OTTAWA — Tom Mulcair is determined to seek a mandate from Canadians to abolish the Senate — even though that would require unanimous provincial consent and his home province is already offside.
The NDP leader said Wednesday he won’t be deterred by the fact that Premier Philippe Couillard believes abolishing the Senate is not in Quebec’s interests.
“In October, the NDP will be seeking a clear mandate from the Canadian voting public. We want a mandate to be able to continue the conversation (with provinces) with a view to Senate abolition,” Mulcair said outside a caucus meeting.
“Of course the old-time parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, who see this as an unlimited trough from which they can withdraw public money, from which they can get workers for their election campaigns, they’re going to try to fight to keep the Senate.
“The Canadians that I meet from coast to coast to coast want to get rid of the Senate.”
When asked about that idea, Couillard was unequivocal. The Canadian federation was created to establish a balance where Canada’s demographic distribution created inequity, he said.
“Clearly, because the percentage of the Quebec population is decreasing over the years — we see, because other regions have faster growth — there must be another place where we … balance regional interests,” Couillard said.
“And it is in this spirit that the Senate was created. Whether it’s dysfunctional these days, I think everyone will agree. But I repeat that it would be contrary to the political interest of Quebec to abolish it. We will oppose this proposal.”
Mulcair said there are “nuances in every province … historical things that we’re going to try to take into account.” But he insisted he’s not discouraged by Couillard’s position, nor is he about to give up trying to abolish the Senate.
“I’m going to work non-stop. I’m not going to be like Stephen Harper and throw in the towel on Senate abolition … I don’t shy away from hard work.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Mulcair is making a promise he knows he can’t keep.
“The fact of the matter is, when I sit down with the premiers, Canadians won’t want us to be arguing and haggling over the Constitution,” Trudeau said.
The Liberal leader expelled 32 senators from his party’s national caucus last year, a move billed as an effort to reduce partisanship and restoring the Senate’s intended role as an independent chamber of sober second thought.
“We put forward a concrete plan to remove political favouritism and partisanship from the Senate and that’s what I’m proud that we moved forward on.”
The Canadian Press