Canada coa_shield
CANADA

Overview  0C

At a time of significant events occurring at ever shorter intervals, it is vital they be evaluated correctly, rapidly and responded to appropriately. Events are the consequences of other events, often seemingly unrelated. Hence, the problem of designing a best response can be exceedingly complicated. Many problems we run into could, upon reflection, have been foreseen and thereby possibly minimized or avoided. It is not hard to find examples where problems have been, or currently are, foreseen but simply not acted on. One striking example is the empathy gap between those who govern and those governed.  0C1

Many events thrust upon us are of a kind that can be left to cope with by individuals or bodies such as corporations, academic institutions, think tanks, or professional associations. Others require governments to to step in, be they local, regional, provincial, national, or supranational.  0C2

This essay is based on the assumption that within our federal government it is our Senate that should be enabled to (1) provide desired foresight and (2) do the, frequently highly complex, problem solving needed for providing valuable advice to our elected legislature as well as other parts of our government. This essay attempts to justify that assumption.  0C3

Complex-problem solving typically requires the integration of many pieces of knowledge gathered from many, often disparate sources. This, in turn, requires the inputs from innumerable segments of society plus effective means of objectively connecting them to provide reliable, continually updated advice to the Commons. All of this calls for significantly upgrading the Senate's traditional investigative role. This essay offers some insight in how we may attain the needed intellectual mindsets and smoothen the path toward their integration. By thus expanding its complementary role, our Senate ought to permit our government to make better decisions and do so more efficiently. It is expected that this should also alleviate strains between the Commons and the Senate caused by delayed legislative revisions.  0C4

And then,way out in th offing—I am putting this here in font extra-small, commensurate with how realistic my expectation—there is a potential benefit: If our Senate is prepared to take on the expanded role envisioned here, it may open a bridge between itself and Senates elsewhere and with combined efforts have a significant influence on the way things are done worldwide. This is the topic of the chapter named Our Senate: A bridge between Canada and the World?  0C6

It is hoped that there will be no immediate need for constitutional change. Yes, we must adapt to changing circumstances, but why break with tradition posthaste?  0C5

Viewpoint  0D

I am not a political scientist or otherwise expert on the governance of our country. My views have been, and are still being shaped by reports and comments presented by the media and by politicians themselves, supplemented by public comments and literature written by recognized experts in various fields for the edification of society at large. In other words, my views are those of an ordinary citizen, a person whose attention to how we are governed is continually disturbed by many other matters. I began writing this essay back in the Fall of 2013. By now it has undergone many changes, deletions, and additions as I learned from people "on the inside track" such as those who contributed their thoughts to Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate you never knew, edited by senator Serge Joyal and published in 2003. The book is a smorgasboard of commentary on the functioning and value of, and attempts to reform our Senate.  0D1

There can be little doubt that, even after years of pondering he value and workings our Senate, I am still ignorant of, and quite possibly misguided or biased on a number of issues. What I have written, therefore, is open to criticism and corrections by those with a better understanding than I have of points here raised. In the meantime, I have tried to be clear, not too repetitious, and reasonably brief—all on the assumption that angood listener need only half an ear.  0D2

On December 11, 2015, our senators moved to strike a Special Committee on Senate Modernization. A Brief based on this essay has been accepted for posting on the Committee's website. Unfortunately, but understandably, that Brief had to be kept short, to about ten pages; too short for my liking.  0D3

This essay was originally written for interested fellow citizens in general, but gradually turned to especially addressing our senators and members of parliament. It proposes changes in the role, composition, and functioning of our Senate, all for the public good. These changes are objective-oriented, hence do not align well with common, short-sighted political objectives. The reader be the judge.  0D6

Contents  0E

PART I. The sorry state of things
1.
Primer on the structure and functioning of our government
2. Democracy in peril: The electorate
3. Democracy in peril: The elected
4. Roles of the Senate
5. Abolishing the Senate: A bad idea!
6. 1982 and 1998: Protecting democracy

PART II. Heart of our darkness: Urgent, complex issues
7. Concerning the need for better integrating diverse insights
        Some notes on: The effects of artificial intelligence on society
        Some notes on: Digital brain implants
        Some notes on: Dealing with global environmental threats
        Some notes on: Dealing with military, including terrorist threats
        Some notes on: Understanding religion-related mindsets
        Some notes on: Knowing ourselves
        Some notes on: Citizenship and ethics
        Some notes on: Improving parenthood
        Some notes on: Public education by the media
        Some notes on: Sovereignties and inter-cultural coherence
        Some notes on: Resistance to propaganda and commercial persuasion
        Some notes on: Learning from other countries
        Some notes on: Environmental threats posed by industries
        Some notes on: Our political economy: Capitalism at he tipping point
        Some notes on: Our political economy: Squeezing folk
        Some notes on: Continual adaptation of school curriculae
8. Our Senate: A bridge between Canada and the World?

PART III. A Senate adapting to the times
9. Coping with a big load, and yet ...
10. Whence from here?
11. Separating good governance from electioneering
12. Envisioned: A functional distinction among senators
13. Senators seeking to understand citizens' concerns ("Citizens' representatives")
14. Senators who represent Canadians indirectly ("Complex-problem solvers")
15. Optimizing effectiveness: Digital collaboration
16. Optimizing effectiveness: Solving complex problems
17. Interaction with the Commons
18. Selection and tenure of senators
19. Managing the transition
20. Regional prerogatives
21. Proposed changes in the light of partisan objectives
22. Recommendations for the immediate future
23. Views about modernizing our Senate, &c.
24. Whence this essay?
25. How about our offspring?

APPENDICES
A. Debate about Senate Term Limits (Bill C-10, 2010)
B. Debate about An Act respecting the selection of senators (Bill S-8, 2010)
C. Stanley Knowles's dream: The abolishing of the Senate
D. Senators' retirement from office (projected dates)
E. Laying down the law: A Kanesataki timeline
F. Debate concerning Motion to Strike Special Committee on Senate Modernization
G. Senate Modernization: Some Q's & A's
H. Proceedings of the MDRN committee's public sessions  0F

1.  Primer on the structure and functioning of our government  1

Parliament
A diagram that summarizes how Canada is gverned. The law is the supreme authority. As the outcome of evolving tradition, the Queen formally is Canada's executive authority; hence every act of government is carried out in her name. The governor-general, being the Queen's representative, normally acts on the advice of the prime minister and his Cabinet. The
Constitution Act, 1867 (previously named The North America Act, 1867) provides that there shall be one Parliament consisting of three distinct elements: the Crown (which, for all practical purposes, is the Cabinet presided over by the prime minister), the Senate and the House of Commons. (Source of diagram.)  1A

To be sure, elections are not about choosing a prime minister, they are about choosing a parliament. It is then, by convention, that the governor-general will call on the person who is most likely to receive the support, or confidence, of a majority in the directly-elected House of Commons to form a government. This is often the leader of a party whose members form a majority, or a very large plurality, of the members of parliament, but legally, this person may be any citizen of Canada of voting age. (Ref.) All of which means that when subsequent to the election the votes are tallied none of the party leaders really has "won a mandate."  1A1

The prime minister and the other ministers in the cabinet are appointed by the governor general on behalf of the Queen. Curiuously, there are no age or citizenship restrictions on the position of prime minister itself nor does he have to be a sitting meber of parliament. In fact, two former prime ministers were senators: Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott (the first PM: June 16, 1891–November 24, 1892) and Sir Mackenzie Bowell (December 21, 1894–April 27, 1896) were senators.  1A2

Members of the Commons ("members of parliament") should, on the electorate's behalf, serve as Canada's legislative authority, but fact is those members who belong to the party that occupy most of the Commons's seats have become accustomed to very much doing the prime minister's bidding; hence, such a "majority government" is controlled by the sitting prime minister with only the Supreme Court and the Senate preventing him or her from acquiring absolute power. It was Pierre Trudeau who began consolidating power in the prime minister's office (PMO) which is itself filled by political and administrative staff selected at the prime minister's discretion and unaccountable to parliament. Henceforth, the Commons's legislative power has increasingly shifted towards the executive branch, read "towards the prime minister." *  1B

The Senate was at its inception intended to be the guardian of regional interests, but its role has somewhat evolved over time. The way our government is structured is honey for politicians and manna for the legal profession, but attempts are made to bring about improvement, notably by appointing politically independent senators although those appointments, made by the governor-general, are still made on the recommendation of the prime minister.  1C

2.  Democracy in peril: The electorate  2

Canadians value representative democratic forms of government, at least it is said we do. But actions speak louder than words. Here is a table showing percentages of eligible voters who actually did vote:  2A

        1972        76.7%
        1974        71.0%
        1979        75.7%
        1980        69.3%
        1984        75.3%
        1988        75.3%
        1992        71.8%
        1993        69.6%
        1997        67.0%
        2000        61.2%
        2004        60.9%
        2006        64.7%
        2008        58.8%
        2011        61.1%
        2015        68.3%  
2B

The average voter turnout for the years 1972 through 1993 is 73.1%, and from 2000 through 2011 is 61.3%. That is a huge drop. A chief electoral officer perceived it as a "deepening crisis." One remedy advocated is lowering the voting age, but one would do well to consider how well informed our electorate is about our country, the issues we all face, about our system of government. The question must be asked, "Just what kind of a democracy are we standing on guard for?" (Voter turnout in the unusually long and dramatic 2015 election went up to 68.3%, but one wonders whether this rise is an anomaly.)* 2C

In April of 2015, at a time that our then suspended senator Mike Duffy went to trial, Angus-Reid tried to establish how well people are informed about the Senate. They reported that of those expressing an opinion:  2D

        •  19 % followed them in the news and discussed them with friends,
        •  36 % saw some media coverage and had the odd conversation,
        •  29 % just scanned headlines, and
        •  16 % hadn't seen or heard anything about it.  
2E

So there you go! Kind of hollows out that concept of democratic legitimacy.  2F

"Say bye to the online comment section as you know it," writes commentator Russell Smith in the The Globe and Mail of Dec. 22, 2015. Why? Because of all the drivel it engenders. "Does our fatigue with unfiltered opinion reflect a larger philosophical change, though? Are we disenchanted with the idea of equality itself? Our expectations of people, people generally, have been so disappointed. People just turned out to be so much dumber than we had hoped. Dumber, angrier, more irrational, impulsive. People are just scary. What does this do for our enshrinement of democracy?"  2F1

Driven by fear and hatred, populism has infected many Western countries, notably the United States. And, to be sure, Canada is not immune because while welcoming immigrants from the Middle East and helping fugutives from the U.S.A., there has developed some concern with the influx of fugutives thereby heightening populism here as well.  2F2

In some important aspects, I personally do perceive developments in the U.S. comparable to some happenings under Germany's Nazi regime such as an outrageous manipulation of public opinion and expectations, i.q. a heavy-handed interference with a free press as well as the staging of events like victory rallies which I find reminiscent of the torchlight parades and the annual Nuremberg Rallies held to impress the populace and wow the "true believers." One may well fear other undesirable developments instigated by some political personalities in power. Under Hitler, these included the occupation of surrounding territories as is done now by Russia under Putin. Successful adventures breed a following. These kind of things are hardly new to this nearly-ninety-year old.  2F2A

Electing members of parliament puts thinking Canadian voters in a quandary: Are we to elect a person who we feel best represents our personal, business or regional interests? Or do we elect the political party whose philosophy—or rather, whose platform of the day—a campaigner espouses? Consider the outcome of the 2011 federal elections in the electoral district Argenteuil–Papineau–Mirabel. Winner was a student of political science who stood as candidate for the New Democratic Party. She never campaigned; after all, she did not expect to win anyway, why then waste money and effort? She knew nothing or next to nothing about any needs or particular interests of those in her riding. She, like a number of others, surprise!, did get elected simply by virtue of being a member of a party made especially popular by the charisma of the late Jack Layton. (Mind you, for all I know she may well have become much better qualified. But sufficiently? How am I to know?)  2G

Here are some statistics for her riding that show the fickle finger of fate at work:  2G1

        2006      52.13% Bloc Québecois
                      23.32% Conservative
                      13.42% Liberal
                      6.49%   N.D.P.

        2008      48.10% Bloc Québecois
                      15%      Liberal
                      17.43% Conservative
                      12.40% N.D.P.

        2011      44.27% N.D.P.
                      28.96% Bloc Québecois
                      12.24% Liberal
                      11.15% Conservative  
2H

The election in 1993 of the separatist Bloc Québecois brought another quandary to the fore: whether or not to vote strategically, in this case whether to vote for the party other than the BQ with the expected highest score.  2I

During the months of May and June, 2015, many Quebec voters came under the spell of popular personae becoming leaders of parties aiming for the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada. First came the election of media magnate Péladeau ("PKP") to head the provincial Parti Québecois, then the re-entry of Gilles Duceppe as leader of the federal Bloc Québecois, which immediately led to an increase in the party's popularity in this province. Further to Quebec's provincial politics, Péladeau—presumably well versed in the power of propaganda—might well have expected his political fortunes to be boosted by marrying a former common-law partner, a popular TV talk-show hostess. But he stepped down in May of 2016.  2J

In short

•  3. The rather low—and apparently diminishing—voter interest indicates that too many Canadians do not take the governance of our country seriously. (And one wonders what can be done about it anyway.)

•  4. Those who do vote are mostly badly informed about their voting options and are readily moved by currents of popular perception.
 
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3.  Democracy in peril: The elected  3

Nova Scotia's former finance minister Graham Steele wrote What I Learned in Politics (2014), a book about his 15 years of experience as a parliamentarian. It is hoped, he said, that the book will teach Canadians, notably first-timers standing for election, what the "low, dirty business" of politics really is like. The book offers ten rules for politicians to live by:  3A

        1.  Get yourself re-elected.
        2.  Spend as little time as possible in the legislature.
        3.  Perception is reality.
        4.  Keep it simple.
        5.  Put yourself in the spotlight.
        6.  Politics is a team sport, Part 1: Loyalty.
        7.  Politics is a team sport, Part 2: Always be attacking.
        8.  Don't leave a paper trail.
        9.  Fight hard to take credit, fight harder to avoid the blame.
        10.  Deny that these are the Rules of the Game.  
3B

For a sound clip from an interview on the CBC radio show As it happens, click here. A couple of remarks struck me:  3C

        •  "The voters have generally not any idea of what you're doing.... Keep it simple. Policy debates are for losers. Focus on what is most likely to sink in with the distracted electorate which is slogans, scandals, personalities, pictures, and images."
        •  "Policy is not done in places where it is supposed to be done. Policy does get done. It gets done around the edges. It gets done within the civil service."
        •  "People get into politics not knowing how to be effective. It takes a long time to become effective."  
3D

One ought to wonder whether those who plump for an elected Senate shouldn't do so for an elected civil service as well! After all, what is wrong with being consistent? Oh, yes, there is that little matter of an unelected Senate blocking legislation. Must not overlook that!  3D1

In a recent interview, former Ontario Premier Bob Rae and author of What's happened to politics? was asked, "How is the current election, in your view, an extension of a 'perpetual campaign'?"* His reply:  3E

"In Canadian politics, the gap between governing and campaigning has pretty much disappeared. I know from my own experience and talking with other politicians that governing was always seen as something different from campaigning. What we're seeing now is that campaigning never stops. The relentless messaging; the use of Question Period for messaging; the use of every government press release as a way of packaging, identifying, and branding never stops, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The perpetual campaign makes it very hard for citizens to see the process of governing and how Parliament is supposed to work as a deliberative body."  3F

Perusing parliamentary debates recorded in the Hansard shows that our elected representatives are not exactly founts of wisdom (See e.g. Appendix A). Don't take this as a derogatory comment. How could it be otherwise? Members of Parliament are not elected for their expertise in governing. How is the ordinary voter to judge them on that score? Or on any other personal quality in a situation where most voters do not even know their potential representatives other than from billboards, pamphlets, news clips, gossip in favourite watering holes, what-have-you.  3G

Campaigning, typically, does not involve taking an objective, hard look at important issues ("Policy debates are for losers," remember?). One-liners are so much easier to digest by the electorate. Besides, candidates are unlikely to have clear ideas about how to resolve unemployment, cut the crime rate, overcome age-old schisms between Canada's diverse ethnic and linguistic groups, prevent local terrorism, or whatever. Trying to resolve those kind of issues calls for a wide spectrum of experience and knowledge of a kind one hopes the Senate may be able to offer. Ah, why didn't I write "the civil service has to offer"? Answer: Government departments are typically one-issue departments: fisheries, national defence, immigration, and so forth. They are not suited to solving complex, multi-issue problems.  3H

Written by C.E.S. Franks, professor emeritus of Political Studies at Queen's University, here is a paragraph that ought those who favour the abolition of our Senate to give some pause. I found it in the aforementioned book Protecting Canadian Democracy:  3I

"Much of the membership of the House of Commons is inexperienced and amateur to the point that members cannot perform their functions well. Amateurism in this sense means a lack of political experience before entering the House of Commons, a brief stay in the House itself, and a lack of other qualifications such as higher education, professional qualifications, and work experience indicative of high ability. Particularly on the scores of previous political experience and length of tenure, the Canadian House of Commons is one of the most amateur assemblies among the advanced Western nations. The average member of the Canadian House of Commons serves in the House a little more than four years, compared with more than eight years in Britain, and much longer for members of the American House of Representatives. Short tenures in the House means that many members are still finding their way and are not able to have much influence on parliamentary business before they are defeated and choose to leave."  3I1

In short

•  5. The ordinary voter is mostly concerned about bread-and-butter issues and simply expects some abstraction called "government" to take care of such arduous matters as climate change, international trade, etc.

•  6. Defeating any such expectation: voters, by-and-large, do not elect MPs for expertise in tackling those issues.

•  7. We should question a democracy in which political parties avail themselves of propaganda honed to persuade the ill-informed. More money spent on elections buys stronger persuasive force.

•  8. In a highly competitive electoral arena, nice people finish last and, hence, our much-touted democracy is deteriorating into a sham.

•  9. Politicians and bureaucrats continue, like most people do, their acquired ways of doing things for they do not wish to be considered misfits or losers.
 
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4.  Roles of the Senate  4

It is my understanding that the roles of the British House of Lords and of our Senate (as well as the Constitution of the U.S.) were originally designed to allow the upper classes to maintain some check on the wiles of the hoi polloi. Sir John A. is quoted as saying (quipping?), "We must protect the rights of minorities, and the rich are always fewer in number than the poor" (at the Quebec Conference of 1864).* A government website providing A Legislative and Historical Overview of the Senate of Canada puts it more subtly: "Bicameral theorists believed that popular, elected houses were deficient: in particular, they had a potential of succumbing to special interests and the majority will which they claimed needed to be supplemented by minority opinion, equally integral to the well-being of the state."  4A

The document states that senators are appointed "for the purpose of obtaining your advice and assistance in all weighty and arduous affairs which may be the State and Defence of Canada concern." In theory then, senators are given a different function than that of popularly elected members. But, because senators are residents of the province for which they are appointed, senators are constitutionally given a regional, representative role as well.  4B

Quoting further from the same source: "In 1980, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee's Report on Certain Aspects of the Canadian Constitution listed four roles of the Senate, all of which were complimentary to the functions of the House of Commons. They were:  4C

        • a revising legislative role;
        • an investigative role;
        • a regional representative role;
        • a protector of linguistic and other minorities role."  
4D

The committee referred to is a standing committee of the Senate; its full report can be found here.  4E

This essay proposes to expand the investigative role to

        • an investigative, anticipating, and critical problem-solving role,

which is justified in Part II and the focus of Part III.  
4F

The way I see it: By thus expanding its investigative role, our Senate shall be able to provide the Commons—as well as government departments and agencies—with information, reasoning, and caveats to broaden its legislative concerns. Because planning-ahead ought to cut down the need for revising later, a side-benefit is putting fewer time-consuming brakes on the Commons' work. It is felt to be a mode of Senate reform which can, in principle, be accomplished to a large extend by the Senate itself, thereby avoiding constitutional conundrums. All of which sounds hardly new. This is what the above report says about the investigative function:  4G

"The 1972 report of the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution recommended that the Senate's investigative role should 'be continued and expanded at the initiative of the Senate itself.' It has been. The report recommended also that the government 'should make more use of the Senate in this way'." Just how much use our government makes of those Senate reports, this is something that bears looking into.  4H

"The primary purpose of Senate committee investigations should be to influence government policy, priorities or administration. Therefore, the Senate itself should initiate investigations in areas where it believes there is a need. We question the desirability of having the government take the initiative in suggesting areas where the Senate, rather than the two Houses in a joint committee, should launch an investigation.  4I

"We believe that the standing committees of the Senate should ordinarily institute and carry on investigations in the fields assigned to them by the rules of the Senate, as the Standing Committees on National Finance, on Agriculture and on Foreign Affairs already do. This could sometimes be done by a subcommittee, which would hold hearings and make recommendations to the main committee. (This, as indicated earlier, has been done now by the subcommittee on Health, Welfare and Science which has been investigating childhood experiences as causes of criminal behaviour). If these suggestions are adopted, there would be less need of special committees."  4J

Actually, the Senate is deeply involved in conducting investigations and reporting their conclusions. But looking over a list of reports (and any follow-up page), it appears to me, though, that, however important are the issues addressed, many far more critical issues have escaped attempts at finding ways of dealing with them and are left to our elected representatives. Chapter 7 presents notes on a number of them, issues that are not only critical but complex as well and requiring more than merely being reported on. The complexities of many of those issues arise in part from conflicting insights out there, in the world around us. It appears to me that, with due respect for the dedication, experience and other mental gifts our individual senators bring to bear on their work, the present composition of the Senate is ill suited for such task and therefore in need of correction in some way.  4K

I wrote the above paragraph a few years ago. Since then the Senate's Liberal caucus has been abolished and a mechanism has been established for recommending and appointing politically independent senators. Still lacking, to my mind, is a sufficient variety of mindsets, a subject touched upon later in this essay.  4KA

That legislative and historical overview referred to in Par. 4A quotes a professor F.A. Kunz, author of The Modern Senate of Canada (1965):  4L

"Governments have invariably found the Senate a well-suited place for first consideration of voluminous, complex, and highly technical pieces of legislation, such as consolidating measures, requiring great legislative experience as well as legal and financial talent and leisurely procedure. The services rendered by the Senate in such instances have been more than simple time-saving for the House of Commons; the Senate has turned out reliable and enduring pieces of legislation, which are amongst the best framed and most competently constructed Acts on the Statute Book of Canada."  4L1

That was written in 1965. But today, 50 years on, we should expand Kunz' phrase "great legislative experience as well as legal and financial talent" by "plus a further, wide variety of professional experiences and expert talent."  4L1A

Of course, the increased burden of melding such diverse talents to fruitfully work together requires a hard look at how the Senate functions. Might it not require first-rate management to accomplish this? Might it not call for flexible committees whose mix of talent is adjusted when the need for doing so becomes apparent? And might not the way senators do their committee work and participate in debates be enhanced by using up-to-scratch tools of digital technology? (And might not the same be asked for the other parts of our government?) The transformation will not be easy, but its burden will rest mostly on the professionals taking their seat in the Red Chamber.  4M

Incidentally, it seems to me that the above paragraphs have strengthened the case for NOT abolishing the Senate, but instead for bringing it up to 21st-century snuff by taking a hard look at how to appoint, or elect, or whatever, our senators. (The words "or whatever" have not been added capriciously as will be evident later.) 4N

In short

Returning to point 5, ordinary voters expecting that weighty, more global issues are being taken care of by government:

•  10. A Senate that expertly addresses urgent, complex problems is thereby attempting to give that very assurance people expect.
 
