‘Rejuvenation’ needed in Senate: Lang

Yukon Senator Dan Lang is pleased with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plans to overhaul the Red Chamber.

Yukon Senator Dan Lang is pleased with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plans to overhaul the Red Chamber.

Legislation tabled in Parliament on Tuesday would limit the terms of recently appointed senators to one, nonrenewable nine-year term. Currently, senators can serve for up to 45 years—from the age of 30 to 75.

Senators appointed before 2008 would be exempt from the change. But it would cover Lang, who was among 18 Conservative appointees picked by Harper in December in 2008.

The changes “shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone,” said Lang. Harper has long promised to reform the Senate. And he required the latest round of appointees to commit to co-operate with these plans.

But Harper has faced resistance from some Conservative senators. Some quibbled over the proposed term length, while others lamented how reform would create a more politicized Senate.

“You can argue the numbers,” said Lang. “But the fact is, I think for the benefit of the chamber, you need rejuvenation. In principle, I think it’s going in the right direction.”

Yet Lang won’t fully commit his support to the bill yet. “I just glanced through it. It just got tabled yesterday, and I’ve been dealing with a lot of other things as well,” he said.

“Until I see the final product, I’m not here to commit myself.”

Nor does Lang expect to seek a mandate to sit in Senate. He reckons the Yukon “probably has some time”- until his term expires – before it would hold a Senate election.

“It’s all in the preliminary stages. You have to remember, they’ve been talking about Senate reform since 1870. Let’s put it in perspective.”

The federal NDP Opposition, meanwhile, has called for the abolition of the Senate.

Lang was once a skeptic of the Red Chamber. “Like a lot of Canadians, I didn’t really know what the Senate did,” he said. “I think most of your readership would echo that to some degree. But it’s a very important institution.

“We live in the nicest country in the world. And one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And part of the reason we have that country today is our political institutions. They have to be taken very seriously, although it’s very easy to be critical of the government.”

Lang has helped the Senate draft reports on public policy matters such as Arctic sovereignty and the legal and constitutional questions surrounding DNA testing. “Those are very, very important areas of concern,” he said.

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