(SNN) - Recently, I was explaining to an American friend on the phone about why our senate is in the news. Just recalling the conversation made me somewhat embarrassed as a Canadian. The exchange went something like this:
Buddy: What in tarnation are you folks up in Canada doing with all this talk about reforming your senate? What’s wrong with it? I didn’t even know you guys had one.
Me: For starters, it is filled with political hacks who need only show up a couple times a year to get their big, fat pay cheques.
Buddy: So, vote the bastards out in the next senate election.
Me: That’s the thing. We can’t vote them out. They were never voted in to begin with. They are appointed by the Prime Minister.
Buddy: You’re kidding, right? All of them? That’s a whole lot of appointments to make for just one guy.
Me: Don’t be silly. Our current Prime Minister didn’t appoint the whole senate. He just appoints somebody when there is a vacancy. Lots of them currently in the senate now are leftovers from previous Prime Ministers.
Buddy: Holy mackerel! How long is the term for a senator? It must be, like, ten or twelve years! That’s a tad long isn’t it?
Me: Actually, they are appointed until they die, or turn 75, whichever comes first. That’s how they get vacancies.
Buddy: Unbelievable! And there’s no way to vote them out?
Me: Well, we just had one guy who had to be booted out of the senate quite recently.
Buddy: What did he do? Defraud taxpayers of living expenses he didn’t qualify for?
Me: Oh no, you don’t get punted for that. This guy was alleged to have beat up his girlfriend. I think he was just trying to prove he could beat somebody up after losing a fight to a pretty-boy drama teacher last year.
Buddy: So that’s the only way to get turfed is to punch a woman?
Me: No. There are other ways. Last year they also removed a senator who was suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.
Buddy: No kidding! You do know Alzheimer’s isn’t something that comes on suddenly…
Me: Apparently nobody noticed she was completely addled since she blended in so well with the rest of them.
Buddy: I’m sorry, pal, but I have to say your senate sounds like a recipe for disaster. I can see why people would want to reform it.
Me: Yes, we are hoping for something more democratic, free of entrenched ideologies and party discipline that is peopled by honourable citizens who are there for the good of the country. We don’t want grasping cheats who are only there for personal gain.
Buddy: So you don’t like our system either? Well, good luck finding what you’re looking for.
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