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1. why this topic?

Thank you for visiting. This is how this whole project started, long ago…

Doug Barrett
Edmonton, Alberta, still Canada,
February 2017

 

Why this topic?

Triple-E stands for equal, elected, and effective. The Triple-E Senate proposal offers a reformed Canadian Senate in which all provinces have an equal number of Senators, all the Senators are elected instead of appointed, and the Senate is effective, by which is meant that the Senate has the authority to block legislation passed in the House of Commons.

The Triple-E Senate proposal was very popular in western Canada in the 1980’s and 1990’s. During the constitutional negotiations, orchestrated by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a nascent version, that could be later modified into a Triple–E Senate, was part of the final Charlottetown Accord. The Accord was supported by the premiers of all the provinces, and by all the federal parties except the Reform Party and the Bloc Québécois. The Reform Party rejected the Accord, in part, because the Accord did not go far enough in establishing a fully operational Triple-E Senate. The Charlottetown Accord was defeated in a Canada-wide referendum. The Accord as a whole was radical, and there were many reasons for Canadians to vote against it. From the many analyses that followed the Accord’s defeat it would seem that opposition to Charlottetown’s reformed senate, the stepping-stone to a Triple-E Senate, was not a significant factor in that defeat.

More’s the pity.

I thought about writing something like this essay in 1988, soon after I first heard about and started thinking about the Triple-E Senate. My first impression was that a Triple-E Senate was a good idea; that it would address some of the weaknesses in Canada’s political structure. Then I started looking into the proposal a little more deeply, going beyond the marketing, and soon became an adversary of the idea. I wrote some letters, outlining my concerns, to some of the main actors in the constitutional negotiations that went on in the following years. These letters were politely acknowledged but were probably not persuasive. I argued against the Accord, and the Triple-E Senate proposal, within my circle of friends and acquaintances, with perhaps more success. Then, after the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord, I put away this project and only thought about it occasionally.

Since that time, we have seen the destruction of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the rise of a new Conservative Party. Its membership comprises former Progressive Conservatives (authors of the Charlottetown Accord) and former Reform Party members (supporters of the Triple-E Senate). The Conservative Party of Canada has won minority governments in two successive elections. The party is led by our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, one of the principal architects of the ascendant conservative movement in Canadian politics.

Then, on December 4, 2008, a surprising thing happened. (At least, I was surprised.) Governor General Michaëlle Jean granted the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue (close) Parliament so the minority Conservative government would not face a likely defeat on a motion of confidence in Parliament. The Governor General of Canada had, without necessity, chosen sides in a dispute between political parties. That should have been controversial, but all main stream media commentary vigorously endorsed her decision. It would also seem that the vast majority of Canadians supported her partisan position.

These interesting events inspired me to collect up my old notes about the Triple-E Senate, update them a bit, and post them. The people who proposed the Triple-E Senate 16 years ago are today our government. As well, their hands rest on hidden levers of power. Most ominously, their weak arguments sway many Canadians. I want this criticism of the Triple-E Senate out in the public domain now. If ever the Triple-E Senate is formally promoted by this Canadian government, there will on that day be no room, no time, and no chance for reasoned opposition.

Doug Barrett
Edmonton, Alberta, still Canada,
January 2009

  1. Good essay. I wonder if Triple E is dormant or dead. Interesting how the monarchial part of our government (the Governor General) acted something like a Trlple E senate in supporting the infamous and regrettable prorouging of parliament under the watch of the pro-Triple E reformed Conservatives. Similar in that it stopped the democratic workings of the House of Commons.

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