Has the Senate Changed?

Has the Senate Changed?

With the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada reference making transformative reform or abolition of the Senate unlikely in the near future, the author asks if informal or incremental reforms have occurred in the past 30 years. Using quantitative data, he finds that the upper chamber has become more representative of aspects of Canadian diversity in the sociological sense. Women, Aboriginal people and official-language minorities are represented in greater numbers in the Senate than in the House of Commons. The data concerning the Senate’s effect on legislative business in Parliament reveals a somewhat uneven record.

Despite the absence of major constitutional amendments in recent decades, the Senate of Canada has changed in certain respects; however, these changes have not improved Canadians’ generally negative view of the Senate.

Omnibus Bills in Theory and Practice

Omnibus Bills in Theory and Practice

There is no concise definition of what is an Omnibus Bill. O’Brien and Bosc (2009) state that an omnibus bill seeks to amend, repeal or enact several Acts, and is characterized by the fact that it has a number of related but separate “initiatives”. The latter word is an improvement over the previous edition, by Marleau and Montpetit, that spoke of separate “parts” – plenty of bills are divided into Parts, without being omnibus bills at all. This article looks at the use of omnibus bills in Canadian provinces, the United States and in the House of Commons, particularly Bill C-38 the Budget Implementation Bill. It argues that the extensive use of omnibus bills is detrimental to the health of our parliamentary institutions.

Anybody looking for a detailed statistical compendium showing how many omnibus bills were introduced and passed in the Canadian Parliament and in provincial legislatures would search in vain. Comparable figures are easily available if you are searching for the number of public bills, private bills, appropriation bills, taxation bills, private members’ public bills and the like. They can be found, for example, in the marvellous work of former Senator Stewart, who met the challenge of making parliamentary procedure intelligible for those I would call the “middle-informed”, those whose knowledge on the topic is higher than among the public at large without exceeding that of the practitioners of Parliament.