Alberta Politics

Alberta’s Senate Election Law expires on Dec. 31, 2016

The Senatorial Selection Act, the law that governs Alberta’s unique Senate nominee elections, expires on Dec. 31, 2016. With the current session of the Legislature expected to end at the end of this week, it is unlikely the law will be renewed.

The longstanding policy of the Alberta New Democratic Party which supports the abolition of the Canadian Senate likely means the Act will be allowed to expire, into the dust of legislative history.

Alberta has held Senate Nominee elections in 198919982004 and 2012. Only the Progressive Conservative, Wildrose and Evergreen parties nominated candidates in the April 2012 contest, which was marred by low turnout and a high-percentage of spoiled ballots. Three PC candidates were “elected” in 2012 and two – Doug Black and Scott Tannas – were appointed to the Senate in 2013.

I wrote about more about the end of Alberta’s Senate elections back on February 16, 2016

5 replies on “Alberta’s Senate Election Law expires on Dec. 31, 2016”

I always thought Senatorial elections were a good idea. There is a log jam when it comes to Senate reform – it is regarded as an irrelevant and innocuous institution, so there is no real priority or urgency to reform it. The best way to break this log jam, was to make it relevant by starting to elect members.

Unfortunately, the Senate reformers in Alberta were too rigid in their thinking in demanding a Triple E Senate and nothing else (which would result in about 8 out of the 10 provinces being very over or under represented). Therefore, Senate reform became a non starter in most provinces outside Alberta, especially the most populous ones.

It is interesting to contrast the recent success of the Alberta government on the issue of pipelines, when the province made an effort to work with and accommodate the rest of the country, with that on Senate reform where the Alberta government tried to force something on the rest of the country, without any success.

Stan Waters, Bert Brown, and Betty Unger were also appointed. What a shame that this is going by the wayside. Alberta was a true leader. Was.

I’m glad to see this go. If we’re going to change the Senate, let’s change it rather than layer on more cruft. Just look at US elections to see where that ends up. (Hmm, we vote for people who will go vote for the person who gets to actually run, and then we vote for different people who then go vote for the person we actually care about?)

The Supreme Court has ruled that any meaningful changes to the Senate, such as changing its composition or making it an elected body, require Constitutional amendments approved by ⅔ of the provinces representing at least 50% of the population of Canada. Abolishing it, as per NDP policy, would require unanimous consent of the provinces. Given Canadians’ distaste for getting into Constitutional negotiations again after the failures of the 1990s–and the apparent unwillingness of our governments to deal with Constitutional amendments on a case-by-case, one Bill at a time basis, preferring to treat Constitutional change as a horse-trading exercise–neither of these things is going to happen in most of our lifetimes. So, we are stuck with the Senate we have, undemocratic anachronism that it is.

I always thought it would be fun to run in one of the elections with a platform of ‘This is a total waste of time and money’. This would give people who were opposed to the whole process the opportunity to do more than just spoil their ballot or not vote.

The senate election process was brought in, I believe, under Ralph Klein, roughly when he was introducing and implementing the regional health boards, which were appointed not elected. If memory serves, Klein actually allowed some health board member positions to be contested in one election, but then discontinued the program. My suspicion is that the people elected were not as PC friendly as the toadies he appointed.

I remember thinking at the time it would be fun to see what Mr. Klein would do if a municipality held a ‘health board member in waiting’ election.

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