Harper succumbs to Senate temptation TheStar.com - Opinion - Harper succumbs to Senate temptation
December 23, 2008
OTTAWA-For prime ministers, the Senate is the fragrant cheese in the capital mousetrap. They can see the coiled spring and poised danger; they just can't resist at least a nibble and, sometimes, a gobble.
After insisting he really wasn't hungry, Stephen Harper has now taken an enormous single bite. It came, as these things almost always do, when those who might not be pleased, and will ultimately pick up the tab, are otherwise preoccupied.
This time the diversion isn't a summer weekend – the appointment of 18 senators is too riveting to be easily hidden in a Friday evening press release. No, something as supersized, so bloated by duplicity, requires the distraction of the year's most festive, and frenetic, holiday.
Even the Prime Minister had other things to do than personally make the announcement – or answer questions. Instead of hanging around town to distribute the closest thing to priceless political gifts, he was home in Calgary where the day's signature event was celebrating Chanukah.
Harper's low profile is as wise as it is predictable. Pierre Trudeau was the last to organize anything even close to this scale of benefit binge, and Brian Mulroney made John Turner, the Liberal leader's successor and victim, pay the highest price in politics.
Separated by 24 years, those events share striking similarities. Now as then the appointments are being challenged for their legitimacy as well as their largesse. Trudeau took advantage of Turner to put friends in select high places while Harper is sliding loyalists into the Senate while Parliament is suspended and, not coincidentally, before his administration can be defeated and stripped of its right to reward. Conservatives cried foul in 1984, saying the Governor General should have been asked to say "no" – a refrain now ringing out here along with carols – and Mulroney seized public outrage to land the clichéd election debate punch that knocked Liberals out of power.
How perfectly history repeats won't be known until attention drifts from one turkey to another. Still, Harper is heaping opponent plates with fodder. Salted among those usually found at the party trough are the necessary outsiders to make raw patronage a little more palatable. But a Prime Minister who promised to do things differently has delivered a disappointingly familiar mix of flacks, hacks, defeated candidates and fundraisers.
All of this crumbles for Harper in the same way it fell apart for Turner when Mulroney skewered the about-to-be-former Liberal prime minister with a line that, in echoing through the decades, resonates more loudly today: "You had an option, sir," Mulroney accused in rich, sanctimonious baritone.
Harper's choices ranged from keeping his word to name only elected senators, a promise he broke immediately after the 2006 election by appointing Michael Fortier to the Senate and cabinet, to rising above partisanship to make only the brightest and best winners in the great Canadian lottery. One response would have seen the Liberal-dominated upper house auger deeper into dysfunction while increasing the committee workload on a handful of Conservatives. The other would have served the useful purpose of making the Red Chamber a public policy think-tank.
Instead Harper, just like Turner, took the route of least resistance, the one to the cheese. Whether or not the trap eventually springs, the outcome is the same: When principle and politics clash, the public interest loses and cynicism triumphs. And so close to Christmas, too.
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3 posts • Page 1 of 1
I realize that this isn't breaking news but I thought it would be interesting to discuss Harper stacking the senate anyway. I'm sure the Liberals would have acted in the same fashion if the shoe were on the other foot. My problem with Harper is his wishywashy pledge to clean up the senate by only nominating elected senators. After parliament was prorogued it looks like he decided to appoint every last Conservative cronie to fill the senate!
If the shoe was on the other foot, the slots would have been filled up ages ago so the "stacking" would have been a done deal. Not sure how the pledge itself was wishywashy. Electing the Senate isn't something the federal government can do unilaterally - he needs elections which weren't happening or the provinces to agree to change the Constitution, which also wasn't happening. The timing was definitely political - Harper thinks he stands a real risk of his government falling (the method is questionable - another PM, election, etc...) and doesn't want to face an upper house stacked with someone else's young cronies (the older cronies might be a non-issue due to sleepiness if provided with warm cookies and milk but that isn't quite as effective with newly appointed 40 or 50 year-olds ) My view is that Harper has given up on the issue. Due to his major fuck-up (courtesy of his sock puppet Flaherty), he might not be leader of the conservatives next Christmas so whether Senate reform is a priority of the next Conservative leader is an open question.Next of Kin wrote:I realize that this isn't breaking news but I thought it would be interesting to discuss Harper stacking the senate anyway. I'm sure the Liberals would have acted in the same fashion if the shoe were on the other foot. My problem with Harper is his wishywashy pledge to clean up the senate by only nominating elected senators. After parliament was prorogued it looks like he decided to appoint every last Conservative cronie to fill the senate!
Haha, I haven't been watching the news lately. I didn't even know he had done this.
A list of the new Senators, by province:
A list of the new Senators, by province:
Code: Select all
Nancy Greene Conservative British Columbia Yonah Martin Conservative British Columbia Richard Neufeld Conservative British Columbia Percy Mockler Conservative New Brunswick John Wallace Conservative New Brunswick Fabian Manning Conservative Newfoundland and Labrador Fred Dickson Conservative Nova Scotia Stephen Greene Conservative Nova Scotia Michael L. MacDonald Conservative Nova Scotia Nicole Eaton Conservative Ontario Irving Gerstein Conservative Ontario Mike Duffy Conservative Prince Edward Island Patrick Brazeau Conservative Quebec Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis Conservative Quebec Leo Housakos Conservative Quebec Michel Rivard Conservative Quebec Pamela Wallin Conservative Saskatchewan Daniel Lang Conservative Yukon