Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Of Senators and Constitutional Questions.

All the recent news regarding the Senate and the Senators was basically making me numb to the issue.  Seriously, it seems to be a part of a plan to make us all idiots.  After something happens, such as the Duffy Affair we get inundated with glop from the media and from the Parties to the point where it just doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

And then Peter Van Loan opened his mouth.

What Peter had to say was quoted in the National Post:

“Senator Patterson, Wallin and Duffy all own property in the provinces and territory they represent,” Peter Van Loan, the government’s House leader, told the Commons on Monday.

“They maintain deep, continuing ties to those regions. In fact, all three senators spend considerable time in their home provinces and territory.”

Well, that ground my gears.  Again we are seeing the Harper Party and their Law and Order™ agenda that applies to everyone except for the Harper Party itself.

When it comes to the Senate and more specifically the rules governing who can sit in it, the Constitution is quite specific.

 The Qualifications of a Senator shall be as follows:
1)    He shall be of the full age of Thirty Years;

2)    He shall be either a natural-born Subject of the Queen, or a Subject of the Queen naturalized by an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, or of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or of the Legislature of One of the Provinces of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Canada, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, before the Union, or of the Parliament of Canada after the Union;

3)    He shall be legally or equitably seised as of Freehold for his own Use and Benefit of Lands or Tenements held in Free and Common Socage, or seised or possessed for his own Use and Benefit of Lands or Tenements held in Franc-alleu or in Roture, within the Province for which he is appointed, of the Value of Four thousand Dollars, over and above all Rents, Dues, Debts, Charges, Mortgages, and Incumbrances due or payable out of or charged on or affecting the same;   

4)    His Real and Personal Property shall be together worth Four thousand Dollars over and above his Debts and Liabilities;

5)    He shall be resident in the Province for which he is appointed;

6)    In the Case of Quebec he shall have his Real Property Qualification in the Electoral Division for which he is appointed, or shall be resident in that Division. (13) 

Pretty straight forward aren’t they?

Well except for maybe #3 which is written in lawyer speak…

But the one I’m looking at is number 5. 

Pretty simple rule.  You shall be resident in the Province you are to represent.

I stressed the word shall for a very important reason.  In certain circles, words such as “can” or “may” or “should” are referred to as “weasel words” basically meaning that you can weasel your way around them.  “May” can also mean “may not”, it is not definite.  “Shall” on the other hand is a directive, there is no way to weasel around “shall”.

What Van Loan is saying is an affront to Canadians who believe in the rule of law, and the Constitution is the highest law in the land. 

In Stephen Harper’s efforts to twist the Senate into his distorted view of what it should be, he is opening up a Pandora’s Box that could put us into a “Constitutional Crisis”.  It’s not me saying this, those are retired Senator Lowell Murray’s words.

Part of the reason that this could cause such a crisis is found in Section 31 of the Constitution, part 5

 The Place of a Senator shall become vacant in any of the following Cases:

5)    If he ceases to be qualified in respect of Property or of Residence...

          Canada Justice Laws website

If any other Senators are found to have voted in Ontario, or carry an OHIP Card rather than their home Province’s Health Card, or fail to meet another of the criteria that the Senate Committee looking into the residency of Senators is using, they could be unceremoniously put out into the street.

What happens then?  Do we trust Stephen Harper to restock (or restack if you like) the Senate?  Does the Governor General use his power to select enough people to fill the Senate?  Maybe we should let the Privy Council do the selecting.

Or we could just leave the seats vacant and save a few bucks.

I honestly don’t know if the current Senate kerfuffle was created intentionally by the Harper People, I certainly hope not.  One thing I do know is that these Senators have been doing pretty good on the public dime, and if they weren’t eligible to sit in the Senate from Day One, someone needs to be reimbursing us.  If they were in the Senate and knew they shouldn’t be, then they should be paying… but if they were put in by someone who knew they shouldn’t be there, maybe He should be writing the cheque… 

A closing thought.  CBC contacted 104 Senators and asked them the same 5 questions that the Senate Committee has been asking asking.  Of the 96 that responded, 17 refused to provide information… 15 of those were Harper’s appointees...

Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to see the article, click here: CBC News
I’ve maintained for some time now that any member serving in the House of Commons or the Senate for that matter should be required to take an Oath and part of that Oath would be to protect the Constitution, similar to what our friends to the South have. 

Maybe we could at least have them read it?

Cheers, BC

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