May 28th, 2024

We can’t just abolish the Senate


By Lethbridge Herald on January 28, 2021.

Editor:
We cannot just “abolish” the post of governor general without serious thought about its necessary replacement. It must be replaced if it is not to be continued.
All nations have a head of state. In most cases, that person’s office is “president” and others are some form of monarch title such as king/queen (Britain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia), as well as emir, grand duke, emperor, sultan; Iran had a shah; San Marino has two consuls who must agree.
In some countries, such as the United States and Zimbabwe, the president is also the head of government. In others, the president is just a ceremonial head of state.
As a country, Canada would have to consider what it would do: replace the governor general with a president, or amalgamate it with the office of prime minister to create a single head of both government and state. If amalgamated, it would fundamentally change the way that a “majority party” (actually, a “plurality party” in our three-plus party system) would be able to succeed to power and how its government would be organized, and who would lead it. The more I think about it, the more jarring and far-reaching the changes would be, the more we would imitate the United States with its complex organization.
Alternately, we would simply replace the governor general with a president, but what would that really change if he or she is appointed? Who would be the appointer, that is, by whose ultimate authority? Or would that person be elected, politicizing the post? And who would be the electors? Direct popular vote (Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta dominate) or a college process that balances regions?  Or election by a balanced vote of every provincial legislature?
A politicized president would naturally not be neutral and would be biased with one or another of the major parties.
I honestly detest that idea: a Liberal president would not act to restrain or dismiss a Liberal prime minister.
Three times in Canada, a provincial lieutenant-governor has acted to dismiss a provincial government that was either in crisis or acting very arrogantly. It happened federally in Australia in 1975.
The governor general really is an ideal arrangement because that person is basically not a politician, but is, in principle, a protector of the people against the abuse of power bv the prime minister and ministers.
Until literally years of study and thought is put into a new system, and the implications of that new system are fully understood, it would be grossly unwise to just dump it because we had a bad experience with a single person among the 29 who have served Canada since 1867.
Geoffrey Capp
Lethbridge

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