Sunday, November 04, 2007

On voting opportunities

I'd wondered how long it would take the federal NDP to take advantage of the opportunity presented by Hugh Segal's scheme to use a Senate referendum as a means of imposing a Reform-style structure. Now, the CP reports that the wait is over, as Jack Layton is publicly calling for a referendum on Senate abolition:
NDP Leader Jack Layton is calling for a referendum on the abolition of the Senate, an institution he describes as "outdated and obsolete."

"It's a 19th-century institution that has no place in a modern democracy in the 21st century," Layton told party organizers Sunday in Winnipeg...

Layton has long called for the upper chamber to be done away with. The idea for a nationwide vote on the issue was floated two weeks ago by Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, who favours maintaining the upper house. He said a referendum could lead to important reforms if a majority of Canadians voted to keep the upper chamber.

Layton, albeit with different motives, is trying to put Segal's idea on the floor of the Commons. He said the NDP will introduce a motion calling for a referendum in the coming weeks, and is hoping Prime Minister Stephen Harper will allow Tory members to vote freely on the issue.
The article notes correctly that a referendum vote to abolish the Senate wouldn't necessarily put an end to the issue due to the need for provincial consent to any change. But it's likely that a strong vote for abolition would put serious pressure on any provice which tried to hold out.

At worst, Layton's stance should help the NDP to make some further inroads into the Western populist vote: having let its longstanding concerns about the Senate fade into the background in recent elections, the NDP now seems to be in a strong position to win back support from voters who are rightly disillusioned with the Cons. But the upside for Canada as a whole is far greater, as the NDP's push may help to make this the best chance Canada has had to finally put the Senate out of its misery.

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