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5.  Abolishing the Senate: A bad idea!  5

Abolishing the Senate is very much on New Democrats' mind. One of the party's founders, the highly respected parliamentarian Stanley Knowles, pursued that idea with a passion by bringing to the Commons bill after bill to that effect. Appendix C reproduces his speech to the Commons on October 17, 1974. A very fine speech it is. Its key point is that the Senate has the power to veto any bill that comes up from the Commons, which is the elected legislature whereas the Senate is not. He granted that this power had been exercised only once up till then, nevertheless he felt that only the Commons represents the people and that the Senate should not have the right to swarthe the people's will. He further pointed out that if the people feel the Commons is not doing their bidding, the people can turf them out when the next election comes around.  5A

All fine and dandy. What good democrat would, off hand, disagree? However, as the 19th-century constitutional theorist, Walter Bagehot, remarked with regard to the British parliamentary system, "if we had an ideal House of Commons ... it is certain we should not need a higher Chamber." Reality is that we do not have an ideal House of Commons, far from it! As the chapters named Democracy in peril showed, the notion that the Commons represents the people is illusory.  5B

Knowles' assertion that "if the people feel the Commons is not doing their bidding, the people can turf them out when the next election comes around" may have been A-OK in times when things moved at a much leisurely pace than they do today. Ever heard of ISIS back in 2011? Ever heard back then of artificial intelligence's threat to destroy jobs, ever heard then of tens of thousands escaping Africa, destination Europe or Asia, ever believed then that terrorism—to be followed by a rapid rise in seawater level—causes millions upon millions to follow them in seeking safer ground away from their present homes, ever believed how dangerously fickle democracy appears as shown by the first few weeks of Donald Trump's presidency in the U.S.A.—and ever considered the potential effect on Canada's relations with the U.S.—ever really considered the plight of our youth not being able to afford a residence for raising a family and what feelings this evokes? (Who cares? "I am OK, Jack!") I could go on, but let me leave that to the reader. With those thoughts in mind, it ought to be clear that four years is far too long between stops for one government to get off and another on—quite aside from low turnouts of a poorly informed electorate. The train of events needs an emergency brake, a brake we call Senate.  5C

Ah, you see, I did not altogether overlook "that little matter of an unelected Senate blocking legislation" touched upon before, in Par. 3D1.  5C1

Stanley Knowles gave that speech more than 40 years ago. Times have changed even more drastically since 1974. And so have people's outlook on life and expectations. And most germane: the world has become a far more dangerous place what with climate change, violence, and computerization encroaching on people's livelihoods—the very kind of factors that an improved Senate should be the best branch of our government to come to grips with if coming to grips with all those events is feasible at all. (Homer-Dixon writes about the ingenuity gap, the critical gap between our need for ideas to solve complex problems and our actual supply of those ideas. A widening gap can result in political disintegration and violent upheaval.) And so again: abolishing the Senate is a bad idea. But it does urgently need improvement to effectively help our government cope with the urgent, complex problems thrown our way at an accelerating clip.  5D

In short

•  11. Abolishing the Senate is a bad idea.

•  12. In view of low turnouts by poorly informed voters, the notion of an elected Senate is a bad idea as well.

•  13. Our democracy is anaemic, no matter what branch of government we are looking at. What needs to be done, and done urgently, is return it to a state of robust health.

•  14. The Senate, specifically, is in urgent need of improvement. The status quo is a no go!
 
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6.  1982 and 1998: Protecting democracy  6

This section addresses Stanley Knowles' assertion that, contrary to myth, the Senate is not a bulwark and a defence of the right of minorities, Ref. No doubt he had reasons for believing that, but as I learned from reading Protecting Canadian Democracy, those do not hold today. The book's editor, Serge Joyal, contributed a chapter named "The Senate as an embodiment of the federal principle."* That is not the only thing I got out of reading that chapter. It also re-enforced my perception that our elected representatives, through no fault of their own, are not quite up to their task—something that may or may not apply to many senators as well. And thirdly, not accustomed to the way lawyers view this world, it reminded me how difficult it is to grasp the thinking of someone whose mindset has evolved differently from one's own. All quite relevant. But first things first.  6A

        Minority rights  6B

For more than a century, Canada's supreme law was the British North America Act, 1867 (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867). That changed on April 17, 1982 with the "patriation" of the Constitution i.e. with being untied from the legislative power of the U.K. parliament. Along with "patriation," a number of amendments, notably the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have been included.  6C

The way patriation was handled was not altogether cricket in the eyes of Quebeckers because it lacked formal approval by the Parti Québecois government, an issue that has been festering ever since. Two Québecois governments arranged for referendums on Quebec's separation from "the rest of Canada," one in 1980, another in 1995. In the aftermath of the latter, consultation with the Supreme Court of Canada gave rise to the Court's opinion expressed in the Secession of Quebec [1998]. The following paragraphs derive from Senator Joyal's 2003 article.  6D

Constitutionally, 1980 and 1998 were a banner years. Section 72 of the Court's 1998 judgment noted that adoption of the Charter to "a significant extent" transformed the Canadian system of government from parliamentary supremacy to constitutional supremacy." That is something Stanley Knowles had no knowledge of when he made the afore-mentioned speech in the Commons. May I be so bold as to suggest that this also puts a lie to the claim that our Senate in an undemocratic institution? After all, the Constitution was the outcome of debates by elected parliamentarians and it is this Constitution that specifies three branches of government: the Executive, the Commons, whose members are elected, and the Senate, whose members are appointed. Therefore, to my mind, the Senate has been established democratically.  6E

Section 32 of the 1998 judgment states: "In our view, there are four fundamental and organizing principles of the Constitution which are relevant to addressing the question before us (although this enumeration is by no means exhaustive): federalism; democracy; constitutionalism and the rule of law; and respect for minorities." What are those rights? Quoting Joyal, "The protection of minority linguistic, religious, and educational rights was the basis for the historical compromise that resulted in Confederation."  6F

Let me insert that the Fathers of Confederation were confronted with the melding of Protestant Anglo-Saxons and Roman Catholic Francophones; not exactly a sinecure, especially back in 1867! Worldwide, battles have been fought over tolerance.  6F1

"The valid fear of assimilation was a decisive factor in the creation of a bicameral Parliament with an Upper Chamber designed to protect sectional and minority interests.... With th advent of the Charter, the scope of the constitutional protection of rights and freedoms has been broadened in an unprecedented way, encompassing: minority language educational rights (section 23), the equality of men and women (section 28), and aboriginal and treaty rights (section 35), to name a few. As these new categories of rights are added to the Constitution, the role of the Senate as the chamber for the expression of minority rights and human rights within Parliament has been confirmed, broadened, and strengthened. Its composition, functions, and role must now be assessed in the light of these increased responsibilities."  6F2

So much for partisan sloganeering in this day and age. The Hon. and Rev. Stanley Knowles would most certainly have frowned on candidates bamboozling the electorate with slogans that are not justified by factual truth.  6G

        Are our Members of Parliament sufficiently capable?  6H

One must respect those who stand for election for their savvy, their willingness to represent the people in their district, and look after the wellbeing of all Canadians. (Initially at considerable financial expense from their own pockets!) But, as pointed out earlier, all is far from well. Measures should be taken to overcome this. One step in that direction would be to provide candidates standing for election with a handbook explaining what are the roles, and what is expected of those serving in the three branches of government. Such a manual should also detail what should be thoroughly understood about the supreme law of the land. (Lacking this, Graham Steele's What I learned about politics might fill the lacuna.)  6I

        Understanding colleagues  6J

Some of the background reading for this section was not easy to follow. Notably some writings of a legal nature were a bit of a slog what with having to read good chunks a couple of times before I could say, "Aha, I got it." Later in this essay, we shall be going into senators working with colleagues with utterly different backgrounds, backgrounds in specialized domains of human knowledge and experience, working with people who think differently and therefore can be hard to follow. Imagine the traffic bumps in a Senate debate among people so variously equipped mentally—needing time to properly grasp their thinking and what their thoughts may contribute to dealing with a problem under discussion. Isn't that going to change the nature of debates? It is an issue we shall dip into.  6K

        Understanding the people  6L

Returning for a moment to Graham Steele's ten rules for politicians to live by in his book What I Learned in Politics, by winning the election as President of the United States, Donald Trump has shown how effective many of them are, notably:  6M

        Perception is reality.
        Keep it simple.
        Put yourself in the spotlight.
        Always be attacking.
        Fight hard to take credit.  
6N

But more than that:  6O

        Promised a restoration of blue-collar jobs.
        Manufactured excessive fear.
        Singled out scapegoats (illegal immigrants from Mexico, Muslims, the press, previous governments and "restrictive" regulatioms).
        A simplistic solution: Building a wall and have Mexico pay for it,
        Appealed to nationalistic supremacy (badly tinged with racism).  
6P

A number of hi-tech executives have shown themselves deeply shocked by the distance between those with liberal values and the commona man. After the election the president of Y Combination, Sam Altman, "met with Trump voters in the more conservative communities of central California as well as in Texas and in his home state of Missouri. He chatted with 100 voters, including about 40 people on-line," according to Tech execs try listening tours of Trump voters. Wrote he in a blog, "Almost everyone I asked was willing to talk to me, but almost none wanted me to use their names—even people from very red states were worried about 'getting targeted by those people in Silicon Valley if they knew I voted for him'." I recommend that especially our senators read the entire blog for themselves, especially in view of my recommendation in Part III of this essay that about 38 senators take on the role of peoples' representatives, see Envisioned: A functional distinction among senators. By the way: I recommended this distinction way back when I began this essay, in 2013.  6Q

Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder and CEO of Facebook, made it a New Year's resolution to visit and meet with people from every U.S. state by the end of 2017.  6R

Dex Torricke-Bartone quit his job as head of communications at SpaceX to observe how the "grassroots" work with a "listening tour" to better understand why communities voted for Trump. He believes that "We have a responsibility to face the divisions threatening our future."  6S

Expedia's CEO, Dara Khosrowshari, wrote, "As tech leaders we have to admit that we are hugely disconnected with our nation." It is well that our senators also ask themselves the same question and find out how disconnected they really are. The recent scandals, the degrading comments by some prominent politicians, the canvassing for political parties—all these are clear evidence of a disconnect the fixing of which is way overdue.  6T

In short

•  15. Political propaganda notwithstanding, our Senate is not an undemocratic institution.

•  16. Since the time Stanley Knowles considered the Senate's protection of minority rights a fiction, the role of the Senate as a guardian of minority rights and human rights within Parliament has been confirmed, broadened, and strengthened.

•  17. Candidates standing for election as a member of parliament should first acquire a thorough understanding of how our government ought to function in contrast to how it actually functions.

•  17A. Our senators should be in close touch with ordinary folks—not just talk to them, but listen to them.
 
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The seven sins are:
        Wealth without work,
        Pleasure without conscience,
        Knowledge without character,
        Commerce without morality,
        Science without humanity,
        Worship without sacrifice, and
        Politics without principle.

– Mahatma Gandhi, in a note he wrote shortly before he got assassinated in 1948.  
0H0

7.  Concerning the need for better integrating diverse insights  7

Let's now get down to brass tacks by turning to real-life situations in need of thorough attention. A dozen or so are presented here in the form of notes about matters that occupy my own mind and that of many others. New urgent issues keep popping up such as the migration crisis and the threat of small drones. It should be clear throughout that we are dealing with highly complex problems that for their resolution require skills in complex-problem solving, not the least of which is management skills in bringing about the needed integration of different minds. Such management skills might well be found among experienced research directors. More about that in Chapter 9, Whence from here?, and those following.  7A

Most if not all of the issues about which I jotted down below some notes are not purely national issues. Globalization of business, of economic wellbeing, of health concerns, of climate concerns, of population movements, of criminal activities, of knowledge and notions—all of these and more diminish national sovereignties. Consequently, these issues call for our Senate to work together, or at least consult, counterparts wherever they are found. On the executive level of government international cooperation is already a given viz. UN, NAFTA, NATO, IMF, and so on. Globalization presents countries with many identical complex problems such as security, communicable diseases, the balance between economy and climate issues, and so forth, and so forth. Fitting the work this entails within the current mode of limiting the number of senators and allocating them by region does not strike me as realistic. But then, I perceive the Senate as an evolving body within which experience continually guides further adaptations. (Same goes for the other parts of our government.) 7A1

   Some notes on The effects of artificial intelligence on society
   (Quotes are from "Rise of the machines," The Economist of May 9, 2015, and from the Millennium Project's The State of the future, 2015–2016.)  
7B

The rise of artificial intelligence heralds, both, a blessing and a disaster for humankind. On the black side: the drastic and permanent curtailing the potential of human intelligent life, even to the point of annihilation. On the bright side: progress by easing the need for manual and mental labor. But even the bright side will take us through a tunnel of darkness: depriving people from their livelihood.  7B1

Dependence on A.I. can come with loss of mental skills. The hand-held calculator may or does replace mental arithmetic which is commonly built on memorized tables of addition and multiplication. Although many facts learned in school will be lost from memory; Google can usually fill the gap. But when it comes to skills learned in school or later in life, well, that is a wholly different kettle of fish.  7B2

It is on the bright side that we find "firms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Baidu have got into an A.I. arms race, poaching researchers, setting up laboratories and buying start-ups. The insiders are not, by and large, fretting about being surpassed by their creations. Their business is not so much making new sorts of minds as it is removing some of the need for the old sort, by taking tasks that used to be things which only people could do and making machines amenable to handle them.  7B3

"The torrent of data thrown off by the world's internet-connected computers, tablets and smartphones, and the huge amounts of computing power now available for processing that torrent, means that their algorithms are more and more capable of understanding languages, recognizing images and the like. Business is taking notice. So are those who worry about technology taking away people's jobs."  7B4

Much of what our senators currently do may also be automated within a relatively short time. "Firms such as Narrative Science, in Chicago, which hopes to automate the writing of reports (and which is already used by Forbes, a business magazine, to cover basic financial stories), and Kensho of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which aims to automate some of the work done by 'quants' [quantitative analysts] in the financial industry, have been showered in cash by investors. "Kensho's system is designed to interpret natural-language search queries such as, 'What happens to car firms' share prices if oil drops by $5 a barrel?' It will then scour financial reports, company filings, historical market data and the like, and return replies, also in natural language, in seconds. The firm plans to offer the software to big banks and sophisticated traders. Yseop, a French firm, uses its natural-language software to interpret queries, chug through data looking for answers, and then write them up in English, Spanish, French or German at 3,000 pages a second. Firms such as L'Oréal and VetOnline.com already use it for customer support on their websites." "On April 13th IBM announced plans to use a version of its Watson computer—which crushed two puny human champions at an obscurantist American quiz show called Jeopardy! in 2011—to analyze health records, looking for medical insights."  7B5

And you certainly don't want to miss this one: Artificial intelligence for democracy where the question is put, "Is it possible to take citizen participation to the next level by using artificial intelligence as a means for empowerment?"  7B5A

The latest annual Millennium Project report on the State of the future tells us: "While much of the world's attention focuses on the horrors of extremists and intrastate conflicts, thought-leaders such as Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates are warning the world about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence growing beyond human control. Whether A.I. can evolve into the nightmares of science fiction or not, it is certain that it and other future technologies (e.g., robotics, synthetic biology, computational science, nanotechnology, quantum computing, 3D and 4D printing, Internet of Things, cognitive science, self-driving vehicles, and synergies among these) will change what we think is possible over the next several decades, but they could also lead to massive unemployment."  7B6

Further: "Future artificial intelligence that can autonomously create, edit, and implement software simultaneously around the world based on feedback from global sensor networks is a unique historical factor in job displacement. It will affect the whole world, just as the Internet has, however more so. It might be possible that more jobs will be created than eliminated, as in the past, but the speed and integration of technological change and population growth is so much greater this time that long-term structural unemployment is a very plausible future. Ideas like universally guaranteed basic income and other new economic mechanisms have to be seriously considered now because it may take a generation or two to make such changes."  7B7

We shall return to the Millennium Project and the global scale of things in Chapter 8, Our Senate: A bridge between Canada and the World?  7B8

Clearly, the rapid pace of raising the capabilities of A.I. calls for a commensurate rapid pace of self-improvement by our senators. This, in turns, makes the setting of time limits on a senatorial appointments highly problematic. The changes senators need to keep up with can hardly be predicted in the setting of such limits. But, like it is for everyone else, senators have not only a work life, they also have a private life, a life dependent on certain assurances. It is from that point of view (making a living, family dependence, etc.) previously agreed-on time limits on their appointments (or some other form of compensation) are important if not vital. This does not only go for senators, but for all workers. It is one of those complex issues that should be turned over to a think tank for coming up with a best possible solution, a think tank that has a direct influence on work in the Commons. Our Senate needs be reformed into such a think tank.  7B9

In the meantime, it ought be abundantly clear that with the rapid obsolescence of all sorts of jobs, the manner in which we run our economy is not going to serve us much longer either. First of all, our system of patent protection assures that those who control A.I. control the lives of all people. Government-supported retraining programs are not going to cut the mustard because obsolescence (or changes in the job market, if you will) is going to, if it not already has, outpace human ability to acquire skills vastly different from those already acquired. Every nook and cranny of our society needs to be looked at afresh while taking account of all the other nooks and crannies. Reshaping society is a highly integrated process, commonly referred to as evolution. (I like to avoid putting an "r" in front of that word, but I am afraid that is just being wishful.) We, as citizens, cannot allow our lives and the lives of our dependents to be put in the hands of ambitiously competing entrepreneurs. Period! But that is not saying that we do not need entrepreneurs; we do need them as strong and socially motivated initiative takers.  7B10

Two paragraphs added on February 6, 2016.
One of Canada's most respected think tanks is the C.D.Howe Institute. On Februar 2, it published
Job One is jobs: Workers need better policy support and stronger skills. It was written by Craig Alexander, vice-president, economic analysis, wih the Institute and with a distinguished career in public service and the private sector. The report's conclusion appears to be well-founded on data gathered over a period of time: "A very Canadian challenge is that no single level of government is responsible for labour market policy, and this can lead to an absence of leadership. A case can be made for strong federal leadership, in cooperation with coordinated and committed actions by the provinces. Better support for displaced workers is called for. Expanded and better labour market information that is more accessible and useable by businesses and workers could also help to diagnose challenges and solutions. Upskilling workers, young and old, should be a priority. Many barriers facing underutilized pools of labour should be eliminated. In the final analysis, addressing the many opportunities for improvement in labour markets is a key ingredient in delivering more prosperity to Canadians."  7B11

Interestingly, whereas the effect of technological change received consideration, words like robotics and artificial intelligence are not found in the report. Which makes one wonder ....  7B12

In short

•  18. The rapid growth of artificial intelligence's calls for, among many other matters, a commensurate rapid pace of self-improvement by the Senate.

•  19. As more and more jobs go by the wayside, the manner in which we run our economy today is not going to serve us much longer.

•  20. Preventing and/or resolving negative consequences of A.I. calls for a wide spectrum of immediately available, efficiently interacting expertise, much wider than is currently found in our Senate. This probably will grow into the interacting of human expertise and specific kinds of A.I.
 
