NEWS

Will the Senate Disappear: My Answer on CHED’s Tencer & Grose Show

Posted February 1st, 2014 in blog by Doug Black

Yesterday, Tencer and Grose from 630 CHED in Edmonton welcomed me onto their show to discuss the recent decision by Justin Trudeau to remove Liberal Senators from the Liberal National Caucus.

You can listen to my interview here (at 28:45).

Their final question was on my view of the future of the Senate and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s position that Canada should abolish it. You can listen to my response below.

Rex Murphy: After the flood, inspiration

Posted August 26th, 2013 in blog by Doug Black
© National Speakers Bureau

© National Speakers Bureau

Enjoyed reading Rex Murphy’s weekend piece on political and community leadership in Alberta in the wake of flooding.

“It was fine to see that so soon after the calamitous flooding and all the damage and misery it brought on, many Albertan are full of dauntless cheer and uplift. In their response to a natural disaster, they discovered again the great virtues of common purpose and action. The stories of co-operation among citizens, and accounts of across-the- board efforts from individuals, businesses large and small, and volunteer groups, were a living illustration that the real “politics” of Canada is usually best practiced by its citizens. Where the will and nerve of the citizenry hold fast, almost anything can be fixed or faced.

[…]

“Sweet are the uses of adversity” is a hard saying from Shakespeare, and I got a glimpse of its meaning this week. No one wishes calamity or upheaval. But when such occur, the challenge they present often brings out better qualities in people and their politicians.

Assuming loved ones emerge unharmed from devastation, almost any other setback can, eventually, be repaired. Disaster insists on a common response, and people discover in that response some of the virtues that brought them together (as family, town, city or country) in the first place.

The mood in Calgary this week reminded me of those days in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, following the much greater tragedy of 9/11. When the people of Halifax and Gander moved so quickly and empathetically to provide hospitality to stranded Americans, the act of helping and being helped had an enriching effect on both parties.

The flooding hurt many and still hurts. But it also brought with it a refreshment in our understanding of concerted action, and of the beneficial impact of real and honest leadership. Politics, when it isn’t all scandals and entitlements, spin and ego, can be an uplifting experience.”

Interview with CBC’s The National on Expenses – August 14, 2013

Posted August 15th, 2013 in blog by Doug Black

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.42.47 PMI spoke with CBC’s The National yesterday from Canmore regarding my decision to post detailed quarterly expense reports on my website as part of my personal commitment to accountability and transparency. You can view the interview here (segment starts at 12m30s). To view my expense reports and other information that I think is important to share with Albertans, please visit the Accountability section of my website.

 

 

 

Alberta Senator Opposes Abolition – Lethbridge Herald, July 28

Posted July 28th, 2013 in Article, blog by Doug Black
Lethbridge Reception

Senator Black meeting with supporters at the Lethbridge Community Arts Centre

Caroline Zentner
Lethbridge Herald
July 28, 2013

Senator Doug Black remains steadfast in his belief the Senate is necessary even though he understands many Canadians are angry about the Senate spending scandals and would like to see the Red Chamber abolished.

Senate reform has been long been talked about but action has fallen short, something Black hopes to change.

“As an elected senator I’ve committed to Albertans when I ran and I’m committing to Albertans in my travels this summer that I’m going to work hard to try and effect some meaningful change,” Black said. “Is it going to be easy? Of course not.”

He said he’s not in a position to judge and doesn’t have all of the facts around the spending issues. However, he has no doubts the issues are damaging to the Senate.

“That’s why last week, on my website, I disclosed all of my office’s spending, absolutely everything. It’s all there for the world to see,” he said. “We need to make sure that taxpayers are confident that their money is being spent appropriately.”

Black also posted his attendance records.

The Senate, with its 105 appointed members, was created to be the chamber of sober second thought and both House of Commons and Senate approval are needed to pass legislation. The Senate’s job is to look after the interests of all Canadians but they rarely reject legislation. The Senate can suggest changes to bills and that occurred recently with Bill 377. The bill, that would effectively force unions to publicly disclose their spending, was voted down in the Senate. The suggested amendments will go back to the House of Commons this fall.

