Tapping the Potential of Senate-Driven Reform: Proposals to Limit the Powers of the Senate


  • Andrew Heard University of Alberta




In the immediate aftermath of the 2014 Senate Reform Reference, there was considerable talk about the limitations that the Supreme Court had put on Senate reform. Some political leaders expressed frustration and declared that we are left with the status quo. But, that view both misunderstands what the Court said and underestimates what can be achieved through non-constitutional means. There is much that can be done simply with the political will to change the Senate situation without resorting to constitutional amendment; senators already have the power to effect some serious reform from within. This paper focuses on an unorthodox suggestion: that substantive reforms might be achieved through changes to the Rules of the Senate governing its legislative process. With some changes to both the legislative and appointment processes, substantial improvements to the Senate are both possible and achievable. The result would be a Senate better able to perform its intended function as a chamber of sober second thought. It would also answer the most serious concerns about an appointed Senate’s role in a modern democratic system.

Author Biography

Andrew Heard, University of Alberta

Administrator at Centre for Constitutional Studies