Time to consider abolition of the Senate.

Position:Speech
 
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On November 6, 2013 the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan Assembly voted to repeal the Senate Nominee Election Act. Immediately thereafter the Premier introduced a motion that the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan supports the abolition of the Senate of Canada. Following speeches by the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and other members the motion was adopted. The Government House Leader then asked the Speaker to transmit copies of the motion and verbatim transcripts to the Prime Minister of Canada and the leaders of the opposition parties in the House of Commons, as well as the premier of each Canadian province and territory. This article is a slightly abridged version of the Premier's speech on the motion.

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This is an important issue that we are about to debate in the Legislative Assembly. It is not the most important issue facing the province of Saskatchewan. For most people, it probably would not rank in the top twenty. So we are not going to spend a lot of time on the bicameral nature of our federal government and whether that should change. But we are going to make, I believe, an important pronouncement not just to our own provincial citizens to whom we are responsible, for whom we work, but I think as well to the country, to let them know that the province of Saskatchewan after some considerable deliberation--and not at all revolving around current affairs, though perhaps informed to some degree by them--have come to a view of what might be best for the country with respect to that bicameral parliament.

We have had a history of upper chambers in our country, not just at the national level but at the subnational level. I think it is interesting to quickly canvass the history--some of them very short--of these upper chambers at the provincial level.

In 1876 Manitoba abolished its upper chamber. In 1876, the same year, the province of Ontario also abolished its senate. New Brunswick did it in 1892, Prince Edward Island in 1893 and Nova Scotia in 1928. In Newfoundland, their legislative councils were suspended in 1934 but when they came into Confederation in 1949, they came in as a unicameral House without a senate. So they had obviously made a decision that an upper chamber was not necessary in the interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The latest province to move away from a legislative council or a senate chamber was the province of Quebec in 1968.

I do not want to belabor the points with respect to each of these decision points in each of these provinces, but I do want to focus a little bit if I can on the decision in Nova Scotia, both because I think it provides some symmetry now and informs us in this debate today, but it also provides a cautionary note about how difficult it is--and we ought to be under no illusions in this Assembly--about how difficult it might be to move away from an upper chamber.

The Nova Scotia upper house began in 1838. In the period following Confederation, the legislative council came under increasing fire as unnecessary, expensive, and anachronistic. Interestingly, the people of Nova Scotia, at least a good many of them, came to the conclusion that the upper chamber was an anachronism. And so pressure mounted for the legislative council to be abolished, and what followed was almost 50 years--this is the sobering part for those of us who might think, well this might happen in short order--it took 50 years for Nova Scotia politicians to actually be rid of the senate.

There was a Conservative government under Premier Rhodes that replaced a four-decade regime, a Liberal regime. And they tried a hefty severance salary for their...

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