Province argues Ottawa must first consult before moving on constitutional changes
Prince Edward Island has taken the firm stand that Parliament cannot unilaterally make any substantive changes to the Senate. Last Friday the province submitted its position on a series of questions presented by the federal government to the Supreme Court of Canada on the future of the upper house. On five of the six key questions posed by Ottawa, P.E.I. answered with a resounding no.
A majority of provinces are opposed to unilateral action so Ottawa is seeking guidance on what its powers and legislative limits might be under the constitution. It was a wise move to seek the court’s opinion before embarking on any great constitutional changes which might later be ruled unconstitutional.
The core of P.E.I.’s argument is that changes to the constitution requires consultation and agreement with the provinces. Without that, the role of provinces like P.E.I. to influence and approve constitutional change will be greatly diminished.
P.E.I. said no to fixed terms, no to two questions on how senators are selected, and no to two questions on how the senate might be abolished. The only yes was to the question on appealing the archaic property qualifications for senators.
P.E.I. has generally supported efforts by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reform the Senate, backing the Triple-E concept for elected, effective and equal. Provinces and territories generally agree that Ottawa cannot act alone to overhaul or outright abolish the upper chamber. Only Saskatchewan and Alberta agree with the federal government’s position that consent of seven provinces representing at least half of the population is all that is required for abolition. The federal Conservatives plan to proceed on Senate reform or abolition once the Supreme Court provides guidance on the six questions.
P.E.I.’s concerns are well founded. If Ottawa can move forward unilaterally on such a monumental change to the constitution of this country by getting rid of the Senate, how secure is P.E.I’s future status as a province? Premier Robert Ghiz warns that abolishing the Senate removes a constitutional guarantee of four Senators and a matching numbers of MPs. Without a senate, we could be reduced to one Member in Parliament. Will Ottawa and some other provinces then look at P.E.I., with one MP and 140,000 people, and wonder why such a tiny province even exists?
Children return to classes Thursday
Thursday is orientation day for many Islanders, not just for the thousands of students returning to classes for the opening of the 2013-2014 school year, but also for motorists who must make adjustments to their driving habits.
With all the excitement and bustle with the opening of school, it’s good advice for motorists to leave a little earlier for work because buses will be on the roads and children will be using crossing walks. Parents will be walking their children to schools or bus stops and there will be a lot of people on the roads and streets.
Motorists are advised to slow down, be extra careful and make the opening day of school a safe one. Speed limits in school zones decrease during school hours so motorists must be aware of where they are. Police forces will pay extra attention on school zones, crosswalks, school buses and distracted driving.
Not all the onus is on motorists. Students must stop and look both ways before crossing a street and should walk or ride the bus with a buddy. Those waiting at the bus stop must wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before stepping off the curb, and stay seated once on the vehicle.
Stay alert and stay safe are good words of advice for this school year.