From the Desk of Alex Binkley, Contributing Editor

What is a reformed Senate for?

Canada West Foundation

CALGARY, Canada — A new report from the Canada West Foundation answers a key question about parliamentary reforms: What is a reformed Senate for?

The debate about Senate reform often slips into a discussion of technical details. This paper skips to an examination of the ultimate goal of Senate reform: healthier Canadian democracy.

"The Prime Minister has put Senate reform on the agenda, but Canadians need a clearer vision of why reform is necessary," argues the report's co-author Robert Roach. "Canadians need to see that it is the health of our democracy that is at stake."

Written by CWF President and CEO Dr. Roger Gibbins and Director of the West in Canada Project Robert Roach, the paper outlines four reasons why Senate reform makes sense. A new and improved Senate could:

  1. do a better job of representing the diversity of the Canadian people via a proportional representation voting system;

  2. provide a much-needed check on the power of the Prime Minister;

  3. improve the fairness and quality of federal legislation; and

  4. provide permanent and effective regional representation within the national Parliament.

"There is a lot of pessimism surrounding Senate reform," notes Canada West Foundation President and CEO Dr. Roger Gibbins. "The goal of this paper is to help initiate a broad public debate about the ultimate ends of Senate reform and avoid the pessimism," add Gibbins.

The paper admits that achieving these goals will not be easy and that a reformed Senate will likely slow down rather than speed up the legislative process. The question Canadians should be debating is whether the benefits of a reformed Senate are worth it.

The Canada West Foundation is a non-partisan think-tank which has focussed on issues of concern to western Canadians for over 40 years.

For a copy of this paper visit

10 March 2010 — Return to cover.