Devious Stevious Harper’s Senate Reform

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper has referred 6 Senate reform questions to the Supreme Court. Photo by Remy Steinegger.

The Harper Government is asking the Supreme Court of Canada for guidance on how to amend the constitution so they can reform Canada’s upper house, the Senate. But if they wanted to save money they could have just asked me.

Part V (sections 38 to 49) of the Constitution Act, 1982 sets out how the Constitution of Canada can be amended.

Through the general amending procedure, generally referred to as the 7/50 formula (section 38.(1)). Some amendments require resolutions of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assemblies of at least two thirds of the provinces (7) that have at least 50% of the population of Canada as a whole. These include amendments in relation to the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators, and the extension of existing provinces into the territories (section 42).

How do I know this? Because the Government of Canada’s Privy Council Office says so in those precise words. It can be read at:
http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/aia/index.asp?lang=eng&page=federal&doc=modif/modif-eng.htm

Yet, the Government of Stephen Harper does not agree with these well-established principles and has asked the Supreme Court to bend the rules to make it easier for them to change Canada’s constitution.

 

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Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, started tampering with his country’s constitution.

Their effort to make changes to the constitution reminds me of the actions of President Mohamed Morsi, or former President Morsi, of Egypt.

The Harper government does not like the current constitutional arrangement of having to please a second house of Parliament and wants to do an end run around the Senate and the provinces. They hope the Supreme Court will fall for their ruse.

If we let the House of Commons have sole authority to make amendments to the Constitution, I wonder how long it will be before they decide to abolish the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

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