Once a man has received an appointment to a position in the civil service of Canada he must keep absolutely aloof from politics. This is not a law but it is a custom, the violation of which would cost a man his position.
The Parliament in the Dominion consists of the Commons and the Senate. The Commons are elected by the people. The Senators are appointed by the Governor-General, strictly under advice of the party in office, for life. Senators must be thirty years of age and possess property over four thousand dollars in value above their liabilities. The Senator resides in the district which he represents. The Commoner may represent a district in which he does not reside, and, on the whole, this is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. It permits a district that has special needs to choose a man of great character and power resident in another district. If he fails to meet the peculiar needs of that district, he will not be reelected. If he meets the needs of the district which he represents he has the additional prestige of his influence in another electoral district. A Senator can be removed for only four reasons: bankruptcy, absence, change of citizenship, conviction of crime.
At a time when the United States is so generally in favor of the election of Senators by direct vote, when England is trending so preponderately in favor of curbing the veto power of the House of Lords, it seems remarkable that Canada never questions the power of the Senator appointed for life.
Though officially supposed to be appointed by the Governor-General, the Senator is in reality never appointed except on recommendation of the prevailing Cabinet which means—the party in power. The appointments being for life and the emolument sufficient to guarantee a good living conformable with the style required by the official position, the Senator appointed for life—like the judge appointed for life—soon shows himself independent of purely party behests. He is depended upon by the Commoners to veto and arrest popular movements, which would be inimical to public good, but which the Commoner dare not defeat for fear of defeat in reelection. For instance, a few years ago a labor bill was introduced in the Commons as to compensation for injuries. In theory, it was all right. In practice, it was a blackmail levy against employers. The Commoners did not dare reject it for fear of the vote in one particular province. What they did was meet the Senate in unofficial caucuses. They said: We shall pass this bill all three readings; but we depend on you—the Senate—to reject it. We can go to the province and say we passed the bill and ask for the support of that province; but because the bill would be inimical to the best interests of other provinces, we depend on you, the Senate, to defeat it. And the Senate defeated it.