Senate reform: If you’re not an expert then you’re an expert

From Emmett McFarlane, a doctoral candidate at Queen’s and a former editor of The Gazette at the UWO (so we like him), comes this email about the recent committee unpleasantness regarding the Tories’ Senate-reform bill, C-20:

“As someone who has spent the last four years (and counting) getting a masters and now a doctorate in thinking about the constitution (albeit from a poli. sci. as opposed to law perspective), and has studiously read the contributions of all of the ‘constitutional experts’ throwing around their opinions about Senate reform – all of whom will soon be doing the same if Harper decides to make more changes to the Supreme Court appointment process – I feel compelled to suggest to you that the opinion of these ‘experts’ is no more valuable than yours or mine.

“The constitution basically says the Governor General gets to appoint Senators (and federal judges, for that matter). We know in practice that means the PM (who isn’t mentioned in the constitution) gets to pick whomever he chooses. And if in the past Diefenbaker or Mackenzie King or Trudeau made his choice by rolling a dice, picking the name out of a hat or choosing whoever his dead dog told him to, then we wouldn’t know the difference, would we? The difference of opinion between the experts is really a question of whether you think changing the process means you need to change the constitution, which doesn’t really mention PROCESS to begin with! Those who respect ‘convention’ or the traditional way of doing things (although, again, we have never really been privy to the actual process of selection) say Harper needs an amendment. Those who see that the constitution just says the GG gets to choose, but doesn’t specify how, disagree. It DOES NOT take fifty years experience as a legal ‘expert’ to know that a) there’s not necessarily a correct answer and b) what you think of Harper could easily colour your opinion on the matter.”

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