Where an obsolete institution convenes: Canada’s Senate house

From my explore Canada travel series | Read other chapters – See photo gallery

The house of Commons, the Senate and the monarchy form the three components of Canada’s Parliamentary democracy.

Why Canada’s Senate is obsolete in it’s current form

The intent of an upper house in a parliamentary democracy is clearly defined. It’s an institution that keeps the house of commons from indulging in democratic excesses. As we know, elected representatives are prone to enacting short-term populist laws that are unsustainable in the long run. As per our constitution, every bill passed by the lower house of Parliament therefore needs to be approved by the upper house before it becomes a law; thus subjecting the bill to additional scrutiny. The upper house has a democratic prerogative to debate the merits of the proposed bill and send it back if required. An upper house consists of unelected members; folks that supposedly have a non-partisan, non-political approach to decision making.

Unfortunately, Canada’s Senate has members who serve indefinitely (until retirement at 75), are marred by political differences (really, these individuals are pawns at the hands of political parties) and (in my view, with due respect to the Senators) lack any expertise or disposition to conduct themselves in accordance with the objectives originally intended. Outcomes are pre-determined and predictable (based along political party positions unofficially dictated by the house of commons). In addition, senators draw lavish salaries and are an immense drag to the system, all funded by the taxes paid by hard working Canadians.

Therefore, without doubt, I’m of the firm opinion that the Senate of Canada (also called the Upper house, modeled along the House of Lords in the UK) is an obsolete institution that must either be radically remodeled or abolished outright.

The Senate chamber

The chamber in which the Senate convenes is located in the East wing of the Parliament Hill’s central block in Ottawa. It’s a beautiful and well decorated space.

The foyer is a double height space surrounded by a double layered colonnade. Within the stonework are sculpted depictions of various important figures in pre-Confederation Canada, as well as self-portraits of the sculptors who fashioned the stone. The foyer walls bear portraits of Canada’s past and present monarchs.

The interior of the upper house is distinctly red, has a throne and is lavishly decorated. Red is the colour associated with royalty; the upholstery, carpeting, and draperies, reflect the colour scheme of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom. Capping the room is a gilt ceiling with deep octagonal coffers, each filled with Canadian heraldic symbols. The thrones for the Canadian monarch and her consort, from where the Speech from the Throne is read and Royal Assent to bills passed by parliament is granted, are located behind the speaker’s chair. The senators themselves sit in the chamber, arranged so that those belonging to the governing party are to the right of the Speaker of the Senate and the opposition to the speaker’s left.

Overall, this is a really beautiful chamber all funded by my tax dollars. I’d rather see it converted to a space for performing arts or a museum than wasting it for senate proceedings.

From my explore Canada travel series | Read other chapters – See photo gallery