Former MP suggests changing how appointments are made
Former MP Bill Casey says abolishing the senate is not the answer to its problems.
Former MP Bill Casey says abolishing the senate is not the cure to the upper house's woes. He is in favour of having appointments made by a committee of Canadians.
AMHERST – Despite the continued scandal in Canada’s upper house, former MP Bill Casey is not in favour of abolishing the senate.
Casey, who served as a Conservative and Independent MP from 1988 to 1993 and from 1997 until his retirement in 2008, says the senate has a role in Canadian politics. The problem, as he sees it, is how senators are appointed.
“We absolutely should have a senate, especially in situations when you have a majority government,” Casey said. “When the senate was created it was meant to protect the interests of the provinces, while the House of Commons was envisioned to protect the population. It’s important that we keep it.”
As MPs head home for the Christmas break, opposition parties continue to ask questions about Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses and a cheque from Primer Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright.
Casey, who was expelled from the Conservative caucus in 2007 after voting against the federal budget, said he understands the cynicism Canadians feel toward the senate in light of the ongoing spending scandal and the expulsion of three former Conservative senators. But, he believes abolishing the senate would be a mistake because throughout history it has been the house of sober second thought that has avoided much of the partisan strife in the elected House of Commons.
“I believe the senate can be fixed,” he said. “The biggest problem with the senate is how and why senators are appointed. Too often senators are appointed for the wrong reasons. They’re not appointed for their ability to contribute to the governance of the country. Often it’s to reward someone and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”
Casey suggested senators be nominated from the provinces they represent and be selected by a committee of Canadians with no political affiliation. He said the committee should represent a cross section of Canadians from business people, to civil servants, to social workers and others.
“If there were a seat open in Nova Scotia they would accept nominations from Nova Scotia. If that person were selected he or she would be appointed by the prime minister,” said Casey. “It needs no constitutional change or no legislation in parliament. It just needs the will of the people to do it.”