Roundup: The consideration of anachronisms

You know that I can’t resist a good Senate piece, and lo, University of Ottawa law professor Adam Dodek provides us with one, urging the government to move on what constitutional Senate reforms that are within its grasp – the things they can change without the provinces, namely property requirements, the net-worth requirement, and the use of “he” in the constitution. While the third seems blatantly obvious, one wonders whether there are other instances in the constitution, in either official language, where the gender defaults to male, and whether that would need to be updated at the same time. As for the property and net worth requirements, one has to ask what purpose changing them serves in the modern age. The $4000 figure in both real property and net worth has never been inflation adjusted, so the figures present little barrier to anyone actually qualifying in this day and age, as the way that they came to accommodation to allow Sister Peggy Butts to sit in the Senate are a good example. (Well, except for freelance journalists, in case anyone still harbours the illusion that I’m lobbying for a Senate seat). While Dodek posits that the requirements were part of an attempt to create a landed gentry in Canada that failed, my own reading of history has tended to an attempt to attract a more “serious” sort to the Upper Chamber, and let’s not forget that these were the days when there was a property requirement to exercise the franchise at all (and until the rules changed, women who owned property could actually vote, though almost none did). The property requirement does help to serve as a kind of shorthand for the primary residence question (except when monkeyed around to fit appointments into inappropriate areas for political considerations *cough*Mike Duffy*cough*), and in Quebec, it has the added significance of the historical senatorial divisions that marked minority enclaves that were to have designated representation. While those divisions have not been updated, one supposes that there is a debate to be had as to whether to update them to better reflect the modern Quebec, or to keep them as is in order to serve as a historical touchstone to remind us about the Senate’s role in giving voice to and protecting minority communities. Which leads us back to the question of why we want to undertake this exercise in the first place – is it necessary? I’m not seeing the pressing need for these changes, other than the usual “because it’s anachronistic” excuse. That’s the thing about a parliamentary system though – much of it is anachronistic, but that’s part of the beauty, because it is a direct touchstone to the evolution of our system, such as why the monarch is not allowed in the Commons. That the Senate has anachronistic property requirements that are no great barrier to membership demonstrates the evolution of our system in a very real way, and keeps parliament grounded. To do away with the harmless requirements for the sake of modernizing it risks losing that historical touchstone that is so absent from many things in politics these days, to our detriment.

Good reads:

  • At the big cabinet retreat, ministers are hearing from Tony Blair’s “delivery guru” about how to follow through on their ambitious agenda.
  • Cabinet says they’re going to take their time to develop a new environmental review process for new pipelines.
  • Harjit Sajjan says that the Burkina Faso attacks show that we need better intelligence gathering capabilities in all parts of the world.
  • Justin Trudeau drafted an Order in Council to remove the courts from the mandatory list of Shared Services Canada clients, and headed off a showdown.
  • Rona Ambrose has sent a letter to Trudeau requesting a meeting on the economy. Apparently she thinks the Liberals are ill-equipped to deal with the economy.
  • Thomas Mulcair insists he’s going to stick around, but his poll numbers continue to soften.
  • Seamus O’Regan says he’s 40 days sober, and said that an intervention was staged after the election, prompting him to seek treatment.
  • Potential conflict of interest brewing as the heiress to one of the country’s largest egg producers is now the Agriculture Minister’s chief of staff.
  • Here’s a closer look at our new ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton.
  • Stephen Gordon notes that our current economic woes aren’t something that fiscal stimulus will be able to help, which Andrew Coyne echoes.
  • Mike Moffatt shows why it’s not time for a bailout of the oil and gas sector, and disproves the notion that other sectors would be bailed out by now.

Odds and ends:

It seems that Kevin O’Leary has never donated to the Conservatives in Canada, but has donated to Democrats in the United States.

Deepak Obhrai, incidentally – not an O’Leary fan, nor do a couple of Harper’s former advisors think that he’s got what it takes.

And here’s an attempted objective analysis of the Sophie Grégoire song from yesterday.

One thought on “Roundup: The consideration of anachronisms

  1. I have to say that Senator before your name has a nice ring to it. Unfortunately in Canada we do not remember our history and do not care much for it, there are always voices saying let’s modernize everything for the sake of the taste of today. Let’s hope this time we just pass on this one. What is your take on suspended Sen. Brazeau found gravely wounded in his house? Another strange twist.

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