November 30, 2015


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Province still eyes death of Senate

Swan proposes constitutional talks

Manitoba will push for the abolishment of the Canadian Senate in light of a Supreme Court decision that dashed federal hopes for a quick fix for the upper chamber.

"We have been very clear in our position. We believe that the Senate has outlived its usefulness," Attorney General Andrew Swan said Friday.

"One-third of the Senate seats in Manitoba (two of the six) are vacant," he said. "Has anybody noticed?"

Swan said Ottawa should call a constitutional conference soon to discuss the issue so there can be a good discussion on how to get rid of the "outmoded institution."

"They (the feds) went to the Supreme Court to get guidance on this. Now that it's been done, I think it's incumbent on the federal government to start the dialogue," he said.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has also come out in favour of abolishing the Senate. Other provinces that have remained quiet on the issue should have the opportunity to speak up, Swan said.

The Supreme Court set the bar high for getting rid of the Senate, ruling it would require the unanimous consent of all 10 provinces.

But Swan quipped it may be easier to abolish the scandal-plagued body than to reform it.

"I'll be honest. I would be much happier if they had come back and said you could have a lower threshold to abolish the Senate. But given the importance of our Constitution, given the weight of this issue, we fully accept the Supreme Court's decision on this," he said.

Several years ago, a Manitoba all-party task force determined the Senate was unnecessary.

If the red chamber did continue to exist, it should be elected, the task force concluded.

Asked about whether he thought the Senate still served a purpose in overseeing legislation, Swan said the provinces can act as a check on federal power.

At a cost of $92 million a year to operate, the Senate is "the biggest taxpayer subsidy" to the federal Liberal and Conservative parties, whose members populate it, Swan said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2014 A15

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