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   Some notes on Digital brain implants  7P

If this little chapter looks like science fiction to you, be aware that it is about a project supported by the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Named "Neural Engineering System Design," it seeks to bridge the gap between the human brain and the ever-advancing digital worlds. Its ultimate aim is the creation of an interface implanted in the brain to achieve high-resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and technological devices. It is to serve as a translator that switches from the electrochemical language that human neurons use and the binary language composed of ones and zeroes used in information technology. "Ones and zeroes," my source writes, but what about the also ungoing development of quantum computing with its ones, zeroes, and a combination thereof?  7P1

Initial applications would be in the medical field such as overcoming sight or hearing problems. Here is a synopsis by DARPA:  7P2

"Achieving the program's ambitious goals and ensuring that the envisioned devices will have the potential to be practical outside of a research setting will require integrated breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing. In addition to the program's hardware challenges, NESD researchers will be required to develop advanced mathematical and neuro-computation techniques to first transcode high-definition sensory information between electronic and cortical neuron representations and then compress and represent those data with minimal loss of fidelity and functionality."  7P3

To be sure, work along these lines has been going on for more than two decades with brains controlling the action of a cursor on a computer display screen. And then there is all the writing by Ray Kurzweil such as his year-2000-book, "The age of spiritual machines." Kurzweil emphasizes benefits, but who will be in ultimate control? Owners of the relevant patents? Will the job market favor those with built-in A.I? Will this leave individuals with a choice?  7P4

   Some notes on Dealing with global environmental threats  7C

Maybe there are still people who say that they "do not believe" in climate change even now when it is quite apparent that we already have stepped over the threshold. It is going to get worse and it will take a major effort to turn things around in time for our children and grandchildren to live on. In fact, it could be too late already.  7C1

Today, even people who can hardly tell a molecule from an atom have chemical formulas in their verbal inventory; they know that H2O stands for water, CO2 for carbon dioxide. I expect them to soon add another formula, that of methane, CH4, and probably also the word clathrate. Warming oceans and warming tundra release ever larger amounts of deadly methane gas, notably from clathrates. Clathrates are structures of ice that trap CH4 molecules. Molecule for molecule, methane is 86 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. (See, e.g. Alan Weisman, Why the Earth is farting. Nothing new in that article, really. I have known about this problem for about a decade, but did our elected representatives? Have they known and understood and prepared their policies accordingly? Rightly or wrongly, I doubt it.  7C2

I am taking a part of my environmental cues from the book The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding, published in 2011. It tries hard to be an optimistic book: Yes, climate change has been already with us for some time; no, people are doing little to prepare for it; yes, we shall be able to meet the challenges climate change imposes on us; when threats become realities, people adapt to changing circumstances. One can dream, can one not?  7C3

Nevertheless, I thought the book a very important contribution to the debate about climate change, especially because its author has served as head of Greenpeace International, built and led two companies, advised Fortune 500 corporations as well as community-based NGOs. He is or was a member of the core faculty for Cambridge University's Program for sustainable leadership. Upon first reading I thought this book so important that I purchased a number of copies to give away to family members and friends. Should have known better; I don't think any of them read it. Too busy in this world that drains our energy with work, mental overload, family and other social matters, and the need for once in awhile turn the mind away from daily enervations. Besides—I quote here from the book's final chapter—"It's hard, isn't it, to hear stories of impending dangers and to know how to respond. It's hard to separate fear from reality, probability from possibility, and the truth from among conflicting arguments. While we always complain about the quality of our leaders in politics and in business, we mostly assume they know what they are doing and what's really going on. We assume they will take firm charge if they need to." Well, don't count on it.*  7C4

There is a plethora of studies about population increase (read: increase in consumption), increase in average income (read: increase in consumption), decrease in cost per item (read: increase in consumption). What all this adds up to that the mathematics of forecasting leads us to an onslaught on Earth's resources by continually multiplying over the years all those effects of increasing consumption by one another. Of course, this just cannot go on. Our economic system will break down and with it a scramble for whatever can still be found somehow, somewhere. Let's not expect that those deprived of resources are going to suffer in silence while their better-off neighbours live on in relative comfort. Like Syrian fleeing from terror, they will claw through every barrier in their way. The global warming brings us a climate that leads to higher food prices, increasing diseases, wars. And yet, and yet we try to live on, consume energy, have two family members working to meet rising costs, etc., etc. with all of us hoping governments and business execs will steer us through it all. But as Gilding showed in his book, when it comes down to it, nobody will be in charge. Politicians, bureaucrats, business people—all continue on with their accustomed ways of doing things for who wants to suffer the slings and arrows of being a misfit? Senate should have a thorough understanding of human psychology and bring this to bear on the other issues under study.  7C5

Subsequent to reading Gilding's The Great Disruption, another issue caught my eye, that the Earth is headed for its sixth mass extinction. That probably will be in a somewhat more distant future, but in the meantime the decline and loss of species is unbalancing the ecosystem we live in. Is there any politician, any senator, any bureaucrat looking at this issue?  7C6

    Some notes on Dealing with military, including terrorist threats
   (This section was written in August 2014.)  
7D

Right now, as I am writing, a threat far more in the news than any environmental threat is that posed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, a caliphate, i.e. a state ruled by a supreme political and religious leader. It uses an extreme form of terrorism as the weapon of choice to increase its power by inculcating deep fear. It appears to be well-financed and manages to attract many young people as fighters—the young and reckless. Is the West still buying oil from resources ISIS laid their hands on? Don't be surprised.*  7D1

For citizens of the western nations, those terrorists may seem very far away, but it has become clearer by the day that they aim to spread their destruction our way. The Middle East is only a few hours away by airplane and merely seconds away by Internet communications for planting their brand of Jihad inside our borders.  7D2

On August 20, our then PM declared that he will be consulting with our allies what to do about this threat. Wouldn't one think that this should have been already perfectly clear quite a while ago? And wouldn't one think that as responsible citizens we already should have access to relevant opinion and well-considered recommendations?  7D3

Any military action against the Islamic State and terrorists of like mind presents us with an excruciating ethical dilemma, the dilemma that Israel has been frequently caught up in. It is that when attacked, those terrorists position themselves among the civilian population. Any attack on a small number of their spread-out forces causes huge numbers of civilian casualties. There is no effective Geneva Convention to guide our conduct and salve our consciences. Surely, this is a matter that should already for many years have led to serious debate at the government level and the subject of authoritative opinion (military, psychological, ethical/religious) directly available to our elected representatives and indeed the electorate itself. Yet, there seems to be total silence on the issue.  7D4

And, precisely, what is it that influences young people from our and other countries to join the Islamic State and cohorts of the same ilk? Surely, this also ought have been subject of authoritative studies conducted under the aegis of a body trusted by all. By people who face issues head-on.  7D5

One more note, on a somewhat different tack: An article in The Economist of July 19, 2014 titled "Intelligent intelligence" informed us that some 75 percent of our forecasting is pretty accurate. Nice, but that still leaves us wondering which 25 percent is inaccurate. The ability to integrate and evaluate information from all sorts of sources might enhance the effectiveness of Canadian military intelligence by another notch or two.*  7D6

    Some notes on Understanding religion-related mindsets  7E

Who would have believed that the views of a former nun, Karen Armstrong, are important enough to figure in the deliberations of our government, even if she is a highly respected Oxford scholar? The [Montreal] Gazette of October 26, 2014, p. A17 contains an interview with Ms Armstrong about her book Fields of Blood. Here are some quotes from that interview.  7E1

About joining ISIS: "There is a malaise among the young, a sense of helplessness and lack of meaning in their lives that is a very serious thing that we have to take into account when we consider this vogue of converting to Islam. Two of the young men who left Birmingham, England, to go and fight in Syria had ordered a book called Islam for Dummies. There is such a wide range of religious illiteracy involved in this."  7E2

About why the Saudis promote the extreme form of Islam known as Wahhabism: "After the Iranian revolution, their noses were put out of joint. They started sending out all these clerics to counter the Shia influence of Iran. The United States encouraged this because they hated Iran after the hostage crisis. Of course, the CIA knew nothing about Islam and thought, 'Well, if it's anti-Shia, then it must be okay.' Even now, their knowledge of Islam is pretty ropy."  7E3

Allow me to add a personal suspicion. Prejudice abounds. Much of it in the English Midlands where for years Muslims have been too commonly referred to as "Pakis." This form of bullying may well be a force driving young men to revenge by joining ISIS. This, plus a perceived discrimination in the job market.  7E4

    Some notes on Knowing ourselves  7F

But how do ithers see us? And do those ithers all agree? Who are those ithers? Are they people who, in daily parlance, know us well such as family, neighbours, colleagues? Are they people we occasionally run into? Are they employers, or educators? Are they people that hold contrary religious beliefs? Are they adversaries in military conflict? Are they people who practice law? Are they psychologists at the frontier of their science? And how do we ourselves see ousels? And what about privacy, what is it we hide from those ithers?  7F1

Well do we know that our actions are either involuntary or voluntary. But how about circumstances? How about beliefs that underpin the way we behave?  7F2

Today is August 22, 2014, a day in a time that radical beliefs plus frustration, hatred or a thirst for power led certain folk proclaim the Islamic State and use extreme terrorism in their fight for dominance. What led to this? Could this phenomenon have been foreseen and prevented? Can it be stopped?  7F2A

My thoughts dwelt on the French Revolution of the late 18th century and the regime of terror under Robespierre. Browsing on the Internet I stumbled on The psychology of revolutions, published early in the 20th century by the, then, highly influential Gustave le Bon. It is freely available for downloading on a Kindle, but under the pressure of time it may be more convenient to read a 2012 review of the work by organizational psychologist Dr. James Fisher on his website (look under February 21, 2012). Here some insights gathered from this review:  7F3

Beliefs are not to be viewed as voluntary and rational; instead they are usually irrational and always involuntary. This gives rise to the fact that beliefs, which have no reason to justify them, come to be accepted by the most enlightened without difficulty. Hence, people never suspect the invisible power forced upon them to act. When the contradiction of opinions becomes violent, this is invariably caused by the powers of beliefs, not by knowledge.  7F4

I put that last sentence in italics because it may well happen that senators cooperatively working on a document may among themselves not come to terms. However much diversity of minds is desirable, this overriding effect of belief must be well understood and taken into account!  7F5

Turning from individuals to masses to revolutions: "Revolutions are always the work of believers without the calming intervention of rational logic." Further quoting Le Bon, "A revolution is not productive of results until it has sunk into the soul of the multitude.... The crowd represents an amorphous being which can do nothing, and will do nothing, without a head to lead it." The crowd, Le Bon explained in an earlier book, The crowd: study of the popular mind, is not necessarily a large number of people close together, it can be like-minded people spread all over hell's half acre. It is a psychological crowd, a crowd that leads to today's terrorist threats.  7F6

"While scientific revolutions derive solely from rational elements, political and religious beliefs are sustained, almost exclusively, by affective and mystic factors." We have a big conundrum here. Writes Fisher, "By its insistence on absolute truth, a belief necessarily becomes intolerant. This explains the violence, hatred and persecution that are habitually associated with the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution." And jihadist terrorism, I suppose.  7F7

"Political revolutions result from beliefs established in the minds of man. The word 'discontent' sums this up. Discontent, for whatever reason, must accumulate over time to produce the effects of revolution. People can withstand a great deal of discomfort before they are willing to leave their comfort zone for something unknown. They can be badgered and bullied, ridiculed and castigated, but if they have a modicum of comfort they will remain docile." Adolf Hitler understood this well.  7F8

I leave the rest of the story, so pertinent to the current worldwide spread of terrorism, to my sources, but a word of caution is in order: Much water has gone under the bridge during the last century. Le Bon's scientific thinking led him to now outdated views, views we consider today, with scientific justification, as racism. I believe, rightly or wrongly, the lines I have quoted still to be true, but serious errors of judgement can be made by not filtering matters we believe to be true through the minds of those on the forefront of current knowledge. Those in government shall not rely on the views long held by themselves and of those whom they happen to know. Senators shall include experts recognized by peers who know which colleagues best to consult on specific issues.  7F9

And does it need saying that the domain of our inner selves is part and parcel of the domains of criminality, law, upbringing, education, and civics, indeed in all domains that concern human beings? Obviously, a Senate as envisioned is no longer a simple aggregate of standing committees conducting interviews and writing reports. Working committees need evolve and devolve as needed for specific issues subjected to study and resolving complex problems, then making of ensuing recommendations to our parliamentarians in the Commons. Again, many committees, even committees that include experts, will need to be enhanced by fine-grained outside expertise such as from business, academe, existing think tanks, what-have-you.*  7F10

Paragraph added on February 16, 2016
Until a few weeks ago, I never ever heard of Daniel Kahneman; not that I can remember, anyway. But lately, I encountered the name in a book about forecasting and in another about the major unsettling effect of deception on free-market economics (about which a few words a little later in this essay,
here). Kahneman is notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making as well as behavioral economics, for which he was awarded the 2002 Memorial Nobel Prize in Economics. He challenges human rationality in economic theory. He also participated in developing a cognitive basis for common human errors arising from heuristics and biases—an important point to bear in mind in rounding out our team of senators as touched upon in the chapter on Optimizing effectiveness: Solving complex problems. For more about Kahneman and the significance of his work in this essay's context, see here.  7F11

    Some notes on Citizenship and ethics  7G

All exhortations for people to exercise their franchise notwithstanding, turnout at the polls is quite low. I understand that, roughly speaking, current turnout runs at around 65 percent in federal elections, 50 in the provincial, 40 in the municipal, and much lower still for school boards (to the point there is talk of doing away with elected school boards). Those numbers suggest that democracy (ignoring all its variations) is a word more than it is a deeply felt sentiment. It is a word that is poorly understood and frequently bandied about simply as a rhetorical device. Upbringing and education might well put more emphasis on inculcating truly conscious citizenship as well as the ethics intertwined with it.  7G1

Consulting my favourite, fast-and-easy resource, the Internet, I found a document named Citizenship education in Canada. It is dated 1993 but this does not necessarily mean that it is altogether outdated. The document describes a rather lame effort by federal government toward inculcating citizenship that looks in part like a promotion of nationalism. Worth reading is the part under the subhead Citizenship education initiatives in Australia and the United Kingdom. A report on citizenship education in Australia is said to be relevant to Canada "because of the similarities between the two countries." I believe we do well to take note of a warning it contains: "any democracy that neglects citizenship education does so at its peril." Do I need belabour that point?  7G2

Elected politicians seek to be prominently visible when announcing big projects, frequently trying to impress us with a slew of national or provincial flags in the backdrop. All of which demonstrates how easily ordinary citizens can be taken for their ride, how we are lacking in critical, evaluative citizenship education. Compounding the problem of low voter turnout is the absence of adequate means for voters to evaluate candidates' potentials, caught as we are between editorial columnists and big-money election propaganda.  7G3

Advocates of citizenship education offer somewhat varying menus. Something that I believe ought be considered part of early citizenship education is attention to personal health because good personal health benefits not only the individual but also those around him/her; in fact, by cutting the burdensome costs of medical care it benefits society at large. A great deal more is involved here than proper hygiene, good nutrition, and avoidance of harmful substances. It involves a sound preoccupation with environmental factors: climate, clean water, clean air. It calls for decent working and other social environments. Commercial pressures exerted in the pursuit of a fat "bottom line" are not only cause of industrial accidents, but also of longterm physical and mental breakdown and disabilities of many people. I have observed its effects at close hand.  7G4

The next two paragraphs were inserted on March 26, 2015 during the "pre-election campaign."
No question in my mind, ISIS is not only a threat for Middle East and many African countries, it is a threat worldwide. And that includes Canada. Its extreme brutality needs to be stopped and that requires military action. It is against this background that the leaders of our opposition and of the Liberal Party declared in a publicly televised "debate" their opposition to Harper's plan to extend the Canadian involvement in the Middle East both geographically and for its duration. What are we to make of their rhetoric in the Commons?  
6F4a

First off, their grandstanding is not going to change anything as far as our Prime Minister's position is concerned. He has the majority on his side. Secondly, the opposition smells an opportunity to win the next election. They may very well agree with the PM deep down in their own mind, but opportunity rarely knocks twice. Tom Mulcair is already campaigning full-force. Thirdly and sadly, the voting public is by and large ignorant of what ought sway them one way of the other! Lives are at stake; yet those lives are subject to political manouvering in the House to enlist the support of an insufficiently informed electorate. That is the short of it. O.K., there is that so-called "wisdom of the crowd," but what kind of proof do we have for the efficacy of such wisdom? Come to think, hairdressers and carpenters need a licence before practicing their craft. But people engaged in life-and-death decisions do not! Label my argument hyperbole, if you feel like, but the politicians involved in election campaigns do not think so. Impartial citizenship education is essential for democracy to function as it should. Ultimate responsibility lies with the boss and in our democracy it is not the PM who is the boss—it is the electorate. The PM's job is to function on our behalf.  6F4b

Yes, yes, education is a provincial matter, but the Senate I envisage is to play an advisory role for the benefit of all levels of government.  7G5

Senators preoccupied with education need be informed not only about aspects of psychology, they need to be conversant with other domains of expertise as well, such as the world of finance and economics. Important is it that they understand and appreciate the scientific mindset and culture that they may better understand and evaluate scientists' warnings and advocacy, to avoid such delaying skepticism as caused by mistrust, the delay that brought us deep into the pickle of climate change.  7G6

    Some notes on Improving parenthood  7H

I do not enjoy making the comments that now follow. They are personal, but they are also important for the lessons they provide.  7H1

Life-long learning has been a major preoccupation of mine. In my own case, I did not have a very good start. As with so many other people, however well-meaning, my parents were not supportive in an effective way. Reason: they did not know any better. This brings me to the point that life-long learning begins at home, at age zero, to be sure. A bit of admonishing and occasional spanking taught me rudiments of behaviour and some children's books gave me an incentive to read. Being told not to express any opinion because adults (meaning my parents) know much better did not help me to develop effective speaking skills. Being the subject of derogatory comments (including by adult relatives!) about my freckles, red hair, being cross-eyed, wearing glasses, and nervousness was something we recognize today as bullying even though no harm was intended, just a bit of good-humoured fun.  7H2

After six years of elementary school, I passed the entrance examination for a Dutch Gymnasium, a high-level secondary school, without ever having done a stitch of homework. Well, not being used to getting through a school that requires disciplined application proved disastrous. I failed the first school year twice; nearly all my marks were inked in red to emphasize that I was falling well short. Shame became my companion. My parents never made sure I did my homework; they apparently believed my learning was entirely the school's concern, not theirs. (I sense that many of today's Canadian parents feel the same way.) They did their best in their own way, keeping the family somehow fed under ruthlessly exploitive Nazi occupation about which I'll spare you further details. The point I wish to make is that an effective educational experience ought to begin with parents having been properly prepared for parenting. What is the use of having compulsory formal education without a child's most important educators (parents) not being capable of providing it? And, to be sure, a home needs sufficient economic wherewithal for parents to exercise the necessary supportive role! That has become an increasingly huge problem in today's super-competitive, spreadsheet dominated global economy with much parenting outsourced to daycare centres.  7H3

As for myself, no sympathy needed. I have profited from some favourable circumstances and can add to my name PBNA, BSc, M.Ed. And by the time I was 50 years of age, the effects of in-family bullying had pretty well worn off. But the road has been rough and has been travelled with serious negative effects on my own family. Notwithstanding some late-in-life academic achievement, my talents are fairly mediocre and I am lacking in some important skills. But I do have little doubt that with a better early upbringing and guidance I could well have made a far more substantial contribution to my family, to former colleagues, to society.* Now, just multiply this one person's lost potential by the millions of cases where parents have failed or are falling short and you will perceive a huge loss to our society!  7H4

For homes to provide a supportive environment for the young, we need la supportive environment for parents, to enable them to live up to their task. Supportive with, to be sure, a persuasive edge for the simple reason that probably not all parents are open to learning the skills of good parenting. A home environment needs to be harmonious and economically sufficient and stable. At this point, I am not even going to try to find an adequate answer to how we may achieve those conditions. But there is a thing that can be done: create a body capable and enabled to address the problem full-force, a body that requires expertise and connections in education, psychology, the world of finance and economics, and other areas of expertise in both the social and physical sciences. To be sure, living in a multicultural society, what many perceive as proper parenting skills, may not be so perceived by others. That is one reason for having senators cognizant and sympathetic to the plight of so many minorities. It takes a wise Senate indeed to write an appropriate white paper on that subject. Hence the need for senators from native quarters.  7H5

    Some notes on Public education by the media  7I

Among Canada's finest institutions is the CBC. Much of its programming is more than simply informational, it is educational. Although two thirds government-funded, our public broadcaster is expected to operate at arm's length from the government. It looks unfortunate to me that an institution that should develop its programming independently from its sponsors need heavily rely on advertising. As a public service, its funding ought to entirely come from the public. It is painful to watch how the CBC's efforts are being hampered by funding cutbacks while it somehow still manages to put up a brave face. A negative side effect of those cutbacks is that private broadcasters can thereby lower their programming standards as well.  7I1

It is also unfortunate that TV broadcasting is abused by our political parties with those inane, nauseating spectacles (public entertainment?) dished up by party-disciplined claques. A piece by Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a think tank, tells us how TV cameras have changed the House of Commons (The [Montreal] Gazette, August 10, 2014, p. B5). "TV is a medium that privileges drama over substance, histrionics over argument, conviction over analysis." Happily, even though it seems to be slipping, the CBC still appears to resist this slide into Nibelheim thanks to some star-quality talent. But how much longer before it gives way?  7I2

A useful role might be played by the CBC (as well as by the other media if they are so inclined) by transforming Senate white papers intended for our governments into somewhat easier to digest materials for the general public and provide independent reaction thereon. Thus it can help people at large in at least two ways. One, to enhance open-mindedness, to improve insights, to more quickly erase from our minds outdated, harmful prejudices. Two, to understand our governments' roles in times of accelerating, challenging, and often life-threatening change. Three, as a means of feedback to those elected, say, by means of "town hall" interactions. Four, it facilitates the judging of those elected by observing how they react to such inputs.  7I3

More about the CBC later, in Part III.  7I4

    Some notes on Sovereignties and inter-cultural coherence  7J

If this section's notes are a bit of a rant then I am sorry. I contemplated deleting them, but, no, I leave them in—for now.  7J1A

In a world that has seen so much change over the last century and a half, it is remarkable that the ground-rules by which Canada is governed have remained almost unchanged. Nevertheless, nothing is forever. Societal interaction has undergone some major changes that should be given thought to. The global environment impinges ever more forcefully on national interests. Climate, population explosion, business, crime, communications, no-holds-barred ideologies, the "one percent"—all these know no borders. Sovereignty is curtailed by engaging, as we must, with other countries through bodies of international cooperation. Typically, those bodies are still of the single-issue variety—military, trade (global business), finance, health, climate—but that is bound to change as, for example, global business and climate change can not be dealt with as isolated issues subject to behind-the-scenes haggling at international conferences. Consider such haggling rear-guard skirmishes of sovereignties under attack. The sovereignty of nations, it seems to me, is a dying ideal as international cooperation evolves into integration.  7J1

