Our looming constitutional crisis

In the midst of defending the Senate, Colin Kenny offers the following.

No question, initiators of legislation requiring public expenditures should be elected. That’s why we have the House of Commons. But the Senate is designed to review that legislation. While it can delay its passage, by convention everyone agrees that it can’t stop it. So the argument that it is “undemocratic” to appoint significant components of government doesn’t hold water. In the end, within the legal guidelines of the constitution, the elected component of Parliament has the last word. That’s all that matters.

Senator Kenny is right to note that an elected Senate would likely feel empowered to defeat bills passed by the House. But he seems to ignore the fact that the unelected Senate has felt sufficiently empowered to do so twice in recent years—see here and here.

Bert Brown has mused vaguely of some mechanism to ensure the House’s supremacy, but until such a thing exists, it is likely worth going back to one of the questions Alice Funke suggested for debate in the NDP leadership campaign.

How will a federal NDP government face what will almost certainly be its first constitutional crisis, namely a showdown with the Senate? 

So far as I’ve seen, only Brian Topp has engaged this scenario.

(Via Twitter, a couple of readers suggest Senator Kenny is referring specifically to money bills. He may well be, although in the next paragraph after the one noted above he seems to refer only to “legislation.” Either way, I think the point still stands: It is worth wondering how a Conservative Senate would interact with an NDP government and how would the presence of elected senators impact that situation, especially given the willingness of a Conservative Senate to override the House in recent years.)

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