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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I don't care who Stephen Harper appoints to the Senate

Don Martin has written a column full of vile pointed at the Prime Minister's practice of appointing easily controlled partisan hacks to the Senate. He attacks the practice in general, but he seems to feel a particular anger towards Stephen Harper. This anger is justified because Mr. Harper both promised to reform the Senate and promised not to appoint any unelected Senators.

Now anyone who reads this blog regularly likely knows I'm not Mr. Harper's greatest fan. My complaints against him are mostly in line with GerryNicholls ' points, though with a much less personal tinge to it. That being said I think that Mr. Martin is being a little bit silly in singling Mr. Harper out for his Senate appointments.

There are two ways to look at Mr. Harper's Senate reversal that makes it reasonable.

1. He tried to reform the Senate but failed (at least for the moment).

Around a hundred years ago, Wilfrid Laurier also tried to reform the Senate. Much like Mr. Harper, Laurier stacked the Senate with his own cronies at the same time. When asked why he would do this he pointed out that he didn't make up the rules of the game (paraphrasing). Why should he play by different rules and artificially put himself at a disadvantage?

Laurier made a fair point and it is easily applied to Prime Minister Harper. Control over the Senate will allow him to more easily drive through his agenda. It is unreasonable to think that he wouldn't thus try to take over the Senate. Yes he promised not to do it, but Senate reform itself clearly demonstrates the degree that he was at a disadvantage. He could not move forward on a Senate Reform bill because he was being blocked by the Liberal controlled Senate.

This brings me to the second perspective...

2. Stuffing the Senate full of pro-reform Senators is a strategy to keep his promise on Senate Reform.

Mr. Harper's vow to not appoint new Senators is secondary to his promise of making that Senate elected. Once it became clear that reform was impossible without taking control of the Senate it was clear that the strategic situation had changed. So if you want reform (and for the record I don't), you should support these appointments.

Each of Mr. Harper's new Senators have vowed to resign once the Senate is reformed. I know, the difficulty of holding these Senators to account for this promise just underlines the difficulty of holding Senators accountable for anything. Still I prefer to believe someone rather than call them a liar before they are proven to be one.

All in all I find Mr. Martin's outrage against Stephen Harper to be unmoving. He clearly disapproves of the Senate. But I do not think it is fair to blame the player for the rules, especially if that player is trying to change the rules.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on January 27, 2010 | Permalink


Actually, Demers has not made any such promise.

Posted by: bigcitylib | 2010-01-27 5:19:44 AM

Harper is right in appointing people to the Senate that will not hold up bills that were unanimously passed by the House for partisan purposes.These Senators also agreed to Senate reform.

Posted by: John | 2010-01-27 9:50:43 AM

This has everything to do with Harper Derangement Syndrome and nothing to do with the Senate.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-01-27 11:27:15 AM

I don't think senators should be voted for. Nor should they be chosen by the whim of the government of the day, for their political association. They should be chosen by their peers. By that I mean by people that actually know whats going on. Perhaps a panel of scientists, from different fields, and human behavioral specialists. Or something like that. My point being is that the senate should not be political, but rather a true place for common sense and science, not opinion and rhetoric.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-01-27 1:40:43 PM

George Costanza,Senfield and Co., says "When you state something that you do not think it is a lie, then it is not a lie", or as Tom Flanagan says,"If you make a statement that is probable but not possible then that is ok as well. When Mr. Harper speaks he has a problem with people believing him.

Posted by: Malcolm Barry | 2010-01-27 3:00:21 PM

The Senate has long passed the point where they are of any use whatsoever. As long as they are appointed instead of elected they will always be beholden to the party that gave them the position. It's a patronage club, nothing more.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-27 9:39:12 PM

I agree peterj, thats what it is now. It shouldn't be.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-01-27 11:51:37 PM

Harper has stalled and killed more of his own crime bills than the senate has even looked at. Two prorogations and and unnecessary election are the reasons for the delay in the law and order agenda, it has nothing to do with Liberal senators.

The only change that the senators made to bill c-6(the one unanimously passed by the house) was to put in a requirement for the state to still need to apply for a warrant before they ransacked Canadian's homes. Thanks to the Liberal senators, the sanctity of the Canadian home was protected. Harper's senators are incompetant party hacks, just like his MP's. Mike Duffy?? an illiterate?? A private prison booster?? Fuckin pathetic, that ANYONE still supports this Harper loser.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2010-02-05 6:15:54 AM

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