It strikes me as peculiar that Canada has formed fairly strong international bonds and at the same time shows itself still insufficiently capable of making strong intranational bonds. The federal government (or as some have it, the central government, i.e. "Ottawa") is, on and off, by many sensed as being contemptuous of regional interests and/or the interests of aboriginal peoples. Indian tribes show a strong desire for sovereignty, linked to "Ottawa" only by treaties. The federal government, pressured by business lobbying, seeks control over indigenous lands and waters, in addition to their control over what is underneath the lands owned by others. One senses that our laws provide business with more sovereignty than our regional governments (and entire countries).  7J2

For too many of us, including our politicians, the issues raised in the previous paragraph seem to describe merely some background noise. But it is a background noise that influences attitudes—"what is in our blood" so to speak—with which we address problems. Multiculturalism and regionalism ought be more than groups living side-by-side, each nurturing its own prejudices. They need broad communal understanding and acceptance. Yes, we do have our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the gap between imposition and acceptance is a wide one. Which brings us back to education and media. Fortunately we have in the CBC a broadcasting system that includes marvellous programs such as Maamuit'u, produced by the Cree about the Cree, and Land and Sea devoted to aspects of life in the Atlantic provinces. Missing out still, in the public mind, is the life of those unable to find employment, those who live on welfare, and the many homeless, some freezing to death in our harsh winters. Are the homeless a recognized minority other than allowed to be homeless?  7J3

The Senate did, in fact, issue a report on poverty, housing and homelessness back in December, 2009. It would be interesting to know just what effect this report has had on government action and how that has translated into ultimate outcomes.  7J3A

To be sure, circumstances have served me well and I am quite happy here, but not everyone is. Far from it. The previous Quebec government was all in a tizzy about religious headgear and preparing for legislation to ban it, hardly the kind of attitude that makes religious minorities feel at home. Muslims across Canada get the stare because of a number of young Muslims joining terrorist organizations. How would their ellow Canadians feel if they were in their shoes?  7J4

For an altogether different case in point, read the book The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. The book makes it crystal clear for those of us who are hardly conscious of it that "our" history of North America has been interpreted and articulated through the eyes of the European conquerors who made rather short thrift of native concerns. Happily, it seems that public awareness of the plight of our Indian citizens is on the rise (at this time). The 25th anniversary of the Oka crisis has generated a number of articles in The [Montreal] Gazette of July 11, 2015, sympathetic to Indian land claims—a sympathy which was hard to detect 25 years ago. That newspaper's issue includes a timeline that makes one wonder about the proverbial blindness of justice (see Appendix E).  7J4A

    Some notes on Resistance to propaganda and commercial persuasion  7K

The fact that rules exist about political campaign financing is a tacit recognition that the public is readily swayed by political propaganda. Money bends opinion. The best defence against this is a public accustomed to keeping itself well-informed about government and about those presenting themselves for election. Several developments are needed for this: (a) thoroughly, professional enlightenment by the media, (b) citizenship education in schools, (c) creating a heightened interest in public affairs, (d) assuring that people have enough time away from workaday activities such as making a living, raising children, maintaining their own personal physical and mental health. This is such a tall order that my sanity may well be questioned for entertaining these ideas. As a whole, they appear impossible to achieve. But I just don't see any way around it. Do you?  7K1

On the subject of deception, not even willful deception: I have here two pamphlets that came to me at about the same time, one from a Conservative senator, the other from an NDP MP. Fundamentally they are on the same topic, spending. The Conservative pamphlet emphasizes fiscal frugality and paying down on our national debt. The NDP pamphlet berates the Conservative government for not providing financial relief for people barely able to keep their heads above water. The issues highlighted by either pamphlet are laudable. However, neither one touches on the crux of the matter: fiscal balance. It seems to me a way must be found of presenting government budgets in a manner that is easier to comprehend by ordinary folks.  7K1A

Also the fact that advertising exist as a commercial tool for persuasion is doing a great deal of harm. Swaying people to buy manufactured items that are hardly needed by such "sales strategies" as deceptive pricing ($399.95), deceptive comments by advertisers ("We pay both taxes" is one that comes to mind), permitting delayed payments in order to gain a leg up on the competition, misleading packaging, etc. all these cause an unhealthy consumption of non-renewable resources and fouling of the public environment. By what right is commerce allowed to contribute to societal decay and health risks? That is a question I have yet to see addressed.  7K2

All of which leads to a need for the general public to become truly immune to propaganda, be it political or commercial, especially when dished up as infotainment.  7K3

    Some notes on Learning from other countries  7L

Canadians may not be enamoured by the Chinese political system, but we do recognize their rapidly built economic success and well we may profit from learning how they achieved it. Eric X Li, a Chinese businessman and former political science student at U.o.C. Berkeley, tells fascinating story on TED Talks, a brief sketch of the Chinese Party's Organization Department which serves as a huge human resources department that in roughly a decade fueled the Chinese "economic miracle" by hunting for and placing talent. Not only did it do its searching within China, it also attracted Chinese from abroad, mainly from U.S. universities. The effects of the latter ("reverse brain drain") are the subject of a lecture by David Zweig of the USC's U.S.-China Institute. The placement of political personnel gets a somewhat less than favourable press in Wikipedia.  7L1

An article in The Economist of Nov. 16, 2013 (p. 49) about political developments in China tells us that another notable change is the establishment of a "leading small group" to supervise reforms. "Such groups count. They report to the Politburo and help to form and implement policy decisions." I found that most interesting for it corresponds pretty well to what I am emphasizing in this essay. One such leading group would correspond to the Special Committee on Senate Modernization.  7L2

A difference is that those Chinese leaps appear to be primarily intended for catching up with the West. Our own leaps ought to aim at more rapidly moving ahead in, notably, matters of quality of life and avoiding disaster. One lesson we might take from the Chinese is that bold dreams can come true.  7L3

Former PM Jean Chrétien used to be fond of repeating that Canada is the best country in the world and the envy of the world. Well, I am very happy here and do not wish to quarrel about that, but other fine countries do exist. Let's focus for a moment on the Swedish health care system. It leaves our health care systems in the dust. My wife has relatives living in Sweden; a distant niece suffers from lyme disease. It is hard to believe how well she, and her husband, are looked after. Less hard to believe is that the financial burden of such a system is enormous. At any rate, we may well learn a thing or two from the Swedes.  7L4

We might even learn from tiny Bhutan where its ruler is much guided by the Gross National Happiness index. The GNH is indicator and concept that measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than only the economic indicator of gross domestic product (GDP). Let's not shrug this off.*  7L5

When it comes to happiness, we might learn from Norway. Norway's oil and gas industries are booming, but "while other countries have struck oil and then binged on the revenues, by contrast Norway is continuing to invest its oil and gas money in a giant sovereign wealth fund. The fund, worth about $800bn, owns 1% of the entire world's stocks, and is big enough to make every citizen a millionaire in the country's currency, the kroner. In effect, it is a giant savings account. And most Norwegians are seemingly very content with this. According to a 2012 study by New York's Columbia University Norway is one of the world's happiest countries," ref.  7L6

    Some notes on Environmental threats posed by industries  7M

In recent years, we have experienced quite a number of environmental disasters such as the oil spills of "Exxon Valdez" (1989) and BP's "Deepwater Horizon" drilling platform in the Caribbean (11 lives lost, 2010), the explosion and burning of the core of Lac-Mégantic (47 believed to have died, 2013), the break of a tailings pond of the Imperial Metals Corporation's Mount Polley mine in British Columbia causing an unmitigated environmental disaster (2014), initially pooh-poohed by both company and government. Not only were these disasters the outcomes of corporate negligence at public expense, they also were the outcome of negligence by governmental oversight agencies and, hence, the responsibility of their political masters. And still, our elected representatives go on promoting the laying of the Enbridge oil pipelines through an earthquake zone (Enbridge has a bad environmental record, ref.)  7M1

We still promote fracking and allow the exploitation of clathrates. The death rate among workers involved with fracking is exceedingly high as is the rate of birth defects near where tracking occurs.  7M2

Paragraph inserted on August 12, 2015
Recently in the
news: a highly toxic spill (arsenic, lead) into Colorado's Animas River. The source is an abandoned gold mine that was in operation between 1890 and 1920. Which makes one wonder: what other disasters are awaiting us from abandoned industrial operations? And what potential disasters are being created these very days? From nuclear waste, for example.  7M3

Paragraph inserted on January 22, 2016
At the time of writing, there is much opposition to a Trans-Canada's Energy East gas pipeline being readied for carrying oil and being extended through Quebec. Trying to size up cost vs benefits, Quebeckers certainly remember the Lac-Mégantic disaster. Other Canadians, also for good reason, are upset about Quebec's stance. This led not only to politicians pointing out the perceived error of Quebeckers' way, but also to some furious language damaging to Canadian national coherence. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, quoting from a
CTV News report, publicly decried "Quebec's willingness to spite western provinces" and opined: "For the better part of the last decade the western Canadian energy sector and western Canadian taxpayers have supported a great portion of these transfer payments as well as the Canadian economy.... Is it too much to expect that these Quebec municipal leaders [the mayors of Montreal and 82 municipalities] would respond to this reality with generous support for a pipeline that supports the very sector that has supported them?" It is the kind of talk that drives Quebec politicians up the wall and does little to keep our federation together. At a deeper level, cause of the kerfuffle is that stream of reassuring pronouncements by business and politicians about how well the environment is safeguarded followed by one environmental disaster after another. Whose words can we trust?  7M4

One would think think that a good first step to resolve the problem would be interprovincial arbitration for establishing a coooperative approach. What about a Standing Committee on Interprovincial Arbitration?  7M5

    Some notes on Our political economy: Capitalism at he tipping point  7N

Very popular is a program on the CBC called "The Dragons' Den" on which one outstanding investor, Kevin O'Leary, kept on repeating that, yes, I care about the environment, saving the whales ("Kumbaya," he likes to sarcastically insert), children's education, but "most of all I care about making money." He comes convincingly across as a business realist, but is he truly realistic? Let's not get swept away; let's think critically about that word "realistic."*  7N1

Little did I expect when I wrote the previous paragraph that Mr. O'Leary is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party. (Febr. 2017)  7N1A

Capitalism, to be sure, has good things going for it. Or had, anyway. It has raised the overall standard of living, even if not evenly, across the globe. It is said that the past is a good predictor for the future; experience is a valuable asset. But experience offers no guarantee—ever heard the term "tipping point"?*  7N2

French economist Thomas Piketty writes in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, that the average return on capital at the beginning of the 21st century is around 4-5 percent whereas the annual rate of growth in the economy is not likely to exceed 1-1.5 percent in the long run. Here is a potential tipping point. This discrepancy is a major destabilizing force and one that is hard to redress. Piketty advocates a progressive annual tax on accumulated fortunes apart from one on income, but a difficulty here is that this requires a high level of acceptance by the very wealthy and also of international cooperation. Another difficulty is the increased burden put on pensioners.*  7N3

Economics is NOT a hard science. Piketty views economics as a sub-discipline of the social sciences, along with history, sociology, anthropology, and political science. He dislikes the term "economic science" which suggests that economic science has attained a higher scientific status than the other disciplines. This highly thought-of economist prefers the expression "political economy" whose objective is to study rationally, systematically, and methodically, the ideal role of the state in the political and economic organization of the country. Is our Senate equipped for such a task? You be the judge.  7N4

Let's now ourselves think like a political economist. Producing goods we hardly need, or not even seriously desire, consumes natural resources and degrades the environment unnecessarily. The standard excuse for this practice is that we have to get and keep the economy out of the doldrums and create jobs. Create jobs? Why? Will many or most people not be replaced by robots? There is an argument going that the manufacture, maintenance and training of robots creates jobs. Well, of course it does, but in the meantime robotics—as well as artificial intelligence—are destroying jobs that people can do to be replaced by fewer jobs that require specialized schooling for which many are not prepared, schooling that is not likely to provide lifetime careers. Besides, next thing you know is that A.I. will design, maintain and train robots, etc., etc. For a brief introduction to facts and figures, see here. True enough, by convention, jobs are the way of creating personal and family income, but other ways need urgently be explored (besides unemployment insurance, welfare and pensions). And don't overlook the fact that those who are owning those job-replacing robots and those devices for A.I. are likely to ever more drastically control your life! So, we better be prepared!  7N5

On the other hand, growing numbers of retirees along with decreasing birthrates are expected to lead to labour shortages and, hence changes in the political landscape. So, how will robotization and ageing populations balance out? Complexing our political economy further still is the recent warning by Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, that global warming comes with economic consequences that business, especially the insurance and banking sectors, should factor into their calculations. He is counting especially on the insurance industry because it does the longest-range economic assessments. Quoting from a CBC article by Don Pitts (Oct. 1, 2015):  7N5A

"The fact is Carney realizes that the scope of climate change is beyond the horizon of many of our ways of preparing for the future. Politicians just worry about keeping voters happy until the next election. Carney says that traditionally even central banks only worry about financial stability for about 10 years into the future. 'Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability,' Carney said, 'it may already be too late.'  7N5B

"The truly long-range thinking of the insurance industry, which, like the pension industry, concerns itself with how much their investments will be worth many decades into the future, could be an exception. In some ways, insurance companies are giant machines for calculating mathematical risk based on all the details of what we know now and the estimates of how conditions will change. Carney hopes that calculating skill 'could act as a time machine, shining a light not just on today's risks, but on those that may otherwise lurk in the darkness for years to come'."  7N5C

"To forestall a social crisis," Microsoft's Bill Gates mused, "governments should consider a tax on robots; if automation slows as a result, so much the better." Quoted from The Economist of Febr. 25, 2017, the full article, Why taxing robots is not a good idea, demonstrates just how complicated the issue is. Complicated, yes, but not to be evaded. (Personally I am inclined to the belief that it is the very ownership of robots and A.I. that calls for a hard look into; that the benefits, and not merely the promise of benefits, will be available to all of society.)  7N5C

What it all adds up to, to my mind, is that we need to learn, and learn fast, how to adapt our political economy to smoothen the shocks of our traditional economic behaviour on the wellbeing of people as a whole. Obviously, this calls for highly integrated thinking. Our Senate should be a top-notch think tank with a legislative function to ensure that long-term thinking prevails over elected politicians' short-term thinking. 7N5D

There is plenty to do besides holding down jobs in traditional industry and commerce. We are short of quality educators (including well-qualified parents) and health care workers of all stripes.* We are short also of time to engage in trying to get a better understanding of our roles as voters and citizens. Parents are too often short of time to do their parenting. We are probably short of time to better hone our skills. And short of time to truly relax, cool our minds, allow time for our scope to widen beyond ourselves and immediate social environments.  7N6

This and next paragrpahs added on February, 14, 2016
In the newly published book Phishing for phools, by George Akerlof (Nobel Prize for Economics, 2001) and Robert J. Shiller, we read: "If business people behave in the purely selfish and self-serving way that economic theory assumes, our free-market system tends to spawn manipulation and deception. The problem is not that there are a lot of evil people. Most people play by the rules and are just trying to make a good living. But, inevitably, the competitive pressures for businessmen to practice deception and manipuation in free markets leads us to buy, and to pay too much for, products that we do not need; to work at jobs that gives us lttle sense of purpose; and to wonder why our lives have gone amiss."  
7N10

The Oxford English Dictionary has come to define phish as "To perpetrate a fraud on the Internet in order to glean personal information from individuals, esp. by impersonating a reputable company; to engage in online fraud by deceptively 'angling' for personal information." Akerlof and Shiller broadened the word's meaning to "letting people to do things that are in the interest of the phisherman, but not in the interest of the target.... There are so many phishers and they are so ingenious in the variety of their lures that, by the laws of probability, we all get caught sooner or later, however wary we may try to be. No one is exempt. By our definition, a phool is someone who, for whatever reason, is successfully phished."  7N11

One wonders how much energy could be saved if not buying things we don't really need were to be normal, everyday behaviour; that buying things we don't really need ought be considered misconduct on par with stealing from the community at large. Yes, that would be "bad for business," but can't we steer our political economy in such a way that it would no longer need be considered "bad for business"? That, in fact, it would be beneficial to individuals and people as a whole?  7N7

By now we know all too well that economics (or political economy) and environment are strongly intertwined, but many, if not most of us are blind, or blinding themselves, to the fact that it is the environment which occupies the driver's seat.  7N8

I imagine that a strongly robotized commercial complex ought to support public institutions engaged in healthy living, family support, and education. It is a matter of learning to better balance our accounts for the benefit of all while still fostering enterprising acumen. Tough job! Especially so because national economies are highly integrated into the global economy (as are national environmental issues part and parcel of the global environment). We are like Engelbart's ants, about to drown—and nobody is telling the boss! But the problem needs to be addressed. Shouldn't those in government who shy away from tackling such a super-complex problem make way for people most capable of grappling with this issue?  7N9

    Some notes on Our political economy: Squeezing folk  7Q

In my own lifetime I have observed truly private business owners taking pride in turning out quality products and services, and looking after their workers by spreading reserves amassed in good times over the leaner periods. Their ethics were personal matters. Such is not the case with corporate executives, who themselves are in part squeezed by brutal competition. Market share and fattening the bottom-line are keywords. As for product quality and social responsibiliy, those are issues for business propaganda to deal with.  7Q1

Just this year alone! I am writing this at the end of March of 2017 and during these last three months alone a number of press stories show how owners and executives, assisted by managers directed by them, demonstrate the utmost disdain for their workers and/or their clients. Three stories, one paragraph each, in reverse orde:  7Q2

       • March 30, 2017. – Executives of Quebec's flagship company Bombardier shaved company costs by laying off more than 14,000 workers. For their stellar performance, five of the company's executives saw their paypackets for 2016 increased by about 50% over those of the year before.  7Q3

       • March 6, 2017 and the weeks following. – We now learn that Canadian banks in their efforts to fatten their bottom line, presumably for their shareholders, are pressuring branch personnel, notably the tellers, to engage in unethical sales practices. "Financial advisers" actually are salesmen who under the guise of advice are pressured to sell their banks' own products. They do so to the detriment not only of their customers, but also of the health of their more ethically minded personnel.  7Q4

       • February 2, 2017 – The, admittedly highly competitive, food services industry has for decades been putting a hard squeeze on their personnel. Nothing new there. But investigative reporting by The Globe & Mail tells us that after acquiring the iconic Candadian Tim Hortons, its Brazilian owner, 3G Capital, has purged head office, slashed costs and squeezed suppliers. It did so by firing personnel wholesale and by substituting items needed for food service by cheaper and dangerously flimsy materials. Things have gotten so bad that the frabchisees of Tim Hortons have formed an association to resist this assault.  7Q5

Let's back up a little, to September of 2016. A report in The Globe and Mail, "Out of the shadows," brings to light, quoting, "How loopholes and lax oversight are making it easy for a network of local and foreign speculators to play the system, and in the process, fuel the steep rise in Vancouver home prices." A citizen provided documented evidence of possible fraud and tax evasion to the Canadian Revenue Agency. Also, at Vancouver's police headquarters, he was advised to call the Crime Stoppers hotline. All in all, he got nowhere. "I love this country ... but I think we are Mickey Mouse." Now, some mesure has been taken: (Quoting the newspaper) "Ottawa says it is studying the issue, and B.C. has brought in a tax on foreigners who buy residential real estate in Vancouver."  7Q6

A study here, a regulation there, maybe even a Bill passed in due course by both Houses of our government, I don't know. But what do I perceive is that black money is driving out properly earned money and that Canadians are driven from home and hearth. Isn't it high time that our economic system be thoroughly scrutinized to be improved upon? The Chinese experience (vide may provide a guide. And looking further down the road, as Chapter 8 indicates, our Senate might well be come a bridge between Canada and the world. And that may well prove to become quite helpful.  7Q7

Another word about Bombardier. Had those high-priced executives not been able to turn the company back to health, all employees would face being laid off. Now, it looks like, its global competitors need to lay off workers in its stead. Unless they lure executives away from some other corporation that, in turn, lures executives away from Bombardier at an even fatter paypacket.  7Q8

    Some notes on Continual adaptation of school curriculae  7O

We are now in September 2015, the month in which The United Kingdom is entering its second year of applying a curriculum that includes "rigorous computer science" for all children from 5 to 16. (It also includes the teaching of a second language, also starting at age 5.) This is not the first move in this direction; the advent of personal computers brought with it a move toward instruction in computer programming, but it soon floundered and was replaced by teaching how to use word processors and spreadsheets. The argument was that most pupils didn't need to understand computers and computing, only how to use computers. The real reason, one suspects, is that teachers themselves hadn't caught up with the times.  7O1

A big problem is a lack of appropriate teaching expertise. Clearly, teachers' education should include courses to address this issue, both within their undergraduate programs as well as by providing courses for practicing teachers.  7O2

Currently England is currently the only country to have computing as a statutory subject for all children from age 5 to 16. The Department for U.K.'s Education's National curriculum in England at the primary level (ages 5–11) states: "A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world. Computing has deep links with mathematics, science, and design and technology, and provides insights into both natural and artificial systems. The core of computing is computer science, in which pupils are taught the principles of information and computation, how digital systems work, and how to put this knowledge to use through programming. Building on this knowledge and understanding, pupils are equipped to use information technology to create programs, systems and a range of content." (Ref.) Aim is to ensure that all pupils:  7O3

        •can understand and apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation;
        •can analyse problems in computational terms, and have repeated practical experience of writing computer programs in order to solve such problems;
        •can evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar technologies, analytically to solve problems;
        •are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.  
7O4

The issue of children learning to code has become a serious issue in a number of countries, including the U.S., Estonia, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, The Netherlands, and probably other countries as well. In a competitive world, brainpower is of the essence. I haven't read anything about Canada trying to make an effort along these lines. One might also be concerned with changes within the world of computer science and the potential need for further continual adaptation required of humans. Clearly, another complex problem that shall not remain ignored.  7O5

8.  Our Senate: A bridge between Canada and the World?  8

In the year 2000, 149 heads of state and government and high-ranking officials from over 40 other countries attended a summit that gave rise to the Millennium Project, an initiative focusing on research delving into organizational means, operational priorities, and financing structures necessary to achieve a set of goals, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are aimed at reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women.  8A

