches out 'doable' Senate reform ideas
Published Sunday, January 31, 2010 5:32PM EST
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff laid out some broad Senate reform ideas Sunday, including term limits and a curb on the prime minister's ability to stack the Upper House with his own picks.
"That kind of reform, I think, is actually doable," Ignatieff told CTV's Question Period.
More specifically, Ignatieff proposed a 12-year term limit on Senate positions and an arms-length committee tasked with vetting candidates.
"I'd even go as far as to limit the prime minister's prerogative to appoint senators. That is, I'd pass (appointments) through a public service appointment commission, so we scrub it and get the best possible appointees."
Currently, Senate appointments are essentially the purview of the executive, and on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed five new members to the Upper Chamber.
For the first time in years, the appointments give the Conservatives a slim majority in the Senate, with 51 Senators to the Liberals' 49.
However, the appointments fly in the face of Harper's oft-stated goal of reforming the institution, said Ignatieff.
"He's broken a promise to his base and I hope he'll respect the Senate more than he's done so far," the Liberal Leader said, adding that Harper has previously used the Senate as a constitutional scapegoat for stalling Tory bills.
Still, while supporting the principle of tweaking the Senate, Ignatieff stopped short of calling for massive reform or abolishment.
For years, right-leaning politicians have called for elected Senate positions, term limits and an equal provincial allocation of seats. In 2007, Harper appointed Bert Brown to the Senate after he was elected in Alberta.
But Ignatieff said that for all the bluster, the Senate does perform tasks that are fundamental to Canadian democracy, including catching mistakes made by MPs.
"I don't think that Senate reform is the highest priority of the hard-pressed middle class of this country," he added.
Meanwhile, Harper's Senate picks have said that they still support the idea of reforming the body. Recently-minted Ontario Sen. Bob Runciman said his presence will bolster that opinion.
"If more provinces start electing, it's going to put increased pressure on places like Ontario," he told The Canadian Press. "The electorate will demand it."