Disparaging the Senate of Canada is a national pastime — in fact, it is Canada's oldest national pastime, since the debate about establishing a bicameral system over a unicameral one was just about the most divisive, time-consuming issue at Confederation. And here you thought Preston Manning invented Senate trash-talking.
Two recent, though distinct, scandals regarding erroneous expense claims in the upper house, one between the PMO and a now-former Conservative-caucusing senator by way of an unseemly personal reimbursement from a now-former chief of staff (to the Conservative prime minister) and the other a more traditional form of entitled indiscretion on the part of three other senators, has everyone grumbling about what to do with the upper house once more.
The government, eager to draw attention away from the scandal, is making the rounds with its usual pitch about the virtues of an elected senate (despite the fact that elected senators would be just as accountable as MPs, which is not at all reassuring, and would invariably leverage their newfound "legitimacy" to overshadow their House colleagues); while the opposition wants to finish the debate once and for all by throwing it all in with unicameralism (despite the fact that abolishing the Senate requires delicate provincial consultation and, naturally, majority support).
The real problem, of course, lies not with the Senate itself but with its constituent members. If we had a unicameral system, such financial indiscretions would invariably occur all the same (just as they do with the present government and on the provincial level), and we would likely spend much of our time falling over ourselves with effusive talk of installing an upper chamber in order to deliver us from corruption and into the blessed graces of bicameral oversight.
As such, it may be time to consider an alternative proposal: something to the effect of having all current senators resign and reconstituting the body through a national citizen lottery limited to single terms of two years (once per lifetime). This would single-handedly do away with open party affiliation, partisan composition, personal relationships with the PMO, and the body's long tradition of patronage appointment — all while drafting 105 random citizens (who obviously meet strict eligibility requirements: full citizenship, no outstanding tax issues, etc.) to play a direct role in their own democracy.
Of course, skeptics will counter by asking what qualifications mere citizens would have in a national body — well, precisely what qualifications do senators have currently? Recall that even the most basic criteria for becoming a MP is a party nomination and a willing electorate, as the NDP's 2011 surge illustrates. Besides, it isn't like the Senate has any robust well of powers, anyway: they cannot affect money bills and they are generally confined to poking around, asking questions — which is exactly the sort of thing an upper chamber, informed by geographic representation and entrusted with select reserve powers, should be doing.