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The Canadian Senate in Bicameral Perspective

The Canadian Senate in Bicameral Perspective

David E. Smith
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 272
  • Book Info
    The Canadian Senate in Bicameral Perspective
    Book Description:

    The Canadian Senate in Bicameral Perspectiveis the first scholarly study of the Senate in over a quarter century and the first analysis of the upper house as one chamber of a bicameral legislature. David E. Smith's aim in this work is to demonstrate the interrelationship of the two chambers and the constraints this relationship poses for Senate reform. He analyses past literature on the Senate and current proposals for reform - such as a Triple-E Senate - and compares Canada's upper chamber with those of Australia, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, noting a revival of interest in Canada and abroad in upper chambers and bicameralism.

    Drawing on parliamentary debates and committee reports, as well as a range of broad secondary sources,The Canadian Senate in Bicameral Perspectiveexamine the Canadian Senate within the international context, shedding light on its role as a political institution and arguing for a renewed investigation into its future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8060-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Part I

    • Chapter One Bicameralism: A Concept in Search of a Theory
      (pp. 3-21)

      The Senate is Canadaʹs only legislative second chamber and Parliament its only bicameral institution. It was not always so: the Maritime provinces, Manitoba, and Quebec once had upper houses called legislative councils but the last, Quebecʹs, was abolished in 1968.¹ Canadian academics have displayed no lack of interest in the Senate as an institution: between 1926 and 1978 three major works of political science appeared in English that examined the federal upper chamber.² Yet while they do not ignore the House of Commons, the reciprocal relationship between the two chambers goes largely unexplored. In this respect, research priorities mimic social...

    • Chapter Two Bicameral Perspectives
      (pp. 22-46)

      In the minds of Canadian reformers, the Australian Senate is everything they want in an upper house. It was the first popularly elected second chamber in the world, coming more than a decade before the seventeenth amendment, to provide for the direct election of senators, was adopted in the United States in 1913. It was equal - originally having six, now twelve, senators per state with the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory having one apiece. And it was effective; while the meaning of the word may be open to interpretation, there is no question that the Australian Senate...

    • Chapter Three The Senate as an Object of Study
      (pp. 47-64)

      Like Mark Twainʹs weather, the Canadian Senate is more a topic for discussion than action. Indeed, this paradox is the first comment usually made when the subject of the Senate arises. Not that it arises all that often, for contrary to what might be thought, the Senate is not a subject of sustained popular or even scholarly interest. In consequence, there is no attitude to bicameralism. A bibliography on the Senate, compiled by the reference section of the Library of Parliament and issued in 1991, shows that of 243 entries under the heading ʹHistorical and General Works,ʹ forty-eight publications emanate...

  5. Part II

    • Chapter Four Representation
      (pp. 67-88)

      It may seem perverse to devote a chapter to representation in a book that has the Senate of Canada as its focus. Critics say the Senate represents no one because it is appointed. Reformers, today more than in the past, want to make it elected, so that it will become a true federal body, like the United States and Australian senates which provide a forum at the centre of the political system for the expression of state interests. Still others warn that any benefit that may arise from incorporating provincial interests within the decision-making process of the federal government challenges...

    • Chapter Five Federalism
      (pp. 89-109)

      Federalism and bicameralism go hand-in-hand. Few federal systems are not bicameral, and none of these is a major federation. Canada, Australia, and the United States are major federations who, along with Switzerland, provided the prototype of this form of government in the period after the Second World War. The most widely cited theoretical works on comparative federalism - K.C. WheareʹsFederal Governmentand William LivingstonʹsFederalism and Constitutional Change- dwelt respectively upon the characteristics of federal governments and federal societies in these four countries. Later Germany proved attractive because of the Bundesratʹs personnel, drawn from theLänder, and its...

    • Chapter Six Legislation
      (pp. 110-130)

      What the Canadian upper house does rather than for whom it speaks is the major source of the Senateʹs good report. Even the sternest critics compliment the senators for their work in the scrutiny, investigation, and revision of legislation. It is said repeatedly that the Senate is less partisan than the Commons, that its members have more political and other experience which sharpens their critical capacity, that Senate committees possess a reservoir of talent because of the continuity of membership, that members of the upper house have time and leisure to spend studying the details of legislation, that they are...

    • Chapter Seven Responsible Government
      (pp. 131-146)

      The principle that informs responsible government is antithetical to the theory of second chambers. In Australia the tension between the two is overt, while in the United Kingdom it has all but disappeared before the triumph of popular government. In Canada both the reformers of the Senate and the countryʹs highest court see a role for a second chamber as a check on majoritarian-based responsible government, or, in Lord Hailshamʹs phrase of a quarter-century ago, ʹelective dictatorship.ʹ ¹ Responsible government in the United States does not have the same categorical meaning as it does in systems based on the British...

  6. Part III

    • Chapter Eight The Canadian Senate: What Is to Be Done?
      (pp. 149-175)

      The preceding chapters have compared the concept of bicameralism in other Anglo-American jurisdictions, with special attention to Canada's Parliament and, especially, its upper house. This chapter will look almost exclusively at the Canadian Senate and at proposed improvements to its performance.

      Not all upper houses are the same: the United States Senate is the most powerful, the House of Lords the most exotic (Gilbert and Sullivan devoted one of their operas,Iolanthe, to it), the Australian Senate the most unexpected since it constitutes a strong, elected upper house in a parliamentary system, and the Canadian Senate the most controversial and...

    • 9 Conclusion
      (pp. 176-184)

      The problems that confront Canadaʹs second chamber are not unique to Canada. And for an obvious reason. At its core, bicameralism everywhere rests on obstruction: rather than empower, it restrains government. In the words of an article cited earlier, bicameralism is based on the premise that ʹtwo decisions are better than one.ʹ¹ Since two decisions take more time, bicameralism means delay. An earlier, and more extreme, expression of this view can be found in Sir Henry Maineʹs belief that ʹalmost any Second Chamber is better than none.ʹ² Putting aside whether that generalization is acceptable - and for countries such as...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 185-226)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-250)
  9. Index
    (pp. 251-263)