New Senators are Coming
By the end of this month there will be 20 vacant positions in the Canadian Senate and PM Trudeau has expressed interest in filling them all. Thankfully for Trudeau, there is an Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments that takes on the hard task of finding appropriate applicants to be appointed to the Senate. For the first time in Canadian history, the board opened up the application process to anyone that wished to apply so long as they were at least 30 years of age and own a minimum of $4,000 worth of property. With the application process now closed, the board will carefully sift through the thousands of applicants and pick the top five for each of the 20 positions and share them with the Prime Minister in the coming weeks. From there, Trudeau can either choose new Senate appointees from the finalists or suggest entirely different individuals not on the list. The actual appointing however, is a formality done by the Governor General based on the recommendations made by the Prime Minister.
Who Will be Appointed?
With all the bad press surrounding the Senate lately, such as the Expense Scandal and the many calls to abolish the Senate entirely, the new appointments will likely be portrayed as a fresh start. I expect that many of the new appointees will be educated individuals that have a connection to their community and appear relatable to the everyday Canadian (doctors, professors, community leaders etc..) The government likely understands the great distrust the public has toward the Senate and will try to mitigate this by appointing fresh faces that give the impression of real representation in the Senate. I also anticipate that Trudeau will choose at least 10 or more women in order to address the gender imbalance in the Senate which is currently made up of just 38% women.
Inquiry Set to Launch
While the PM considers his options for the Senate, he will also likely be keeping a close eye on the recently announced inquiry into murdered or missing Aboriginal women. The official announcement came last week when we learnt that the inquiry will start in September and last at least 2 years at a cost of $53.8 million. The inquiry will be independent of the government and led by five commissioners that will look into why hundreds of Aboriginal women have either gone missing or were murdered in recent years. More importantly, the Inquiry will also examine how such instances occurred and determine how the police and other social institutions should have acted to stop the recurrences.
The previous Harper Administration had repeatedly denied requests from the Aboriginal Community for an independent inquiry and instead said they were focusing on the future rather than the past. The Conservatives argued that the money could be better spent on enhancing the police forces and support networks rather than looking at the root causes. However, the Liberals and Trudeau in particular, have argued that the government cannot appropriately act until it has determined the causes which led to the disappearances and murders. It is expected that the Inquiry will highlight failures by the police which stem from systemic racism within the police forces.
In Other News...
Tootoo Back in the News
Just days after MP Hunter Tootoo announced his return to office after seeking treatment for alcohol addiction, he was again making headlines after it came to light that he had been involved in a 'consensual but inappropriate' relationship. No other information has been released by Tootoo or the government due to what is being described as 'privacy concerns' for the other party involved. However, the new revelation helps explain Tootoo's sudden resignation as minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard at the end of May and why he chose to resign from the Liberal Caucus and sit as an independent. While he had also announced plans to seek help for his alcoholism at the same time, Tootoo never directly attributed his departure to addiction which left many wondering if there was more to the story which we now know there was.
Elizabeth May Wants Proportional Representation
The Liberals, NDP, and Green Party all campaigned on electoral reform with Justin Trudeau stating that 2015 would be the last election held under the current first-past-the-post voting system. Last week Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, reiterated her commitment to reforming the Canadian election system and said that proportional representation would be better for all parties including her own. As May kicked off the Green Party Convention in Ottawa she had co-leader of New Zealand's Green party speak to the benefits of proportional representation seen by New Zealand since adopting the system 20 years ago.
My Take on Electoral Reform
Personally I agree with May and feel proportional representation is one of the best options for a country as large and diverse as Canada. Not only does PR increase the value of every vote cast but it allows for more views to be shared which is what democracy is all about. We could also anticipate greater voter turnouts during elections and politicians fighting harder to win votes, both of which benefit the voters. New Zealand is a great example of how this electoral system can be implemented and can hopefully help ease the fear of those that dislike change. The current first-past-the-post system fails to represent all Canadians and leaves many feeling as though their opinions don't matter. I feel a PR electoral system would alleviate these problems at least in part and will lead to greater political engagement across the country.