In a Tuesday meeting, Alberta urged the Prime Minister to save two open Senate seats for senators nominated in the October 2021 elections.
Alberta Legislature called for Justin Trudeau to save the vacant seats for two top-finishing senators from the upcoming election. The request seeks to give Albertans the right to elect their own Senators - a fundamental step towards an effective and fair senate. Kenney stated: “This is real.” The Premier added that nothing officially prevents Trudeau from appointing the names put forward with a democratic mandate. The motion passed on Tuesday in the legislature with a split vote between parties.
In October, Alberta will go ahead with their elections for senate nominees - for only the 5th time in history. Since the most recent vote in 2012, several changes have halted any senate reform hopes by the province.
Premier Jason Kenney stated that the UCP government motion was to encourage the PM to “respect the democratic voices of Albertans.” Bill 12 in 2019 was backed by Kenney’s UCP to revive the provincial nomination process. This week, Kenney also clarified that their push for a commitment to the appointment of the provinces’ nominees is for no reason other than respecting voters’ voices. Kenney also stated that if the PM were to “by fiat, impose senators on this province that never bothered to put their name on the ballot,” it would be an insult. Kenney insists that senators picked by voters are “more likely to defend Alberta’s interests.”
Not everyone was on board, however. Shannon Phillips of the NDP Opposition finance committee called the debate and proposal a “constitutional book club” and a distraction from more serious issues such as education and jobs. She said, “(The motion) is not what Albertans are worried about right now.” Adam Dodek, dean of the University of Ottawa stated “I think there is a strong argument that after the Senate Reform Reference (2014) it would be unconstitutional for a Prime Minister to appoint to the Senate someone chosen through a popular election.”
One Edmonton senator backed by the people is Erkia Barootes, who announced on Monday her Senate seat campaign for Alberta in the non-binding October election. Barootes stated: “I profoundly disagree with the voices that want to concede our constitutional representation in the upper house to someone handpicked by Ottawa. We can’t be complacent and settle for the status quo. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done — that’s not the Alberta way.” Barootes joins the fall race with Duncan Kinney, who stands to abolish the senate and previously announced his running in the Alberta election. Alberta NDP formally supports Senate abolition. Alberta NDP leader MLA Rachel Notley questioned the legitimization of “an unelected body” in which the people of Alberta are sorely underrepresented.