History Slam Episode Thirty-Eight: Senate Reform with James McHugh

By Sean Graham

Red Chamber

The ‘Red Chamber.’ Photo from www.sen.parl.gc.ca

On Friday, the Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on whether the government can proceed with Senate reform without amending the Constitution. The decision has been a long time coming for Stephen Harper, who has expressed a strong desire to reform the Senate since he was first elected in 2006. The issue of Senate reform has been a particularly prominent issue in the past year – from the spending scandals to Justin Trudeau kicking Liberal senators out of the caucus to Conservative senators refusing to fully support the elections reform bill. The Supreme Court’s decision Friday will fundamentally shape this government’s efforts to reform the Senate moving forward. (Jonathan McQuarrie addressed the issue of Senate reform in this piece back in October)

As we await the Supreme Court’s ruling, I traveled to Carleton University to talk with James McHugh, the 2014 Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in North American Integration. In this episode of the History Slam, we examine the Senate, its intended purpose, and the people who get appointed. We also compare the Canadian Senate to the British House of Lords, analyze options for reform, and examine the possibility of abolishing the upper house entirely. As he notes in the podcast, Professor McHugh has written several articles on Senate reform, including this op-ed piece for the Ottawa Citizen.

Sean Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently working on a project that examines the early years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has previously studied at Nipissing University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Regina and like any red-blooded Canadian his ultimate dream is to be a curling champion while living on a diet of beer and poutine.

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