Bernier calls for national referendum on Senate abolition
Published Thursday, November 7, 2013 8:12PM EST
Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is calling for a nationwide vote to let Canadians decide the fate of the scandal-plagued Senate, saying he believes the country is “ready” to do away with it altogether.
“People are there, they are ready for the abolition now,” he told CTV’s Power Play on Thursday.
Bernier, minister of state for small business and tourism, has added his voice to the chorus of politicians calling for Senate reform or abolition in the wake of one of the biggest scandals to hit the Upper House in recent years.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to suspend without pay one-time Conservative senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau over allegations related to their expense claims.
Bernier, who represents the Quebec riding of Beauce, said both his constituents and members of the Conservative Party tell him they want to see the Senate abolished and that “the easiest solution” would be to do away with the institution, as other countries have done.
“A lot of countries have decided to change the way their Upper House was functioning, so I think it’s time for us in Canada to (put) the question to the people about what they want to do with the Upper House,” he said, adding that Canadian provinces, which long ago abolished their second legislative bodies, “still have a very strong democracy.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan repealed legislation that would have allowed for the election of the Senate nominees and passed a motion calling for the abolition of the senate.
While other provinces including Manitoba and Nova Scotia have expressed support for abolition, not all provinces are currently on board.
And, federal Conservatives appear to be divided on what action to take with the regards to the Senate’s future.
At the Conservative convention in Calgary last week, Jason Kenney, minister of employment, social development and multiculturalism, told CTV’s Question Period that a referendum would be a “distraction,” and that abolition “would be very difficult to achieve” because of the requirement of all 10 provinces to vote for the constitutional amendment.
Even if the provinces ultimately cannot reach unanimity, Bernier said a nation-wide vote would provide “more legitimacy” with the regards to the will of the people.
“If we don’t have the approval of all provinces, the Senate will stay like that, but at least we’ll be able to say to Canadians, we did our best,” he said.
Other MPs said they are waiting for word from the Supreme Court to see if Ottawa can proceed with its plans to reform the Senate. Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has said if the top court rejects the plan, abolition would be the next best step.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing the reference case on the matter on Nov. 12.