Canadian Briefs -- Nova Scotia Premier supports electing senators for vacant positions
Published February 8th 2004 in The Miami Herald

Halifax (AP) - Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm says he's prepared to follow Alberta's lead in holding elections for vacant positions in the Senate.

"What I can commit to is Senate reform," he told provincial Conservative members as the party's annual general meeting wrapped up in Halifax on Sunday.

"One of the ways we can do that is to follow the Alberta example."

The premier said Canadians are clamoring for more accountability out of Ottawa and changes to the Senate process might be a partial solution.

He proposes what amounts to an informal appointment process, where voters in a province elect their senators and the prime minister rubberstamps them without comment or interference.

In recent years, Alberta has held two elections to choose senators, but former prime minister Jean Christine refused to appoint the elected choices.

Hamm stopped short of calling for direct Senate elections, which would require a constitutional amendment.

That's a debate many people in the country are not keen have, Hamm admitted.

Federal NDP leader Jack Layton dismissed Hamm's proposal as trying to tinker with a system that's already broken.

"It's unelected, it's undemocratic and it becomes a repository for political friends," he said. "Instead, what we should have is proportional representation for the House of Commons."