Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A step in the right direction

Say what you want about Prime Minister Harper's PR savvy, or lack thereof, but when it comes to making some real changes in the hollowed halls of Parliament he's already about 12 years ahead of the previous governments timetable.

Already in his short tenure he's brokered an end to the decades old softwood lumber dispute with the US and now this week he's taking on the even older issue of Parliamentary reform with a proposed bill to A) set a fixed date for Federal elections, and B) set term limits to Senators (see this CBC story).

A fixed date, much like that already used in several Provincial elections and most notably in the American electoral system, removes the most powerful tool from the party in powers bag of tricks. By not allowing the Prime Minister to call elections whenever he/she pleases, but instead setting the date in stone (barring a non-confidence vote) ensures that every candidate of every party has all the time they need to properly prepare for the election cycle. Gone will be the days of quick election calls when polls are in the governing parties favor in order to extend their rule artificially. It's no wonder the lone dissenting voice on the issue, that I've seen anyway, has been interim Liberal leader, Bill Graham.

As for term limits for Senators, it's a good first step into some much needed Senate reform. It's about time that the Upper House was revamped into something that could use it's parliamentary authority without causing open revolt amongst average Canadians due to it's lack of true citizen input or oversight.

These two changes should pass as more than enough opposition members agree with the Conservatives that it is necessary and in the case of the choosing of election date, it is a traditional PM power which Harper is voluntarily surrendering.

It will be interesting to see if Harper manages to use this as a jumping off point to fully redesign the Senate into a truly democratic body. Personally I favor the US system of a Lower House of proportionally elected representatives, while the Upper House gives each province and territory equal say, and it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that they are both directly elected by the citizens. As those changes would require a complete overhauling of the constitution with regards to the Senate and how the Provinces are represented there I can foresee very long discussion taking place but it looks like we finally have a Prime Minister who's willing to correct a long broken system.

Now if he can only fix this whole Government/National Press fiasco that's been going on for weeks around these parts, all will be well.


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