by Tom Flanagan
There’s a lot of chatter at the moment about abolishing the Senate. The NDP, which has always favoured abolition, put on a “Roll Up the Red Carpet Tour” in summer 2013 for its leader, Thomas Mulcair. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who used to favour the election of senators, suddenly announced his conversion to abolitionism. Alberta’s Ted Morton, formerly an elected senator in waiting, now says the existing Senate should be abolished as a preparatory step toward designing a new one. Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, along with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is calling for a national referendum in which abolition would be one of the options. And both Preston Manning and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have said that the Senate should be abolished if it cannot be reformed.
The new abolitionists are all influential people whose opinions deserve respect, but none of them has yet said how the constitutional and legal barriers to abolition can be overcome. These are essential questions to ask, because Canada is governed under the rule of law. No matter what the people might say in a referendum, constitutional and legal procedures would have to be followed, as the Supreme Court established in its reference opinion on Quebec separation.