Top court hears final government plea to allow easy path to Senate reform

OTTAWA – Don’t make it impossible to change Canada’s scandal-plagued Senate.

That’s the underlying message to Supreme Court justices today as they wrap up a historic hearing that will decide how — or if — the much-maligned upper house can be reformed or abolished.

In its final appeal to the court, the federal government is urging the justices to accept its argument that modest reforms — to allow for non-binding elections and term limits — can be implemented easily by Ottawa alone, without any input from the provinces.

Federal counsel Robert Frater says the government’s position would allow meaningful reforms “instead of another 135 years of talk.”

His argument is getting partial support from one of two lawyers appointed by the court to give it impartial advice on the matter.

John Hunter says the federal government alone should be able to create a process to allow consultative elections for senators, provided that the elections are non-binding and the prime minister remains free to ignore the results.

He says opponents of the proposal are saying a prime minister can consult friends, partisan activists, or even a ouija board on whom to appoint to the Senate — in short, can consult with anyone, except voters.

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