Ten theme-oriented task forces were created in order to perform most of the research. The task forces are an amalgamation of representatives from the academic community, public and private sectors of society, civil society organizations, and UN agencies that also include participants from outside the UN. Each Task Force is composed of 15–20 members who are all international leaders in their specific area, and are selected on the basis of their practical experience and technical expertise.  8B

The project publishes an annual named The State of the Future which distills much of the leading research from UN organisations, national governments, think tanks, and insights from thought leaders around the world. It is from the latest publication's executive summary that we reproduced some paragraphs about the potential effects of artificial intelligence, ref. Here is another paragraph:  8C

"Our challenges are transnational in nature, requiring transnational strategies. Doing everything right to address climate change or counter organized crime in one country will not make enough of a difference if others do not act as well. We need coordinated transnational implementation. Government and corporate future strategy units are proliferating, but they have yet to sufficiently influence decisions on the scale and speed necessary to address the complex, integrated, and global nature of accelerating change. Intergovernmental organizations and public-private collaborations are also increasing, but they too have to become far more effective. Humanity needs a global, multifaceted, general long-term view of the future with bold long-range goals to excite the imagination and inspire international collaboration."  8C1

Well, great. But are we doing our part to fill that need? It seems to me that countries need channels of direct communication outside the customary diplomatic channels. Clearly, we are talking about communications that do not involve international commitments; they would be more along the line of providing advice within Canada.  8D

One wonders if our Senate would be an appropriate body to offer the kind of conduits envisaged. One way of starting out might be conduits between the Senates of other countries with a Westminster system of parliamentary government: the U.K. obviously, Australia, New Zealand, etc., some 30 in all. That would be a good start, wouldn't it? A start not without some heft on the world scene. Just a thought. A vision, if you like.  8D1

This chapter could be readily expanded, for example by beginning to draw attention to the Worldwatch Institute, which aims to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world, or to refer to books such as Common Wealth: Economics for a crowded planet (2008) by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Millennium Project. Here are a few paragraphs from Sachs's book, pp. 332–333, quite obvious actually:  8E

"Corporations, academic institutions, NGOs, and professional bodies are all being reshaped by the forces and opportunities of globalization. Governments need an even greater overhaul. The consistent driver of organizational change must be that government form must follow function. Governments and intergovernmental organizations such as the UN agencies need to be reshaped to give substance to the Millennium promises. Nation-states were originally forged in the cauldron of war or for the purpose of creating a national market for goods, services, capital, and labor out of a congeries of local markets. Yet these original drivers of political organization are increasingly passé. National governments are too small to address global economic, demographic, and environmental threats, and yet too big to preserve cultural diversity and traditions, which are found at the local level.  8F

"Nor are governments well organized to process the scientific knowledge regarding sustainable development that cuts across multiple disciplines. They therefore flail blindly when challenged by global forces they cannot comprehend. Challenges of extreme poverty and environmental stress get repackaged as traditional security threats. Military responses yield pitiful results. We've already argued for a new U.S. policy backed by a major institutional reorganization and the creation of a Department of International Sustainable Development. Governments need such restructuring so as they can better understand and respond to the complex forms of environmental change, demography, and economy that are reshaping geopolitics.  8G

"Intergovernmental processes must also change in fundamental ways. The European Union is surely the harbinger of further regional integration. As our problems have become global, old nation-state boundaries have become too small to provide many of the public goods required at a transnational scale. The ERU not only makes war unthinkable among its member states but also provides critical Europe-wide investments in environmental management, physical infrastructure, and governance 'software' such as monetary policy, food safety, and financial market regulation. Other regions in the world, notably Africa, will follow Europe's lead in forming a much stronger transnational organization. Even the Unites States, relentless in its pursuit of its own destiny, has, of course, bound some of its national economic and environmental policies to the transnational North Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), including Canada and Mexico."  8H

Seven years have gone by since the book was first published. What have we been doing during that time? Focusing on a next election? Not much else apparently. Here is Bob Rae's take from our relevant domestic policy, or lack thereof (quoted from What's happened to politics?:  8I

"In the Parliamentary debates of the future, is it possible to imagine that basic issues about our economy, our environment, and our social programs will be addressed at all? It should be, but it will only happen if voters, the press, the academic commentators, and responsible media refuse to accept pop as a permanent diet. Canada is less innovative than it needs to be, less green, less equal, and shows fewer sightings of public imagination and solidarity than would be healthy for all of us. We are not alone in this, but the fact that the weakness of our democratic pulse is shared by other countries should hardly be a source of consolation, let alone pride.  8J

"It will increasingly be left to a serious dialogue between and among Canadians young and old, well off and insecure, to wrestle with these questions we confront as a country. While the three p's of parliamentary politics—pandering, personal attack, and partisanship—dominate Question Period, we shall have to find a way to make sure the conversation happens and the right decisions are made. No longer can we have these decisions in the hands of Parliament. The tendency of politicians to deflect important policy considerations to a later date has become an epidemic. Regardless of their political affiliation, all Canadians—especially young ones—should be asking themselves, if policies are being drafted without their needs in mind, what burden will they be left to carry when the policymakers are gone?"  8K

Here and abroad, we're all in the same boat.  8L

In short

•  21. The governance of our country does not keep pace with global changes, current and impending and thereby keep shifting the burden from older to younger Canadians.

•  22. Recognize that the our Senate might very well play a significant role in improving the way we are governed.

•  23. Recognize that our Senate may very well profit from taking a hard look at how the Millennium Project's task forces are composed and function.
 
gp8

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
          or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

                            – Bob Dylan
*  0I0

9.  Coping with a big load, and yet ...  9

Before commenting on the Senate's work load, it might be instructive to refer to some pages highlighting aspects of how our Senate functions:  9A

        •  Senate home page
        •  About the Senate
        •  Senate support staff  9B

They provide a great deal of good, if not essential background reading, presented, as one might expect, in a nicely polished manner devoid of any critical commentary. But bland or critical, one cannot help but being impressed with our Senate's plate being pretty full and that much good work is being done. The following paragraphs provide a sample of going-ons during the previous 12 months—as this outsider sees it!  9C

The list of studies and bills for the period September 2014–June 2015 shows that the Senate's standing committees met to discuss 43 bills sent up by the Commons as well as another five bills that originated within the Senate itself. Some of those bills were discussed by more than one committee; for example, Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, was discussed by seven committees. Bill C-59, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 21, 2015 and other measures, was discussed in two committees. Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Public Service Employment Act (enhancing hiring opportunities for certain serving and former members of the Canadian Forces), was also discussed in two committees. More than a third of the bills went through the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs; nine through the Standing Committee Social Affairs, Science and Technology, all of the latter concerning social affairs exclusively.  9D

Believing that "Legal and Constitutional Affairs" is the very committee concerned with the legal wording of bills, I had a cursory glance at the qualifications of the committee's members and found that of the ten regular members, six are lawyers, the background of two was law enforcement (one of them, Senator Vernon White, who has, among his other experiences, an impressive record of academic attainment: a diploma in business admin, a B.A. in sociology and psychology, a Masters in conflict analysis and management, and a Professional Doctorate in police leadership—not exactly a person one ordinarily thinks of as a police officer), One senator had held various cabinet posts at the provincial level. The committee has two ex officio members who are the Senate leaders of the government and of the opposition, with each having a deputy.  9E

The presence of those party representatives is not assuring; our Senate should be free of partisan considerations. Checking the other committees showed that only one committee does not have such ex officio members, to wit the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators. If I were a cynical person, I'd say that ethics is not a major concern of politicians, but I have no wish to be cynical. At any rate, if our Senate is to issue unbiased reports, the Executive Branch should not tell senators what to write.  9F

Many a time I read that our senators perform well in their investigative role. Just to get some idea, here is a list of investigations senators reported over the same period, September 2014–June 2015:  9G

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans:
        •  Report on aquaculture.
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights::
        •  Challenges and international mechanisms to address cross-border child abduction.
        •  Protecting a generation: Are UNICEF and UNHCR mandates meeting the needs of Syrian children?
        •  Fast fashion: Working conditions in the garment industry.
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications
        •  A time for change: The CBC RADIO-CANADA in the 21st century.
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade:
        •  North American neighbours: Maximizing opportunities and strengthening cooperation for a more prosperous future.
        •  Expanding Canadian businesses' engagement in foreign markets: The role of federal trade promotion services.
        •  Securing Canada's place in Asia-Pacific: A focus on Southeast Asia.
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples:
        •  Housing on First Nation reserves: Challenges and successes.
        •  On-reserve housing and infrastructure: Recommendations for change.
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce:
        •  Digital currency: You can't flip this coin!
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence:
        •  Final report: Vigilance, accountability and security at Canada's borders.
        •  Interim report on the operational stress injuries of Canada's veterans.
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
        •  Digging safely: One-call notification systems and the prevention of damage to Canada's buried infrastructure.
        •  Powering Canada's territories.
The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages:
        •  Seizing the opportunity: The role of communities in a constantly changing immigration system.
        •  Aiming higher: Increasing bilingualism of our Canadian youth.
The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance:
        •  First interim report on the 2015–16 main estimates.
        •  Second interim report on the 2015–16 main estimates.
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry:
        •  The importance of bee health to sustainable food production in Canada.
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology:
        •  Prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada: Unintended consequences.
        •  Prescription pharmaceuticals in Canada: Final report.  
9H

A list such as this does not show how much of our senators' efforts is affecting government policies. What it does show is that the scope of these investigations is very much narrower that the range of concerns listed in Part II of this essay. A bit of nibbling at the edges at best. Let's have a look at a few instances, not altogether randomly picked.  9I

        CBC / Radio Canada  9J

This essay's notes on public education by the media comments on the underfunding of the CBC and some important rules it could be playing. Interestingly, I learned from Senator Eggleton's personal website that, although he was a member of the committee that issued the report A time for change: The CBC Radio-Canada in the 21st century, he felt compelled to write a dissenting report. A Plan for a Vibrant and Sustainable CBC/Radio Canada. "An effort was made to include this perspective in the main report but the majority on the committee wouldn't allow different views to be included, although this has been done in the past and is a frequent feature in House of Commons reports." This sounds alarming in view of the fact that the Senate is supposed to take an objective stand on all issues under consideration. According to Senator Eggleton, the CBC receives about $29 per capita, which is less than one-third of the funds allocated to public broadcasters in other industrialized countries. The committee's final report would cut the funding of CBS operations further by allocating some of the corporation's present grant to "an external 'superfund' that would help finance the creation of Canadian content." It would also have the CBC's board of directors appointed by the prime minister. Is this Canada or Russia?  9K

The Toronto Star wasn't exactly full of praise: "The 63-page report by a 10-member Senate committee is a shoddy piece of work; poorly researched, internally contradictory, short on vision." ... The report "does not offer a thoughtful analysis of what is wrong with CBC. It does not sketch out a path to financial sustainability or national relevance." ... The Senate "was thought to be more collegial and less short-sighted than the House of Commons. Its committees had a history of producing knowledgeable, balanced reports. Observers hoped this study would shed light—not generate more heat—in the long-running battle between friends and foes of the CBC." ... "It soon became apparent from the committee's testy hearings and its obsessive focus on the salaries of on-air employees such as Peter Mansbridge that it was not looking at the big picture. Last week's report confirmed that." Sad.  9L

        Communities and biligualism  9M

The Committee on Official Languages produced two reports that, in effect, concern the strengthening of bonds among Canadians, the transforming of our multicultural society from distinct groups peacefully living side-by-side toward people understanding and appreciating one another. This was the topic of this essay's notes on Sovereignties and inter-cultural coherence, notably the paragraphs on inter-cultural coherence beginning here.  9N

The focus of both reports is on bilingualism. Seizing the opportunity reports in the context of strengthening localized French and English minority communities within larger regions (such as strengthening English-speaking communities in Quebec) as well as on enhancing the economic, social, and cultural integration of new entrants. Aiming higher is an interim report. It wishfully states that "Promoting and learning Canada's official languages must be a social project supported by all Canadians" and lists economic, cognitive, and social benefits. The social benefits of bilingualism are its contribution to national cohesion, allowing for communication among various people from various cultures, and increasing openness to the world. As can be expected from reports produced by a committee on official languages, it leaves uncovered social coherence between the not-altogether-white majority of Canadians and the indigenous peoples. Among the stated cognitive benefits: It makes learning other languages easier, glibly overlooking that this hardly applies to learning a language other than an Indo-European one. And, unless I missed something, the report's list of witnesses does not even include one expert in linguistics.  9O

        Global issues  9P

Two of the reports issued by the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights concern the fate of children: cross-border child abduction and the needs of Syrian children.  9Q

Three reports from the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade concern trade issues. A report (flippantly labelled You can't flip this coin!) from "Banking, Trade and Commerce" looks at digital currency.  9R

There were no reports on such larger global issues as climate change, nothing on the effect of advancing technology on people's livelihood, nothing about global criminal networks, or other urgent and complex global matters that threaten to negatively affect our citizens. But with deliberate attrition resulting in some 20% of all Senate seats being vacant, well, what can one say?  9S

In short

•  24. Objective reporting calls for a scrupulously depoliticized Senate and that senators shall no longer be tagged with party affiliations.

•  25. Bias and scope of the Senate's investigative role is in need of critical evaluation.
 
gp9

10.  Whence from here?  10

The chapter in Part I about Roles of the Senate emphasized the Senate's investigative role be expanded to

        •  an investigative, anticipating, and critical problem-solving role.  
10A

Please, pause for a moment at that word anticipating. Many of today's big problems could have been foreseen. Many actually have been foreseen decades ago by people outside our government, but have hardly ever really come to grips with, if at all. It was way back in 1962, more than half a century ago, that Rachel Carson wrote her Silent spring. The book documented the detrimental effects on the environment—birds especially—of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting industry claims unquestioningly. Yes, action has been taken in this issue, but her accusation of industry spreading disinformation and governments accepting its claims still stands.  10B

Canadian academic Thomas Homer-Dixon, in his The ingenuity gap (2000) anticipated enormous problems arising from Pakistan's massive unemployment of young people. Hopelessness and discontent, aided by propaganda, greatly assist in filling the ranks of ISIS. But the principal focus of Homer-Dixon's book is that problems faced by our society are becoming increasingly complex and that our ability to implement solutions is not keeping pace. (I believe the Senate would do well to engage people such as mentioned here for in-House lectures and questioning. Wouldn't that be a palatable way for our senators to stay abreast of important issues? And, while at it, why not have such events televised so as to also keep a discerning public informed?)  10B1

Chapter 7 presented notes on a variety of complex issues of the kind heretofore mostly left untouched by our Senate and therefore left to other parts of our government, also incapable of dealing with them. Those elected, it appears, are mostly preoccupied by becoming re-elected; government departments have been created to deal with limited, circumscribed issues. This essay notes that, in fact, the present composition of our Senate is ill-suited for dealing with complex issues and therefore in need of correction in some way.  10C

Before entering into an expansion of my thoughts, there are some essential prerequisites, two of which Justin Trudeau some time ago touched upon: political independence (he eliminated the Liberal caucus) and "better senators." Add to these a need for trustworthiness—not only that the Senate's work be open for all to verify, but also that misconduct will simply not be tolerated. Why allow the Senate's reputation to be stained by a few as has been the case for years? Clearly, there has been an insidiously gnawing at the principle of noblesse oblige, prestige comes with responsibility.  10D

        Political independence  10E

Political independence ought to permit appointments based on expertise recognized by peers. An additional benefit here is improved connections to even more fine-grained expertise needed for the Senate to provide valuable forethought in this time of rapidly complexing interactions in and between our political, social, environmental, economic climates.  10F

Let me turn to the Constitution Act: "24. The Governor General shall from Time to Time, in the Queen's Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summons qualified Persons to the Senate; and subject to the Provisions of this Act, every Person so summoned shall become and be a Member of the Senate and Senator."  10G

Frankly, I do not understand that phrase "by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada." Jean Rodrigue Paré of the the Government's Legal and Legislative Affairs Division gave this explanation:  10H

"This means that they are 'appointed' by the executive power (the government) and not the legislative power (Parliament). Senators can therefore be appointed to the Senate when Parliament is not sitting, and the prime minister may fill, or not fill, vacant seats as he or she pleases. The 'Instrument' used is normally an order in council signed by the prime minister that conveys his or her advice to the Governor General, who then endorses the appointment."  10I

One wonders: If one needs to call on an expert to make sense of the Constitution, isn't there something wrong? How can one possibly expect people to be interested in democracy if its roots are so oblique?  10I1

I emphasized the word "normally." In an attempt to further resolve this issue, I emailed the staff of our Governor General. A polite correspondence ensued, a correspondence that led to nowhere!*  10I2

By Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada." Transparency indeed! "Normally." More of the same. Contacting the Governor-General's staff? Forget about it. Dumb we are. Dumb we shall remain.  10I3

April 14, 2017
Senator Joyal put it simpler: "Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada" means a decision of the Crown. (
Ref.)  10I4

And so, how to efficaciously depoliticize the Senate? One could think of some steps to be taken: (1) The speaker should be elected by the senators themselves, (2) there should be no political caucuses and officers appointed by the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties, (3) senators shall no longer be tagged by a political affiliation, (4) "neutralize" the Chamber's seating plan. All of which does not prevent people with a history of service as an elected representative or in the civil service from becoming a senator. Far from it, they bring most valuable experience to the Upper Chamber; they know how things work and share experience with colleagues in the government.  10J

        "Better senators"  10K

On to "better senators." People are people are people. No "great and good, untarnished by scandal, and all that" as one political columnist had it. However, what I am looking for in the way of better senators is a highly diverse and well-balanced blend of expertise and sensitivities that might be arrived at by leaning in part on the advice of such regional bodies as provincial and territorial governments, but to a larger extent on the advice of professional, academic (notably scientific) and commercial associations.*  10L

Paragraph added in January, 2016
As off January 19, 2016, we have an Advisory Board on Senate Appointment which reports directly to our Prime Minister. This should be a big step forward although merit does not entirely replace politics—more on this in this essay's
final paragraph.  10L1

        Homophily and groupthink  10N

We need a process of choosing senators free from homophily (choosing to interact with people who are similar to themselves) and from "groupthink" (the tendency of a group of people to think about a problem or situation in about the same way). * I do fear that homophily and groupthink already have infested the process of selecting the members of the so-called "Independent" Advisory Board on Senate Appointments regardless of them being people with superb qualifications. You be the judge. But how could it be otherwise?  10O

My thoughts go to such differences in mindset as once famously brought to public attention by C.P. Snow's observation that the intellectual life of the whole of western society was split into two cultures, namely the sciences and the humanities. Snow referred to these as the "two solitudes" and considered the cleft a major hindrance to solving the world's problems. Baron Snow, Kt., CBE, was a high-level civil servant and briefly served as a politician in the U.K. He also was a scientist and an author (ref. 1). Sure, not everyone agreed, or agreed entirely, with him (ref. 2), but nevertheless ... well, why not give this some critical thought from your own observations? Please, bear in mind also that when a person comes into and lives for some time in a culture or intellectual climate different from the one he/she is accustomed to, a change of mindset is likely to occur*; people adapt, homophily sets in. However, because of professionally different backgrounds and differences in thinking about judging people, overcoming differences and solving problems, I doubt this will degenerate to "groupthink." This essay will point to a way of cooperating that encourages people of widely different intellectual cultures to more thoroughly and fruitfully come to understand one another.  10O1

        Workload  10P

It strikes me that probably the workload of our conscientious senators is unduly high and that the workload needs to be shared by more people, especially so with the increased burden placed on the Senate by my suggestions. It also strikes me that the long periods of recess are not commensurate with the accelerating pace of urgently required responses to global changes. These are serious problems we should be conscious of. On the plus-side, remember what I said about artificial intelligence: "Much of what our senators currently do may also be automated within a relatively short time," ref. I am also thinking about the Senate appointing senators pro temp, people not included in the constitutionally prescribed 105, but who would work as immediate colleagues within the Senate. In fact, they may well be a source for future Senate appointments as seats fall vacant.  10Q

In short

•  Re-emphasizing: 24. Our Senate needs to be scrupulously depoliticized and senators shall no longer be tagged with party affiliations.

•  26. It is recommended that senators be appointed mostly on the advice of regional, professional, academic (notably scientific), and commercial associations which are better placed than a prime minister and his close advisors to judge those persons' qualifications.

•  27. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that people who have served as elected representatives or in the civil service have valuable experience to contribute to the Upper Chamber.

•  28. Ways need to be found to achieve effective cooperation among teams of people with widely different mindsets attempting to solve highly complex problems.

•  29. Senators should learn to avail themselves of tools provided by modern technology that permit them to work more effectively.

•  30. It is suggested that much can be gained by inviting knowledgeable people to share their insights with our senators.
 
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11.  Separating good governance from electioneering  11

Returning to an interview with former Ontario Premier Bob Ray mentioned in Chapter 3, Our democracy in peril: The elected, the question was asked, "Talk to us about how you think elections have changed and the impact this is having on our larger political discourse." The response:  11A

Two things at work here. The technology of campaigning is way more sophisticated and advanced than it was in the earliest days of polling. In my book, What happened to politics?, I talk about my own father's experience with polling in the years before the war and then talk about my own experience campaigning and canvassing and identifying the vote and getting the vote out. What is new is the use of 'Big Data' to refine a political or policy message and use that message to target smaller and smaller numbers of voters. The problem with this is it removes the capacity of politicians of conviction to say what they really think of issues and to speak from the heart on subjects that matter to them. It also creates elections where we don't engage with the big, urgent and difficult issues, because inside the campaigns most of the effort is dedicated to figuring out how to slice and dice the electorate into ever smaller pieces that can be bought off or appealed with highly targeted policies."  11B

When I was writing the chapters about democracy being in peril, I felt that resolving the problem would be a task for the Senate to investigate. But I do have my doubts. We have just observed a Senate committee biased to the point that t did not even allow a senator's dissenting opinion to be included in its final report! (Par. -9K.) So, what is the alternative? We do need an objective body to look into the issue and possibly submit its conclusions to our Supreme Court whose final judgment may lead to a realization of sorts. What body? What comes to mind is an assembly of, mainly, political scientists, possibly with an input from an organizational psychologist, and, of course, a Senate member each from the blue and the red side of the spectrum; perhaps even an orange and a green MP. Perhaps it is a good idea to include someone like Rudyard Griffiths, chair of the Munk's Debates public affairs forum and author of Who We Are: A Citizen's Manifesto.* Just thinking out loud ....  11C

And now, hoping that this urgent and complex issue can be resolved, let's just carry on. 11D

In short

•  31.  We may well need a body independent from the two legislative houses to find a way of separating good governance from political partisanship, possibly followed through with obtaining a judgment by the Supreme Court. This scribe would love to have thoughtful inputs.
 
