Not surprisingly, I got some push-back from Dippers on yesterday’s post. Today’s Globe and Mail is, therefore, recommended reading. Even proponents of change agree that Layton’s proposal is premature and too narrow.
Plebiscite on Senate reform ‘premature,’ PM warned
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF
November 7, 2007
Stephen Harper is being warned to avoid a snap referendum on the future of the Senate amid concerns that holding a vote without educating Canadians about the options could produce a questionable result.
Mr. Harper, who sources say backs a proposal to ask Canadians whether they would support abolishing the Senate, was told yesterday by experts in the field not to move before voters can get all the information they need to make a proper decision.
And athough [sic] Senate reform stalwarts like former Reform Party leader Preston Manning supported the idea, they also warned any campaign needs to have a strong educational component…
…”I think it’s premature to put it on the table,” said Roger Gibbins, the president of the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation, a long-time proponent of Senate reform.
“It hasn’t been an issue in a national election campaign [for the government] to move in such a fundamental way without any kind of electoral discussion or any kind of serious public debate,” Mr. Gibbins said.
Sources say the Prime Minister will support a move by NDP Leader Jack Layton to ask that a referendum be held on the upper chamber if the Conservatives cannot find a way to reform it.
Mr. Harper was a founder of the Reform Party, whose supporters rallied to the party in large part because of its vigorous pursuit of the Triple E Senate (an elected Senate with effective powers and equal provincial representation).
Sources have said the Prime Minister remains strongly committed to reforming the upper chamber. They noted, however, that the provinces and the Liberal-dominated Senate are thwarting him.
Mr. Manning said yesterday that he supports the idea of a referendum, but that the question cannot be solely about abolition. Rather, Canadians should be asked to choose between abolition and reform. He also said that a referendum can be fair only if the government were to finance both sides of the issue so Canadians could be well-informed about the options before they go to the polls.