This evening's edition of Politics with Don Newman featured a discussion on the NDP proposal to abolish the Senate. Their talking head, MP Joe Comartin, said that, following a successful referendum, there wouldn't be any need to go the constitutional route to make the Upper Chamber simply disappear because, get this, the Prime Minister of the day would simply promise not to make any appointments. The idea is that once the sitting Senators hit the age of 75 and go into retirement, there will be nobody around to replace them, causing a failure to reach quorum and eventually to have a living body in the Senate. Well, that's about the dumbest thing I've heard all day. First, this proposal would mean that the Senate would still be around until 2037 when Michael Fortier hits the age of retirement. Based on the membership roster of today, he'd be the only Senator for a period of roughly 7 years following the departure of Liberal Senator Pierrette Ringuette (a Chretien appointment) on the last day of 2030. I'm sure that it'd be mighty cool for Mister Fortier to have the Red Chamber all to himself for 7 years, though.
Beyond the simple matter of timelines, however, the NDP is expecting its opponents to act with goodwill to such a pledge. In politics, relying on your opponents--dare I say, enemies--to play nice is suicidal, but then there's a reason that the NDP will never hold power. If you look at the current line-up, there are going to be a lot of retirements in the next few years. Approximately 25 current Senators will be out (including Kelowna's Ross Fitzpatrick next February) by the end of 2010. Do the NDP really think that Harper wouldn't engineer a couple dozen Senate elections to pack the chamber with Tories? Moreover, in the event of the Liberals re-acquiring power, would it not be almost expected of them to plunk in some long-time party members to ensure that they retain their long-running supremacy there? This is one of the many areas in which the NDP have their heads in the cloud, oblivious to the much less genial nature of real politics. "Oh, we'll pass a resolution and everybody will just honour the spirit of that." Yeah, good luck with that. It'll be either elected Tories or patronage appointment Liberals filling those forthcoming vacant spots in the years to come, not a gradually withering number of Senators until they can bulldoze the place.
The only way to achieve abolition of the Senate is via constitutional reform. I think we can all agree that there's no need whatever to go down that route. The NDP proposal is both impractical and naive. It should have been laughed off the set.