Triple-E Senate

The rallying cry of political activists in Western Canada for decades, calling for a massive overhaul of the Senate.

The three E’s are: Elected, Equal (as in an equal number of senators from each province) and Effective.

The appointed nature of the current Senate and its ossified structure have long been targets in Western Canada. In particular, the comparison to the American and Australian senates (and second houses in other federations), which many believe are more effective at reflecting regional voices and interests within their nations’ capitals.

The high-point of support for the Triple-E movement was the early 1990s, with both the Meech Lake and, later, Charlottetown accords calling for a Triple-E Senate.

The Province of Alberta actually held province-wide elections to elect senators (then-PM Brian Mulroney eventually appointed one – Stan Waters – to the Senate in 1990, in keeping with the spirit of the Meech Lake Accord).

The Western-based Reform Party made the Triple-E Senate a centrepiece of its platform. Yet as with so many other Reform policies, the Triple-E Senate was not exactly been top of mind under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who though once a vociferous advocate, appointed well over 50 senators the decidedly old-fashioned way while in office.

In fact, Harper embraced partisan Senate appointments with a vengeance – presiding over a constellation of scandals, and perhaps the biggest crisis in the body’s history. One ironic consequence is that, far from fueling support for a Triple-E approach, the Harper-era Senate scandals put a majority of Canadians firmly in the camp of abolishing the Senate (which, because it requires the unanimous consent of the provinces in a constitutional amendment, is probably equally chimeric).

Image source: Wikimedia

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