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Monday, June 06, 2005

Secrets to ReForming our ONE Parliament

Dear National Post Editor,


Re: Link Byfield's close-but-no-cigar proposals (below) to remedy The House of Commons' apoplexy. Plus a step-by-step outline of how to address our problems comprehensively.


Mr Byfield's recommendation that appointing him (and his senator-elect comrades) to the Upper Chamber as the all-in-one solution to the shambles of the arrested-in-development Constitutional framework of Canada and the turned-on-its-head institution of (responsible) government in this country is in itself nothing more than self-aggrandizement but it IS tantalizingly close to the solution.

In fact when Mr Byfield quotes the BNA Act's Section 22 he mis-reads the "4 Divisions" regional aspect of the Upper House's mandate and overlooks the most important aspect of the Senate constitutional construction -Section 23 & 31. (look it up - www.solon.org )

The Senators are the ONLY Canadian office holders that must meet a Real Property ownership & net worth qualification. The reason for this qualification standard was/is to ensure that the occupants of our "House of Lords" were sufficiently wealthy personally that they might counter-balance the "spend all the treasury" thinking of the plebeians of the Lower House.

Notwithstanding the fact that the now-lowly $4,000 property & net worth standards have been undermined by inflation, the concept behind the Senate was as "a bulwark against the caprices of the mob".

Step 1 to fix Canada is to seasonally adjust that $4,000 property & net worth qualification AND apply Section 31 DIS-qualification regulations to all incumbents who fail to remain qualified - this provision was placed intentionally, human nature has not changed much since 1867.

Step 2 Read BNA Act 17 and re-discover that in Canada our "One Parliament" has three integral AND hierarchical parts. Then read Sections 9-16 to re-discover the role of the Queen (particularly since 1982, which freed HER from HER ministers Advice regarding Canada) and the Governor General.

With particular care read Section 13 and compare it to Section 12 and note the express difference between decisions to be made by the "Governor General" and those to be made by the "Governor General in Council".

Dig out the Letters Patent of the Governor General (1947) and see the re-affirmation of the powers outlined in Section 12.

Step 3 Repeal Order-in-Council #1940-1121 a vital bit of 'masked by necessity in time of war' revenge by Wm L.Mackenzie King which merged the Privy Council into the Lower House's cabinet.

This little bit of chicanery (in reaction to Lord Byng's legally rightful refusal to grant King's request to dissolve Parliament a few years earlier) stripped the Governor General of His/Her independent advisors (the Privy Council, BNA Section 11) and led to today's mess where the captains of the Lower House double-check themselves.

Canada has a wonderfully suitable governance system. It was based on the failures and successes of the British system, the first & second US Constitutional systems and the structures devised to administer the Great Peace of the Iroquois Confederacy.

It is all written down, it is easy to read and follow, once read - but we're NOT FOLLOWING the provisions of the BNA ACT and we (including Mr Byfield) are NOT READING the whole document.

Truly,

Robert Ede

see
Evolution of functions of the Clerk of the Privy Council

see
The Treasury Board and its Secretariat



The dream of the Red Chamber

Monday » June 6 » 2005 Saturday » June 4 » 2005



Link Byfield
National Post
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Such stinging irony. On Monday, while the government vehemently denied taped proof it had subverted Parliament by attempting to bribe another member of the Opposition, a Liberal MP put a motion before the House.
Derek Lee wants the House of Commons to adopt a suitably dignified emblem, to express the vital role it plays in the process we call "responsible government." This at the very moment that the House of Commons has almost ceased to matter, and responsible government has been abandoned.
Rather like the formalizing of medieval heraldry precisely when feudalism began to die, or the perfecting of Scottish Highland symbols while clan chiefs were depopulating the Highlands to make more money from sheep.
It requires no special acumen (except, apparently, among Liberal MPs) to see that our parliamentary democracy is, for all practical purposes, dead.
A defeated national government last month refused against all precedent to relinquish power, preferring instead to give itself nine days to bribe and coax enough opposition MPs across the floor.
Not wishing to inconvenience itself with the fuss and bother of choosing a government, the public seems to have acquiesced, as did the governor-general. If parliamentary democracy is not dead, it's at least (as classics scholars like to say of Latin) resting.
And who could possibly be surprised after half-a-century of rampant centralization of power, away from Parliament and into the hands of the judiciary, the bureaucracy and (ultimately) the prime minister?
Elected Members of Parliament were long ago reduced to living at the mercy of the party machine, torn between fear of their leader and hope of Cabinet rewards that might make the rubber-stamp, trained-seal servility of their role more bearable.
Among MPs there are still impressive exceptions, but that's the point. They are exceptions.
The castration of representative government was exhaustively and depressingly chronicled by Universite de Moncton professor Donald Savoie in his landmark 1999 book Governing from the Centre. Unfortunately, he was then hired by the Prime Minister's Office and we haven't heard from him since.
The question Canadians should be addressing is how to fix this -- if indeed it can be fixed.
How can Parliament regain control of a government which has lost all sense of responsibility to Parliament?
The key to restoring Parliament doesn't lie in the Commons, I suggest, but in the Senate.
The Commons is a wreck. The Senate, despite its useless and porcine reputation, is a blank slate. Consider.
It has awesome powers it has never used, because it lacks elected legitimacy and serves as an extension of the PMO.
But suppose it were elected. Suppose every province elected its complement of senators with provincial elections, restricting the race to provincial party candidates and independents.
Result: a federal house that (1) actually protects provincial interests and constitutional rights, and (2) cares not a whit about what the national party leaders want in the Lower House.
With no change in the Senate's existing powers or seat distribution, and with no constitutional amendment, a provincially-elected Upper House could:
- Root out federal corruption. It would not need six years and an auditor-general's report to check into widespread rumours of corruption like the sponsorship scandal.
- Block any government legislation without forcing an election, even a budget. It could initiate its own legislation, except money bills.
- Review any federal appointment, and force the leader of even the strongest majority government to modify questionable or partisan-driven changes in public policy.
At this point, up to three major objections will be forming in some minds.
First, why should provinces be represented in a national Parliament? Answer, because that's how our constitution is written. Unlike MPs, senators are supposed to represent provinces. It states this explicitly in section 22.
Second, how can any government govern if it must constantly worry about getting its legislation through an independent elected House? Answer, ask the Australians. They manage. Ask the Americans, the Swiss, the Germans and people in every other federal system in the world.
Third, even if provinces do start electing Senate candidates, why would any prime minister appoint them? Answer, because if he doesn't he will lose seats in the House of Commons and not form a government.
Albertans realize that as long as it's just them electing candidates, the Liberals have nothing to gain by appointing the winners, and nothing to lose by ignoring them.
The same is not true of the Atlantic provinces (all now run by Conservative premiers) where the Liberals could lose 21 Commons seats. In the West outside Alberta they could lose 12, in Ontario 75 and in Quebec 21.
This is a done deal if there is ever a Conservative government in Ottawa. Both party and leader have pledged to appoint provincially elected candidates.
But even a Liberal prime minister could be pushed into it. For one thing, he would get all of the credit for an historic reform, and none of the headache. At the present rate of Senate retirements, it would take eight years or more for elected replacements to form a majority in the Upper House.
During that time, it would be possible for Canadians to assess whether the elected senators were better than the appointees.
For now, the question is not whether parliamentarians should be elected. The real question is whether the premiers are smart enough to claim control of the election process before a Liberal prime minister's office steps in and sabotages our last, best hope for genuine parliamentary reform.
The premiers bear a weighty responsibility to the nation's future in this. We should hold them to it.
© National Post 2005

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