The Senate and Bank Mergers
L. Ian MacDonald wroteÂ a defence of the Senate in todayâ€™s Montreal Gazette. He makes the familiar argument that it provides useful study of policy issues.
However, his first example is the 2002 Senate report supporting bank mergers. In the wake of the global financial crisis, we should be glad that opposition MPs like Lorne Nystrom provided a sober second thought on this issue.
The Gazette has posted the following letter from me in response to MacDonald:
Abolish the Senate and support independent policy analysis
Re: â€œA scandal shouldnâ€™t overshadow the good work the Senate doesâ€ (L. Ian MacDonald, May 29)
L. Ian MacDonald writes, â€œback in 2002, the (Senate) Banking committee turned out an outstanding report recommending large bank mergers in record time of only two months. â€¦ It was no mystery â€” many senators on the Banking committee had been executives or directors of banks.â€
It is widely acknowledged that rejecting bank mergers was a wise decision that helped Canada weather the financial crisis better than many other countries. The Senateâ€™s quickness to endorse bank mergers, based on close ties to Bay Street, is hardly a compelling defence of the institution.
MacDonaldâ€™s broader point is that the Senate has generated some thoughtful reports on policy issues. But is spending $92.5 million every year on the Senate really a cost-effective way to produce needed policy analysis?
By comparison, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has provided policy analysis that is at least equally good on an annual budget of $2.8 million.
Some Senators have done good work. If we want more and better policy work, we should abolish the Senate and invest some or all of the savings in directly supporting independent policy analysis.
Economist, United Steelworkers