Will the Senate be an election issue in 2015?

Senator Patrick Brazeau will find out today if his colleagues in the upper chamber will force him to take a leave of absence in light of last Friday's sexual assault charges filed against him.

Well, it appears that a lot of Canadians want all the senators to take a leave absence — a permanent one.

According to a Canadian Press/Harris Decima poll, released Tuesday, 32 per cent of the respondents want to see the Senate abolished while about a third want it reformed so that it's elected.

[ Related: Canadians growing ever wearier of Senate shenanigans, poll suggests ]

The good news is that the government is finally moving on this issue.

About 10 days ago, Minister of State for Democratic Reform Tim Uppal announced that "the federal government will seek clarification from the Supreme Court on "what is required to reform the Senate and what is required to abolish the Senate."

The bad news is that the court may not respond until 2015, just ahead of the next federal election. What that means, however, is that 'the Senate' could very well be a ballot box issue.

Constitutional issues notwithstanding, Canada's three major political are already starting to stake their positions. Interestingly each of their senate strategies are quite different.

The Tories prefer reform through their Bill C-7, a controversial piece of legislation which would incline provinces to hold senatorial elections and impose a nine-year term limit for senators.

But there's the question of whether or not Stephen Harper still has any political clout on this issue.

"Here’s a man who said he wouldn't appoint anyone who wasn't elected," Cowan recently told PostMedia News.

"How does he have any credibility on this issue at all? There’s no reason why he couldn’t have done it. He’s had a majority in both houses since May 2011. If he thinks he’s right, he could have done it."

The New Democrats want the Senate abolished.

"It’s time Conservatives listened to Canadians, listened to the NDP and adopted the prudent and responsible policy of Senate abolition," a recent statement from the party noted.

"Getting rid of this archaic institution would save tax payers $90 million a year."

And then there's Liberal leadership front runner Justin Trudeau who, on Monday, told reporters that the cure for the Senate's woes is as simple as picking better senators.

[ Related: Trudeau says appoint better senators, forget reforming upper chamber ]

"I think an elected Senate is a terrible idea," he said adding that he agrees with term limits.

"If you all of sudden have a legitimate Senate that exercises the full extent of its powers — as opposed to one that understands that it's less legitimate than the House of Commons because it's not elected — you're transforming our system in very, very negative ways.

"Not to mention that all of sudden Alberta with only six senators who are elected is much weaker than Quebec, that has 24 senators that would be elected. It would unbalance so many things that we just have to focus on making it a better quality Senate rather than trying to change the Senate."

On this issue, it seems Trudeau is on the wrong side of public opinion.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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