22 October 2007

Shame! Shame!


The red line: The number of sitting days, by year, in the unelected Senate, from 1996 to 2007. The last number is estimated, since the Senate is still sitting. It's current total of 54 days (as of 22 Oct 2007) will likely hit the 70 days or thereabouts which have been typical over the last five years.

The blue line: Sitting days in the elected House of Assembly, over the same time period. The 2007 figure is accurate since the Williams administration has decided to cancel the usual fall sitting of the provincial legislature.

For all the jokes about the Senate being the ante-chamber to the Kingdom of heaven and the the cracks about senators not showing up for work and still getting paid, here are the bare facts. It should be an embarrassment to every legislator in Newfoundland and Labrador that the senators put in more time doing their jobs than their local elected cousins do.

Consider that senators spend considerable time outside the chamber attending committee meetings on a variety of subjects like the fishery, national defence, or federal-provincial relations. Members of the House of Assembly are not burdened by such responsibilities; they just get to show up and, if the last sitting is any guide to the future, nod their approval when the House leader gestures such that 70% of the bills presented get passed with a mere couple of hours of discussion. Legislation in the local chamber are never subjected to detailed scrutiny by the elected representatives of the province.

The men and women who fought to have responsible government established in Newfoundland and Labrador are surely spinning in their graves.

Those of us who voted in the recent general election are just plain appalled.


Almost immediate update: Since 2003, the House of Assembly has met, on average, about the same number of days each year that Tom Rideout spent as Premier in 1989.