Constitutional can of worms? Report suggests Saskatchewan to introduce motion to abolish the Senate

Brad WallBring on the next round of constitutional mayhem.

On Friday, the National Post reported that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will introduce a constitutional amendment in his province's legislature, this Fall, calling for the abolition of the Canadian Senate.

The Saskatchewan government is anticipating that the Supreme Court of Canada will rule later this year that any constitutional amendments will require the support of at least seven provinces, containing 50% of the population.

“Hopefully, this will get the ball rolling with the other provinces. We’re committed to this and the Premier wants to take a national leadership role,” said a senior government official.

The Post notes that other provinces such as British Columbia, may follow suit ahead of the Supreme Court's response to the federal government's question of what it would it take to reform or abolish the senate. That response is expected some time in the next 18 to 24 months.

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In an email to reporters on Friday afternoon, a spokesperson from the provincial government denied the story — sort of.

"No one from the Premier’s office did this interview. No decision has been made with regard to introducing legislation calling for the abolition of the Senate," Kathy Young wrote, according to Postmedia.

"Such decisions on the legislative agenda of the government are subject to the government caucus. They are debated and all members given the opportunity to provide input into the final decision."

If Wall does go through with it, however, it would be the beginning of a new round of constitutional talks two decades after the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords.

Many pundits and analysts, however, are dreading even the thought of that.

"The minute you start opening [the constitution], demands flood in," Sun Media's Brigitte Pellerin wrote in her blog.

"From Quebec and quite possibly from other provinces as well. Resulting in a constitutional stalemate that is guaranteed to leave everyone mighty unhappy. And sure enough the separatists will take advantage of this national disgruntlement fest to make yet another push for separation. Which this time may even result in the rest of the country kicking them out first (because FED UP). It might work, too. See FED UP."

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Yes, reopening the constitution might be difficult and challenging but is that really a good reason not to do it?

Last year Norman Spector, who served as Brian Mulroney's chief of staff in the early 1990s, penned a column in the Globe and Mail suggesting that demand for constitutional reform is building with issues such as Senate Reform, First Nations governance and "Quebec's demands" requiring attention.

And maybe the provinces can come to an agreement.

In a 2009 interview, former Prime Minister Joe Clark told me he was pleasantly surprised at the consensus he received while leading the negotiations on the Charlottetown Accord. (The Charlottetown Accord was signed by all premiers and the prime minister before failing in a national referendum)

"With its multiple imperfections, the Charlottetown process reflected a will to change and to agree—and consequently to compromise, including on big issues," said Clark.

"What was extraordinary in the negotiating room was the genuine willingness of different parties to understand and respect one another and then to find difficult common ground."

Isn't it about time we try again?

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)


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