Supreme Court ruling puts New Brunswick Senate elections plan on hold: premier

The Canadian Press
April 30, 2014 09:59 AM

FREDERICTON - Premier David Alward's plan for Senate elections in New Brunswick is on hold while his government examines the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on reforming the red chamber.

Alward said while his government still supports the idea of an elected Senate, it needs time to review the decision from Canada's top court.

"It is certainly something we believe would be good for New Brunswick, good for citizens and good for democracy," Alward said. "But at this point in time we are focused on other priorities."

The Progressive Conservative premier has been a supporter of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plans to reform the upper house, introducing legislation in June 2012 to allow for the election of nominees to the Senate. But Alward has been waiting for the Supreme Court's decision before deciding how to proceed.

The court ruled last week that the federal government's plan to impose term limits on senators and bring in an election process to choose nominees requires the consent of at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population. The unanimous decision also said that abolishing the Senate would require the unanimous consent of all the provinces.

Harper said as a result of the ruling, his plans to change the Senate have been shelved for now.

Alward said while he would still like to see Senate nominees elected in his province, legislation that would enshrine that won't be passed in this legislative session, expected to be the last before New Brunswickers head to the polls for a provincial election in September.

"It is a decision that will have to wait," Alward said. "My hope is that we can still move forward, but we haven't had the time to be able to focus on where that is right at this point in time."

Alward said he is interested to see how the court ruling affects Alberta, a province that has held Senate elections since 1989. That province's government said it is also studying the ruling.

Roger Melanson, New Brunswick's Liberal finance critic, said Senate reform is not a priority for people in the province or his party, adding that jobs and the state of the economy are top of mind that the public wants addressed.

New Brunswick has 10 senators. Two seats become vacant in November and December.


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