An Open Letter to Stephen Harper Regarding Senate Reform

Senate Foyer Ceiling

Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

I am writing today in response to reports that you will seek a Supreme Court reference on the constitutionality of your proposals for Senate reform. In a way, I can understand this. You would like clarity on a politically tricky issue, one that would otherwise almost inevitably face judicial challenge.

Personally, I do not believe the court will fully endorse all features of your plan, as the Constitution Act, 1982 is quite clear regarding the constitutional amendment requirements for such fundamental changes to the upper house. But either way, both you and I know that pursuing Senate reform by statute is not a long-term solution. Any future government will be able to repeal your legislation without difficulty.

What Canada really needs, to settle the decades-long debate once and for all, is a national referendum. Not one in which the issue of Senate reform is muddied by other matters, as in the Charlottetown Accord, but a single stand-alone nationwide vote on the future of the Red Chamber. Voters should be given a choice between three possibilities: 1) an appointed Senate, 2) an elected Senate, and — my personal favourite (see here and here for my reasoning) — 3) abolition of the Senate. The ballot would also need to be preferential to make sure the winner has majority support.

Once the dust from the referendum has settled and one of these three options has become legitimized by popular endorsement, it should then become easier to get seven provincial governments representing half the country’s population (as required by the Constitution Act, 1982) to, if necessary, back a constitutional amendment. Will the provinces inevitably put aside their differences and come to an agreement after such an exercise? There is no guarantee. But this at least represents a better shot at a permanent resolution to the Senate reform debate than your Supreme Court reference case.

And what if voters settle on something other than your preferred route of an elected Senate? Am I being naive in asking you to put your own preferred outcome at risk? Only you can answer that question, Mr. Harper. All I can do is urge you to recognize that what unites all proposals for Senate reform is the desire to deepen democracy in our country. So please, respect the people — the demos — in their right to decide for themselves what institutions are most appropriate for the expression of their will. This is the only way of dealing with the Senate that truly embraces democracy.


David Taub Bancroft

1 thought on “An Open Letter to Stephen Harper Regarding Senate Reform

  1. Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
    We shareholders of Sino-forest are very glad to know that you and Chinese President Hu Jingtao witnessed the signing of the FIPA last week, because we have invested a Canadian company having main business in mainland China and we are now facing to lose all our investments by the date of an approval of the Restructuring Plan which will let the Note-holders to take over all the assets. The Plan is extremely unfair to us current shareholders.

    Mr. Harper, would you please help the OSC to start an effective communication with the Chinese government regarding the Sino-forest case, so that the unfair Restructuring Plan can be stopped or changed for shareholders?

    An effective communication with the Chinese government is very important to the OSC, just as Mr. Howard Wetston, the Chairman of the OSC, said in his BNN interview:”our ability to enforce the act overseas is a challenge”.

    As a matter of fact, the OSC’s lacking knowledge about China and its completely distrust of the Chinese government and the government officials have already led to the discrepancies between the OSC’s allegation statement and the Independent Committee’s investigation reports regarding the Sino-forest’s forestry assets:

    The IC, established by the Board of Sino-forest immediately following the release by Muddy Waters of the MW report, disproves allegation made in the MW report that Sino-forest is a fraud, and verified the firm’s cash balances and confirmed registered title or contractual rights to timber assets. Details about the verification method have been given in the second IC interim report. Forestry Experts have physically inspected the timber in the sample purchasing contracts selected.

    However, the OSC has launched its own investigation against Sino-forest. The OSC, revealed in the second IC interim report, “expressed grave concerns as to such absence and surmised in its discussions with the IC that such absence is per se evidence of fraud.”

    It seems that the OSC did not know that China had a policy of not issuing the certificates to foreign invested forestry companies.

    Furthermore, the OSC denies the validity of confirmations issued by the Chinese forestry bureaus, reasoning in the SOA that “certain PRC forestry bureau employees obtained gifts and cash payments from Suppliers of Sino-Forest,further undermining the value of the Confirmations as evidence of ownership.”

    The OSC’s lacking of trust of or effective communication with the Chinese government has led to a situation that there is no way to prove the ownership of Sino-forest’s forestry assets in China, and thus the resignation of the auditor (E&Y), and the consequent delisting of the company’s stock from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

    The OSC’s lacking of trust of or effective communication with the Chinese government also led to uncertainty and difficulty for the sale of the company and estimate of the value of Sino-forest’s forestry assets. According to the FTI Consulting, the Monitor appointed by the CCAA court, “to complete any meaningful amount of verification could take years, at a minimum.”

    To the date of the Seventh Report of the Monitor, the forestry experts (Indufor) have completed 6 verification reports confirming the compartment locations of 63,956 hectares of the Sino-forest estate, represents approximately 8% of total Sino-forest reported net stocked area of 808,685 hectares.

    If the current Restructuring Plan is approved, it will be just like the media reported,”Sino-forest’s assets far exceed its liabilities, but shareholders are likely to end up with nothing…”

    Please, Mr. Harper, please help us! we are a group of innocent Canadian investors, ordinary and powerless Canadian citizens. We are in need of your help.

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