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12.  Envisioned: A functional distinction among senators  12

Just to be sure, what follows is not a proposal; it is a sketch of a proposal, one that I hope will be improved upon by others. The grounds for this proposal should be evident from the issues presented in Part II of this essay. So, here goes...  12A

I perceive two distinctly different functional groups of senators:

        • Those with a thorough knowledge of our regions and cultural/religious communities,

        • Those with professional expertise and well-connected in a wide array of fields.  12B

I'll provisionally label them "citizens' representatives" and "complex-problem solvers," respectively. Among the latter we find those professionals engaged in executing the Senate's revising legislative function.  12C

To be sure, the role of these "citizen representatives" is not to be confused with the role of Members of Parliament.  12C1

If pressed for numbers, I'd say 38 senators in the first group, a number that will be arrived at in the next chapter. Principal concerns of this first group are minorities and the wellbeing of Canadians as a whole through the Senate's "traditional" investigative role. This still leaves the revising legislative function and the constitutionally prescribed representative role.  12D

It should be noted that this division may well have a significant effect on senatorial tenure as per our Constitution. We'll come to that when discussing tenure.  12E

In short

•  32. I (provisionally) perceive two rather distinct groups of senators: "citizens' representatives" and "complex problem solvers" in a ratio of one to two.
 
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13.  Senators seeking to understand citizens' concerns ("Citizens' representatives")  13

As it is, the Senate's representative role is mostly perceived as representing the provinces with senators' domiciles specified by the Constitution. At the time of Confederation in 1867, the numerical assignment was:  13A

        Nova Scotia: 12
        New Brunswick: 12
        Quebec: 24
        Ontario: 24  
13B

The major consideration was to provide protection of Catholic French-speaking Canadian interests in an environment of predominantly Protestant English-speaking Canadians who then were slated to occupy most of the seats in the Commons. Hence also, bills can only turn into legislation if passed by both Houses. Since that time, constitutional amendments have led to the current assignments, one much underweighted west of Ontario:  13C

        Nova Scotia: 10 (i.e. 5.3 senators / million people)
        New Brunswick: 10 (i.e. 14.3 senators / million)
        Prince Edward Island: 4 (i.e. 40.0 senators / million)
        Quebec: 24 (i.e. 3.0 senators / million)
        Ontario: 24 (i.e. 1.9 senators / million)
        Newfoundland & Labrador: 6 (i.e. 12.0 senators / million)
        Manitoba: 6 (i.e. 5.0 senators / million)
        Saskatchewan: 6 (i.e. 6.0 senators / million)
        Alberta: 6 (i.e. 1.7 senators / million)
        British Columbia: 6 (i.e. 1.4 senators / million)
        North West Territories: 1 (i.e. 25.0 senators / million)
        Yukon Territory: 1 (i.e. 33.3 senators / million)
        Nunavut: 1 (i.e. 33.3 senators / million)  
13D

The Constitution allows our Governor-General to appoint, when deemed necessary, another four or eight senators, i.e. one or two for each the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, the provinces West of Ontario. This provision, which favours the ruling party, is meant to break any deadlock between the two Houses.  13E

The historical basis for the above assignments does not take into account that the distinction between Catholics and Protestants is no longer as sharply edged on people's minds as it was 150 years ago, but it does take into account linguistic and cultural differences, As for language specifically, 16.4 % of native French-speakers lived, in 2011, outside of Quebec.  13F

Nor does it take into account the increasing powers of regional legislatures. Constitutional expert and former Senator Eugene Forsey wrote in 1982 that the Senate has not needed represent the provinces from 1892 on because the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council so interpreted the British North America Act that the power of the national Parliament was steadily narrowed .... Canada is now the most decentralized federation in the world. So the national Parliament's power to work injury to regional interests has turned out to be much smaller than the Fathers had expected; and big, powerful, pushing provinces, working through the frequent federal-provincial conferences, have largely taken over the task of protecting the regions and provinces even in matters under Dominion jurisdiction. (From The Canadian Senate in focus 1867–2001)  13F1

Nevertheless, as mentioned, I provisionally envisage the number of representative senators to be 38. Those senators especially occupied with regional concerns would roughly number one per million population as follows:  13G

        Ontario: 13 (12.8 / million people)
        Quebec: 8 (7.9 / million)
        British Columbia: 4 (4.4 / million)
        Alberta: 4 (3.6 / million)
        Manitoba: 1 (1.2 / million)
        Saskatchewan: 1 (1.0 / million)
        Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island: 2 (1.9 + 0.1 / million)
        New Brunswick & Newfoundland, Labrador: 1 (0.7 + 0.5 / million)
        NWT, Yukon, Nunavut: 1 (0.04 + 0.03 + 0.03 / million)  
13H

Clearly, this assignment underrates important ethnic/cultural minorities. Therefore, I am inclined to suggest that, say, four senators are appointed on the basis of expertise in ethnic/cultural affairs. Their appointments would be recommended from within these communities.  13I

        First Nations (roughly Eastern, Western): 2 / 0.85 million
        Metis: 1 / 0.45 million
        Innuit: 1 / 0.06 million  
13J

Another important cultural aspect is that of religions that are not aboriginal: mainstream (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) and non-mainstream religions (indigenous and other) with, perhaps, a special attention to such communes as the Mennonites and Doukhobors. I imagine that these aspects may well be absorbed within the regional representations outlined above.  13K

The senators would be very much directly in touch with the people in the regions they represent to assure their Charter rights and freedoms as well as other interests and that those will receive utmost consideration in the Senate as a whole. In other words, the representative role and the protection of minorities are continually on the front burner. All of which may lead to action in the Senate's legislative revising and investigative roles. These senators ought also be frequent participants in the cooperative work done by the senators who represent Canadians indirectly as brought up in the next chapter. 13L

March 9, 2017
As a point of interest, shocked by the way the electoral campaign was developing and by the subsequent election of Donald Trump as President of the U.S., a number of executives from the high-tech sector decided on making tours to contact citizens directly to find out why they favored him, see
Tech execs try listening tours of Trump voters, by Seth Hegerman on money.cnn.com of Febr. 24, 2017).  13M

In short

•  33. Whereas communications between people and elected representatives are fraught with electoral and partisan concerns, those senators acting as people's unbiased representatives provide an alternative channel of communication with a wider scope than members of parliament can provide. This would notably be helpful in eventually resolving issues that are highly interwoven with other matters.
 
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14.  Senators who represent Canadians indirectly ("Complex-problem solvers")  14

Chapter 9, Coping with a big load, and yet ..., showed a list of reports on a variety of issues published by standing Senate committees since September 2014. Of course, a much wider variety of issues have been reported on before that. What all those issues have in common is that they were not nearly as complex as most of the issues touched on in Part II of this essay. And even so, recommendations that such or such a department "should look into this" or "consider that" make one cringe. A good report should target more precisely what has to be done, not what should be considered. A Senate that is to provide well-informed advice to the Commons must be capable of efficiently putting the necessary heads together.  14A

The kind of problems tackled are mostly single-issue problems dealt with by limited-issue committees. Those noted in Part II of this essay require ad hoc committees with, probably, a variable expert membership as called for in the course of unravelling the problem assigned to the committee. Consider, for example, the problems generated by the advance of robotics and artificial intelligence. Re-educating or retraining, family welfare, the country's economic wherewithal, sociological and psychological consequences, effect on the upbringing and schooling of children, commercial control over the technologies involved, these are just some of the aspects that come to mind, aspects that call for expert involvement in their solution and foresight into the consequences of each step recommended.  14B

As mentioned already, the Senate should be equipped to, as much as humanly possible, anticipate serious problems. One source of information about pending problems is what might be perceived as "doomsday literature" written by authors with foresight and apparently know what they are writing about. Their writings should be read carefully, assessed for urgency, and the salient points put in "book reports" to keep senators broadly informed. A first step might be that a senator reading such a work writes a "book report" to be distributed among colleagues for discussion and assessment of urgency. Senate management assigns priorities and specifies initial committee memberships for the work to be done.  14C

Another source of information is works by experts advocating solutions to problems already around us; take inequality, for example. Further sources are think tanks, inside and outside Canada.  14D

Considering the paragraphs just written, it is evident that a 105-member Upper Chamber can hardly handle the tasks lying before us. That is where senators pro-temp come in, experts with whose help our Senate should ideally be converted into a top-notch, rapid-acting think tank. The chapters that follow go into some detail.  14E

Senators representing citizens would be appointed largely upon recommendation by relevant regional governments, as mentioned above. Senators in the professional group would by and large be appointed in consultation with, or upon recommendation by professional associations (scientific, commercial) or, possibly, by existing senatorial committees. However they shall not represent any of these bodies. Intellectual integrity and, hence public trust, are essential.  14F

Please, bear in mind that classifying senators as either "representatives" or "complex-problem solvers" is merely a crutch for our thinking. There cannot be a clean-cut division. For one thing, the kind of committees we just discussed would frequently, if not always, have members of the "representative" group for the people they represent ought to benefit from whatever the committees come up with.  14G

I do fear that the issue just raised will run into strong resistance. I fear that established legal/political thinking does not readily mix with a scientific mode of thinking.* But that resistance needs to be overcome—which leads us to the issue of retirement from the Senate of those who cannot adapt to this mode of working.  14H

A bit of a radical change is the need for considerable delocalization of the Senate. (The word "Chamber" becomes somewhat outmoded.) Many senators' primary locations should be in close contact with their sources. This seems obvious for those senators representing citizens. The work of the complex-problem solvers" would be facilitated by direct interaction with established finer-grained expertise, notably in our universities and via professional and commercial associations. Digital technology permits senatorial working teams to be continually connected. Yes, others may argue that their primary location might as well be Ottawa and that digital technology connect them with the universities, etc. However, it is by walking the halls of those institutions that senators are more likely to run into valuable chance encounters.  14I

In short

•  34. Senate should be prepared to come up with adequate solutions to far more complex problems than they have hitherto been accustomed and advise the Commons and government departments accordingly.

•  35. In order to safeguard Canadians better sill, the Senate should evolve into an anticipatory body.

•  36. Senators should reconcile themselves with some changes in their accustomed ways of doing things, something that won't always be easy.
 
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15.  Optimizing effectiveness: Digital collaboration  15

Having never ever been near the Upper Chamber, I cannot have a clear idea how senators collaborate. No doubt, there is a lot of nitty-gritty I really should be familiar with before writing this chapter. However, one must row with the oars at hand and so, well, please, indulge me for a couple of paragraphs.*  15A

I am taking my cue here from the insights of the late Dr Douglas Engelbart, a pioneer of the digital age whose lifelong quest was "Boosting mankind's capacity for coping with complex, urgent problems" (ref.: reasons for action, ref.: Engelbart's lifelong pursuit) and with whom I was well acquainted for a number of years. It is in the very pursuit of his quest that led him to invent the digital display screen and the computer mouse to facilitate diverse minds to work collaboratively on single documents. He has been the recipient of numerous rewards and honours, including a financial prize of $500,000, and the National Medal for Technology bestowed by U.S. President Clinton.  15B

At this point, please view some short black-and-white video clips from a demonstration Engelbart gave in 1968. He showed, among other things, people a long distance apart (Palo Alto–San Francisco, 50 km apart) working together, each with his own mouse, on a single document. For some interesting enlightenment, move to this list of YouTube videos. (The clips also refer to the very beginnings of digital networking.) Ten short clips in all, they will take up about 20 min. in toto.  15C

If those clips were not entirely entertaining then that probably is because it can be a bit of a strain to listen to people who are sometimes talking about things we haven't got a clue about. That is the very kind of thing senators face when they begin working with people who are experts in their own scientific and technical domains. On the other hand, one can soon get their drift. The clips began with outlining Engelbart's concept of bootstrapping: make a step toward a goal, look at the the possibilities that open up, get on by deciding on the next step, etc. In this fashion, he is entering the domain of complex-problem solving. Not outright stated in those clips, the problem to be solved is the augmenting of the human intellect with the aid of digital technology—which is not the same as replacing human intellect with artificial intelligence. (He was very much a humanist, more than a mere technocrat; he didn't want anything to do with A.I. and consequently lost the continuation of a substantial DARPA research grant.) Engelbart's first step was the developing of a computer editor, later named Augment, which permits a wide range of operations (one of them: the collapsing of paragraphs to permit a quick overview of documents by scanning their first lines.) Engelbart was a pioneer in hyperlinking, the beginnings of which are shown by these videos. This gave birth to those funny purple numbers to identify paragraphs. (Incidentally, clicking on one of those takes one straight back to the beginning of the relevant paragraph—try clicking on 15D.  15D

Augment did not make it for very long in the commercial world. It required people to learn some new skills and such a requirement just doesn't sell. Text editors needed to be simple, ready for immediate use. But those funny purple numbers do come in handy for quickly referencing some location in a document. They might even be used for replacing marginal notes or proposed revisions in a document. In this instance, I will simply add my initials and a date stamp; look at this funny purple number:  15E-hk-210815

Another way of making "marginal notes" digitally is by inking them in as shown in, e.g., Appendix A.  15F

Combine working this way with using a shared folder, such as in Dropbox, created especially for an active committee. This should cut back for the need of committee members to meet at certain times and places.  15F1

This essay was written over a lengthy period during which many relevant facts came to light that I did not know before. As a consequence, apart from some ordinary editing, paragraphs have been changed, moved about a bit, new paragraphs have been inserted, some others deleted, and in August, 2015, the entire essay has been overhauled. But throughout all this shemozzle, I kept the original paragraph IDs in place. Hence I came to refer to this essay as an ongoing essay. It may not be obvious from looking at the purple numbers in this essay's revised presentation with its new paragraph ID numbers, but the paragraph you are reading right now can be found not only by looking for fleabyte.org/My-2-cents/senate.html#15G but also by referencing to a previous ID number: fleabyte.org/My-2-cents/senate.html#31F . (I happento believe, rightly or wrongly, that with this thoroughly revised presentation the newer IDs are more convenient all around.)  15G

I am not for one moment suggesting that this would be a good way for members of a committee to come up with a final report. I am an old fogey and have gotten used to putting my writing immediately in html code, which, incidentally, I keep as simple as possible; no fancy graphics and all that. But much time has gone by since I last saw Doug Engelbart and today there are newer tools available for collaborative writing and editing. Putting the use of some such tool together with a tool like Skype or Apple's Face Time and, voilà, committee meetings can be held without needing to gather in a committee room. Meetings can even be stretched out over time without the need for any meeting schedules whatsoever. Wouldn't that be nice? And then there is full-blown, scheduled teleconferencing.  15H

A huge advantage of collaborative writing is that it disciplines writers to properly understand one another before issuing their final report; it is true "collective IQ" at work, vastly different from hearing people, noting what they have to say, then reporting on it; a process in which those consulted do not directly participate in writing the final report; a process not too dissimilar from the reporting done by even the best of journalists.  15I

A thing that struck me when reading some debates recorded in the Hansard was how they are controlled by clock and calendar.* For example, the so-called second reading of Bill S-8 during the 40th Parliament, An Act respecting the selection of senators, was a debate that lasted for ten sessions stretched over a period from April 29, 2010 through March 10, 2011. The bill was verbally introduced (45 min. allowed) at the outset of the first session followed by other senators' remarks ordinarily restricted to 15 min. although a critic of a bill is allowed 45 min. The roster of senators present varied from session to session. I have no doubts that there are either very good reasons for doing things that way or that it is merely following in the footsteps of a time-honoured tradition, or a bit of both. But it did not strike me as the most efficient way of taking care of business, which I understand to be the critical examination of the merits and presentation of the bill followed through by an adoption or a reference for some furher action, whatever.  15J

I understand that senators can make good use of the delays between sessions for thinking about things, for looking up some facts, for preparing a comment slated for the next session. As for myself, being a wee suspicious, I can also see here an opportunity for stalling the proceedings (as some Bloc Québecois MPs in the other House did during a debate reproduced in this essay's Appendix A), or, perhaps, to let the whole thing die on the order paper. But on the whole, the process seems exceedingly inefficient and, hence, costly.  15J1

From reading the Hansard it is quite obvious that the issue at hand was very much subject to the Canadian Constitution. In fact, that came up time and again. But sound legal insight was absent during the first four sessions. It was when the fifth session began that Senator Joyal critiqued Bill S-8 in the light of the Constitution. Had his mind and the minds of other senators involved in the debate been properly integrated (commonly known as "consulting") at an earlier point in time, both Houses could have been saved an enormous amount of time and effort that could have been put to better use.  15J2

Also, by looking at the Hansard, I am inclined to believe that the Senate has an excellent support staff with the capability of recording and putting into text Senate sessions, doing simultaneous translating, and all sorts of digital IT work. Surely, working with those kinds of professionals to develop improvements along the lines I discussed ought to produce an outcome that makes senators' work quite a bit more comfortable and more productive, and by faster-acting not unduly long hold up bills sent up from the Commons for Senate comments or approval. Or have them test various commercial solutions currently available—Duplex, for example. Here is how that one is advertised:  15K

DUPLEX is a distributed collaborative editor for users connected through a large-scale environment such as the Internet. Large-scale implies heterogeneity, unpredictable communication delays and failures, and inefficient implementations of techniques traditionally used for collaborative editing in local area networks. To cope with these unfavorable conditions, DUPLEX proposes a model based on splitting the document into independent parts, maintained individually and replicated by a kernel. Users act on document parts and interact with co-authors using a local environment providing a safe store and recovery mechanisms against failures or divergence with co-authors. Communication is reduced to a minimum, allowing disconnected operation. Atomicity, concurrency, and replica control are confined to a manageable small context.  15K1

Is Duplex the best solution available? I don't know, but the Senate's IT people should be able to find out and test all sorts of alternatives are out there. For an overview, see, e.g. the article Computer-supported cooperative work. This is a first step toward enhancing the Senate's collective IQ which, it seems to me, is worth a shot! Now on to the next step!  15L

In short

•  37. Senators should be informed about superior modes of working collectively and employ them to the max for greater efficiency and, eventually, for easing their workload.

•  38. The Senate's IT staff may well be of great assistance in accomplishing this.
 
