Sunday, May 2, 2010

The House of Sober Women




In 1867 the people in power chose to model the Canadian Senate after the British House of Lords. It was always intended to be a place for the upper crust to rest their unelected bottoms. But I think we just don't have enough of the historical upstairs/downstairs mentality to carry it off. It may work in Britain because most people there, after a few thousand years of conditioning, really believe that a few aristocrats are entitled to a life of money and leisure. And most aristocrats really feel, not only the weight of the family name, but also beholden enough to the nation to do their minimal part in the governing of the U.K.  But it doesn't seem to be working here according to the shrieks we all heard coming from reporters in Ottawa last week.

There are 105 Senators. Each Senator is making about $300,000 with travel expenses allowed on top of that. Those are your tax dollars and my tax dollars. Is that money being used the way it was intended to be used? The media is making it sound as if we have a group of unaccountable and seemingly unconscionable people draining our coffers. It is hard to prove or disprove something like that when even the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser is not being allowed to inspect the books.

Do I detect the aroma of Senate reform in the air? Hope so.

This week I came across a quote from George Elliot. She said, "It's never too late to be what you might have been." Maybe we need to go back to the beginnings of the Senate and turn it into what it should have been in the first place. Not modelled on the Brits, modelled on the Iroquois.

My proposal is that we base the new Senate on the Iroquois Clan Matron system. It would be made up of women. There are thirty-six there already and some of the names I recognize as women who have contributed greatly to Canadian society. We would start with them. The senators would continue to be unelected, continue to be chosen from all parts of the country, but have some real power.

The passing of the bills would not be a part of the Senate's mandate anymore. The Iroquois clan matrons controlled the warriors by withholding food if they disapproved of their actions. I'm not saying the Senators would starve an out of control House of Commons into submission. I'm suggesting that each new law or tax would have to be presented to the public showing the Senate's thumbs up or thumbs down. The withholding of approval could be very powerful.

The older I get the more I see the sexes as equal but different - way different. The House of Commons is never going to be a comfortable setting for most women. Why not just give it to the men? They can holler and shout and curse at each other all they want and the women can meet in the Red Chamber, bring the grandkids, drink tea and do the work of monitoring the actions of the Members of Parliament.

Then, truly, at long last, we would have the "house of sober second thought" that Sir John A. always wanted.
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