Local Conservatives got a visit from a Canadian ski racing and political icon as Senator Nancy Greene-Raine was in Cranbrook to hear any concerns and lend her voice to any issues brought forward.
Greene-Raine has been a Conservative senator since her appointment in 2009, but is perhaps more famously known for her athletic career as a downhill ski racer, where she captured three Olympic medals and two World Championship medals in 1968.
“When I was named to the Senate, I chose Thompson-Okanagan-Kootenay as my designated area and I don’t get over to the East Kootenays that much — I get to the West Kootenays because I have two brothers living there,” Greene-Raine said.
“So I just jumped at the opportunity and knowing some of the people in the Conservative group here, I called them up and said, ‘Lets have a coffee’.
“It was really fun, it’s been good to connect a bit and I’m really listening to what the issues are and how things are going here.”
Greene-Raine was born in Ottawa, but moved to Rossland when she was three years old and began competitive ski racing at a young age, going on to become Canada’s most decorated ski racer in history.
Including athletic accolades such as her Olympic and World Cup success, Greene-Raine has also been named to the Order of Canada, Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.
The Senate consists of 105 members appointed by the Governor General after consultation with the Prime Minister. Greene-Raine sits as one of 42 Conservative Senators, while 23 are non-affiliated and 21 are formerly Liberal, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau removed them from caucus. As it stands now, there are also 19 vacant seats.
Echoing the words of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, Greene-Raine calls the Senate a house of ‘sober second thought.’
“A lot of the people don’t understand the Senate,” Greene-Raine said. “Our government was formed in the very beginning by the coming together of different regions in the country and the relationship between the Senate and the House of Commons was hammered out and has been a part of our constitution since the beginning.”
However, the Senate has been in the national news lately, mostly because to the expense scandals of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. Even during the federal election last fall, the Senate was on the party platforms, as the Conservatives pushed for electoral terms while the NDP wanted to abolish the body.
Greene-Raine admits that she used to be in support of electoral reforms for senators, however, in order for that to happen, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Constitution would have to be amended, meaning that at least seven provinces must have 50 per cent approval to make any changes.
That scenario isn’t likely, said Greene-Raine.
“I don’t see the Senate changing, but I want to see the Senate to be more effective,” she said. “We’ve been working very hard since the expense scandal, which in my view, was a bit of a tempest in a teapot probably because the two people who were being attacked were from the media and they became the whipping post.”
Even though, Greene-Raine sees relevance with the Senate in it’s role and relationship with the House of Commons.
“They’re very different,” Greene-Raine said. “The House of Commons is where you’re represented by population, the Senate is really a chamber of review and of taking a longer-term view, because we’re not elected, we don’t face election, we’re not responsible to our electorate but we are responsible. I’d say 99 per cent of the senators who have been appointed take very seriously the role that we have, so we look at our role as complementary but not the way, for instance in the US system, they have the House of Representatives and the Senate and they are at loggerheads, because the Senate can defeat legislation.
“Our role is to look at the legislation, see if there’s any unintended consequences and make amendments or recommendations for amendments and send it back to the House of Commons for further review.”
Growing up in a rural area like Rossland, Greene-Raines adds that with the House of Commons being a governing body represented by population — and with population growing mainly in the cities — the Senate can be a place to advocate for minority rights or rural issues.
“The rural parts of Canada, the ridings are huge and the representation is still based on representation by population, but I think in the Senate, we can reflect and look at issues as they impact the rural areas of Canada,” Greene-Raine said.