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Letter of the Day

Placing Senate blame

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For those who have witnessed effective Senate operations, there is little question that the upper house is a worthwhile and productive component of Parliament. Unfortunately, outdated selection and administrative practices and the misbehaviour of a few miscreant appointees have eroded the value of the entire institution (Sober thoughts on Senate scandals, Feb. 16).

The challenge the country now faces is in how to institute the reforms necessary to upgrade the Red Chamber to 21st-century democratic standards. Courage to effect constitutional revision without being held hostage to parochial provincial demands is key.

MARK S. RASH

Winnipeg

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That some senators abuse their position is not a fault of the institution of the Senate but of a succession of prime ministers.

Many senators have been appointed for their party loyalties, not for their intelligence, honesty or impartiality. They are expected to support their party at every vote. It is hardly surprising that many such people have poor attendance. Why show up to discuss, debate, or even think, if their vote is already decided by their party caucus?

Those senators have been appointed to support a party rather than to give sober second thought to legislation. They have, in fact, accepted a job on the understanding that they will not actually do it. This is intrinsically rotten, though legal.

They are basically corrupt, and have been appointed for just that attribute. Dishonesty in one matter can be expected to extend to others, like expense claims or supposed place of residence.

Senators should have no party affiliations. Their job is to debate legislation and then decide whether it is just and of benefit to Canadians, and to vote against it if they believe it is not. Party preference should play no part in that decision. The qualities that make a good senator are integrity, intelligence, independence and the willingness to do the job they are paid to do.

I am sure most senators have these qualities and take their responsibilities seriously: these people do not usually get into the news. The problem lies with the party flunkies in the Senate and the prime ministers who appoint them.

NEIL STEWART

Killarney

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2013 $sourceSection0

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