Senior Liberal joins call for Senate reform
Senior Liberal joins call for Senate reform: Unelected Senate is not good for governance, says Penny Collenette
Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s former director of appointments believes the unelected, unaccountable Senate must be reformed to restore faith in Canada’s political institutions.
“To me, if you look at good governance right now, I believe it’s very hard to accept the fact that individuals—no matter how qualified and there are many qualified individuals in the Senate and many individuals who do great work—are appointed solely at the prerogative of the prime minister to sit in a chamber that is completely unaccountable until the age of 75,” Penny Collenette said in an interview yesterday.
“I just can’t square it in my own mind with the issue of good governance.”
As Mr. Chretien’s appointments director from 1993 to 1997, Ms. Collenette advised the prime minister on and recruited potential candidates for all order-in-council appointments, including senators.
Since last fall, she has been a senir fellow at the Centre of Business and Governance at Harvard University’s Kennedy School where she has focused on the issue of restoring confidence in institutions in the wake of scandal.
“Sometimes when you go away and have a different perspective, you look at things in a different manner,” she said yesterday.
Ms Collenette is touted as a possible candidate for the federal Liberal nomination in Ottawa South, a seat that party insiders expect to become vacant when Mr. Chretien appoints incumbent Mac Harb to the Senate.
Ms. Collenette, who is married to Transport Minister David Collenette, would not discuss yesterday and political ambitions she may harbour.
When she surveyed the scene in Canada, including the sexual abuse scandals rocking churches, the failure of public oversight bodies to ensure water safety and the $1-billion cost overrun for the federal gun registry, Ms Collenette found “a lot of things don’t seem to be working.”
“I then looked at the Canadian government and how we function and, to me, the beacon that stands out in terms of lack of accountability, because that’s what we’re all searching for here, is the Senate,” she said.
“There is no way to recall a senator if he or she is not doing their job properly. In fact, there’s no way of even knowing if they’re doing their job properly.”
Ms Collenette was to speak about good governance, including Senate reform, last night in a keynote address to the annual banquet for Carleton University’s public administration graduate students.
Ms Collenette said she is not a constitutional expert and, thus, is not advocating specific reforms to the Upper Chamber.
But she suggested Canadians need to “explore all the options,” including electing senators or imposing limits on their terms in office.
Penny is a frequent public policy commentator on national television. During the 2011 federal election, Penny was a commentator for Global TV. Penny tweets @penottawa.
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