Discussing a Reform of the Senate. A Comparison between Italy and Canada

by Erika Arban

In March 2015, the Italian Chamber of Deputies voted on a far-reaching constitutional reform; assuming a successful outcome of the long and complex amendment iter, this reform will have the effect to radically alter (among other things) the role, nature and composition of the Senate and of the perfect bicameral system currently in place. Interestingly enough, Italy is not the only country currently engaged in a political and institutional debate on a cardinal reform of the Senate: also in Canada, the role and composition of the Upper Chamber has often been contested, as this institution, in its existing arrangement, does not seem to fulfill the tasks intended for it by the framers of the Canadian federation. While over the years a number of unsuccessful attempts to reform have followed one another, the debate on the very nature of the Canadian Senate has culminated, for the time being, with the opinion rendered in 2014 by the Supreme Court of Canada which helps delineating some essential traits of the Upper Chamber. After a brief overview of the constitutional reform of the Senate under discussion in Italy, this paper will illustrate the main points raised in the opinion rendered by the Canadian Supreme Court, with the ultimate objective to show potential points of convergence and divergence between the Italian and Canadian experiences. While the nature of the Canadian federal arrangement is profoundly different from Italian regionalism, this contribution suggests the idea that surprising analogies can be found between these two countries.

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