The Senateʼs Decision on Bill C-290: Proof of its Relevance? | By Erica Woolf

Decisive, powerful, and relevant. These words are not typically descriptive of the Canadian Senate, whose role in government is seen largely as traditional and symbolic. Usually submissive to the will of the lower House, the Senate rarely exerts its power to reject bills passed through the House of Commons. This arrangement, while often disputed, seems to be working quite nicely for Canada, as it is minimally tolerated that Senators are appointed, not elected. However, when the Senate decides to flex its muscles and challenge a bill supported by Parliament, sentiments regarding the Senate flare up.

And this is exactly what may happen in the next couple of weeks. It has been predicted, that on the last leg of a certain billʼs journey through Parliament, Senate will reject the bill, and oppose the will of the House that it should pass. The bill in question? Bill C-290, the single-game betting bill, which would allow Canadians to legally place bets on single sporting games. The billʼs sponsor, Mr. Joe Comartin of the NDP, argues that the purpose of legalizing single-game betting is to combat the organized crime that is currently controlling and profiting from such betting. Further, it is estimated that this bill will increase the number of jobs created through the gaming industry in Canada. Canadian senators, however, do not see the benefits of the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code, and have been alluding that there is significant momentum in Senate to vote against the bill. Critics of this move by the Senate have attributed the lack of support to heavy lobbying by the professional sports industries in Canada, such as the NHL. These professional sports organizations suggest that by popularizing single-game betting, sports risk the chance of becoming susceptible to fixed results.

While Senate is not expected to discuss the bill for a few weeks, it is clear that this will be one of the most analyzed Senate decisions of recent times. Since Senate has only intervened and rejected a bill passed through the lower House a handful of times since the Second World War, if the Bill is rejected it will indeed be unorthodox. One thing that can be noted however: while Senate may seem to be irrelevant at most times, moves such as this remind all Canadians of the power that our House of sober second thought can wield.

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