HALIFAX — Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion says an elected Senate would be a terrible mistake for the country.
Dion said in a speech Thursday in Halifax that an elected Senate is being touted as a way of boosting regional clout, but he believes it would be a disaster.
In June, the federal government introduced Senate reform legislation that proposes to limit the terms of senators from the current maximum of 45 years to one nine-year, non-renewable term.
The other part of the bill provides a framework for provinces interested in starting up Senate elections.

Dion said the Harper government doesn’t plan to make constitutional changes that would limit the power of an elected Senate.

He warned that would lead to the same kind of legislative gridlock seen in the United States, where Congress is made up of two elected bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“It would be a terrible mistake,” the Quebec MP said in a speech on the political future of Canada, organized by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

“This is one of the worst ideas we have now.”

Proposed legislation would limit senators appointed after October 2008 to one nine-year term. If a senator leaves before the end of the term and comes back later, he or she is still only entitled to a cumulative nine-year appointment. The maximum age for a senator of 75 will remain the same.

The role of the 105 senators to provide “sober second thought” would be demolished if they were elected, Dion argued.

“They come back with amendments that most of the time (MPs) agree with,” he said, noting that the Senate has halted a bill only six times since 1945.

“If they are elected, they would do it every week because once you’re elected you think you have a responsibility. You run on a platform, so they will play the full role.”