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HomePolicy Articles Article Summary

Challenges in Senate Reform: Conflicts of Interest, Unintended Consequences, New Possibilities

Public Policy Sources by Gordon Gibson

Gordon Gibson argues that Senate reform is neither a necessary nor sufficient answer to the problems of governance Canada faces. He suggests many of the alleged failures in our political system, for which Senate reform is often a suggested remedy, are in fact failures of the House of Commons, or other built-in features of the Westminster system.

Gibson addresses a number of issues around Senate reform, and counters conventional wisdom regarding the proposed benefits that would result from Senate reform. He begins by identifying the constitutional barriers that would make Senate reform difficult to achieve in the first place. He then argues that Senate reform would actually result in a number of unintended consequences, including creating problems around the accountability of a Commons-based government. Another major consequence he identifies is a major impetus to centralization and big government.

Gibson argues that governance reform should be directed towards other areas besides the Senate, beginning with the House of Commons. He does admit, however, that internal and non-constitutional reform of the Senate may be useful. He concludes his article with the recognition that there is a determination by some lawmakers to realize Senate reform, notwithstanding the inherent difficulties involved; accordingly, Gibson suggests the best course of action to follow would be to establish a Citizens’ Assembly, with a mandate to consider the matter fully.

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Policy Publication Details

Author(s): Gordon Gibson;
Publisher: Fraser Institute [ Visit Website ]
Year Published: 2004; Publisher Type: Research Institute
Publicly Available: Yes Research Focus: National;
Registration Required: No Language: English
Payment Required: No Publication Format: Adobe PDF

Subjects / Categories:

Policy Articles / Public Administration / Democracy
Policy Articles / Public Administration / Democratic Reform
Policy Articles / Public Administration / Democracy / 2004
Policy Articles / Public Administration / Democratic Reform / 2004
Policy Articles / Public Administration

Keywords / Tags:

senate reform; constitutional barriers; unintended consequences; accountability; internal reform; Citizens' Assembly;