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The five Senate reform questions the Supreme Court answered on Friday

OTTAWA - In the Senate reform ruling handed down on Friday, the federal government posed five questions to the Supreme Court of Canada. Here are the high court's answers.

1.Can the federal government unilaterally limit the term served by senators?

No.

"Fixed terms provide a weaker security of tenure," the ruling says. "They imply a finite time in office and necessarily offer a lesser degree of protection from the potential consequences of freely speaking one's mind on the legislative proposals of the House of Commons."

2. Can the federal government unilaterally create a consultative election process for choosing whom to appoint to the Senate?

No.

"The implementation of consultative elections would amend the Constitution of Canada by fundamentally altering its architecture. It would modify the Senate's role within our constitutional structure as a complementary legislative body of sober second thought."

3. Can the federal government establish a framework to enable provinces to create their own consultative election process?

No.

"We conclude that introducing a process of consultative elections for the nomination of senators would change our Constitution's architecture, by endowing senators with a popular mandate which is inconsistent with the Senate's role as a complementary legislative chamber of sober second thought. This would constitute an amendment to the Constitution of Canada in relation to the method of selecting senators."

4. Can the federal government unilaterally repeal the constitutional requirement that a senator must own $4,000 worth of property in the province he or she is appointed to represent?

Yes, except for Quebec.

"We conclude that the net worth requirement ... can be repealed by Parliament under the unilateral federal amending procedure. However, a full repeal of the real property requirement ...requires the consent of Quebec's legislative assembly."

5. Would abolition of the Senate require the consent of seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population or unanimous consent?

No.

"As for Senate abolition, it requires the unanimous consent of the Senate, the House of Commons and the legislative assemblies of all Canadian provinces."

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