Canada's Institutional Landscape and The Government's Ignorance of Farmer's Needs

Saskatchewan farmers have been continually ignored in Canada's
institutional landscape. Never has the situation been more evident as it is
with the possibility of Quebec separation. The Canadian governments ignorance
of farmers' needs has caused a cynical view of the political process in the eyes
of farmers. One of the major sources of the cynicism is that Canadian federal
institutions are developed so that most political of the clout is developed from
the east. The eastern domination of the House of Commons, and indirectly the
Senate, means that Saskatchewan wheat farmers do not have a strong voice in
Canadian political decisions. But what does the Saskatchewan lack of
representation in Canada's political institutions in Ottawa mean? What can
Saskatchewan wheat farmers do to rectify the situation? And, following a Quebec
separation what can wheat farmers do to uphold their livelihood? The intent of
this report is to focus on the actions Saskatchewan wheat farmers can take to
ensure their success in the future. A focus on the recent political policy
decisions by the federal government, the need for intrastate institutional
reform, and effects of a possible Quebec separation will all be analyzed.
The current institutional landscape of Canada has not acted favorably
for Saskatchewan wheat farmers. The development of the institutions, ie. the
House of Commons and the Senate, and the policies that have developed from these
institutions have continually ignored the needs of prairie farmers, emphasizing
the cynicism Saskatchewan wheat farmers have towards the political process. The
antipathy towards the political institutions has developed because of recent
cost-cutting initiatives and deregulatory procedures by the government and by
mis-representation of farmers' needs in government today. The failure of
Saskatchewan wheat farmers to express their needs in the Canadian political
arena successfully, when compared to other constituencies, is based on the fact
that Saskatchewan's representation in Canada's political institutions is weak.
The result is the development of policies contrary to what would be accepted by
Saskatchewan wheat farmers, in accordance with most constituencies in
the west, have desired a institutional change to the Upper House in Canada. In
1867, when the institutions were developed, the goal was to develop two
different political "bodies". One, the House of Commons, would represent the
Canadian people by means of elected representatives in a representation by
population scenario. The second, the Senate, would be a source of "sober second
thought." In its creation the senate was intended to protect the ideals of
individual regions. However, to the chagrin of Saskatchewan wheat farmers, the
intended regional focus of the senate never developed and, hence, the senate has
been an institution that has been the focus of a lot of antipathy from the West.
The drive for modifications to the Senate has been pressed by Saskatchewan wheat
farmers in an attempt to uphold their livelihood in a nation in which they're
The development of intrastate federalism in the senate is typically the
most desired institutional change. Intrastate federalism aids in bringing
regional representation to the national political arena. The desire for
regional representation in the Senate is held in high demand by Saskatchewan
wheat farmers. The most prominent suggestion is for a Triple E senate (equal,
effective, and elected) instead of the current form of the Upper House. Support
for a Triple E senate is virtually guaranteed by Saskatchewan wheat farmer,
because their views would have better representation in a central political
institution which historically has ignored their needs. The reasoning behind
the lack of regionalism in the Canadian senate is based on two important factors.
"First, Canadian senators were not selected by provincial legislatures or
governments, but rather were appointed by the federal government... Secondly,
Canadians opted for equal representation by region rather than equal
representation by province." Thus, the senate's actions are extremely similar
to the actions of the House of Commons.
To answer the question of what Saskatchewan wheat farmers need to do to
uphold their livelihood concentrates on the necessity for a senate reform based
on intrastate federalism. The hope is that by doing so Saskatchewan farmers
would have a strong voice in the national political arena. However, modifying
the senate is an extremely arduous task. Senate reform would most likely have
to follow the current amending formula of the seven-fifty rule. The seven-fifty
rule declares that any amendments made to the constitution have the support of
two-thirds of the provincial legislatures (seven, in the current Confederation)
containing fifty percent of the population agreeing to the modification. The
modifications would be difficult to achieve because the politicians in the east,
who currently hold a lot of the clout in the current landscape, would be opposed
to any changes that would see them lose power. Upon Quebec separation senate
reform would be