Nice Work: The Continuing Scandal of Canada's Senate


307 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-7710-4212-4
DDC 328.71'071





Reviewed by Geoffrey Hayes

Geoff Hayes is the director of International Studies Option at the
University of Waterloo.


Claire Hoy does not like the Canadian Senate. In his view, it is nothing
more than “a well-paid sinecure for a tawdry collection of bagmen,
spent politicians, and assorted partisan hacks.” His chatty indictment
of the Upper Chamber begins with a look at Saskatchewan Senator Eric
Bernston, a 1990 Mulroney appointee who was later convicted of criminal

In this rather jumpy account, Hoy relates some Senate history,
explaining how the idea of regional balance ran into the fear that an
elected upper chamber could challenge the House of Commons. In the
event, it was a Nova Scotian who moved that senators be appointed by the
federal government. No one has forgiven him—particularly Western
Canadians, who still face the humiliation of Senate seats granted nearly
a century ago that in no way reflect their current strength. It is not
surprising that the Reform Party gained such wide appeal in the West by
appealing for a Triple-E Senate.

Hoy likes a good political story, and there are plenty of them here. He
particularly revels in the corrupt senators, but also lambastes the
idle, the absent, and the hypocritical. George C. Dessaules was
especially idle: he gave just two speeches during his 23 years in the
Senate before he died at age 102. Senator Andrew Thompson did a little
better between 1965, the year of his appointment by Lester Pearson, and
1998, when he was suspended for absenteeism and eventually forced to
resign. In Hoy’s view, the most partisan senator is Allan MacEachen,
who worked so hard to make life difficult for the Mulroney Tories.

Such accounts form the heart of this book, but the stories are
disjointed, lacking in context. A short survey of other upper chambers
throughout the world provides few lessons. By the time he ponders the
paths to Senate reform, Hoy’s heart is not in it. Perhaps the issue,
as has been the case for most Canadians, proved too much for him.


Hoy, Claire., “Nice Work: The Continuing Scandal of Canada's Senate,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 20, 2024,