Friday, July 09, 2010

Harper’s road to an elected Senate: Appoint Conservatives that can't get elected

I’ve long held that when it comes to his supposed commitment to Senate reform, Stephen Harper is a fraud. The mountain of evidence is so overwhelming it seems almost churlish to point-out more examples. Still, churlishness is mandatory for bloggers, so I shall forge ahead and do just that.

Today, Stephen Harper asked Her Majesty to call to the Senate one Salma Ataullahjan, to fill a vacancy in Ontario. I know little about Ms. Ataullahjan. I wish her the best, and I hope she serves the people of Ontario ably and well.

The only think I do know about her is that she was a Conservative candidate in the 2008 election, where she was rejected by the voters of Mississauga-Brampton South in favour of Liberal MP Navdeep Bains.

And Ataullahjan is far from the only failed Conservative candidate from the 2008 election to be called up to patronage heaven. Far from the only one indeed.

Senator Yonah Martin ran in New Westminster—Coquitlam and lost to the NDP’s Dawn Black.

Senator Claude Carignan ran in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles and got whooped by the BQ’s Luc Desnoyers.

Senator Fabian Manning lost in Avalon to Danny Williams, er, Liberal Scott Andrews.

And that’s just Conservative senators that were rejected by the electorate in the 2008 election. Stephen “I want elected Senators” Harper has sent many people to the Senate that have failed to get elected.

Senator Michel Rivard ran for the Canadian Alliance in the riding of Québec in 2000, losing to the BQ’s Christiane Gagnon.

Senator John Wallace ran in Saint John in 2006, losing to Liberal Paul Zed.

Here’s a fun one. The 2000 election in the riding of Laval West featured two future Harper Senators, both of whom lost. The Canadian Alliance candidate was Leo Houskas, a Harper fundraiser called to the Senate in 2009. And the Progressive Conservative candidate was Michael Fortier, infamously called to the Senate and cabinet following the 2005/06 election. Both of them lost to Liberal Raymonde Falco as the voters said non, merci to both future Senators. Fortier, of course, resigned from the Senate to again run to be the MP for Vaudreuil-Soulanges, and once again was rejected by the electorate, losing to the BQ’s Meili Faille.

And finally (have I missed anyone?) let’s not forget Senator Suzanne Duplessis, rejected as a Progressive Conservative by the voters of Louis-Hébert in favour of the BQ’s Philippe Paré in 1993.

You ask, dear reader, what’s my point? It’s this: how can someone who professes to believe that electing Senators is a democratic imperative (that would be Stephen Harper) be taken seriously when they keep appointing Senators that, when they were on the ballot, were rejected by the voters? The answer, of course is no, they can’t be taken seriously at all.

Look, for the record I’m not a fan of electing Senators. If you want to mess around with the Senate, I say just abolish the thing. Failing that, I’d support elected Senators but only as part of a wider constitutional-based reform that also looks at regional representation and the balance of powers between the House and the Senate. Otherwise, under the status quo I’m fine with appointing learned and respected people that perhaps couldn’t get elected normally, but bring a needed voice and perspective to the chamber.

Stephen Harper, however, does pretend to be a supporter of electing Senators. Which is why it’s ridiculous for him to habitually appoint Senators who, when their names were on a ballot and the voters had a chance to elect them, were rejected.

Like all of Harper’s supposed Senate reform principles, it’s a farce. Like the supposed commitment of his appointees to term limits and supporting an elected Senate – once appointed, they’re changing their minds. And since the "commitments" are unenforceable, there's jack squat he can do. (Except boot them from caucus, which he hasn't bothered to do.) Like the piecemeal reform legislation he keeps pushing is bad for the country and possibly unconstitutional. And like his unwillingness to do what it would really take to reform the Senate – open the constitution.

If anyone still believes Stephen Harper is serious about Senate reform they’re either gullible, deluded, or just plain lying.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Dave said...

I’ve long held that when it comes to his supposed commitment to Senate reform, Stephen Harper is a fraud.

When it comes to most things, Harper is a fraud.

Rotterdam said...

Harper has finally learned that you need to behave like a Liberal in order to get what you want.
Harper may be slow, but he finally got it.

Austin said...

I think you are missing the point...

Since Harper cannot abolish the Senate according to the rules of Canadian Law and according to the will of the electorate, he is doing what he can do to purposefully and shamelessly poisoning its foundation, putting in hyper-partisan, incompetent losers, so that the Senate will become the very thing that he loathes about it.

Any of our Parliamentary institutions and machinery can be corrupted by those who have no desire to uphold its integrity. And we are witnessing the devolution of all that made our country vibrant and just by the CPC government.

One can only hope that Canadians remember that through the voting process (or lack thereof), we are getting exactly what our apathy deserves.

Gene Rayburn said...

Rotterdam your first sentence is incorrect however your second one is bang on.

Unknown said...

That's 20% of the Tory senators!