Welcome to The Canadian Citizen Senate Blog.
Most Canadians agree that our present Senate needs to to be regenerated.
It is stuck in the 1700’s, along with the House of Commons. Both have failed to keep up with the new reality of a wired world and a world constantly on the brink. The internet is not just convenient for collecting taxes, it can be used to great effect for making decisions.
Elect It or Abolish It?
The Athenian Greeks would have shrieked in horror to hear such a suggestion. That’s right, the inventors of western democracy knew that elections were ANTI-democratic. They knew that they were popularity contests which could be easily manipulated, especially by the wealthy and the well connected.
They knew that sortition (random selection) was the only way to produce a nonpartisan result.
Electing the Senate would lead either to monopolies on power or stalemates. Rather like what we have now, only worse and twice as expensive. At present our government is either on or off and you had better hope there’s a good person steering when it’s powered up and has no brakes.
An elected Senate would inherit all the worst characteristics of its parents, and would confound the efforts of any decent folk presently serving their country in the Red Chamber. It would mean another tedious and ineffectual round of electioneering and backroom dealing.
And lawn signs! More lawn signs!
We need to take the politics out of government and replace it with people.
Others would prefer to abolish it altogether but that would be an act of unbridled fatalism. This would rob us of an opportunity to reinvent an already constituted branch of government. Rather than destroy it, let’s create something better. Let’s make the Senate truly sober and thoughtful.
It’s time to grow up.
A Senate should reflect
the intelligence of remarkable people
and the remarkable intelligence of people.
Government should not be driven by ideology and emotion. For too long the first order of business has been to get power and hold power. This is toddler territoriality.
But what do we often see in Parliament? Behaviour no kindergarten classroom would tolerate. How old were you when you behaved like that? And what were the consequences?
Government is a matter for adults, not children. It needs to examine issues with compassion, objectivity, care, precision and wisdom. It must act on facts, not emotions. It must seek consensus, not impose prejudice.
Government needs to remember
who it works for.
We don’t need a paradigm shift. We had that already. It’s called the World Wide Web. We need our government to catch up with us. The technology has existed for decades. Today people are connected in ways almost unimaginable a few years ago. The hardware exists, the networking models exist. The means are there, we just need the will.
A Jury of Citizens
Elect? Abolish? There are other ways.
The one proposed here is for a Senate which is neither appointed nor elected. Candidates for Senate are randomly selected, just like we do with juries, but from the voter registry. If we are qualified to sit in judgment of each other in criminal court, surely we are capable of sitting in direct judgment of Parliament. A jury of citizens
It is hoped that this blog will make a case for just such a Citizen Senate, giving direct, meaningful participation in government, to as many Canadians as possible. To consider its advantages and its flaws. How it might be structured and how it might be implemented.
Below is a brief introduction to the proposed Citizen Senate as it presently sits. It is stored as data, not written in stone.
A Proposed Citizen Senate, The Short Version.
Citizen Assembly – an online forum of citizens selected from the voter rolls, consisting of enough members to provide a statistically accurate sampling of the general population, about 900 online participants in total.
The Red Chamber – These are the 105 sitting Senators in Parliament.
The Senate – The totality of Citizen Assembly and the Red Chamber.
Senator – a person serving in either body of the Senate.
Key Concepts in the Proposed Citizen Senate
There are two functional bodies of the Senate, the Citizen Assembly and the Red Chamber.
The whole Senate will contain enough members in total, to represent a statistically accurate sampling of the general population. That’s about 900 people. Before you panic, members of the Citizen Assembly do not draw a salary or honorarium. It’s a duty and a privilege, not a job.
To achieve this level of membership, new candidates for the Citizen Assembly will be selected at random, from the voter rolls, in much the same way we select juries for criminal trials. A jury of peers sitting in continuous judgement of our government.
Members of the Citizen Assembly, who have distinguished themselves to their peers as suited for greater responsibility, may be promoted by the Citizen Assembly, to the Red Chamber and represent the Senate directly in Parliament. Term limits would prevent Senators from setting up residence in the Red Chamber but it is also important to allow a certain amount of continuity and accumulation of experience in the Red Chamber.
All members of the Citizen Assembly are eligible for promotion, by their peers alone, to the Red Chamber. By order of the entire Senate, exceptional individuals may be inducted directly (but very rarely) into the Red Chamber.
The House of Commons and the PMO shall have no part in directing the recruitment, approval or promotion of Senators. A candidate’s eligibility shall be determined by statute, not patronage.
The votes of every Senator are equal, regardless of their time of service.
Members of both bodies will equally share all powers, rights and responsibilities of the Senate, without rank or prejudice.
Any and all of the regular business of the Senate, will be conducted online, in moderated forums, operated by impartial professionals versed in Parliamentary procedure. The Speaker of the Senate shall be responsible to assure that Senate business is conducted in a legal, respectful and timely manner.
All committees etc. will be chaired by members of the Red Chamber. All findings, reports and recommendations etc. will be compiled by their respective chairs, for presentation to the entire Senate.
The Red Chamber will ratify and present the findings of the Senate to the House of Commons, and ensure they are acted upon. Also they shall report back to the Citizen Assembly on any matters concerning the Senate or the House.
In matters of national security, only members of the Red Chamber may sit on committee.
That’s The Short And Sweet Of It
I seriously believe that a Senate recruited from randomly selected citizens could not only work but would offer many side benefits to Canadian society, not least a more educated, engaged, aware and responsive population. Give people a meaningful and equitable voice and they will rise to the challenge.
We have the technology to do this.
We only need the will.