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Ontario's Position in Supreme Court of Canada Reference Concerning Senate Reform

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Ontario's Position in Supreme Court of Canada Reference Concerning Senate Reform

Ministry of the Attorney General

Ontario has intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada's Reference concerning the constitutional requirements for making certain changes to the Senate.

Given the importance of the Constitution, significant changes require consensus across Canada. For this reason, many of the changes to the Senate proposed by the federal government require, in Ontario's view, the participation of most provinces, and in the case of abolition, all provinces. 

Ontario's position on each of the questions before the Supreme Court of Canada is as follows: 

  • To effectively make the Senate an elected body or to impose term limits of less than nine years would require the use of the General Amending Procedure.  This requires the agreement of at least seven provinces representing at least 50 per cent of the population of the provinces. For nine years or more, Ontario supports unilateral federal authority.
  • Given that the creation of the Senate was a key term of Confederation, its abolition would require the agreement of all provinces.
  • Parliament can unilaterally remove Senators' property qualifications or impose term limits that are long enough to preserve the Senate's independence (nine years or more). 

The Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to decide what degree, if any, of provincial agreement is necessary in order to accomplish the Senate changes proposed by the federal government. The issues of whether the Senate should be reformed or how best to reform it are not before the Supreme Court.  

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