Most of us, having only a vague understanding of the Senate's possible functions and past realizations, see it as illegitimate or undemocratic, and wish to correct the situation by applying one of two stereotypical and superficial recipes: election or abolition.
The Constitution defined a container, but not the content. Nothing in it says that the Senate has to be a partisan body. It has become so by choice, due to a particular political culture. Filling the Senate with non-partisan members is a practical first step to its cultural evolution.
Saskatchewan is one of the richest jurisdictions in Canada, second only to Alberta, and has once more lit a firestorm that may sweep the west and profoundly change Canada's politics. Like the launch of public health care and refusal to let foreigners buy Potash Corporation, Saskatchewan led the nation with its initiative to abolish the Canadian Senate.
Stephen Harper's problem is that he thinks too small. No short-term partisan advantage is too minute for him to pursue and no long-term challenge facing the country is too large for him to ignore. By contrast, we need national leaders who will think forward and think big; who will govern intelligently and respectfully; who will call for a new federalism for the 21st century.
Surely Canadians can spot the difference between a Mike Duffy and a Romeo Dallaire, or between a Pamela Wallin and Muriel Ferguson! The quality of character and intelligence in Senator Hugh Segal simply dwarfs the rather sad record of Patrick Brazeau. The average citizen can sense the distinction a kilometre away. We often forget just how many great Senators have kept rampant politics at bay through reasoned and compelling arguments that often put the present House of Commons to shame. Let's leave the Duffys et al to their fate and consider the others who did our government proud.
Another week of the Duffy scandal has come to a close on the Hill. It is an issue that both politicians and the public love to talk about and there is no doubt that in the short term; there will be a cost to the Conservative brand and to the Prime Minister's reputation. It won't get any easier from this point going forward.