I appreciate and respect today’s Supreme Court opinion on potential and proposed Senate reforms. Although I wish we could move more quickly towards elections and term limits, I am pleased that we now have a roadmap for how to modernize Canada’s upper chamber.
As a result of this decision, it is now for the provinces and senators themselves to improve democratic accountability and transparency in the Senate.
I am hopeful that Canada’s provincial legislatures will follow Alberta’s lead in allowing their citizens a voice in who represents them in the Senate, even in the absence of formal federal legislation recognizing those results. I have yet to meet an Albertan who does not support Senate nominee elections, which are an admirable attempt to bring more democracy to Ottawa.
Term limits are important to ensure that the Senate remains a place of fresh thinking and modern, diverse perspectives. They must also be sufficiently long to preserve senators’ independence. As a result, I have committed to serving a term no longer than ten years, which I believe strikes the right balance between those two competing interests.
It is now the responsibility of the Senate to move to improve its transparency and accountability. Last year I released a 7-Point Plan with simple and practical steps to do just that, including more detailed expense disclosure and the broadcasting of debates. I am pleased that we have already seen progress on a number of those recommendations, and I look forward to continued progress on outstanding items.
Finally, now that we have greater legal certainty from the Supreme Court, senators must help Canadians understand why the Senate is a valuable component of our democracy. I ran for the Senate in 2012 because I believe it is a place where long-term thinking can be done, new ideas explored and advanced, regional interests represented, and important policy questions given careful consideration.
The Senate performs an important role in creating a healthy, just, and prosperous Canada, and I am honoured to contribute to that work.