Manitoba has renewed its quest to see the Canadian Senate abolished in light of a Supreme Court decision Friday that dashed federal hopes for a quick fix for the institution.
"Our view on the need to abolish the Senate has not wavered, and if anything it is stronger in light of the Supreme Court’s decision this morning," Attorney General Andrew Swan said.
"I believe Brad Wall, the premier of Saskatchewan, said it best. He said it would be difficult to abolish the Senate. It would be impossible to reform it," Swan said at the close of a news conference in which he announced the province would hire 10 more Crown attorneys and fund a beefed-up police civilian unit that works with prosecutors.
In a historic, unanimous decision, the top court advised that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s proposals to impose term limits on senators and create a "consultative election" process to choose nominees cannot be done by the federal government alone.
Rather, the court said such reforms would require constitutional amendments, approved by at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population — a route fraught with political landmines which Harper had hoped to avoid.
Moreover, the court set the bar even higher for abolishing the Senate, something Harper has threatened to do if his reform agenda is stymied. Getting rid of the chamber altogether would require the unanimous consent of all 10 provinces, the eight justices said.
"The Supreme Court has said very clearly that when we’re looking at fundamental change — at abolishing or reforming the Senate — it’s not the unilateral decision of Parliament," Swan said. "Canada is a federation, it’s a partnership and it’s necessary for the federal government to consult with and work with the provinces."
Swan said Manitoba has been clear in its position that the Senate has outlived its usefulness. He referred to the institution as "the biggest taxpayer subsidy — to some political parties in Canada — a reference to the fact that the Upper Chamber is filled with Conservatives and Liberals.
He urged the federal government to call the provinces together for a constitutional conference so "we can have a good discussion on how we get rid of an outmoded institution."