Reprinted in the Chronicle-Hereald from MLI’s February Inside Policy magazine, an essay by Conservative Senator Stephen Greene urges changes to bring about a less partisan, more effective Senate.
The power of the House of Commons is so great that, without a Senate, Canada could be like a car without brakes going downhill. Until we have Senate elections, the Senate might be only a handbrake, but it still has the potential to slow us down and avert an accident.
There are things the Senate can do to diminish opportunities for partisanship and consequently enhance its effectiveness and relevance.
Greene suggests that “whether senators attend their national caucus or not, all senators from a region should caucus together, irrespective of party. This would enable senators from a region to work on issues important to a region”. He also says that “Question Period should be reformed, if not eliminated”, “the Senate Speaker and Senate caucus officers should be elected by senators rather than appointed by party leaders in the House of Commons”, and “committee chairs and vice chairs should be elected by senators rather than appointed by Senate leaders”. Finally, Greene says “The Senate parties sit two sword lengths apart, facing each other, ready for combat. But why, when unlike in the Commons, such combat serves no purpose and encourages the worst? Instead, we should sit theatre-style by region, province or even alphabetically. We should not only be different from the Commons, we should look different.”
Greene’s article was also quoted by a front-page Chronicle-Herald editorial calling for a “Senate Spring” in which Senators focus on representing their regions.