Prime Minister Harper hopes for Senate reform road map today

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping to get a road map for Senate reform from the Supreme Court of Canada, but he may end up with a road block instead.

The top court will hand down its opinion today on how the disgraced, scandal-plagued upper house can be either reformed or abolished.

And no matter what the high court does, democratic reform minister Pierre Poilievre says he's hoping it will give Harper at least some tools he can use to make changes.

But the court may well conclude that the only possible route involves constitutional amendments approved by at least seven provinces.

With Harper having steadfastly rejected reopening constitutional talks in the past, such an opinion from the court would amount to a political dead end.

Wrangling over the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords in the early 1990s nearly tore the country apart and Harper has said he has no interest in plunging back into that quagmire.

His best hope for Senate reform lies in the court accepting his position that a nine-year term limit on senators and creating a process for "consultative elections'' of Senate nominees are mere housekeeping measures that can be unilaterally carried out by the federal government.

But the chances of that happening appear slim.

The eight justices who presided over a three-day hearing on the Senate reference last November appeared skeptical about the federal arguments.

The vast majority of provinces have argued that the government's proposed reforms would change the fundamental character of the Senate as an independent, unelected, regionally equal chamber of sober second thought.


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