Senate Reform needed sooner than later for the sake of national unity
Article submitted by Project Confederation
Real Equality For Provinces
Last week I wrote to you all about how some provinces are more equal than others when it comes to seats in the House of Commons.
You can refer back to last week’s email for the full details, but here’s a quick summary:
In theory, seats are distributed across the country based on the populations of the provinces but, in practice, a number of provinces receive “bonus” seats to make things “fairer” for them.
Quebec gets 6 bonus seats, while some of the smaller provinces receive a few too, and once all the political favours are handed out, at the extreme end of things, we end up with Prince Edward Island having one seat per 40,000 voters, while Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario have one seat per 120,000.
Despite this, Quebec politicians want Quebec to not lose seats when the re-calculation of population is done and, in fact, the Bloc Quebecois has asked for a guarantee that Quebec will have at least 25% of the seats in the House of Commons, no matter their population.
The debate over seats in the House of Commons exposes a fatal structural deficiency in confederation, where the east demand to be able to maintain the power they hold, despite the fact that the west’s population has grown at a much faster rate.
Clearly, they’re not actually interested in democracy, they’re interested in power, but despite all this, Quebec’s position does actually contain a nugget of validity – yes, really!
One of Quebec’s primary concerns is to protect itself from overreach by the federal government in Ottawa, and on that point, Alberta agrees (even if we’d do far different things if we were left alone by Ottawa).
But the place to protect provincial rights is the Senate, not the House of Commons.
The House of Commons represents the people, and so should have seats distributed evenly by population, so every Canadian has an equal say.
The Senate should represent the provinces, and so should have seats distributed evenly by province, so every province has an equal say.
Instead, Senate seats are currently assigned on a regional basis:
- 24 seats for Ontario
- 24 seats for Quebec
- 24 seats for the Maritime provinces
- 24 seats for the Western provinces
- 6 seats for Newfoundland and Labrador
- 3 seats for the territories (1 each)
Obviously, this distribution is based on politics not on fairness, and if we ever want a Senate that can act as a real check on the power of the federal government on behalf of the provinces, then the seats must be distributed evenly.
Earlier today, federal Conservative Party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre said that he supports provinces electing Senators and that, as Prime Minister, he would appoint Senators elected by provinces, rather than appoint political friends and allies as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has done up until now.
But Poilievre also said that Senate reform was unlikely as, in order to achieve Senate reform:
“We’d have to open the constitution, which would begin a whole new can of worms about every other grievance that people have with the constitutional structure of the nation.”
Poilievre is right that Senate reform would require opening up the constitution, but this doesn’t mean that we should shy away from doing it.
It’s long overdue for Canada to make significant changes to update an institution that has a fundamental bias against western Canada, and one of those changes must be reforming the Senate into an equal, elected, and effective Triple-E Senate.
Elmer MacKay once said:
“If we give the centre of our country superior status to the rest, how will we ever change it? It will be very difficult and may destroy us one way or another, because although we are proud Canadians, we have a strong attachment and loyalty to our provinces.”
This is exactly why provincial equality must be respected in the governance structure of Canada, before national division erodes to the point of no return.
An elected Senate with effective powers and an equal number of Senators per province is the key to preventing this erosion.
It’s time to renew the conversation, re-open the constitution, and restore balance to confederation.
The Project Confederation Team
PS: Project Confederation doesn’t accept any government funding and never will. We think you should be free to choose, for yourself, which organizations to support. If you’re in a position to contribute financially to our important work, you can make a donation here.
A look at Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s new cabinet
Premier Danielle Smith introduced her cabinet Friday, the second one since taking over as United Conservative Party leader in October. Here are the changes at a glance:
Second in command: Mike Ellis retains his Public Safety and Emergency Services portfolio but is also now deputy premier.
Big promotions: Mickey Amery moves from Children’s Services to Justice; Nate Horner moves from Agriculture and Irrigation to Finance; Adriana LaGrange already had a heavyweight title in Education but now takes on enormous responsibilities in Health.
New faces: RJ Sigurdson joins cabinet for the first time in Agriculture and Irrigation; Searle Turton is new in Children and Family Services; Dan Williams gets his first cabinet seat in Mental Health and Addiction.
Returning vets: Jason Nixon, the environment minister and government house leader under former premier Jason Kenney, is back in cabinet handling the Seniors, Community and Social Services post. Ric McIver, dropped from Smith’s first cabinet, returns in his old job of Municipal Affairs. Muhammad Yaseen, a former associate minister of immigration, now has full cabinet rank as minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism; Tanya Fir, former economic development minster under Kenney, is back in Arts, Culture and Status of Women portfolio.
Same faces, new jobs: Rebecca Schulz (Environment and Protected Areas), Brian Jean (Energy and Minerals), Nathan Neudorf (Affordability and Utilities), Joseph Schow (Tourism and Sport), Demetrios Nicolaides (Education), Rajan Sawhney (Advanced Education), Matt Jones (Jobs, Economy and Trade), Peter Guthrie (Infrastructure).
Same faces, same jobs: Nate Glubish (Technology and Innovation), Dale Nally (Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction), Devin Dreeshen (Transportation and Economic Corridors), Todd Loewen (Forestry and Parks).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shuffles familiar faces into new cabinet roles
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith introduced her new cabinet Friday, shuffling familiar faces, tinkering with some titles, keeping former leadership rivals close while welcoming back two exiled political veterans.
Smith’s 25-member team – down from 27 in her first cabinet last fall – were sworn in during a ceremony at Government House.
