December 11, 2008 – For immediate Release
OTTAWA – For the past three years the Prime Minister has offered democracy to the Provinces and Territories of Canada through an historic but time limited opportunity. Unfortunately the Provinces were slow to react and failed to recognize that at some point in time, the offer would expire. During this time eighteen vacancies have opened in the red chamber. While those eighteen vacancies may soon be filled, it is important to note that while the offer may soon expire, the opportunity for future elections still exists.
Bert Brown was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Harper after winning consecutive Senate elections in Alberta. He was given the mandate to discuss further Senate elections with all of the provinces and territories of Canada.
This work began in January 2008 and the results were that five provinces and territories would go forward with Senate elections if the federal government were willing to pay for them.
Here is a brief snapshot of the progress made to date:
Premier Campbell of British Columbia has three vacancies in the Senate and we have been in touch with him regularly about the prospect of holding an election to run concurrently with his Provincial election in May 2009.
Premier Wall of Saskatchewan has recently sent us a copy of Bill 60: An Act to provide for the Election of Saskatchewan Senate Nominees. He will move forward with electing his Senators in a federal or provincial election.
Manitoba passed Bill 22 in 2006 and Premier Doer is committed to holding consultations with the people of Manitoba in order to move forward with Senate elections to fill their vacancy.
We have had a lengthy meeting with Premier McGuinty of Ontario on Senate elections. The Premier has not offered a position on elections and has only stated that his preference is to abolish. Clearly, he is on the side of change.
Premier Charest has not offered a date for a meeting yet.
Premier Graham of New Brunswick is uncommitted to any particular plan but has responded that he is open to the idea.
A few days ago Premier MacDonald of Nova Scotia sent us a very positive letter saying that he was closely studying the options for Senate reform that we have presented him with.
Premier Okalik of Nunavut very much wants to elect his Senator and feels strongly that the federal government should pay for the election.
Premier Fentie of Yukon wants his appointment filled as soon as possible before he’ll discuss Senate reform further.
To date no meeting with the Premier of the North West Territories has occurred.
The opportunity to reform the Senate is not lost with the impending appointment of Senators to fill the existing vacancies. The Prime Minister has assured Canadians that those appointed to the Senate are individuals committed to Senate reform. Those individuals will respect the wishes of provinces who intend to elect their Senators.
I fully support our Prime Minister and his decision to appoint to fill these eighteen vacancies in the Senate, with individuals committed to reforming the upper house.
In 2009 twelve additional vacancies will open up. We will continue our work to get provinces onside to elect their future vacancies. Senate reform is very much alive and well and we are committed to moving forward with real reform. As long as Stephen Harper is Prime Minister, the Premiers will decide whether their voters get to make a democratic choice of who represents them. This opportunity has come along only once in 140 years and there is no guarantee that it will happen again.
For more information please contact:
Jon. W. Watson
Office of Hon. Bert Brown, Senator
Ottawa: (613) 944 3434
Calgary: (403) 769 1705