REGINA – Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall took a hard stance on Senate abolition last fall, saying the red chamber has failed the test.
Six months later, any chance of abolishing the Senate has been, effectively, killed.
Wall expressed his disappointment on Friday, saying a Supreme Court ruling on Senate reform makes it clear to him Canadians are stuck with the upper house.
“This is obviously very disappointing to the province of Saskatchewan and so many Canadians who find it unacceptable and even embarrassing that in 2014 Canada is the only western bicameral democracy that has an unelected and unaccountable institution with real power over its citizens,” Wall said in a statement.
Canada’s top court said, unanimously, if the government wants to change the Senate, it would have to reopen the constitution.
Some reform is possible – imposing term limits or having an elected Senate would need seven out of ten provinces on board, representing over half the population.
To abolish the Senate? All ten would need to agree. Pundits say that’s a long shot.
“Even seven … you’re going to need Ontario and Quebec on board, aren’t going to agree to substantive change,” said Jim Farney, a University of Regina political scientist.
Former Senate clerk Gordon Barnhart has long pushed for reform, targeting rules around expenses and how they’re interpreted – the same ones Saskatchewan’s Pamela Wallin says led to her suspension.
“If that happened, we would not be in the situation we are today with the Senators that have been in disgrace for their expense accounts,” Barnhart said.
Wall says it became clear the last few months there wasn’t enough nation-wide support for abolition. It seems the conversation in Saskatchewan is over.
“We’re not going to be wasting a lot of oxygen on the issue going forward,” said Wall. “The Senate (is not) even in the top 50 priorities for people in the province of Saskatchewan.”