Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bill M213 - Senate Election Act

Finally someone has brought this forward in BC.   I wish this had been done years ago.   As long as we do have the Senate, there has to be some process by which there is a direct public mandate for Senators.

Right now the whole Senate, other than Bert Brown and Betty Unger from Alberta, are political appointees.   They have no mandate from the people which means that the interests of the provinces are not represented in the Senate.

Most private member's bills have little or no chance of being passed, though when it is proposed by a member of the government caucus the odds go up.   John Les from Chilliwack is the MLA that tabled this bill.   Media reports show that the premier supports the idea, which does bode well for it being passed and enacted.

John Les had brought forward bill M215-2011 June 2nd last year but there were concerns and issues about that bill.  I point this out because the latest version of the bill is not a sudden out of nothing move by John Les.

I have not seen the latest bill, but from what I heard it will allow for voting via the internet.   Here is the text from yesterday's Hansard of what John Les had to say:

BILL M213 — SENATE ELECTION ACT
J. Les presented a bill intituled Senate Election Act.
J. Les: I move this bill be read a first time now. Motion approved.
J. Les: I'm pleased to reintroduce the British Columbia Senate Election Act today. We are continuing to follow through in our commitment to engage with B.C. voters, and we believe that British Columbians
Motion approved.
J. Les: I'm pleased to reintroduce the British Columbia Senate Election Act today. We are continuing to follow through in our commitment to engage with B.C. voters, and we believe that British Columbians across the province will support this bill.
The act provides a legal framework for the election of senatorial nominees to represent British Columbia in the Senate of Canada. The primary purpose of the act is to set out the electoral process required to democratically elect senatorial nominees selected by the electors of British Columbia, to be submitted by the government of British Columbia to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, for appointment to the Senate. The act allows for a candidate to run as an independent or as an affiliate of a political party registered under the provincial Election Act.
The act creates a panel of three, including the Chief Electoral Officer, a distinguished political scientist and a member of the general public, who will create boundaries for six new senate electoral districts across British Columbia along four principles: firstly, keeping common geographic areas together; secondly, maintaining electoral districts that are manageably sized in sparsely populated areas of the province; thirdly, maintaining electoral districts that are similar in terms of population and interests; and fourthly, using federal electoral districts as a basis for division.
The act also requires the Chief Electoral Officer to find and approve a safe and secure method of allowing Internet voting to be the primary method of voting for senate nominees but also provides the possibility of mail-in ballots if an Internet-based system cannot be found in time for the first elections.
We're looking forward to working with our counterparts in the federal government to find a mutually beneficial agreement to reimburse our government for the expenses incurred conducting the elections prescribed in this act.
Our government has made a commitment to support open government, and this act provides another tangible example of following through on that commitment. This bill contains a sunset clause of eight years.
Recognizing that the province of British Columbia currently has fewer Senate seats than both smaller provinces such as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which each have ten senators, and larger provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, which each have 24, we maintain that the inequity should be resolved in the midterm or legitimacy of the Senate will be undermined. We urge the federal government and other provinces to move to a system which is more equitably representative.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today. Bill M213, Senate Election Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
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