The second piece of legislation, would strip Elections Canada of its power to enforce the fair application of our election laws and to protect us from the abuses (campaign finance irregularities; voter suppression tactics; electoral fraud, etc.) which have plagued the last few general elections. In an electoral cycle which has seen voter participation decline as a rejection of hyper-partisonship, the so-called "Fair Elections Act" calls for political parties to take on the job of "getting the vote out". Voter education is to be replaced with voter propagandizing and the further polarization of the electoral. No wonder Canada's chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand called it an "affront to democracy" in an interview today.
So, what does this have to do with the Senate? Ironically, this week's legislative smorgasbord provides the most compelling argument for the existence of an independent, non-partisan Upper House of "sober second thought". When faced with legislation containing provisions that are intended to weaken our rights as citizens and restrict fair and impartial supervision of our electoral processes, wouldn't it be nice to have someone who could stand up to the government of the day and say "wait a minute, why are you doing this"? As much as the opposition will rail against the potential abuses of these bills, increasingly their voices have become perceived as partisan white noise. The government proposes, the opposition opposes, and so it goes. However, maybe, just maybe, there could be someone else to hold the government to account, and to ask the pointed questions that need to be answered without appearing to have a political agenda in doing so.
Could the Senate play this role? As it is now constituted, the answer is probably, no. But, that doesn't mean that we can't change that. Whether the change comes in the form of something as simple as what the Liberals are currently proposing, or something as complex as was developed as part of the Charlottetown Accords, it could and should happen.
There is nothing like a piece of bad legislation to galvanize public opinion. Just imagine what results two in one week might generate!