“I am so pleased to have this team working with me to deliver on the promises we made to Albertans during the election,” Smith said in a news release.
“These are not just our government’s priorities, they are Albertans’ priorities. The next four years start today, and I can’t wait to get back to work with each of my cabinet colleagues.”
Nate Horner has been tapped to lead Finance, Mickey Amery takes over in Justice and Adriana LaGrange moves to Health from her old job in Education.
Brian Jean, Rajan Sawhney, Todd Loewen and Rebecca Schulz — all contenders in the United Conservative Party leadership — return to Smith’s cabinet table.
Jean will head up Energy and Minerals, Sawhney takes over Advanced Education and Schulz is to lead Environment and Protected Areas.
Loewen returns in the newly renamed Forestry and Parks job.
Smith lost a lot of cabinet experience when veteran ministers retired or were defeated in last month’s election. Two returning stalwarts, Jason Nixon and Ric McIver, were dropped from Smith’s original cabinet Oct. 24 but are back at the table.
Nixon is in charge of Seniors, Community and Social Services. He was the top lieutenant to former premier Jason Kenney, serving as government house leader and Environment minister. After Kenney quit and Smith took over, Nixon was still viewed in caucus as part of the discredited Kenney administration and was moved to the backbenches.
McIver, with a decade of experience in the legislature under multiple portfolios, is back in his old job of Municipal Affairs.
Other cabinet ministers are also back with big promotions.
Amery, with no cabinet experience until Smith appointed him Children’s Services minister last year, takes a big leap forward to Justice.
One of three lawyers in Smith’s 48-member caucus, Amery inherits a controversial portfolio. He is the fifth person to hold the job in the last four years under the UCP.
One former UCP justice minister, Kaycee Madu, was found to have tried to interfere in the administration of justice by calling up Edmonton’s police chief to complain about a traffic ticket.
Last month, the province’s ethics commissioner concluded Smith sought to undermine the rule of law by pressuring Amery’s predecessor, Tyler Shandro, to drop a criminal case against a protester at a U.S. border blockade.
LaGrange’s Health job is viewed as critical, as Smith pledged to reduce wait times for emergency care and surgeries and to make changes to ensure more Albertans can see a family doctor.
Horner, who earned plaudits for his work in Agriculture and Irrigation, will have to navigate keeping Alberta’s books balanced while also finding money to pay for a $1-billion-a-year tax reduction pledge promised by Smith.
Demetrios Nicolaides effectively switches classrooms, moving from Advanced Education to Education.
Matt Jones moves from Affordability and Utilities to the new Jobs, Economy and Trade.
Rick Wilson returns as Indigenous Relations minister. With Nicolaides and LaGrange switching portfolios, he is the only minister named in Kenney’s original 2019 cabinet to be in the same job four years later.
Mike Ellis has emerged as a key lieutenant to Smith. The former Calgary police officer returns in the Public Safety and Emergency Services portfolio but is also her deputy premier. He is expected to play a pivotal role in Smith’s promised legislation to force addicts into treatment as a last resort.
Devin Dreeshen stays in place as minister for Transportation and Economic Corridors.
Calgary member Tanya Fir’s roller-coaster political career is back on the upswing, heading to the newly renamed Arts, Culture and Status of Women ministry.
Fir was part of the Kenney’s original cabinet as Economic Development minister, but was dropped from cabinet, brought back in as a Jobs minister only to be dropped by Smith in October.
The Status of Women portfolio is also back on the rise after falling from a cabinet portfolio to an associate ministry under Kenney, then out of cabinet altogether under Smith.
Smith has said because the NDP took all 20 Edmonton seats in the election, she will rely more on cabinet ministers Nate Glubish, Dale Nally and Searle Turton, who represent constituencies near the capital.
Glubish remains in Technology and Innovation and Nally stays as minister for Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction.
Turton, a second-term member, gets his first cabinet job in the renamed Children and Family Services ministry.
Nathan Neudorf is no longer deputy premier or Infrastructure minister, taking over Affordability and Utilities.
Peter Guthrie moves from Energy to Infrastructure.
Joseph Schow returns as government house leader and as minister for the new Tourism and Sport position.
Calgary backbencher Muhammad Yaseen, previously an associate immigration minister under Kenney, attains full cabinet rank as minister for Immigration and Multiculturalism.
Dan Williams, a second-term MLA, gets his first shot in cabinet with Mental Health and Addiction.
RJ Sigurdson gets his first cabinet assignment, taking over from Horner in Agriculture and Irrigation.
The job titles remain the same for the most part with some slight revisions. Loewen, for example, loses the Tourism responsibility from his old job.
The Jobs, Economy and Northern Development portfolio has dropped Northern Development and will add in Trade responsibilities instead.
The Seniors title, dropped last fall by Smith, returns in Nixon’s new job.
The Skilled Trades and Professions portfolio has been dropped all together.
There is still no dedicated Labour ministry.
The government is set to return to the house in October and faces a large 38-member Opposition NDP that, along with sweeping Edmonton, took a big bite out of UCP support in Calgary.
The NDP now represents more than half the seats in Calgary.
Smith’s caucus will also be further reduced.
While the UCP won 49 seats in the election, Smith said newly elected Lacombe-Ponoka member Jennifer Johnson is not welcome in caucus given her public comments late last year comparing transgender students to feces in cookie dough. Johnson will sit as an Independent.
UCP member Nathan Cooper is expected to return as Speaker, meaning Smith’s team will have an even slimmer majority in the 87-seat legislature.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.
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