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16.  Optimizing effectiveness: Solving complex problems  16

Today is September 10, 2014 and I have just been doing just another edit of this essay in which I began to include some notes after beginning to learn from Prof. Scott Page whom I already introduced in a footnote. His concern is breaking down institutional silos and building robust, effective teams.* Here then, briefly, is how I now perceive things.  16B

When we as Canadians think about diversity, we typically think of multiculturalism, i.e. differences in race, culture, religious beliefs, those sort of things. This kind of diversity is called identity diversity. It also includes gender and socioeconomic status. Note that I did not mention educational/professional attainment for that comes under the rubric cognitive diversity. Cognitive diversity includes perspectives, or the way we encode problems; heuristics, the tools and tricks used to solve problems; categories, the way we divvy up the world into similar things; models, ways of thinking about causal relationships between categories. It is cognitive diversity rather than identity diversity that makes diverse groups more innovative and productive. Identity diversity, to be sure, training, experiences, and interests are important drivers for cognitive diversity; they contribute to how people see the world differently and how people think differently about specific problems.  16C

Paragraphs 16C1 and 16C2 inserted Jan. 4, 2016
Eighty women prominent in politics, academe and the professions signed a letter urging Justin Trudeau to immediately go for an equal number of women and men in our Senate. This means that all 22 seats currently vacant should be filled with women. This would satisfy a desire for identity diversity. The letter,
as reported on by The Globe & Mail, appears to do little for cognitive diversity. This, of course, is not to say that first-rate professionals in a wide variety of fields cannot be found among women.  16C1

To be sure, the letter appears to go against the grain of a news release, dated Dec. 3, 2015, from the office of our Minister of Democratic Reform in which she announced the establishment of a new, non-partisan, merit-based process to advise on Senate appointments. First step is the appointment of an Independent Advisory Board [of seven people] on Senate Appointments to provide advice to the Prime Minister on candidates for the Senate. The board will be guided by public, merit-based criteria, in order to identify Canadians who would make a significant contribution to the work of the Senate. The criteria will help ensure a high standard of integrity, collaboration, and non-partisanship in the Senate. It is understood that gender parity will be identified as a strong priority. However, there will likely not be a "hard target" that requires, for instance, that exactly half of all suggested appointments be women. The new appointments process will be implemented in two phases. In the transitional phase, five appointments will be made early in 2016 to immediately reduce partisanship in the Senate and improve the representation of the provinces with the most vacancies (i.e. Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec). A permanent process will then be implemented with further enhancements to replenish the remaining vacancies, and will include an application process open to all Canadians.  16C3

Senator Linda Frum is interested in seeing that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfills his promise of a more independent and non-partisan Senate. Quoting her from The Globe & Mail article: "'That was the commitment he made, and that is the standard by which he should be judged, regardless of the sex, race, age or other attribute of his nominees,' she wrote Sunday in an e-mail. 'I congratulate every woman nominated, but what should most concern all Canadians about these Senate appointments is the integrity of Parliament and the truthfulness of our new Prime Minister. Dramatic gestures should not distract attention from broken promises'."  16C2

Diverse perspectives imply more possible solutions—as long as we are capable of evaluating them—and thereby enhanced capability to respond to challenges and trauma.  16D

When people, and I specifically think of those in government, talk about the benefits of diversity, they often err by believing there must be some sort of synergy, the combining of some things to get something amazing as a result. Sometimes, with diverse groups of people, we do get synergies, but synergy is not nearly as beneficial as having the right types of diversity in the right proportion. Talent, expertise are very important, but collective performance depends on combining and growing diverse talent.  16E

Because much political thinking revolves about identity diversification, involving the dividing up resources, making sacrifices of one sort or another for the sake of diversity. Prime Ministers worry about finding suitable female candidates to get some sort of politically acceptable gender balance among his ministers. Typically they pick for Senate appointments members of their one political party. They are concerned with who gets what share of the pie. In contrast, cognitive diversity is about creating a bigger and better pie by collectively tapping into diverse talents.  16F

Harkening back to Par 8B, we find that the UN's Millennium Project's "task forces are an amalgamation of representatives from the academic community, public and private sectors of society, civil society organizations, and UN agencies that also include participants from outside the UN. Each Task Force is composed of 15–20 members who are all international leaders in their specific area, and are selected on the basis of their practical experience and technical expertise." Might we learn from how they work? Why not swap notes with Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the project?  16G

As may be gleaned from the paragraphs in this chapter, this new way of creating more effective teams is something about which I myself still have more to learn. More importantly though, so do our political leaders and senators.* *  16H

        Distinguishing problems from solutions  16R

This essay is not about how to solve any of the many problems facing us, it is about how our Senate may go about preparing itself for coping with the increasingly complex problems that threaten our very existence. How to do the actual solving is the domain of experts, be they academics, practitioners, or teachers who should transfer their insights into our Senate. I happen to have here Solving complex problems: Professional group decision-making support in highly complex situations by Alexander de Haan and Pauline de Heer.* Looks like an excellent little book for those wishing to get a quick grasp of what is involved. I will quote just one paragraph from it to help us realize where we ourselves tend to err.  16S

"Global issues such as climate change, energy supply, health care and sustainability are often seen as 'problems.' But consider how these problems get addressed most of the time: 'we should stimulate the market for the electric car,' 'we should make transition toward hydrogen,' 'let's have vaccinations available in developing countries,' or 'take the train instead of the car.' Think about it, are these problems that are being addressed? No, these are, at best, solutions to problems illustrating that everybody seems to know what should be done about it, but do they know why? Typically, they announce their 'solution' and defend it. This will not help to constructively solve the problem." For an example, turn to this speech in the Commons which ends with a resounding "God keep our land glorious and free."  16T

We all know that to sustain ourselves and those we are responsible for usually requires holding down a job. Therefore, individuals should concentrate on preparing for a job, and as a society we concentrate on maintaining schools and on "creating" jobs if none are available. But as the previous paragraph shows, a lack of jobs is not the problem. The problem is the need for sustaining ourselves and those we are responsible for. Our societies have developed in such a way that the most common solution to that problem is having a job. In fact, there are many people who do not have a paid job; entrepeneurs, for example. At any rate, one could philosophize along this line till hell freezes over, but we should not lose sight of the fact that we may not have fully explored alternate solutions to the fundamental problem. That is the reason why earlier I asked that stupid question: "Create jobs? Why?" and following it through with "There is plenty to do besides holding down jobs in traditional industry and commerce. We are short of quality educators (including well-qualified parents) and health care workers of all stripes. We are short also of time to engage in trying to get a better understanding of our roles as voters and citizens. Parents are too often short of time to do their parenting. We are probably short of time to better hone our skills. And short of time to truly relax, cool our minds, allow time for our scope to widen beyond ourselves and immediate social environments."  16U

I sincerely believe that this essay should make a valuable contribution to society, at least far more valuable than a number of things I have done as part of a job. Yet, this work has been strictly voluntary, as will be my effort to see it applied. But this work is not my job.  16V

        Complex, wicked, super-wicked problems  16I

I have been using the term complex problem throughout, but some complex problems are more complex than others. Hence some distinctions:  16J

A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. The use of term "wicked" here has come to denote resistance to resolution on top of which, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems. Problems whose solution calls for a people to change their mindsets and behavior are likely to be wicked problems. Wicked problems include economic, environmental, and political issues such as global climate change, natural hazards, healthcare, the AIDS epidemic, pandemic influenza, international drug trafficking, nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, waste, and social injustice. (Ref.)  16K

Some characteristics of wicked problems:

        • The solution depends on how the problem is framed and vice versa (i.e., the problem definition depends on the solution)
        • Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem.
        • The constraints that the problem is subject to and the resources needed to solve it change over time.
        • The problem is never solved definitively.
 
16L

Super-wicked problems have some additional characteristics:

        • Time is running out.
        • No central authority.
        • Those seeking to solve the problem are also causing it.
        • Policies discount the future irrationally.
 
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Repeating Par. 7N8: "By now we know all too well that economics (or political economy) and environment are strongly intertwined, but many, if not most of us are blind, or blinding themselves, to the fact that it is the environment which occupies the driver's seat." Global warming is a super-wicked problem whose intervention calls for a shelving of our immediate interests to salvage our longer term interests. And that runs into another problem. How can we deal with wicked and super-wicked problems within the constraints of a democracy, no matter how anaemic? That seems to call for some state of emergency. Canada's Emergency Act provides for, among other emergencies, a declaration of a public welfare emergency. It would allow for a safeguarding of economic wellbeing, but what still needs looking into are our international trade agreements. A declared state of emergency may last for some five years. Yes, it looks like I have used rash language, but our measures must forestall worse.  16N

Today is September 5, 2015. For days on end the news has been flooded with the worsening migration problem caused mainly now by the war in Syria. Canadians are calling on our government to reach out. Europeans are calling on their governments to come up with solutions. And what is happening? Governments everywhere are talking about admitting migrants a year or so from now blithely overlooking that the problem is NOW! Apart from Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, our prime minister keeps on campaigning for reelection. Shouldn't Canadians expect that the whole damn campaign is put on hold? That our party "leaders" agree on that? That our government (a) immediately fly in thousands of refugees and house them in currently available empty living quarters and (b) begin processing them for potential immigration status, and (c) worry about the others later.  16N1

The previous paragraph ought to be a lesson to Canadians temselves as well. When things come down to the wire, our government is dumbstruck!  16N2

The term super-wicked problem was introduced and applied to global climate change some years ago and is the subject of a book by Kelly Levin, Benjamin Cashore, Graeme Auld and Steven Bernstein, Overcoming the tragedy of super wicked problems: constraining our future selves to ameliorate global climate change. I haven't read it, only the abstract. The first few lines already provide a highly important lesson: "Most policy-relevant work on climate change in the social sciences either analyze costs and benefits of particular policy options against important but often narrow sets of objectives or attempts to explain past successes or failures. We argue that an 'applied forward reasoning' approach is better suited for social scientists seeking to address climate change." I do not wish to speculate on what exactly is meant by "forward reasoning approach." I sense it to be more than a working through scenarios. But as for designing and evaluating scenarios is concerned, senators might do well to consult Montrealer Adam Kahane of Reos Partners. Among his accomplishments, facilitating cooperation among diverse group of South Africans working together to effect the transition to democracy. He has since led many such seminal cross-sectoral dialogue-and-action processes, working in more than 50 countries, with executives, politicians, generals, guerrillas, civil servants, trade unionists, community activists, United Nations officials, clergy and artists.  16O

The article referred to is, let's not overlook this, a research paper, nothing even approaching practical application. Nevertheless, the urgency of the problem requires immediate efforts toward coping with the problem while ongoing research may provide corrections and improvements along the way. The abstract further tells us that the four characteristics listed in Par. 16L "combine to create a policy-making 'tragedy' where traditional analytical techniques are ill equipped to identify solutions, even when it is well recognized that actions must take place soon to avoid catastrophic future impacts. To overcome this tragedy, greater attention must be given to the generation of path-dependent policy interventions that can 'constrain our future collective selves.' Three diagnostic questions result that orient policy analysis toward understanding how to trigger sticky interventions that, through progressive incremental trajectories, entrench support over time while expanding the populations they cover. Drawing especially from the literature on path dependency, but inverting it to develop policy responses going forward, we illustrate the plausibility of our framework for identifying new areas of research and new ways to think about policy interventions to address super wicked problems." I believe that, in practical terms, to "constrain our future collective selves" means declaring a state of emergency.  16P

        From research toward public policy  16P1

In 2012, the Australian Public Service published a document Tackling wicked problems: A public policy perspective in which it points out that the successful tackling of wicked problems requires a broad recognition and understanding, including from governments and Ministers, that there are no quick fixes and simple solutions. It requires thinking that is capable of grasping the big picture, including the interrelationships among the full range of causal factors underlying them. They often require broader, more collaborative and innovative approaches. This may result in the occasional failure or need for policy change or adjustment. The document must be carefully read in its entirety. Furthermore, it should be interesting to know how that document was received and acted on.  16P2

If this chapter has made readers' eyes glaze over then, at the very least, these paragraphs show that our Senate should be enhanced with people for whom all this is duck soup and that those people are put in a position to immediately positively interact with their colleagues.  16Q

In short

•  39. It is recommended that the Senate consults complex-problem solving specialists, notably including Prof. Sachs (director of the UN'a Millennium Project and author of "Common Wealth: Economics for a crowded planet") and Mr Adam Kahane of ReosPartners.

•  40. It is recommended that our Senate be enhanced with senators thoroughly familiar with, preferably experienced in, solving complex and wickedly complex problem solving.

•  41. Strongly recommended reading: "Tackling wicked problems: A public policy perspective," published by the Australian Public Service.
 
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17.  Interaction with the Commons  17

Our constitution demands that new legislation be passed by both Houses, the Commons and the Senate, even though the passing back and forth of bills consumes time. One time saver may be found by informing as much as possible members of Parliament before they deliberate an issue. This process may be further sped up by having some form of Senate representation (read: think tank representation) present during some of the ongoing discussions in Parliamentary committees and on the Commons' floor, possibly with a right to alert MPs to vital points they may have overlooked or to avoid bones of contention between the two chambers. And by arriving at a culture of debating issues efficiently.  17A

Just some thoughts in passing ....  17B

At this point in time (Febr. 26, 2017), we have a senator, the Hon. Peter Harder, serving as government representative, who outlined his role at the hearing by the Special Senate Modernization Committee held on Sept. 28, 2016:  17C

      "While I have been designated as the Government Representative in the Senate and though I have a deep interest in the modernization of the Senate, I am but one senator. The ultimate decision on the pace and shape of Senate modernization will be made with the participation of all senators and, hopefully, with the input of experts, former senators, indeed, all Canadians." (Ref.)  17D

Good intentions notwithstanding, such a role may well evaporate with the next federal election.  17E

In short

•  42. The Commons should be given heads-up at the earliest possible point in time.
 
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18.  Selection and tenure of senators  18

In addition to those essential prerequisites for "better" senators' political independence and forthrightness, we still have a problem with tenure. I must keep on belabouring the point that domestic and global circumstances change at an accelerating pace and that much—even though far from all!—of the experience gathered by people over a lifetime is rapidly outdated. And it needs to be emphasized that the preparation of many important proposals for government action is a complex problem and, hence, senators ought be up to scratch on techniques especially developed for solving complex problems. Both these points make the desirability of a fixed term limit of age 75, originally intended to strengthen independence of any senator's opinion in the face of adversary political pressures, questionable. Besides, 75 years is well beyond what society at large considers a normal age for retirement. Also a term limit of some fixed number of years, although possibly convenient politically, makes not much sense. Ideally, a senator's term limit should be based on fitness for the job at hand. The issue of freedom of thought is resolved by ensuring political independence and devising appropriate financial compensation and pension arrangements for efforts and time.  18A

Are we in need of a Constitutional change about tenure? There is a bit of recent history that we might consider.* Since 2006, the government has introduced eight bills aiming to achieve Senate reform, including the Senate Reform Act. However, in its opinion released on April 25, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada held that further reforms would require significant provincial consensus in order to proceed. The reforms then sought for aimed at elected senators and senatorial term limits. Because those term limits cannot or would not be applied retroactively, the Prime Minister, who has recommended close to 50 senators for appointment by the Governor-General, only did so after he or she verbally agreed to abide by a term limit as set out in any expected legislation to that effect.  18B

Appendix A records a debate in the Commons about Senate term limits; Appendix B records a debate in The Senate about An Act respecting the selection of senators. Although neither debate is particularly relevant to the proposal made in this essay, I do find them instructive, as evidenced by the comments I inserted in those records.  18B1

This essay does not concern so-called democratically elected senators, instead it concerns senators recommended to the PM (or perchance directly to the Governor-General) from our regions and from professional organizations on the basis of their professional insights, expertise, and relevant connections for gathering best advice available about issues under consideration. In other words, elected alright, but by peers instead of by Canadians more generally. To avoid any change in the Constitution, it is proposed that we follow in the current Prime Minister's footsteps by having candidates agree to resign when called for. There is no shame in this (in fact, a senator having served under such condition may well be entitled to be referred to as "Senator" henceforth); it merely allows one with qualifications better suited to deal with issues thrown up by an ever-changing environment to step in. In times of accelerating change, one never knows what is coming around the corner next.  18C

Somewhat limiting the choice of candidates is that new appointments need to be made while respecting the constitutionally established regional representations such as Quebec's 24, etc.. Of course, eventually it is best to seek a change in the Constitution, but it is expected that a rapidly enhanced usefulness of the ensuing senatorial brain trust ought to make the desired changes attractive to all regions and to the entire electorate.  18D

Earlier, when discussing the increased workload due to the expansion of the Senate's role (Par. 10P), I mentioned senators pro temp to take up the slack. This may well help avoid the issue just raised about a desired constitutional change. More on pro-temp senators further down in this essay.  18E

Another word about tenure. Currently, senators shall not be younger than 30 years of age. Yet many brilliant minds are much younger, notably among mathematicians. On the other hand, younger people are less likely to be cautious—simply a matter of psychological development. Why not have some brilliant young experts serve as squires to more mature senators?  18F

In short

•  43. As time marches on, problems become ever more complex and senators must be adept at dealing with them.

•  44.But the world's rapidly accelerating pace of change makes it ever harder for people to keep up with the times. Ideally, a senator's term limit should be based on fitness for the job at hand, not on some arbitrary rule.

•  45. Therefore, in order to avoid constitutional change, why not ask those recommended for a senatorial appointment to resign when called for?

•  46. A lifetime of experience, notably the very adapting to changing circumstances, remains highly valuable. Why not retain retiring senators as advisors?

•  47. Why not have some brilliant young minds serve as squires to more mature senators?
 
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19.  Managing the transition  19

Suppose that vacant Senate seats will henceforth be filled with the kind of qualified people I have in mind. How long would it take to complete the transition. Answer: unless some senators die or resign before their mandatory retirement age, 30 years. How long would it take to appoint only about 70 new senators (roughly corresponding to the that second group)? Answer: eight years.  19A

Considering the issues involved, eight years appears too long still. but considerable headway can be made in the meantime. Already 22 seats are available that may be filled by people with the kind of credentials ready to tackle some of the urgent problems outlined in Part II, people well connected with colleages throughout the entire world. Effectively integrating such people of a different mindset than is found in the present Senate probably will take some doing.  19B

Determining what kind of first-rate expertise has the highest priority will not be an easy process. I am inclined to think that one would first look at the most urgent big problems facing a reforming senate and try to fathom what mix of expertise is desired at the very beginning of the transition process; and work it so that the Constitutionally regional allotments are respected. That takes appropriate leadership. I imagine that the kind of talent needed to lead the Senate through this aspect of its work is best found among research managers, persons with nimble mind and at ease managing a group of diverse talents. Even finding such a person may well be best accomplished by a former CEO of a for-profit or non-profit organization. We also need keep in mind that people at the top of their career may not be easily persuaded to enter into an uncertain future in a political fray. For that reason alone, the Senate needs to be depoliticized—which is now occurring.  19C

Two paragraphs added Februari 1,2016
The recently prepared brief On guard in a global world for the Special Committee on Senate Reform includes he thought, "There ought to be another senator of about equal rank tasked with directing the complex-problem solvers, a person with relevant experience. Think of him or her as an R&D executive who in consultation with the Speaker assigns priorities to the work to be done and appoints committees with the blend of expertise presumably best suited to each task—committees whose composition may be altered as insights develop.)" I find that thought reinforced in a piece for the Globe & Mail of February 1, 2016 by columnist Ken Tencer:
Putting people into a room together doesn't make them a team. Tencer, who is the CEO of Spyder Works Inc., a branding and innovation company, writes:  19C1

"Without a leader and a conductor who can provide the big picture and co-ordinate all of the players, you're asking ... people to work outside of what they know and do every day. Understanding how everything fits together isn't a part of their job descriptions." One should think that suchleadershipshould be available to the senate as a whole as well as to each Committee concerned with solving complex problems.  19C2

And why not, perhaps only for a transitional period, consider a body of close-at-hand senatorial consultants, including experts at complex-problem solving to infuse the Senate, with needed skills?  19D

Trudeau eliminated the Liberal caucus. I imagine that many members of his party felt pretty bad about this, especially with a Senate divided along party lines. An objectively functioning think tank cannot very well condone such division to go on. Of course, people are entitled to their political views, but these should not stand in the way of effective cooperation among all senators. There shall no longer be Liberal senators and Conservative senators. Hence, the Conservative caucus has to go as well. May I suggest that the seating arrangement along party lines be eliminated; perhaps by reassigning seats by lottery.  19E

Senators, obviously, can no longer serve political parties as bagmen, nor shall they be making speeches for a fee. Conducting personal business on employer's time is ordinarily perceived as cause for dismissal. For a senator to be a bagman appears to be quite acceptable, going by what I read in the debate about senatorial term limits (Appendix A, Par. 24-6).  19F

Obviously, there can no longer be any political offices. It seems well that the role of Speaker be maintained, notably for ensuring the debates remain orderly and the speeches be purged from political sniping, however politely conducted. But the Speaker shall no longer be a political appointee; instead he or she, as well as a deputy, shall be chosen by secret ballot within the Senate. If so desired, the person so chosen remains to be recommended for appointment by the Governor-General.  19G

I imagine that the achieved political neutrality can only enhance the Senate's legislative role. Bills that a politically neutral Senate considers detrimental to the country as a whole should be sent back to the Commons for revision or withdrawal. Yes, we do need a Senate with legislative powers.  19H

In short

•  48. If those 22 Senate vacancies were filled so as to widely broaden existing senatorial expertise, a good start would have been made toward coping with the expanding scope of our Senate's role.

•  49. It is felt that the wider scope of the Senate's role, the adjusting to an unfamiliar mode of collaboration, as well as the blending of a wide variety of mindsets calls for appropriate management.
 
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20.  Regional prerogatives  20

Whereas about one third of the senators would be representing regional/cultural groups, the other senators would be preoccupied with serving overall Canadian interests. Currently, regions are concerned about the numbers of senators allotted to represent them politically—in the case, especially, of Quebec, justifiably so. (Ref.) It is expected that if it can be shown that we have arrived at a Senate truly independent from partisan politics, that concern will gradually evaporate, especially when the benefits of an effective Senatorial think tank are becoming obvious. It is then that the time will have come to engage with the regions to arrive at improving the Constitution and thereby, unrestricted by regional allotments of senators, benefit from a better opportunity of finding the very best candidates for our Senate.  20A

In short

•  50. It is hoped that any felt need for having a constiutional claim on the provincial allocation of Senate seats will evaporated if internal Senate reforms as advocated proves to be beneficial.
 
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21.  Proposed changes in the light of partisan objectives
This chapter seems to have become redundant by the end of 2015, but I still think it should not be removed yet.  
21

Within a few months from the day of this writing (August 20, 2015), we shall be having a federal election and campaigning is already well under way. Let us consider a scenario of a Senate highly weighted to the Conservative and that the New Democratic Party will be elected. Having a left-wing Parliament along with a right-wing Senate, each one able to block legislation issuing from the other Chamber, is setting up for a potential political disaster. Something like this has been going on in the U.S.A. for some time, unnecessarily diminishing the sitting President from carrying out his responsibilities to the maximum. Maybe, if not probably, heads are a little cooler here in the True North, but nevertheless ....  21A

And oh, how short my memory! Twelve pages in Protecting Canadian Democracy, which I only recently read, regale us with clashes between former Prime Minister Mulroney and the Senate. "Frequent vitriolic denunciations of the Upper House were taken up by the media, helping to create the perception of the illegitimate [meaning "unelected"] Senate." But [I'll be quoting from a contribution by C.F.S. Franks, Professor Emeritus of Political Studies a Queen's University] "For much of this period, the Senate was the more interesting house, though the lack of media coverage obscured this from the general public. Parliamentary government, particularly when the party lines and discipline over the private member are as rigid as they are in Canada, requires checks on the government through a vigorous opposition. Government control of proceedings in the House of Commons had by then become so strong that the capacity of the opposition to delay, to examine, to expose faults, and to instigate public discussion was dramatically curtailed. The Mulroney Government shortened its time spent on debate of each item of legislation in the chamber, and committee investigation, if anything, became more virulent, partisan, and superficial than before. These problems of weak opposition and government domination still bedevil the House of Commons.  21A1

"In this 1984–93 period the Senate was often the real focus of opposition in the government. On many crucial issues, both debate and committee investigation in the Upper Chamber were freer, more extensive, and more interesting than in the Lower House. The Senate fulfilled its role as a chamber of sober second thought."  21A2

It bears repeating, I think, that much undue delay and acrimony may be forestalled by moving to a Senate Chamber strongly engaged in providing forethought.  21A3

I should think that the changes here proposed accord well with a view expressed by Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau: We need better senators. They also accord well with the long-standing sentiment of the New Democrats: Abolish the Senate. After all, my proposal is to abolish the current mode of operation by having the Senate remodel itself into an effective think tank as a wellspring for informed decision-making by our popularly elected government.  21B

As for the stance of the Conservatives, our current Conservative Prime Minister made a considerable effort to move forward to senators elected from within the provinces. But seeing his efforts blocked by a Supreme Court ruling that any such Senate reform calls for agreement among all provinces, he not merely threw in the towel, but decided to henceforth not make any recommendations for the available Senate posts, instead just let the Senate die by attrition and then abolish it. The desire for a Triple-E Senate—which calls for senators to be elected to exercise effective powers in numbers equally representative of each province—seems to have faded in recent years. The eight bills introduced under the Harper government are ultimately aiming for elected senators. A Senate debate about one of the eight bills mentioned above (An act respecting the selection of senators), began by then Senator Bert Brown providing a historical overview, see Appendix B. Although not much relevant to this essay, it still makes for interesting reading. Let's view the above proposals in the light of each of those E's.  21C

Equal  21D

Taking Australia as a somewhat simple example, it has 12 senators from each of its six states plus two from each of the autonomous internal territories. Problems do arise from a demographic imbalance, e.g. Tasmania, with a population of around 500,000, elects the same number of senators as New South Wales, which has a population of over 7 million (ref.), a situation not unlike ours. That is why this essay proposes that we have a group of people in our Senate who function on the basis of demographic equality rather than regional equality and do so in a way that doesn't (yet) upset our traditional applecart, see Par. 13 ff.  21E

Effective  21F

I see no need to belabour this point any further.  21G

Elected  21H

Yes, they are elected; they are elected in part by regional representatives, in part by professional peers who, after all, are in a better position than the general public to evaluate required talents and other personal qualities. To be sure, they are not elected the way politicians are elected; they are elected like bus drivers and airline pilots, medical doctors and lawyers, mechanics and electricians, by competent examining bodies, bodies with legal status—ultimately acting on behalf of the public at large—and by employers. Besides, whatever advice the Senate offers, has to pass through that elected filter, our Commons, before being adopted.  21I

In short

•  51. It is felt that the proposed internal Senate reform by-and-large meets stated partisan objectives.
 
