Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Property qualifications of Senators)

Overview

On March 3, 2016, Senator Dennis Patterson, Senator for Nunavut, tabled a notice of motion and bill S-221 that aim to remove the $4000 property requirement and the $4000 net worth requirement currently listed as qualifications for senators in the Constitution.

These are antiquated and elitist measures that have lost their raison d’être in modern society; they are requirements that haven’t changed since the Constitution Act of 1867.  Currently, missions of Canadians across the country are not qualified to sit as a senator and fully participate in the governing of Canada solely because they do not own land and/or their net worth is below $4000.

– Senator Dennis Patterson

 

The Requirement to own property currently excludes 44% of Canadian households from becoming senators including: renters; condominium owners who do not own the land the unit is built on as the land is owned by the condominium corporation; and homeowners on-reserve as the land is considered Crown land.  In his March 24, 2016 second reading speech, Senator Patterson noted,

[These] are requirements put in at a time when the landed gentry were given a means to keep the great unwashed in line should their elected officials in the other place become too overzealous in their legislative roles.

Clearly, this is inconsistent with modern democratic values.

(Read the full speech here.)

The bill seeks to amend the Constitution Act and remove the net worth requirement for all provinces and territories.  However, while the bill also proposes to remove the requirement that a senator own $4000 worth of property in their territory or province, in accordance with the decision rendered by the Supreme Court of Canada, the bill does not include Quebec in this second measure.  Senator Patterson also tabled notice of a motion (Motion No. 73) that would accomplish this for Quebec if adopted by the Seante, the House of Commons, and the Government of Quebec.

(Read Senator Patterson’s speech on his motion here.)

These proposed changes would not, however, affect in any way the requirement in the Constitution Act that senators must reside in the region which they represent in the Senate.

Life Cycle of a Bill – Where is S-221 Now?

Bills that start in the Senate need to go through a process in the Senate (red) and the House of Commons (green):

Life Cycle of S-221 - Senate copy

 

Quick Facts

On April 25, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled,

“We conclude that the net worth requirement (s. 23(4) ) can be repealed by Parliament under the unilateral federal amending procedure. However, a full repeal of the real property requirement (s. 23(3) ) requires the consent of Quebec’s legislative assembly, under the special arrangements procedure. Indeed, a full repeal of that provision would also constitute an amendment in relation to s. 23(6) , which contains a special arrangement applicable only to the province of Quebec.”

https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/13614/index.do

  • As per the National Household Survey, 2011
    • 31% of Canadian homes are rented which totals 4,078,225 households
    • 13% of all owned households are condominiums

 

Homeownership for Canada, provinces and territories

 

 

 

Total households

  Owner

  Renter

% ownership

 

 

Canada

13,319,250

9,185,845

4,078,225

69.0%

Newfoundland and Labrador

208,845

161,860

46,545

77.5%

Prince Edward Island

56,460

41,450

14,910

73.4%

Nova Scotia

390,280

276,205

111,870

70.8%

New Brunswick

314,035

237,570

74,665

75.7%

Quebec

3,395,220

2,077,640

1,311,200

61.2%

Ontario

4,886,655

3,491,320

1,389,915

71.4%

Manitoba

465,800

326,430

127,220

70.1%

Saskatchewan

409,575

297,235

100,995

72.6%

Alberta

1,390,280

1,022,640

357,950

73.6%

British Columbia

1,764,630

1,234,710

524,995

70.0%

Yukon

14,120

9,385

4,140

66.5%

Northwest Territories

14,700

7,575

6,975

51.5%

Nunavut

8,660

1,815

6,845

21.0%

   
Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011. Data table 99-014-X2011026  

Owners of condominiums represented 13 percent of all owners.

Condominium ownership for Canada, provinces and territories

Total homeownership

Condo ownership

% condo ownership

 

 

 

 

Canada

9,185,845

1,153,585

13%

Newfoundland and Labrador

161,860

2,175

1%

Prince Edward Island

41,450

290

1%

Nova Scotia

276,205

8,000

3%

New Brunswick

237,570

4,530

2%

Quebec

2,077,640

210,060

10%

Ontario

3,491,320

448,285

13%

Manitoba

326,430

20,130

6%

Saskatchewan

297,235

21,910

7%

Alberta

1,022,640

146,600

14%

British Columbia

1,234,710

290,295

24%

Yukon

9,385

705

8%

Northwest Territories

7,575

525

7%

Nunavut

1,815

65

4%

Source: Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011. Data table 99-014-X2011026

Additional information is available from Statistics Canada’s Homeownership and Shelter Costs in Canada and Condominium dwellings in Canada.