Most people’s understanding of the senate is second-hand knowledge. They believe it plays an important role in the legislative process providing much-needed “sober second thought.” But nothing could be further from the truth.
When John A MacDonald coined the phrase back in the 19th century, democracy was still in its infancy. (Check our Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address written around the same time.) What most people don’t realize is that he was saying upper-class aristocrats should have a veto over democratic legislation — to keep the unruly masses from getting too unruly.
That’s why senators were appointed, instead of being elected. (Why people think appointing senators is a good idea today is anyone’s guess…)
From aristocrats to partisan hacks
But after WW2 — a war where many Canadians gave their lives fighting for democracy — an aristocratic senate no longer had a place. That’s when the senate took on its modern form: an institution polluted with partisan patronage appointments, making it the most corrupt democratic institution in the developed world.
Real work of reviewing legislation
The real work of reviewing legislation is done in Commons committees by politicians put there by voters. The only thing wrong with this process is that we absurdly dole 4-year dictatorships to arbitrary minority parties who can bully and overrule committees.
This is because we still have a primitive 19th century voting system — where as developed countries ensure an actual majority of voters is represented in government (i.e., literal democracy.)
The senate, of course, does not remedy this situation any (unless you think a broken watch is useful because it tells the right time twice a day.) It is arbitrary itself.
Liberal and Conservative prime ministers stack the senate back and forth to majorities in their party’s favor. This makes the senate either an ornate rubber stamp or a hallowed hindrance to democratic government.
Supreme Court completes the perfect farce
The senate was never a democratic institution. So the Supreme Court ruling makes perfect sense in that virtually no amount of democratic will can get rid of the absurdity now.
If insanity is the criteria, it’s perfectly logical that all 10 provinces must agree to abolish the undemocratic senate, when all 10 provinces weren’t required to sign onto the 1982 Constitution Act.
The senate completes the perfect farce that is our loony-tunes version of democracy:
We are the only developed country with unelected senators.
We are a bilingual, multicultural county stuck with some other country’s monarch as our head of state.
We dole out absolute power to minority parties shutting the actual majority out of government.
People get hysterical about amending the constitution eliminating a very important function of our “constitutional democracy.”