B.C. NDP Opposition calls on Liberal government to support motion to abolish the Senate

VANCOUVER — The B.C. New Democrat Opposition will introduce a motion in the legislature to support the abolition of the Senate, and are calling on the government to support it.

“The recent Senate scandals serve to underline that the Senate needs to be abolished,” said New Democrat leader Adrian Dix. “B.C. is under-represented, with one senator for every 764,000 British Columbians, while other jurisdictions get a senator for less than 37,000 people.

“The premier needs to end her habit of repeatedly changing positions on the Senate based on her political needs and join New Democrats in taking a principled stand. A unanimous motion from B.C.’s legislature would send a clear message that British Columbians want to abolish the Senate, once and for all.”

The motion uses similar wording to a motion passed in the Saskatchewan legislature during its fall session: “Be it resolved that this House supports the abolition of the Senate of Canada.”

The motion was passed unanimously in Saskatchewan with the support of both the governing Saskatchewan Party and the Opposition New Democrats. On the same day, Saskatchewan repealed legislation that allowed for elected nominees to the Senate.

“If the legislature had sat this fall, we could have passed this motion,” said B.C. New Democrat house leader John Horgan. “Instead, British Columbians are continuing to endure ever more elaborate contortions from a premier and government that changes positions on the Senate as their political situation changes. It’s time the Liberals stood on principle and answered the question: do they or do they not support the existence of the Senate?”

A copy of the motion can be viewed here.

BACKGROUNDER: Christy Clark’s ever-changing Senate position

Since Christy Clark ran for leader of the B.C Liberals, she has adopted multiple positions on the Senate. Sometimes she has changed position because her earlier position was factually wrong, such as her claim that B.C. could be given 10 extra senators without a constitutional amendment. At other times, she has changed her position as the political winds have changed or to suit her own narrow political interests.

Jan. 12, 2011: Abolish the Senate

“I think that people who support an elected Senate in British Columbia better give their heads a shake, because it’s not good for British Columbia. The best thing for British Columbia would be to abolish the thing.” (Metro Vancouver)

June 23, 2011: Cap the number of senators appointed from provinces such as Ontario and Quebec

“What I am saying these days is if we’re going to elect senators let’s do something like put a cap on the number of senators that would be appointed from places like Ontario and Quebec.” (CBC Newsworld)

June 24, 2011 (morning): Add senators for B.C. without a constitutional amendment

“Maybe they could add seven or 10 senators for British Columbia without having to change the Constitution.” (Globe and Mail)

June 24, 2011 (afternoon): Oops, my idea this morning did need a constitutional amendment; let’s go back to what I said yesterday

“Because it wouldn’t require a constitutional change. What they could do is put a cap on the number of senators, for example, from Ontario and Quebec so that instead of appointing the full complement of 24, just appoint 16 and leave the rest empty and at the same time appoint the full complement of senators from British Columbia and the western provinces so we could have a more equal and representative Senate.” (Globe and Mail)

March 6, 2012: Legislate senate elections

Then-MLA John Les introduces a private members bill to legislate elections in B.C. Premier Clark indicates her support for the bill but it is not brought forward for debate or as a government bill.

May 12, 2012: Elect senators, regardless of whether legislation is in place

“We are going to have an election for a senator before the next election. Gerry St. Germain – who’s been a terrific senator for British Columbia for years now – is stepping down in the fall. We want to make sure that the prime minister has an elected option to choose from, by the time he makes that appointment. I just think it’s so archaic to have an appointed Senate in a modern country like Canada. It just doesn’t make any sense.” (CBC The House)

Oct. 19, 2012: Maybe elect senators

Finance Minister Mike de Jong announces that only $250,000 had been approved by Treasury Board for a Senate election, with another $768,000 conditionally approved pending passage of legislation in the spring 2013 session.

Feb. 27, 2013: Elect senators, but just as an idea

Then-Justice Minister Shirley Bond introduces the Senate Nominee Act as an exposure bill. It is not brought forward for second reading debate.

May 28, 2013: We won’t elect senators until Canada’s Supreme Court rules on Senate reform

Clark states that the Senate Nominee Act will not be reintroduced until the Supreme Court provides clarity by ruling on the federal government’s referral on Senate reform.

Sept. 6, 2013: Before we do anything, let’s figure out how we reform the Senate

B.C. files legal position with the Supreme Court as an intervener on the federal government’s referral on Senate reform. B.C.’s filing argues that the federal government can reform the Senate with the support of just seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population, rather than needing the unanimous support of the provinces.