Black said the Senate fulfills a critical role within government.

“Canada needs as much democracy as we can possibly get. We don’t want to eliminate organizations that provide checks and balances,” he said.

Black wants a relevant and reformed Senate and one that is more accountable to Canadians. He wants to see elected Senators but he realizes that may be a long way off. However, senate appointments could be done in a way that provides some consultation with Canadians, perhaps through provincial committees.

He also sees value in developing a communications strategy for the Senate to keep them in better touch with Canadians.

“It’s got to get fixed, it’s got to get addressed in a way that makes the institution more effective,” Black said. “We’ve got to clean up these issues around transparency around expenses.”

Black, a lawyer, was appointed to the Senate in January. He serves on the National Finance and Banking, Trade and Commerce committees.

He and his wife Linda live in Canmore and they were in Lethbridge to attend Saturday’s ceremony marking the first annual Korea War Veterans Day. Friday they visited with city representatives and supporters and toured Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge.

 

To read this article on the Lethbridge Herald’s website, please click here.

 

Calgary Herald Editorial on Senate Reform

Posted July 23rd, 2013 in Article, blog by Doug Black

Today’s Calgary Herald editorial correctly notes that the Senate status quo is not acceptable to Albertans or to Canadians. Like the Herald, I believe that fixing the Senate is a better option than abolishing it. We need a national discussion on exactly how to reform the Senate to make it more effective and accountable, but what is clear is that it can play a valuable role in providing legislative review and representing provincial interests in Parliament. The Government’s proposal to introduce term limits and provide for the appointment of elected senators is certainly a step in the right direction. As the Herald concludes, “It’s not time to the end the Senate. It’s time for a new beginning.”


 

Time for a change – let’s start small in reforming the Senate

Calgary Herald

July 23, 2013

 

The recent fiscal scandals in the Senate are disheartening, but they are not a reason to abolish the upper chamber. Recently, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall polled his party members and the majority was in favour of abolishing the Senate. The Senate, however, is in need of reform, not abolition.

In fact, scandals or not, it’s time to give some sober second thought to the chamber of sober second thought.

In the past, much attention was given to the notion of creating a Triple-E Senate — equal, elected and effective. What with the constitutional change which that sort of major overhaul required — and all the procedures that needed to be followed and consultations that had to be carried out — it was a daunting task, to say the least. That’s probably why the issue continues to languish. The idea of such a huge tackling of issues all at once feels unworkable.

But what if changes were made incrementally? Often, the best way to effect change is to do so in manageable chunks, one piece at a time. Let’s start for the time being with the first e — equal. Following the American model of two senators per state, regardless of the size of that state, would go far toward easing regional resentments over the illogical apportioning of the numbers of senators. It makes no sense, for example, that a tiny sparsely populated province like Prince Edward Island has four senators, and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have 10, while Manitoba and B.C. have five each, and Alberta has six. Meanwhile, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon each have only one. Two senators for each province and territory would make things equal across the country, though not proportionate. There is no reason a national referendum couldn’t be held, and the question of equality among numbers of senators be put to the people. Once a mandate for change is received, the subsequent constitutional process could be set in motion.

Abolishing the Senate because a few senators have got themselves in dicey monetary situations is the same as using a machine gun to kill the proverbial fly. It’s overkill. It’s unnecessary. And it ignores the very worthwhile work the Senate does.

Without the Senate, a major source of checks and balances would vanish from the parliamentary system. The scandals have, unfortunately, tended to make people forget the necessary “sober second thought” that the Senate really does provide in its role of legislative reviewer — had it not been for the Senate’s moderating influence, for example, the GST would have been brought in at 11 per cent, rather than the seven per cent rate at which it began. Abolishing the Senate would mean creating as yet unknown changes to the way the House of Commons enacts legislation because that moderating influence would disappear.

Senate committees are also tasked with studying and investigating controversial subjects, such as U.S.-Canadian relations, aspects of the health-care system, defence, science and social issues such as unemployment and poverty.

It’s not time to end the Senate. It’s time for a new beginning.

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