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Bill that would let B.C. voters choose senators aimed at generating debate


British Columbia's Shirley Bond, points as she walks in Vancouver, B.C., on June 17, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VICTORIA - B.C.'s Liberal government has introduced but doesn't intend to pass legislation that would allow voters to elect Senate nominees.

Attorney General Shirley Bond said Wednesday Elections BC would administer the process and voters would cast ballots for Senate nominees in conjunction with or independent of a provincial election.

The bill was introduced into the legislature in Victoria less than a month after the federal Conservatives announced they're referring several questions on Senate reform to the Supreme Court of Canada and less than three months before British Columbians head to the polls.

"We are going to allow British Columbians to look at what comprehensive Senate legislation might look like, but obviously we don't intend to attach it to the provincial election, and so in fact we're going to leave it on the order paper," said Bond.

"We don't intend to pass the bill this session."

Under the bill, ballots could be cast in person or even by mail, and elected nominees would be recommended to the prime minister for appointment to the upper chamber.

Alberta and Saskatchewan have similar legislation to elect senate nominees.

Noting the federal government's reference on Senate reform to the Supreme Court of Canada, Bond said she wanted to generate discussion and debate.

"I've certainly indicated that British Columbia will likely look for intervenor status at some point, once we understand what the federal arguments around Senate reform might be," she added.

Among the issues the federal Conservatives announced they'll be asking the country's highest court to consider is the constitutionality of their Senate reform proposals.

The Supreme Court could take as long as two years to answer questions that focus on Senate term limits, elections and even abolition of the institution.


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