It is becoming clear that there will be showdown over the senate. The NDP want the issue put to a referendum and Conservatives are going to make that a reality. Moreover, the choice will not between abolishing the senate and keeping as is but rather abolishing the senate and “reforming” it. In other words, implicit in the very wording of the question will the current senate’s illegitimacy. Politically, there will be nothing the hapless Liberals to do to overturn this binary logic.
Having established the illegitimacy of current senate in the form of the referendum question, Harper will thereafter argue that he is justified in going ahead with his plan to reform the senate in a piece meal fashion – senate reform being one of two acceptable options.
Just to recall, under the Conservative plan, new senators would be elected and would be limited to serving out an 8 year term. The problem is people already in the senate would be free to serve until the age of 75. The result the of such nonsense should such a bill reach the senate and pass would be either to transform an unelected political body with no power into a largely unelected political body with real political power or commit Canadians to the farcical and expensive act of electing people to office who hold no real power.
So the issue will stand heading into the referendum. The question will be Reform Harper's mess or cut bait and abolish the senate. The obvious reluctance of the provinces to do anything right now will not matter. If Harper wins the next election and there is no reason to believe the hapless Dion will be able to beat him, the Provinces will have no choice but tackle the issue of senate Reform. As Harper likes to say, God bless Canada. We will need all the help we can get.