Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some Senate thoughts

While stacking the Senate with partisan hacks covered by one or two less odious picks is a long-held Prime Ministerial tradition in Canada, there are a few factors that allow me to take issue with the Harper 18 with something other than the usual partisan angst.

First, these appointments go against all the supposed principles and ideals that the Harper Conservatives and their Alliance/Reform predecessors supposedly stood for. The apologists will try to explain it away, pragmatism and all that, but if there are any true believers left in the Conservative camp they should be crying today. The face is, Harper is not serious about Senate reform. If he were, he’d have begun constitutional negotiations with the provinces. And as for the promise these Senators will resign to run elections if/when they’re held. That’s nice. But didn’t Harper promise not to appoint unelected Senators? So, yeah, things change, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this promise be backed away from as well.

Still, just for fun, I’d love to see one of the provinces hold a Senate election, just for fun. How about PEI? Let’s get Mike Duffy on the campaign trail! And don’t worry Mike, we won’t show the outtakes of your campaign interview with ATV. Will Ontario elect Irving Gerstein, a Conservative bagman who has never been on a ballot. Will BC elect Yonah Martin or Newfoundland Fabian Manning, people they both rejected as MP candidates this fall? I don’t favour Senate elections without real constitutional reform to address regional imbalance, but this would almost make it worth it.

But back to these appointments, my second issue is the fact Harper lacks the moral legitimacy to make these appointments. He had to beg the Governor-General to prorogue parliament to avoid a confidence vote he was sure to lose. Even if the GG put no conditions on the prorogual, until Harper proves he has the confidence of the house in my view, while perfectly legal, it’s morally inappropriate for him to be stacking the Senate and stuffing Conservatives into every appointment he can find.

Finally, Harper has a minority government. As such, it would be appropriate for him to consult with the opposition parties on such major appointments. Again, it’s not a legal requirement, but is that the only standard we want to hold our politicians too? I thought Paul Martin set a very good example with how he handled Senate appointments as a minority Prime Minister, appointing a few Conservatives and even an (independent) NDPer to the Senate, as well as Liberals. An example Harper ignored.

Anyway, those objections aside, of course Harper is free to appoint whomever he wants. But, that said, is this really the best he can do?

I don’t care about Mike Duffy, the guy has been angling for an appointment for years. When the Liberals were in government, he sucked-up to them. I won’t lose any sleep over Duffy, and he’ll sleep well in the red chamber. Pamela Walin? It was the Liberals who appointed her a counsel-general, and besides, Harper owed her for providing him political cover with the Manley Afghanistan Commission (speaking of which, where’s Manley’s Senate seat?). Patrick Brazeau and Nancy Green Raine? Sure, why not.

But the others? Fabian Manning, a former Conservative MP just rejected by Newfoundland voters? A staffer in Rodney MacDonald’s office in Stephen Greene? Top CPC fundraiser Irving Gerstein, who ignored a summons to testify before a parliamentary committee in in-and-out? Another failed candidate from BC in Yonah Martin? And, of course, a separatist from Quebec in Michel Rivard, a guy who, as a Parti Quebecois MNA, actively campaigned to break-up Canada during the last referendum. I thought the whole reason Harper was pushing through these appointments was to stop separatists from being appointed to the Senate, not to appoint them himself?

I mean, if you’re going to toss out all your supposed moral principles about Senate reform and stack it with a bunch of Conservative hacks, couldn’t Harper have at least found a higher quality of Conservative hack? What, did Stephen Taylor and Kate MacMillan say no? Or do these picks really represent the crème de la crème of Conservative hackdom?

Or, maybe, there’s still some Conservatives out there that are willing to stand on principle and wanted nothing to do with this, even if their leader feels differently. They must be getting lonely though.

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Pearce said...

The appointment of a separatist to the senate is the biggest joke in the whole shabby affair. After weeks of shrieking about separatists in government, they appoint the first ever separatist into the senate.

Pure class.

Barcs said...

not happy about it,... but I doubt that liberals voting the party line will vote to reduce either their entitlements, Ontario's power, and even their job....

(not so sure about the tories, but atleast there is a small chance)

And secondly it balances out the senate somewhat..... 60 partisan liberal hacks and 40 partisan tory hacks..... roughly.

Even you have to admit that isn't too bad Jeff, and even Martin recognized that 75% of the senate shouldn't belong to a single party.

And the best thing about Harper appointing 18 tories???... Dion didn't get to rubberstamp 18 of Layton/Duceppe's picks to keep/get himself in power. (and no lizard May)