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We can improve democracy now

Re: Dale Watson’s letter to the editor of April 7, titled, In search of true democracy:

I agree we need to reform our system. However, proportional representation is not the answer as elites within the political parties still get to choose our representatives.

We can take action now to improve government responsiveness by simply adopting a new method for selecting senators. We do not require any legislative change, just a prime minister who is willing to adopt this new system.

Senators must be citizens of Canada, at least 30 years of age and maintain residency in the provinces or territories for which they are appointed. Over time, “maintain residency” has been liberally interpreted with any property, even undeveloped land, deemed to meet the residency requirement. A senator must own land worth at least $4,000, which was a large sum but ironically nominal today. Finally, a senator may not sit in the Senate after reaching age 75. Senators are appointed by the governor general upon the recommendation of the prime minister. That’s it!

Since 1989, Alberta has “elected” three senators-in-waiting and provided their names to the PM for appointment. By appointing them, the two Conservative PMs established another precedent that a variety of methods can be used for identifying the names on the Senate appointment list.

I ask all future PMs to appoint senators from a list generated by random selection from the population at large similar to our current jury system. This style of democratic government is known as demarchy. Demarchy is similar to our jury system and both evolved from the ancient Athenian system of randomly selecting decision makers.

Senators selected at random would without any doubt provide a chamber of sober second thought on legislation forwarded from the House of Commons for approval. Random selection would create a Senate with approximately 50 per cent women and a percentage of minorities, occupations, levels of wealth and political views that would statistically mirror their percentage share of the population. The current Senate and House are not even remotely close to being demographically representative.

Given that the Senate grows more ineffective with every passing day, a randomly selected Senate could do no worse. I believe it would perform significantly better.

Kevin Mooney

Red Deer County

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