Thursday, August 27, 2009

That's not rain on my leg, Mr. Harper

So, according to the media buzz, Stephen Harper is about to once again stack the Senate with unelected, unaccountable Conservative cronies. The Liberals will decry his appointment of partisan hacks, the Conservatives will say they need their hacks to balance our hacks, and the public will say shut up I’m having dinner.

Such is how the political game has always been played, like some sort of kabuki play, only without the flashy costumes. So why should anyone care? Doesn’t everyone always do this? Well, there is one subtle difference: Harper promised us he was different.

Say what you will about my Liberals, but we never made any claims to righteous moral piety when it came to the Senate. Sure, we made an effort to appoint well-qualified non-hacks, such as General Romeo Dallaire. Paul Martin even appointed several Progressive Conservatives, including Hugh Segal, as well as an (independent) NDPer to the Senate. But we also appointed our hacks too, and we never pretended otherwise.

Not so Stephen Harper. Mr. Harper and his many of marry crusaders emerged from the Western plains atop gallant white steeds to lay claim to the mantal of moral righteousness and superiority, promising they would never stoop so low. Here’s just a sampling of his comments over the years:

"We don't support any Senate appointments."
(Stephen Harper, Winnipeg Free Press, January 29, 1996)

"Despite the fine work of many individual Senators, the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the Prime Minister."
(Stephen Harper Leadership Website, January 15, 2004)

"In the 21st century, those who want to sit in the parliament of a democratic state should have a mandate from the people."
(Stephen Harper, February 7, 2006)

"A conservative government will not appoint to the senate anyone who does not have a mandate from the people."
(Conservative Party website during 2006 election)

"As everyone in this room knows, it has become a right of passage for aspiring leaders and prime ministers to promise Senate reform - on their way to the top - but once they are elected, Senate reform quickly falls to the bottom of the Government's agenda. Nothing ever gets done."
(Stephen Harper, Speech on Senate Reform before Senate Committee, September 7, 2006)

"I don't plan to appoint senators; that's not my intention."
(Stephen Harper, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, January 14, 2006)

"Stephen Harper will cease patronage appointments to the Senate. Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the Upper House."
(Stephen Harper Leadership Website, January 15, 2004)
If Harper hadn’t have made such a high-handed morally righteous crusade promising to be the white knight of Senate reform, then I wouldn’t really care that much. Sure, I’d slam him for appointing his hacks, but that’s just la guerre. It’s form. But by laying claim to such moral piety, by casting himself as the saint, when he gets down in the muck with the rest of us mere mortals he falls all the further.

In other words, Stephen Harper, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

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Leeky Sweek said...

What do you expect him to do? The Liberal majority won't back any reforms, so...

A BCer in Toronto said...

Harper isn't serious about senate reform.

If he would, he'd propose a detailed constitutional ammendment, drawing on input from all parties and provinces, perhaps convene a first minister's meeting on the subject. Then he'd go across the country to build public support for it, so that the provinces, the house and the senate would have no choice but to pass it.

And make no mistake, if real and meaningful senate reform had that level of momentum, the senate would never stand in the way.

But Harper hasn't done any of that. Why? Because he's rather be able to complain about the Senate then to actually have an elected, equal, effective Senate.

When it comes to Senate reform, Harper is a phony.

leftdog said...

How should non-Liberals and non-Conservatives feel about your party? I gives kudos to you for your honesty when you admit, "But we also appointed our hacks too, and we never pretended otherwise."

You have merely proven the old New Democratic axiom ... 'Liberal / Tory - same old story'.

A BCer in Toronto said...


The NDP can still claim moral piety because, at the federal level, they've never had to put it to the test by governing.

However, based on observation of NDP provincial governments, and the brief glimpse of the aborted coalition terms, its fair to say the NDP would be like any other party when it comes to compromising to a degree on principles for the sake of power.

You can pretend otherwise, if you wish. You may even believe it. But I don't.

Politics is politics, and no political party is immune.

Barcs said...

He really did learn alot from Chretien didn't he??

*shrug* atleast they are not all hacks. it could have been worse.

..... And perhaps should have been. If the only way to create the reform is to destroy the thing... then why not.

We've seen it. The committees works no better than the parliament ones. So why not have a bunch of partisans in there anyway, many of them already act that way.

Maybe if he can show us how broken the system is then there wil be that groundswell of protest to fix it. I say he should appoint it full of 20 yr old partisans who can serve the full 55 years. Let's have some action from the senators on how they see that they can make the system better.

Jon Pertwee said...

Barcs, if you want to live in a country who's sober second thought comes from a room of 20 year olds I suggest you live somewhere else. That's a social experiment I don't want a million miles near Canada because it is stupid and reckless.

A BCer in Toronto said...

barcs, we need to blow this house up to save it? Sorry, not buying. Harper likes things the way they are, and he's done nothing to convince me otherwise.