Tenants are Ineligible for Canada’s Senate

A Canadian who doesn’t own property can never be appointed to Canada’s Senate. If this sounds like one of those archaic laws from 200 years ago that only allowed rich people to vote, you’re close.

To be a Senator, you must own land in your home province, in addition to living there. Thirty-two percent of Canadians don’t meet this “qualification”. In Quebec it’s over forty percent. Think of it. Millions of Canadians who rent apartments, condos, or a house, don’t meet the standards required to be a Senator. If you think this doesn’t sound fair, you’re right.

640px-Canadian-Senate-chamber

Canada’s Senate chamber: Currently tenant-free.

The amount of land you must own is specified as $4,000, and was set in 1867. In today’s dollars that would be about $70,000. Now, $4,000 may not sound like much, but that’s also the point. Just try to find a house for $4,000.

I tried to find the reason for this strange requirement, but no-one can provide a good explanation.  There is a separate requirement to “live in your home province or territory”, along with being a Canadian citizen, 30 years old or over (sorry to the 4 million millennials in Canada).

“But, it’s only $4,000!”
Some may say that  $4,000 is so little that it shouldn’t be a deterrent. But to some people $4,000 is a lot, and that’s not even the point.

Canada, unbelievably, used to have property- or income-based qualifications in order to vote until 1898 (Note: Women didn’t get to vote in an election until 1921 – with or without property!). The reason why property qualifications were abolished was because they obviously kept large segments of the population from voting.

“Are homeowners better citizens?”
Some may argue that “owning property” gives a citizen a larger “stake” in the country’s policies, and makes them more responsible citizens. But this is also absurd. To suggest that a tenant is any less knowledgeable, responsible, experienced or accountable than someone who owns property is ludicrous.

There’s no good reason for the $4,000 property ownership requirement to be a Senator, and this rule should be repealed. Requiring a Canadian to own property in order to serve the public has no place in our country today. And, it probably had no place in our country, ever.

Mike Chopowick – March 25, 2016

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