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22.  Recommendations for the immediate future  22

It seems well to have an agreement between all five currently acceptable party leaders to adopt proposals made in this essay by asking business associations and professional/academic associations to make their recommendations via our Senate to the Governor-General, who, according to Section 24 of the Constitution, "shall from Time to Time, in the Queen's Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summon qualified Persons to the Senate; and, subject to the Provisions of this Act, every Person so summoned shall become and be a Member of the Senate and a Senator." There is no constitutional provision that the Governor-General needs to be advised by a Prime Minister.  22A

Such an action would put this proposal to a test whence it shall become clearer how to proceed further in a year or two. Wouldn't that combine good Canadian caution with good horse-sense?  22B

As for the longer-term future, it may be well (who knows?) to add for an interim period any required number of experts as senators pro temp or adjunct senators with a, say, six years contract limit. They would gain senatorial experience and be candidates for senatorial posts when seats become vacant.  22C

In the meantime, most if not all of our provincial legislatures would probably be quite interested in this proposal once it begins to prove itself. As for the electorate, I somehow feel confident that thinking Canadians will welcome it when understood.  22D

January 23, 2015
Obviously, I like recommendations for improving this essay and it becoming subject of study by the Special Committee on Senate Modernization about to be struck. The clerk of the committee is about to post a brief based on this essay
here.  22E

In short

•  52. Depoliticizing our Senate is a sine qua non. There should be partisan unanimity on that score.
 
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23.  Views about modernizing our Senate, &c.  23

Subsequent to the election of the Liberal government in October 2015, 38 senators met for three days in private sessions in an attempt to modernize our Senate. Actually, preparations for the event had begun some six months earlier by asking senators to fill out a detailed questionnaire. Appendix G shows how, in general, senators feel what modernization should entail. The discussions were mostly inward looking. They concerned primarily how improvements might be made in the way Senate works. They did not concern what the Senate should aim to accomplish in this day-and-age of highly integrated, ever-complexing, often urgent problems. I inked-in some comments in the light of the what, not the how.  23A

It is good to know that on December 11 of 2015, our Senate adopted a motion to strike a 15-member Special Committee on Senate Modernization. The motion and a debate leading to its adoption are found here. Actually, the issue had already been debated for some considerable time, see Appendix F. The first year of publicly televised proceedings of the Special Committee on Senate Modernizatio (MDRN) are found in Appendix H (again with some of my personal comments "inked-in"). Not so good to know is that no attention has been paid to world-wide events that impact the wellbeing of Canadian citizens. This is understandable when one considers that our Senate as a collective does not have the spread of talents and expertise needed to address those highly integrated, wickedly complex problems involved. Clearly, this is a serious shortcoming and can only be addressed by either altering the composition of the Senate or adding senators pro temp as advocated in this essay, see above, par. 22C.  23B

Perusing some of the senatorial exchanges, we find some contriteness and no lack of self-congratulatory comments, but, again, I regret to write that thus far the Senate as a whole has yet to come to terms with what really is required: a Senate attempting to protect Canadians against global threats as well as other complex issues as exemplified in Part II of this essay. Let's hope that the Special Committee on Senate Modernization shall put Canadian interests ahead of our Senate's internal concerns such as the modifying of established practices and, hence, will be able to do much better!  23C

In the meantime, it is hoped that the newly established Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments (announced on January 19, 2016) will make judicious recommendations for Senate appointments so as to broaden the range of senatorial expertise. Its terms of reference mandate the board to provide non-binding merit-based recommendations. But what, precisely, is meant by "merit"? Recommendations for Senate appointments will proceed in two phases as detailed on the Board's website. The board is constrained by the constitutional requirement that the initial recommendations must be for two persons each from Ontario and Manitoba and one from Quebec, and beyond that it should strive for gender balance. How about that old adage "form follows function"? What function? What merit? Let's hope that things will work out well! Somehow.  23E

It is heartening to read in The Globe & Mail of Feb. 12, 2016 that the time of "gift appointments" is coming to an end. Based on an interview with Michael Wernick, the newly installed clerk of the Privy Council, we learn that the government will engage in more rigorous head-hunting and setting clearer selection criteria for government appointees. "You will see in the coming weeks a more rigorous process around Governor-in-Council appointments." Further, "The goal is to increase accountability, ensure better representation and recruit higher quality talent for appointments to Canada's public institutions, a reform of mainly patronage jobs that would be in line with the Liberal plan for merit-based appointments to the Senate."  23F

I imagine that, when all is said and done, we may see a fresh, effective working relationship evolving between the branches, departments and agencies of our government. One may dream, may one not?  23G

In short

•  53. A question to ponder: What, precisely, is meant by "merit" when considering that the appointment of senators should be merit-based? As it stands, the word is neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring!
 
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24.  Whence this essay?  24

In October of 2013, after reading and hearing about Senate scandals, I decided to learn a little bit about this institution. At first it seemed things were as bad if not worse than advertised, but I quickly learned that our Senate ought to really be a most valuable institution. I then wrote some comments in a letter which, on November of 2013, I handed to my regional MP. She promised a response, but that was not forthcoming. Nevertheless, I couldn't get the issue off my mind and eventually the letter grew into an essay—a document continually corrected, upgraded, edited, what have you. I put the essay on my personal website and, upon the urging of a candidate for the 2015 federal election, I alerted, in the Spring of 2015, our senators to the effort.  24A

To show that, fundamentally, my thinking has hardly changed since that time, here are some key paragraphs in that letter to my MP:  24B

      "The foremost consideration that precipitated my writing this is the necessity to include the best available knowledge and thought in our senators' work. This is not likely to come about by senators choosing people to consult. We need the most relevant expertise and most desirable personal contacts right within the Senate. Moreover, I believe that senators should not be beholden or even feel beholden to political influences and that this, perforce, includes resignation from any political party they used to belong to. And surely, senators can't be overtly or covertly canvassing for funds for a political party.  24C

      "Individual senators should be free to change their mind as they learn about signiicant going-ons in the world. In other words, senators should have a clear and open mind in the best tradition of scientific thinking. Among other things, this requires that senators refrain from making public speeches because whatever is said publicly by a person is commonly taken to be that person's position from then on and forever. Traditionally, the media make much hay from public personae saying one thing at one time, something else at another."  24D

      "Usually, appointments to the Senate are political rewards. That, of course, is entirely wrong. They should be appointed solely on the basis of the expert contribution they are expected to make. Political leaders and their personal staff cannot be expected to be objective in this regard. Clearly, members of the Senate should be drawn from the broadest expertise available, which notably includes scientific expertise (academia), social organizations, management, technology, education (which includes family life), etc. Because senators are appointed by the Governor-General, this person should have available to him a suitable standing committee for making the needed recommendations.  24E

      "... To make well-developing thinking efficient, multiple brains should be folded into one. Digital technology permits people with widely varying expertise to edit from their backgrounds an expression of common, coherent thought. Let me quickly interject here by pointing out that this involves cooperative writing of documents with authors in continual contact, in other words many expert brains work together as a single super-expert.  24F

      ...."Much of our electorate is a, for our time, much under-educated populace whose available energy is either used up in making ends meet and/or in activities that bear no fruit for themselves or for others. Maybe it is fortuitous that many people simply don't vote, but even those who do vote have only scant knowledge of who or what they are voting for—including me. Politicians are much preoccupied by trying to steer (at great expense of money and by warping mindsets) the voice of the electorate their own way, all of which takes attention away from the nation's business. What a waste! Much time would be better spent learning froma well-informed Senate."  24G

25.  How about our offspring?  25

Again, I wrote this in the Fall of 2013, well before I began looking into our Senate's constitutional role and its functioning. Today (March 13, 2017), there is a move on toward a politically independent Senate and recommendations for Senate appointments made by an independent advisory committee. But we are still far from creating the kind of think tank I have been advocating in that letter and this essay. Having followed the public sessions of the modernization committee, it is clear that our Constitution presents no obstacle; the question I am now asking myself is whether a majority of the committee members and indeed all senators are confident enough and ready to shift gears. (I do believe some are.)  25A

This essay's topics about a functional distinction among senators and senators seeking to understand citizens' concerns are just about verbatim taken from a follow-up letter I wrote to my MP on November 18, 2013. May I now suggest that the events currently playing out in the U.S. (as well as in a number of European countries) be an impetus for our Senate's thinking about this matter; and also about this essay's proposal to take a hard look at the functioning of Canadian democracy.  25B

Mine was the first Brief to the MDRN Committee, yet, after more than a year has gone by all I know is that it has been distributed among the committee's members. Up to this point in time (March 13, 2017), the modernization committee has concerned itself about improving the Senate's functioning. In contrast, the weight of my essay is about shifting much of that sober second thought to timely forethought. As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It is a process that calls for expanding the role of our Senate to becoming a guardian for our citizenry in a global environment that is fraught with dangerous interactions. Throughout that year, we have observed the worrysome political developments in the United States and surmize that those are primarily a consequence of the political upper-echelon of a society having little or no empathy for their the broad mass of their fellow citizens. Add to this a fear of foreigners and a lack of understanding what citizenship is and/or ought be about. To be sure, this is not merely typical of what is going on south of our border; it is something that pervades all of Western society.  25C

Diligently following the publicly televised sessions of the MDRN Committee filled me with two emotions: fascination and anxiety. It is fascinating to observe a Senate committee in action—excluding, of course, what goes on in camera. On the other hand, I am anxious to see the MDRN Committee come to grips with what I consider a modernization that Canada really needs: Expanding the Senate's investigative role by including a sense of obligation to become effective guardians in an increasingly unstable and threatening global environment. Plus a clear sense of empathy for the broad mass of Canadians.  25D

One may question why I am still going through this, often seemingly futile, exercise. It is because I am concerned about the kind of society my children, grandchildren, and now a great-grandchild are living and growing up in. As for myself, I am nearly 90 years old and have not long to live. Throughout the summer of 2016, I was expecting not ever to see my great-grandchild, born a month into the autumn. I wrote the committee members an email to this effect in the hope it would speed up being heard. I pointed out the amount of work—including the hearing of expert witnesses—the committee still needed to do before it is scheduled to wind up, by June 30, 2017. And that is where things stand this Sunday, April 2, 2017.  25F

In short

•  54. Yet to be addressed, as off March 19, 2017, is my major concern: that our Senate should be prepared to expand its investigative role to an investigative, anticipating, and critical problem-solving role.
 
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Footnotes

Serge Joyal, "Reflections on the path to Senate reform," Canadian Parliamentary Review, 22, no. 3, 1999 (ref.).  *   fn1


"You are not 'lords of the manor'," Pope Francis to the curia, Dec. 22, 2014 (catholicnewsagency.com, Dec. 24, 2014).  *   fn2


A fairly experienced 89-year-old worried about the future.  *   fn3


Worth reading in this connection is the chapter named "What's happened to democracy in Canada?" in Bob Rae's book What's happened to politics? (2015). *   fn3A


This defect of our democracy is extensively discussed in the book The people's House of Commons: Theories of democracy in contention, 2007, by David E. Smith (see Chapter 6, "Who are the people?").  *   fn4


In response to Rudyard Griffiths, chair of the public affairs forum "Munk Debates." Globe & Mail, August 22, 2015, p. F3.  *   fn5


The year after, Macdonald gives a rather different impression of his thinking: "Springing from the people, and one of them, [the senator] takes his seat in the council with all the sympathies and feelings of a man of the people, and when he returns home at the end of a session, he mingles with them on equal terms and is influenced by the same feelings and associations, and events, as those which affect the mass around him." (in the Canadian Legislative Assembly).  *   fn6


Quoting: "The most common idea—sometimes described as the 'inescapable federal principle'—is this: That those matters of a 'national', 'general', or 'common' interest should be vested in the central government, while matters of a 'local or 'particular' interest should be left in the hands of the regional governments." (Ref.).  *   fn7


From my own experience, prior to May 1940, there was a strong sentiment in The Netherlands that Germany would never invade the country. Why should they? They didn't during the First World War! The government and the people were quite unprepared for what was to come, the indiscriminate bombing of a large city and the overrunning and occupation of the country by Nazi Germany.  *   fn8


Charles Higham's 1983 book Trading with the Enemy is a non-fictional account of major American firms trading with Nazi Germany when American soldiers fought, sacrificed, and died during World War II.  *   fn8A


From "Extremists training to hit the West: report," The [Montreal] Gazette of Aug. 30, p. A15: "More than a dozen departments and agencies involved in Canada's response, which includes a program being developed by the RCMP for 'targeted interventions' against youth being drawn into violent extremism." Note: being developed! Haven't we known about such youth for years? University of Toronto professor Thomas Homer-Dixon alerted us to the problem in his year-2000 book The ingenuity gap. I remember him writing about Pakistan's large number of unemployed youth being vulnerable to extremism. From the same author The upside of down (2006) in which he argues that [from the flaps] "the modern world has become increasingly vulnerable to breakdown—whether from terrorist attacks, environmental disasters, energy scarcity, and the widening gap between rich and poor." Further, "Breakdown need not spiral into calamity or total collapse if we think creatively, act boldly, and develop resilient societies in advance." IN ADVANCE! Would not a Senate as I envision it in this essay be an enormously valuable tool in bringing this about?  *   fn9


Canada has about 40 think tanks, many very well known, but mostly in the one-issue category. In addition there are available deeply thought-out reports from U.S. think tanks such as "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World" and "Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds" issued by the Directorate of National Intelligence and the National Intelligence Council in 2008 (ref.) and by the NIC in 2012 (ref.). Those two are models of reporting, complete with executive summaries.  *   fn10


In the final years of my life, I find my thoughts often dwelling on wrong choices I have made or simply could have done better. I am much tempted to not bother doing this essay, but then I sense that would be another wrong choice, Will this proposal get anywhere? I doubt it, but it certainly will not if I do not try to get it acted on in some beneficial way.  *   fn11


About 400 people, about three dozen representatives from Bhutan among them, met in 2005 at St. Francis Xavier University. Offering a mix of soft ideals and hard-nosed number crunching, many participants insisted that the focus on commerce and consumption that dominated the 20th century need not be the norm in the 21st century. Around the world, a growing number of economists, social scientists, corporate leaders and bureaucrats are trying to develop measurements that take into account not just the flow of money but also access to health care, free time with family, conservation of natural resources and other noneconomic factors. See Andrew C. Revkin, A new measure of well-being from a happy little kingdom, New York Times.  *   fn12A


Mr. O'Leary—this may be hard to believe by viewers of "The Dragons', Den" and kindred programs—received an honours bachelor's degree in environmental studies and anthropology from the University of Waterloo. Yet he is an outspoken propagandist for capitalism, freely plugging on public TV a mutual fund he co-founded and chairs.  *   fn13


I just love this parable by computer pioneer Doug Engelbart (who we shall meet later in this essay): "I get a picture sometimes of a very smart species of ants. And, they found a really effective way to live. And, they build a nest up in a tree. And, they were just so effective that they multiplied. And, whoopee, everything was just great. Until one day they got so heavy the branch broke and dropped them into the water underneath. And, they all drowned. But, do you suppose you could have told the boss ant that's what's going to happen? Of course not."  *   fn14


For a more detailed, authoritative commentary on U.S. capitalism, see, e.g., Robert Reich's website. Robert Reich was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration.  *   fn15


Already care givers are being replaced, as well as added to, by robots to comfort the growing numbers of elderly. But is it wrong to assume that most of them would prefer the human touch?  *   fn17


On October 26, 2014, I emailed the following query to the Governor-General's office (info@gg.ca):
"I understand that our governor-general appoints senators on recommendation by the prime minister.
"I wonder, is the governor-general entitled to make senate appointments on the advice of others or on his own initiative (with or without consent of the Queen)?
"Respectfully," etc.
On November 4, I received this reply:
"On behalf of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, I am responding to your email.
"Thank you for your inquiry. The governor general appoints senators on the recommendation of the prime minister. For further information on the process and criteria, please contact the Prime Minister's Office at the following address" etc.
As if I did not know as much already! And so, I gave it another try:
"Thank you for your reply on the above topic. However, there is some misunderstanding here as you may gather from my original enquiry (see below).
"My question was whether the governor-general is entitled to make senate appointments other than on the advice of the prime minister. All the Constitution tells us the senators are appointed by the governor-general – nothing about the absolute powers of the prime minister on this matter.
"Looking forward to your reply."
It came soon thereafter:
"Thank you for your subsequent email.
"I apologize for the confusion. The governor general appoints senators on the advice of the prime minister exclusively.
"Regards," etc.
Dear reader, how does one get through to such people? Was I not clear? Or is this an example of deliberate stonewalling?  
*   fn19


An invaluable trait of the scientific community is its being self-scrutinizing and self-correcting, a trait without which the pursuit of scientific advances is severely hampered. And, no, I am not saying that because a paper is scientific it is by definition without bias.  *   fn20


I am mostly leaning on the expertise of Dr Scott E. Page, professor of complex systems, political science, and economics at the University of Michigan. Dr Page's principal preoccupation is enhancing collective performance, (Ref.).  *   fn21


I have had the good fortune to have visited Silicon Valley a number of times as guest of computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart. The mental change stepping out of the backwater where I reside (a very nice, relaxing backwater, to be sure) into an environment of bright thinkers from Stanford University and the Univeristy of California was for me each time an energizing and uplifting experience. I imagine that many senators will similarly enjoy a direct working relationship with people having many different professional backgrounds, people who just think differently.  *   fn22


Rudyard Griffiths argues that Canada has become a "postmodern state"—a nation that downplays its history and makes few demands on its citizens, allowing them to find their allegiances where they may, in their region, their ethnic group or the language they speak. According to Griffiths the notion of a national identity, with shared responsibilities and a common purpose, is considered out of date, even a disadvantage in a world of transnational economies, resurgent regions and global immigration. Griffiths argues that this vision of Canada is an intellectual and practical dead end. Without a strong national identity and robust civic values, the country will be hard pressed to meet the daunting challenges that lie ahead: the social costs of an aging population, the unavoidable effects of global warming and the fallout of a dysfunctional immigration system. Griffiths calls for a rediscovery of the founding principles that made Canada the nation it is today and why a loyalty beyond the local and personal is essential to Canada's survival. (From Wikipedia.) *   fn23


Shades of C.P. Snow's "two solitudes."  *   fn24


Scott E. Page, The hidden factor.: Why thinking differently is your greatest asset. (On DVD from The Great Courses.)  *   fn25


An alternative to my proposal is the creation of an extra-senatorial think tank to function along above lines, perhaps including experienced people from the currently existing think tanks, and perhaps phase out the existing Senate by Constitutional change.  *   fn26


From my days as an editor, a long, long time ago, I still remember a comment made by a president of Montreal's Northern Electric Company in a speech at a convention. He said that he always was pleasantly struck when members of his technical staff could not readily verbalize their thoughts; "it showed they were thinking!" What a refreshing rebuttal of all that glib talk we drown in. This points to another advantage of collaborative thinking by doing so by together working on a single document (see footnote 10.  *   fn27


The book referred to is a textbook that goes with an online course Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making offered free of charge by Delft University in The Netherlands through EdX.  *   fn27a


Gleaned from a debate in the Commons on a bill about Senate term limits and a debate in the Senate about the selection of senators.  *   fn28


Traditional opinion has it that the advantage of a bicameral system is higher quality legislation is the outcome of a debate by two chambers and that the disadvantage of such a system is the lack of fast reponsivenes, especially in the case of a crisis. What we have advocated here removes the disadvantage of having a bicameral chamber while retaining its advantages.  *   fn29

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PART I
The sorry state of things

Our democracy is anaemic and the fault lies with the electorate and our elected representatives. Abolishing our Senate will allow things to get worse.

PART II
Heart of our darkness:

Urgent, complex issues

A gallery of issues that need addressing. Not doing so will get us deeper into a hole from which escape becomes unlikely.

PART III
A Senate adapting to the times

Our Senate is in a better position than the Commons is for tackling the highly integrated, increasingly complex problems we are faced with at an accelerating clip. Here is a sketch of a proposal about how our Senate can transform itself for the task at hand.

PROCEEDINGS,
&c of the

Special Committee on Senate Modernization (MDRN)

Transcripts, reports, and comments relative to this essay.

BRIEF (May 2017)
being submitted to the MDRN committee

This Brief serves to replace one submitted in February of 2016.