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Thursday, August 27, 2009

i sense a lack of sincerity.

At the best of times, I have a really hard time taking federal politics in this country seriously. On the issue of Senate reform, I believe that it's time we all stopped pretending that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is sincerely interested in reforming Canada's Upper Chamber.

Stephen Harper on September 7, 2006:

“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.”
CBC News on August 26, 2009:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to name eight new members to the Senate as early as Thursday, and the appointments will include loyal and long-serving Conservative advisers...
(Thanks to a long-time reader for providing the Harper quote)


Anonymous said...

Agreed. It's no wonder Ignatief can't gain any traction, we already have a Liberal prime minister and his name is Stephen Harper.

Gauntlet said...

Maybe a little too cynical, Dave. Maybe he's trying to get a Conservative senate majority that will adopt the reforms?

Unfortunately for him, not a lot of liberal senators have been calling it quits. He only gains three this round. Needs to replace another 7 liberal senators with conservatives before the conservatives get a majority.

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

Question - to a somewhat "liberal" audience. If Harper were to postpone appointments, and sought a mandate for elected Senate at the next election, taking a risk of giving those seats to the Liberals.. would it make a difference?

Anonymous said...

roblaw: as someone who is affiliated but not a member of any Canadian political party, I do not take issue with Harper wanting to reform the senate, I take issue with Harper do little in the way of reforming the Senate. The rallying cry of Triple E still resonates in my young Albertan mind and I don't believe that stacking the Senate with political appointments while in a minority gov't is going to do anything in the way of reform.

Anonymous said...

This article:
by the Winnipeg Free Press is a fairly interesting look at the speculated Senate appointments from our other prairie province. Notably, Doug Finley who will apparently serve on Senate and still remain as the campaign chief for the CPC.

daveberta said...

I may be entering the world of nuance, but I consider myself more skeptical than cynical about Harper's sincerity towards reforming the senate. If he is sincere about reforming the senate, then I question his method. Harper has held the upper hand in the large majority of decisions in the House of Commons since he became Prime Minister in 2006, if he were serious about Senate reform, I'm assuming that it would be on top of his government's agenda. Politically I can understand his frustration with the Liberal-majority in the Senate, but continuing to do the same thing that has been done for 142 years does not equal change. His actions thus far lead me to question his sincerity.

SD said...

Dave, the PM has remained steadfast in calling for a reformed Senate in Canada despite facing a political climate where failure to act could create a situation where Conservatives will never be able to gain the control needed to adopt appropriate legislation. Rather than questioning his sincerity on an issue that Prime Minister Harper has been more vocal about than any other leader in the country's history, perhaps you'd be better off asking why it is that Senate reforms are not possible today.

In the mean time, I'll judge the appointments based on whether or not I feel they will be passionate Senators who are capable of fulfilling their legislative function until such a time when elections can be held to fill their seats. The names that are being discussed right now appear to fit that description perfectly.

daveberta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daveberta said...

Steven Dollansky: Prime Ministers say many things, but I will judge them by their actions.

Since becoming Prime Minister nearly 3.5 years ago, Stephen Harper’s choices of appointments to the Senate have mirrored those of his predecessors. Just as Prime Ministers Mulroney, Chretien, and Martin, Prime Minister Harper has and is expected to appoint more loyal political insiders to the Upper House.

If it is the political environment he is concerned about, he should take the political debate outside of Ottawa to Canadians. If his intentions are sincere, I don’t know how he can lose a battle on Senate reform. Has he met with the Chief Electoral Officer to discuss plans for Senate elections? Has he gone to the Council of the Federation to convince the provincial Premier's to hold Senate elections? Has he travelled the country to convince Canadians to support Senate reform?

Since he became Prime Minister nearly 3.5 years ago, Harper's actions haven't given me any reason to believe his intentions for reforming the senate are sincere. His actions appear to me to be the same as previous Liberal and Progressive Conservative Prime Ministers.

daveberta said...

Correction: It's been more than 3.5 years since Stephen Harper become Prime Minister.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the constitutional requirements that need to be satisfied for Senate reform?
What about increasing the representatives from ALberta and BC? I think there are only 6 in each while Ontario and Quebec get 24 each.
The Americans created an elected Senate many many years ago, why can't we?

Alex said...

What would Senate reform/electing senators accomplish? What would the ramifications be for our government and political system? I'd like to hear one of the proponents explain why reforms (especially those Prime Minister Harper proposes) are going to beneficial.

Anonymous said...

The only lack of sincerity is on this blog.

rc said...

"What would Senate reform/electing senators accomplish? What would the ramifications be for our government and political system?"

Probably not much, aside from adding another ballot box that Canadians will just as likely ignore, too.

Senate reform - especially suggestions of increasing Senate seats for one region or another to make the make-up of the Senate more equal or balanced - is impossible without changes to the Constitution. But no politician is likely to want to open that can of worms, given past experiences with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords.

It would likely be more effective and less difficult to simply abolish the Senate and move to a unicameral system.

Berry Farmer said...

How about abolishing the senate along with a reform of the lower house to include proportional (elected) representation, guaranteeing a better representation of the will of Canadian voters?

Just wondering out loud if that wouldn't be as (or more) effective.

Anonymous said...


I wish you would try posting some intelligent insight or criticism instead of these superficial "lowest common denominator" attempts to take political shots.

If you don't support senate reform, then don't bother attacking PMSH for not implementing it quickly or efficiently enough. You can leave that to those of us who actually believe in a reformed upper chamber.

Anonymous said...

Give Harper a majority and you'll see some serious senate reform. It's impossible until then.

What other Prime Minister limits senate terms to 8 years? Not the Liberals that this blogger supports.

Alex said...

Actually, no Prime Minister limits senate terms to 8 years. All of the appointees to the Senate stay until they turn 75 (unless they choose to resign before then). There is nothing compelling any of the appointees to step down after 8 years, and PMSH nor any other PM would have the ability to enforce an 8 year limit.

Also, the Prime Minister has claimed his appointees support reform and/or will step down after 8 years, but have any of the recently appointed Senators themselves said so? I'd like to see it if they have.